Hiking this weekend with Kira and two friends, Neal and Emily, through the Sierras’ Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
Departing Berkeley at about 9 PM we drove up highway 4, past the Big Trees, to Ebbitts Pass where we found the trailhead about a half a mile East by 2 AM Saturday morning. We parked, picked up our packs and hit the trail. By 4 AM we had made three miles and I was plumb tuckered. We pulled off the trail by a number of yards and hit the sack.
Up and fed by late morning, we got back on the trail by noon and were at Nobel Lake in no time. From Nobel we pushed up hill and then departed the PCT to the East toward Bull Lake. Up over a pass, we then enjoyed a vigorous downgrade which dropped us into a nice valley filled with meadow. However, as we approached this green filling we found the saturation significant. The moss and grass squished beneath our feet and the trail was overgrown and un-obvious. Following our map and GPS we took a stab at direction and pushed through the moist flora. However, soon our path became obviously poor and I made another attempt to reconcile our location and direction. To my dismay, I had not, and still have not, yet perfected the objective evaluation of paper maps, GPS coordinates and elevation, and hazards beneath my feet. After a quick evaluation of the two sources and as I stepped across patches of green and yellow textured under footings, I lifted my head to consult my findings with Kira, exclaiming, “Kira – I think I’ve figured this ou–!” As my eyes pitched from the map to my feet and around to Kira, my words were cut short by my sudden surprise to find myself up to my waist in a thick bog.
Now for those of you who have never sliped yourself, fully clothed, into a thick soup of soil, water, alge, bacterium, and robust olfactory devices, don’t let my experience deter you from giving it a shot. The shear joy of being surprised. The wondrous sensation of mud filling your boots as your sink. The splashing and sucking. The silence of renewed topside surface tension. The sensational shutter of fear that strikes through your soul as as time slows down and your feet don’t touch and your friends are frozen stiff watching you wriggle as your pack pulls you deeper. Then finally you’re toes touch and your anxiety softens. You dunk your hands in the muck and strike for the solid rim of the bog, rolling your pack to the side and crawling back out in complete and in utter shock at your mismanaged step. Vain attempts to try and hide the embarrassment and then once standing again, covered now, toe to the hip in muck, with no one but your friends around, all you can do is laugh and continue along.
After the bog event, which only lasted about 90 seconds, we continued along our unmarked path, seeking higher ground as Neal drenched his feet in a second looming pit. Now with cautious step we crossed the marsh and found ourselves in thicker brush and further from the path. The meadow gave way to willows densely packed together and taller than our packs, small drainages that continually surprised our footings, sometimes emerging from deep holes beneath us. A range of undergrowth that grabbed and nipped at your ankles and of course the ever persistant mosquitos sneaking their sips at our necks, wrists and hair lines. With great fortitude and patines we finally emerged at a clearing of dry rocky soil. A quick visual nod from each other, we dropped our packs and took respite, evaluated ourselves, climbed a tree, scouted a path, conferenced, confirmed, and quickly struck back toward the creek and toward the unseen trail. Without event or delay we were back on track and walking comfortably along a well traveled path within five minutes and then paused for lunch.
Which reminds me – is it safe to eat a clove a garlic?
“Digestive Irritation – Because allicin is so strong, there is some suggestion that too much raw garlic could irritate or even damage the digestive tract. As always, use common sense, don’t overdo it and if in doubt consult your doctor.”
Well, we ate our cloves and irritated our digestive systems, but cleared our heads.. or something.. and then got back on the trail. We still had another four miles to go and it was getting late, but the bulk of the remainder was to be down hill, we weren’t too daunted.
Within a couple of hours and after a number of spectacular river crossings, we moseyed into a small wooded area about a mile away from Asa lake and called it quits, each of us disrobing our soggy shoes and socks. Neal lit a fire and we gathered ourselves about it drying our toes, bathing in the warmth, and battling the mosquitos. We ate dinner, drank some wine, ate some cheese, nipped at some scotch and promptly fell asleep. Content.
The next morning we were up at seven and on the trail by eight thirty, ready for the day’s ten mile return to the car. By far our longest day and mostly uphill, we attacked it with proper rest and a decent starting time to made it our most productive and consistant day of hiking. Perhaps it was because our packs were lighter with the food stuffs all consumed and excreted, or perhaps we could see the barn, who knows.
Round about two in the afternoon we reached our 20.5 mile mark and the car, satisfied ourselves with a full featured lunch, enjoyed some small deer bounding through the meadows, and then drove back down the hill to the bay. As we descended we smiled. Good weather, great people, and a solid hike through the forests of the California Sierras hardly lends it’s self to anything but a big fat grin.
Download the 2010-07-31 Ebbitts Pass – Carson Iceberg Wilderness Route kml – waypoints indicate trail junctions.
Photos – Thanks to Emily