OHE October 30, 1998

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 15:38:53 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: A Taste of the High Sierras Part 1

Hawaii is an incredible place to hike but the mainland has much to offer as well. To enrich one's hiking experience it is necessary to visit as many different regions as possible. OHE-L member Dr. Peter Caldwell provided an opportunity for me to do just that this past weekend as we traveled to the High Sierras in Northern California.

== Part 1 "Getting There"

On Thursday night, October 22nd, I drove the pat-mobile to Peter's home in Alewa Heights. From there we car-pooled to the airport and caught the redeye (9:45 p.m.) to San Francisco via United Airlines. The Honolulu International Airport monitor read 74 degrees that evening. During the flight the movie "Six Days, Seven Nights" starring Harrison Ford aired and featured excellent scenes of the Na Pali Coast.

Touched down in San Francisco at 5:21 a.m. (PST) where the temperature was 48 degrees. Shuffled thru the airport to Hertz rent-a-car and jumped into a waiting Ford Escort at 6:06 a.m. It was still dark as Peter drove us along 101 south, 92 east, over a huge expansion bridge and onto interstate 880 past the Oakland Alameda Co. Coliseum, home of the rebuilding Raiders and A's. Then 880 became interstate 80 as we headed for Sacramento. The two of us witnessed a beautiful sunrise above the rolling hills near Vallejo and stopped at the "Coffee Tree" in Vacaville for some breakfast.

Following the morning meal, Peter and I hit the road again bound for Echo Lake in South Tahoe. I fought valiantly to stay awake but succumed to the sand man after Peter told me he'd be alright.

At 11:06 a.m. we stopped again in Placerville of El Dorado County to check out a museum which included artifacts from the early days of the gold rush. Peter took the opportunity to call his wife Olga while I purchased and consumed a 20 oz. Dr. Pepper.

Pressing on, the two of us traveled on U.S. 50. An abundance of blue sky and sunshine were ours with a few cirrus clouds overhead, Indian summer weather. Along the route, 75 to 100 foot fur and pondarosa pine trees covered the surrounding ridges. Enjoyed the relaxing sound of the gently flowing American River (south fork) during a halt in traffic caused by highway construction and the lovely red and bright yellow leaves of shrubs along the slopes caught our attention.

Dropped down into an enormous valley and eventually reached expansive Lake Tahoe (26 miles by 13 miles) as we drove along her banks. At 1:30 p.m. Peter and I stopped to pick up $100 worth of groceries in the nearby town based on a list Olga had put together for us then backtracked, climbing out of the valley arriving at the parking lot fronting lower Echo Lake (elev. 7,400 ft) at 3:09 p.m.

Got organized but were unable to carry everything; therefore, we took the necessities and set out on foot at 3:35 p.m. toward Pete's cabin. He and I crossed a concrete dam and metal bridge prior to the start of the Tahoe Rim Trail (part of the Pacific Crest Trail system). The two of us began tramping the 2.9 mile stretch along the graded contour footpath when we encountered three male backpackers on their way to the Backcountry (desolation wilderness). One of them offered to let us go first but we declined, allowing the men to proceed ahead of us.

Lodgepole tamarack pines (smooth bark with needles in clumps of two), junipers and aspens with occasional jeffrey pines (thicker bark and large cones) dominated the landscape below huge light brown granite slabs with black streaks and around massive boulders and rock outcroppings made of cortz crystals formed by glaciers long ago. Light green moss (lichen) covered the sides of some of the trees and the green pine needles contrasted beautifully against the deep blue sky.

The trail switched back twice to gain elevation under Flagpole Peak. Some snow banks were visible in the distance on the slopes of Ralston Peak (elev. 9,235 ft) on the ridge opposite us. Peter brought to my attention a fur tree, more junipers and a mountain hemlock (grow at higher elevations and have different cones). The two of us crossed a divide and descended past vertical blazes cut into trees. Next, the footpath took us away from the granite slope through a pine forest.

Arrived at Dr. Caldwell's cabin at 4:47 p.m. and immediately commenced opening it up. I removed wooden planks which covered the windows while Peter checked the water system and propane supply. He discovered that the water level in the water system was low so we would have to fetch water from the lake and boil it.

The cabin, originally built in the 1920's and upgraded periodically since then, had a large main room, two bedrooms (one of which was kept closed during our stay) and a small kitchen. Solar pannels supplied electricity but most of the time we used the propane lamps that were scattered about the cottage.

As evening set in the temperature dropped to around 40 degrees but the gentle breeze made it seem colder. The two of us began dinner preparations at 6:15 p.m. following the ignition of a fire in the stove to warm things up. At 8:30 p.m. I walked outside to the pier along the lake about 30 yards below the cabin. The crisp clean air, quiet solitude and some star action were a great way to end the day. Lights out took place at 10:05 p.m.

Next: Part 2 - Winter Cometh Early to Echo Lake

== Paka


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