Monday, May 23, 2005

Mike and his friend Keith are some Dumb Motherfuckers

Mike and I went scouting out the Arroyo Seco backpacking trip in preparation for taking the squinks on it next weekend. We mostly thought we'ld check it out and look for good spots to camp, and refamiliarize ourselves with the pathways. Of course this year has had some exceptional rainfall, and so the river was running a bit hard and we made preparations to check into that as well.

The short of it is that we're not taking the kids out next weekend.

The setup for this trip requires parking one car at the Arroyo Seco camp grounds, and another at Escandito Park. When we went to the camp grounds to park, my car, we discovered neither of us had $10 in cash to put in the drop for parking. We left a note and promised to finish paying our tab when we got done with the trip. And as we left we noticed a police officer who must have followed us driving at very high speed through the hills leading up to the camp grounds and was probably very disappointed that there was no one to ticket.

Then we wandered off to Escandito park. This drive requires spending some time on Fort Ligget Army Base. They're pretty cool about it (at least for army men), and skipped the anal probe for just license, registration, and proof of insurance. Of course knowing they would ask for my license when I drive through on Sunday, and not wanting to carry a wallet down river, I had left my ID in my car. I explained that to the guy and he nicely let us pass without too much of a scoul.

We finally pull into the starting camp grounds and about midnight friday, and discover the road leading up to Escandito park is closed, so we have an extra 3 miles to hike to start off Saturday morning. We pass out, wake up the next day and start walking in spite of these set backs.

At about 9a.m. we hit the river and start having some real fun. Well for certain values of fun. Mike has the brilliant idea of throwing on our wet suits and just cruising down the rapids (which with the high flow are significant enough to do this) holding onto our packs. This means we're floating downriver banging into rocks left right and center. Oh boy did I take some nice shots to my thighs and hips. Thankfully the PFD save me from the worst of the chest shots, and by some miracle I never needed a cup.

But the water was still about 60 degrees and cold. We made great progress and made it well past where we had spent the night last time, but being in a canyon, we lost direct sunlight at about 6p.m. and had to stop for the night. This meant a 12 hour intensive recovery sleep that both Mike and I appreciated.

The next day we get up and start heading for the waterfall that we know is close, and is the crux of our scouting. We continue to run the rapids in our crazy manner, but more gingerly, and with some planning to avoid the worst of the hits.

When we get to ehte waterdfall it's game over, man, game over. There is a whirlpool that is pretty bad and then the 6 foot drop with a whole lot of water running. This is running in a rock sluice about 4 feet wide. So we go up the rocks on the side and look if we can jump it. It would be a 30-40 foot drop into water that probably was deep enough not to break our ankles.

Well no kids are being brought on this trip, and we're not continuing down river. Mike says it's time to go back up river. And this is the point where I have the idea that gets me initiated into the dumbass club. I suggest we climb the ridge to get up to the service road. This is 1000 vertical feet of bushwaking through vegetation that should be hacked with a machete (which we didn't bring with us). Somehow I did manage to convince Mike that this was a good idea long enough to get us up to the point where it would be too much work to go back down.

So for 2 hours we're climbing, and clawing and hacking, and trying not to fall. Trying not to give into the urge to sit for a break (as we'ld never get back up). Trying not to fall down with the loose rocks and sand. And trying to avoid as much of the ever present poison oak as was possible. I really don't know how we made it, but we both knew that there was nothing to do but continue upward.

It's actually kinda weird because while I was hurt, tired, and fighting the urge to give up (though not really sure what that would mean), I was at no point resentful, or in any real danger of actually whining or giving up. I'm not sure where that came from, but I'm glad that in the last year I've developed some mental fortitude, because the last time we where there, the hiking alone got me to my asocial and bitchy point. (It's an interresting combination, because I don't talk to people so I only bitch in my head).

But anyway for 2 hours we stared up the hill at the road which mocked us from above. Always it was getting closer but at a rate that would drive you insane. Finally we crest and we find a shady spot, and I finall break open my Nalgene and take some water (it only held a liter, and we still had 6 miles of sun beaten hiking to go once we crested). That was one of the sweetest breaks I've ever had.

After enough time to get to the point to try walking again, we trudge along for 3 miles until we get to the point where we would have pulled out had we gone along the river to its end. With minimal communication Mike and I walk down to the river bank to refill our water bottles, and spend some time in the cool water.

Turns out that we really needed it. It was refreshing and energizing, and we got back to joking and joshing for the remaining 3 miles before finding my car, and heading out to King City for some Chile Rellenos.

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