Ned Walk-2 (7/29/23),
A Walk to Remember:
This Saturday’s “Ned Walk” may have started from the same trailhead and, initially, gone the same direction as the last one, but everything changed about halfway-in that brought back memories and fulfilled time lost.
This day, I had three other hikers join me who knew where I was proposing to take them, but did not expect the route we would take to get there! In part for them, it was a reunion, too, as it had been years since one of them had a fond visit in her past to our target destination and turn-around landmark.
Over the first 3.5 miles headed north on the Pacific Crest Trail along Echo Lake, South Lake Tahoe, I was very talkative! I love teaching people how the wilderness environment works and why we need to do certain things in it to ensure our fun and maximize our safety. Of course, I love to share all I’ve learned out there over the last 50 years, so, as I hike along, I’m constantly thinking of things to point out, like physical techniques to demonstrate and aspects of the wilderness living that help the body and soul. Naturally, I have to stop dead in my tracks to do this, so we didn’t go anywhere fast!
We talked gear, of course! Footwear was the first thing discussed, from shoe design to lacing techniques, and topping it all off with the subject of gaiters for winter or summer use and why. Shoes for the trail, in general, led to foot protection and balance while creek-crossing, since there is so much snow-melt in the Sierra, right now, making for wild, whitewater in every drainage. And, yes, we expected a few creek-crossings up ahead, later in the day.
The abundance of rocks in the trailbed led to the next “all-stop,” teachable moment regarding 1) avoiding ankle injuries by not stepping on moderate “scree” that might “turn your ankle,” 2) avoiding any and all small scree when they are sitting, like marbles, on big slabs of granite, 3) watching out for pointed rocks, as stepping on them can irritate and inflame the plantar fascia on the bottom of feet (especially when wearing soft-soled shoes), and 4) the benefits of hard-soled shoes with built-in “shanks” to protect feet from rock trauma and downhill pounding.
When we weren’t looking down to understand that last lesson, we were looking up! Weather, be it precipitation, wind, or temperature, can make or break your day, so I just, simply had to talk about how to identify changes in it and how and why to avoid what may be developing overhead. That takes looking up from time to time. All that – and lots more! – got us to the end of the lake where,
we came to a fork in the trail and took the lesser-travelled one back in time!
I wanted to explore the old Boy Scout Summer Camp at the end of Echo Lake that was removed when the Forest Service declared its area a Wilderness. I had fond memories of Camp Harvey West because, once, way back in 1971, while hiking south from Highway 80 (Donner Summit, to the north) to Highway 50 (Echo Summit, to the south), I passed through the camp right about twilight.
I couldn’t see where I was going, got a bit lost with all the Boy Scout’s access trails about their camp, and popped out of the trees right into their campfire arena and production stage where all the campers were sitting on benches facing the stage and watching a “skit” being performed!
Back in those days, whenever someone arrived in your camp unannounced, you considered them a “friend,” because anyone out there must love nature as much as you do! So, I was welcomed into the firelight and stood off to the side of the assembly until the skit ended. They did a pretty good job of acting (for 10 to14-year-olds), but I sure didn’t expect them to ask me to join them in their next one!
All I remember is that I had to act like a bear, crawling on my hands and knees, and approach a tent pitched on-stage, growl and snort a lot to terrify the campers within, then, paw at the tent and shake it up while the screaming kids inside shot out with their arms flailing to jump off-stage, circle the seated scouts and counselors, and get all of them to screaming – while I continued to roar and chase them everywhere! One helluva lot of fun!
A moment in time that I’ll never forget!
I wanted to retrace from there my wintertime travels up the Echo drainage to Ralston Lake, but to do so, required cross-country navigation! I’ll talk about that in the next installment of “Ned Walk-2,” Part-2! Stay tuned!
[The next “Ned Walk-3” will be Saturday, August 12th, to follow the Pacific Crest Trail north from Carson Pass into the discussion of more backcountry Sierra living and the “hows” and “whys” of it!]