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Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 4:28 pm
by Tom
I have been reading these stories with some trepidation wondering if any were about me...thank goodness no.

In the late 60's, when there were ranger stations everywhere, I came off of a pass and ran into a backcountry ranger. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, he said that he was headed for some peak registers and would be back late in the day. If I wanted, I could camp at the edge of the meadow at the ranger station and he would check my wilderness permit later. Sounded good to me and as I turned to head down the trail I heard him say,"poke your head into the cabin and say hello to my old lady".

When I got to the cabin there was no one around so I found a campsite, set up and went back to the station. Still no one so I leaned against a wall and napped. When I woke a woman was standing in front of me holding a cantelope and some garden grown vegetables in the lap of her 'Granny" dress.

She asked if I had seen her old man and invited me in to chat. When I eneterd the cabin the thing that caught my eye was the bong an the table. She poured me a lemonade, started cutting up carrots asked if I wanted a hit. I declined, but when the ranger showed up and offered...well it was the 60's. What an enjoyable sunset that evening.

Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 6:40 pm
by JMat
gdurkee wrote:What year was that? This year? About two years ago, there was a major search for a woman after her car was found abandoned about 10 miles west of the pass. She was never found. Always a hard choice in deciding how much help to offer someone; even harder when they refuse though are obviously outside their box.

Other than the woman mentioned, I know of no other missing people in the Sonora area (where I live in the winter).Good work.
No... This was about 11 years ago. But it's one of those things I still think about when I'm out in the backcountry. My buddies and I had already hiked about 11 miles that day with pretty heavy packs and we were fried so we would've been hard pressed to hike back with her even without our packs.

Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Sun Apr 26, 2009 6:13 pm
by hawkfeather
In August 2002 my husband and I were doing our version of the JMT and had just come down out of the Ram Lakes basin and stopped at Virginia Lake for lunch. As we sat there, 2 older women came barreling along, headed south like us. They stopped to chat for a few minutes, as people often do when they meet on the trail, and we learned they were also doing the JMT and were doing it without any food resupply. We asked how they were doing it, and the answer was dried bean paste. Apparently they were mixing it with cold water for breakfast, lunch and dinner or whenever they felt hungry, and that was it. After they charged off again, we kind of looked at each other. We never saw them again; obviously, we had no hope of keeping up with the bean-powered, and we broke up our trip by spending a few days in Mono Hot Springs with our son and his girlfriend. Since then, we've done various things to lighten our backpacking load, and when one of us thinks the other is getting carried away, that party gets threatened with bean paste.

Somewhat later on the same trip (south of Muir Pass?? can't remember), we rounded a bend and there were two people headed the other way wearing what looked like white hazmat suits. I think they may have been from Japan; their English was very limited. But they seemed to be having a good time.


Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:00 pm
by rightstar76
Years ago my wife and I decided to hike the Coast Trail from Palomarin Beach to Bass Lake. This is a popular trail in Point Reyes National Seashore and there were lots of people. Somewhere near the lake I heard the sound of bells. I turned around and saw the oddest sight. Several people wearing plastic masks and silk gowns with bells hanging off their sides came walking down the trail. Each person was wearing a different color costume. In addition, each person wore a "hat" that looked to be made out of a silk/plastic/metallic material and was at least six inches high. I have never seen such a thing in my life and I haven't seen anything like it since. They walked by silently not saying a word. You couldn't see their faces because of their masks. However, you could hear their bells loud and clear. I'll never forget it.

Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:43 pm
by Timberline
Tom wrote:She asked if I had seen her old man and invited me in to chat. When I eneterd the cabin the thing that caught my eye was the bong an the table. She poured me a lemonade, started cutting up carrots asked if I wanted a hit. I declined, but when the ranger showed up and offered...well it was the 60's. What an enjoyable sunset that evening.
Tom, your experience brings back a significant memory along those lines, from a similar time, which I wrote into a story last year. If I may, I'll share it here:

Bogarting at Bishop Pass
©2008 by Bruce Peet

How could fate smile so warmly on us? Here we are, Lance and I, into our fifth day on the trail, having experienced so many sublime moments already - - John Muir surely would have called them sublime – since leaving our car at Florence Lake where we began the Muir Pass Loop. Here we are, reclining against our packs at Bishop Pass, sunburned, dusty, marinated in sweat, munching our trailmix, and completely swept up by the glorious view above Bishop Lakes over to the Inconsolables, with Agassiz and the Palisades so close we could almost lean back and rest our shoulders against them. Here we are, saying a friendly good morning to two lovely young backpacking ladies from Arizona just arriving at the Pass from Dusy Basin, as we had, although we'd not seen them before. We offer some of our trailmix. “Homemade,” we say. “Looks good,” they say, and unshoulder their packs to join us sitting in a circle, and we trade introductions, first names only, and after a brief, relaxed conversation about nothing in particular one of the girls produces a well rolled joint and offers to share it with us, and we accept. Was this having everything turn out perfect, or what?
I met Lance while living in a Sonoma County hippie commune. He was ruggedly handsome, physically fit, with a blond ponytail and a gentle, frequent laugh that lit up his features. I sensed he was practicing paying attention to some inner guru of his, and since I was doing some personal searching of my own around then I quickly gained a respect for his quiet, meditative, but purposeful manner. Somehow, one afternoon we got to talking about backpacking. Lance was from the East Coast, Massachusetts I recall, and although a hiker, had never spent time in the Sierra. I had been away from these mountains for the last six years, so I was feeling a powerful need to get myself back into the Sierra, and I needed a trail partner. I suggested the Muir Pass Loop would be just right for us.
Lance was a vegetarian, which introduced a new backpacking variable for me. On my hikes, I was used to consuming lots of animal protein and carbohydrates, usually of the dehydrated variety, and burning up calories like a locomotive uses coal. This venture required an alternative approach to calories and cuisine. We negotiated a menu for ourselves with lots of trailmix and daily rations of dried fruit, granola, dried soups, hardtack, cheese (for me), and chocolate. To me it seemed almost like a “no-cook” diet; we would use stove fuel very sparingly if at all, and thus reduce pack weights a little.
We spent our first night atop Kaiser Pass, arriving after dark and sleeping next to the car. It gave us extra time to acclimatize to the altitude, and it seemed a great place give Lance a first impression of this country. I was also curious to find a witness tree marker I placed there while on a Forest Service summer job some years back; I went looking for it the next morning. Sure enough, there was the placard still nailed to its tree, referencing one of the forest growth sample plots I established and measured during my first summer in this region. I was elated to find it. Next stop, trailhead.
Neither Lance nor I had the fare for the Florence Lake water taxi; we only had enough cash for food and gas on the trip home. So we got to enjoy views of the Lake slowly passing by on our left as we hiked along the shore and got adjusted to our packs in the first few miles. With the added time and miles, we decided to press on after reaching Muir Trail Ranch, so we could spend our first night on the trail at the confluence of Evolution Creek and the South Fork of the San Joaquin. It was more than satisfactory. The next day brought us to McClure Meadow and Evolution Valley. I had spent a summer at the doorstep of this fabled Sierra locale, but this was my first visit into the Valley. It was enthralling; I think Lance was as uplifted as I was to be here. Later that day at Evolution Lake we met a young couple with their two sons. Their youngest boy had just lost his first tooth. I admired that couple enormously for the love and confidence they were giving their children by introducing them so positively to a backpacking experience, and I hoped someday to offer something like that to my own children. Our second night's camp was on the shore of Sapphire Lake.
