A Problem To Solve: Tuolumne to Sonora Pass, Sonora Pass to Echo Lake

Tuolumne to Sonora Pass

We had reached an impasse. It was the end of our third day since getting back on the trail after 5 wonderful rest filled days with family and friends in Drakesbad, and we were stuck. The sun was behind the mountains ahead, and we had been planning on continuing on for a couple of hours, but there was a sort of lake, a fast moving lake of a river, spanning the entire valley. Stubblefield Canyon was a lake of a river. The deep channel was about 20 feet wide and 15 feet deep. After a day in Kerrick Canyon, with information from Stephane and Elodie we had decided to cross before the trail crossed the river, and in consequence we traversed across steep slopes leading to a swollen raging river, climbed through boulder fields, and followed deer prints to fertile meadows. We were spent. The trail was making us tired. We had made it safely across a number of other sketchy and swift rivers, and had traveled up and down through tree filled snow fields, but to swim across this lake of a river, it just wasn’t going to happen. Pyrite was desperately trying to solve this problem. A walk downstream involved wading through chest deep water. Upstream there was a log submerged about a foot under water with water rushing over it. Pyrite suggested tying a rope around a tree, jumping in, and letting, aka “hoping” the current would pull us downstream in a line that was close enough so we could swim to the other side. I didn’t like that idea so much. So we sat. And we walked downstream again, hoping that the water went down a little. It didn’t. So we sat some more. And we were discouraged. Completely. We’d gotten that far only to come to this impasse at a lake of a river.

We decided to wait it out til the morning, and were just getting our camp set up when Rhino, Dirtmonger and No Knees strolled up. We had started the trail on the same day as Rhino, and hadn’t seen him since Campo. Took him a while to recognize us,  but it was neat to see him again. As we were setting up camp they checked out the crossing, and when they came back Dirtmonger said, “well, that’s a problem.” Not like a problem that you can’t get around, like a boulder problem, that just needs to be solved. That attitude was certainly refreshing. And so we camped, we waited it out, a deer came by in the night and the guys thought it was a bear, but it was just checking out Pyrite’s fresh urine. We woke up in the morning, and the lake of a river had gone down at least 3 feet. The log that was submerged was sticking out. A problem, that just needed to be solved.

We got across the log and there were two more channels, one that was about waist deep, but slow moving. On the other side as we got moving on solid ground, we walked on with a slight lift in our step.

My friend recently started a job as a  counselor with an organization that does wilderness therapy through immersion trips, which takes troubled youth on 4 week trips into the wilderness. They learn how to carry everything they need on their backs, set up camp, cook for themselves, work in a team, and get through obstacles that come up along the way. I think of her and the kids she’ll be leading as we walk. What a great way to let someone feel the direct consequences of the decisions they make. What a great way to teach about personal responsibility and accountability. Because the decisions affect you, immediately, and concretely. What do you do when you come to a stream, raging so quickly before you, and the options are; ford across by foot,  walk over a log and sketchy snowbridge, or turn back, only to go through the obstacles you worked so hard to overcome? In Kerrick Canyon, we chose the log and sketchy snowbridge. We saw a deer cross, so of course we would be fine.

Personal responsibility, accountability, and living the consequences of your actions. Those are what I take from this section. Because it’s all about the problems, that need to be solved.

Sonora Pass to Echo Lake

Pyrite’s parents have been doing some serious trail magic. They resupplied us in Sonora Pass, and hiked with us a few miles up as we started that leg. It was nice getting on the trail with them, and seeing it through their eyes. And it was nice just seeing them, well, because they’re awesome.

We were pretty beat up from the last section, so were looking forward to getting in some miles. There was about 60% snow cover along this section, which meant we actually got on some dirt. Well, dirt covered in water. Which came the mantra, “is it the trail, or is it a creek.” We definitely followed a couple of creeks that we thought were the trail, and missed the trail because we thought it was a creek. But I can’t complain, because we could actually walk for miles without going through snow. Which was glorious. To feel the earth under our feet, without slipping and sliding, without having to dodge booby-trap trees that would come up from under the snow at indescript times-oh so glorious. So we pushed. 6 to 6, we walked. And we did get some miles in, and it was some beautiful trail.

We are in South Lake Tahoe, deciding to either take a day and rest, or get out again for the next stretch tomorrow afternoon. In either case, it’ll be nice to get some sleep tonight.

Love and hugs for now,

Chinchilla

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