We went no farther than Muir Pass on the third day. The weather had been ideal, and we wanted to savor the afternoon and evening at this milestone along the John Muir Trail. We had time to leisurely read the Hut register, and both Lance and I smiled at the entry by someone who had reached Muir Pass in late May that year, only to become snowed in and forced to remain in the Hut for four days before being able to continue his journey. We had chosen nonchalantly to lay by, and only for part of a day; we wondered how it must have felt to be “trapped” at the Hut by bad weather for an uncertain period. Not as pleasant, we concluded.
By the time of the descent from Helen Lake to Big Pete Meadow in Le Conte Canyon I imagined Lance's conversion to being a lifetime Sierra aficionado was complete. If anything, this dramatic trail section only embellished the grandeur he had seen on our arrival at McClure Meadow. The descent seemed like strolling down all the flights in a grand museum, only better: a continuous visual treat of surpassing beauty and magnificence. For me, reaching the Meadow for the first time was a dream come true, the actualization of so much fantasizing from years of pouring over Sierra maps and trail guides; I had an enormous desire to just keep on hiking south. We had agreed, though, to find a campsite that night in Dusy Basin, so a major ascent awaited us in the hottest part of the day. We lunched in some welcome shade next to the trail and then began our climb.
Overheated and panting at a rest stop on the umpteenth switchback, Lance was still marching, slowly but steadily, some yards ahead of me. I was determined to keep up, so I shifted back into my lowest gear, my steps marking the beat to a rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in my head. This pattern of listening to repetitious, mental music always seems to kick in about the time I think I can't take another step. It keeps me going, but the endless repetition, pleasant at other times, can drive me nuts. After reaching camp later I joked with Lance about seeing myself as if at a graduation ceremony, trudging uphill to receive my diploma at the end of the day's walk. He chuckled, and said that he visualized a huge magnet, too strong to resist, relentlessly pulling him up the trail. That inner guru again. As it was, that day we had descended about 3,500 feet elevation and regained about 2,700 feet to reach our campsite at the first lake in lower Dusy Basin. Trout were rising everywhere, dimpling the otherwise calm waters. I found some wild onions and diced a few to garnish our dinner soup. We had front row seats to a free show of alpenglow on Columbine and Isosceles until the daylight was finally spent.
Next morning, there we were at Bishop Pass, where the heavens really smiled on us. I no longer remember the two girls' names, or where they were from in Arizona. But the feelings of flying down the switchbacked cliff below the Pass, and soaring effortlessly all the way to the South Lake parking lot was such a rush it remains with me still. The girls gave us a ride in their station wagon the short distance down to the Tyee Lakes trailhead, where we bid them good luck and safe driving; they were headed home. So were we, via Table Mountain to Lake Sabrina, North Lake, Piute Pass, and Piute Canyon, to ultimately close our trail loop and return to Florence Lake four days later.
To this day, the Muir Pass Loop remains one of my favorite Sierra jaunts and the only one where the high was anything more than natural. Those last four days had their own special moments to be sure. Most unexpected and inspiring perhaps was a chance meeting with an older couple, well into their '60's we guessed, on the trail downstream from Muir Trail Ranch; she in a floral print dress, wide-brimmed straw hat and tennis shoes, looking like she was going out to the backyard garden, and he, carrying a full pack and walking with crutches! We must have looked pretty trail worn and grizzled by this time, while they were in high spirits, eager to begin their week's stay at the Ranch. I'm not sure which pair of us was the most impressed with the other, but Lance and I greatly admired their audacity and confidence. We wished them well.
In the end, I think I owe all of the superlatives of that trip to Lance himself. I'd never spent mountain time with anyone as calmly balanced and centered as he was, and I still believe that all of the good vibes of those ten days emanated from his poised serenity even during the most strenuous moments. Ever since, I have considered myself fortunate in two respects: for having been the person who introduced Lance to the Sierra, and for having learned so much from a real guru. I suppose its just the way these mountains bring out what is best in each of us.

Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:31 am
by Eastern Sierra
My story isn't as good the ones above.

But, I hiked to Keane Wonder Mine in Death Valley a few years ago before it was closed to the public. There was a lady standing on a hill with a black shawl thing outstretched and making noises like a raven. That's the extent of my stranger on the trial, cause I never talked to her. I prolly shoulda.

Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:24 pm
by freestone
Eastern Sierra wrote
My story isn't as good the ones above.
Actually, it is.... So typical of a raven trying to impersonate for attention!

Nice blog, thanks for sharing.

Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:11 am
by sparky
All the stories of the random smoke outs heh..I have one, only I was on the other end. Me and a buddy were in the stone hut near the summit of San Jacinto cooking lunch. A solo backpacker popped in and he sat down and we had a nice conversation. After we finished up lunch I invited him to join our safety meeting ;) He respectfully declined, as he didn't partake, was a naval officer so it was risky to his job, he was out solo, was from the east coast ect... no biggie, and not long after he grabbed his pack and headed out. As I was preparing for the safety meeting, he suddenly poked his head back in and said "well.....maybe I could join, just this once".

He puffed a couple times and went on his way. It was very powerful stuff and I am sure he had a magical journey that day.

I have helped out a few lost souls. Just two weekends ago a couple guys came into our camp at night, lost, and the one was a total jerk. He might have been embarassed, but I soon didn't care with his mouth. I showed him the way to go and he said "thats not right, we just came from that way!!" My patience ended at that point, and the result wasn't pretty. His buddy was laughing, and I could tell he had been listening to that all night stumbling lost through the woods.

How about just strange things in general you have seen hiking? I have a few stories but will have to type them up later if the thread decides to go that direction.

Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 1:57 pm
by rightstar76
I was hiking to Bass Lake in Point Reyes National Seashore from Palomarin Beach. I saw several people heading toward me on the trail. They were dressed in multi-colored gowns. Their faces were covered with plastic multi-colored masks. They had what appeared to be windchimes hanging from their metallic hats which made noise as they walked. Their hats had metal sticks pointing upward. Their shoes also looked like they were made out of metal. Aside from the sound of metal clanking, they muttered not a word as they passed me. That was the weirdest thing I have ever seen while hiking.

Re: strangers on the trail?

Posted: Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:13 pm
by Jimr
In 1985, four of us were in Ionian Basin. One of our group had smashed his ankle and to his luck, Ranger Randy strolled by within an hour of the incident. He camped near by, around a rocky outcrop and called for a helicopter to transport him out the next day. It was quite a fiasco and another story, but finally, around 2pm, he was on his way to a nearby hospital. The remaining three of us decided to cut our trip short and bypass some of our trip by hiking over a pass catching the Muir trail from their to Dusy basin and out.

A storm was rolling in, but we headed up toward the pass anyway. We had to deal with hail all the way to the pass and as we approached the pass, thunder and lightning. Just before assaulting the pass, we were hit by a huge strike with immediate thunder that shook the whole place. We threw off our external frame packs and ran down from the pass to a rock cliff face and huddled there until we could count roughly 7 seconds between the lightning strike and the thunder roar. At that point, we ran back to our packs and flew over the pass and down the snow covered North slope until regrouping at a rocky outcropping to give our nerves a little break. Hiking down the pass, we came immediately upon the Muir Hut and went inside. We were welcomed by 17 or 18 hikers who were coming up trail through the rain and soaked to the skin. Since we were coming down, we were nicely dry.

All of the hikers had their stoves going trying to warm up, get a hot meal and hopefully, dry out their sleeping bags a bit before night fall. We found ourselves a spot and cooked some grub, then we all sat around drinking hot toddies and sharing stories. We opted to sleep outside of the hut and leave room for those who had to sleep wet.

That’s the only strangers on the trail story I have, so I guess I still have some living to do. It was quite a drastic change of events from one moment battling hail and possible death by electrocution to a warm wilderness party.

A little side note. Several year later, I read where a ranger named Randy was found dead in the Sierra, I suspect he may have been one in the same. If so, thank you Randy for giving up your day off to help us. The most notable part of Ranger Randy was the fact that his boots were more shoe goo than leather.