27 May 2011

Were we supposed to tell someone where we were walking and when we'd be back?

A drive back into another part of the mountain range had us spending the night surrounded by an unexpected amount of the strange white stuff, during which we debated at length whether our food could remain in Gil's pantry or should be stored in the bear proof safes provided. I will admit, I was wrong and Brad right, the food was just fine in Gil. We tried, unsuccessfully to light our first camp fire, but altitude, a lack of paper and damp wood soon put this idea to rest. After a night of believing every sound to be a bear attempting to break in and steal my white cheddar popcorn, we headed to the General Grant Tree (an even bigger giant Sequoia). Our guide to the area, suggested several other walks in the vicinity and after checking out the General, we headed off on what we thought was one of these. The trail we took had no one else on it, which was not surprising as the guide described it as “lightly travelled” after some interesting scenery and a group of deer, we came to an intersection and elected to the take the route to
General's Highway rather than Corrals. For close to an hour we pushed on, figuring out where the trail went under the snow by searching for small green or red metal markers nailed to trees (not all that helpful when Brad is colour blind, and I'm short-sighted), and in their absence, fallen trees which had been cut through. The snow continued to get deeper, and the marks distinguishing the trail harder to locate. The bear tracks on and near the trail should have convinced us to turn around, but the thought that surely we must nearly be there and a desire not to see the scenery we had already, led us to push on, besides, the bear tracks didn't seem to be recent. After nearly an hour of this, the snow became just too deep, our feet a little too cold and wet, and the end maybe not so close, we Hansel & Gretel-ed it with our foot prints back to Gil. At one point Brad sank waist deep into the snow (a tunnel had melted out alongside a fallen tree) after an impressive return to the top of snow, we found the possibility he could have landed on a bear greatly amusing.

Turns out, North Trail is not the same thing as North Grove Loop, and is most likely a horse trail not yet open for the season.

The following day, after a trip down into the foothills via another extremely skinny, windy road, made scarier by the fact that the outer lane was being repaired after collapse (Gil only just made it), we decided we were ready to take this walking business seriously, with a 6km uphill hike from our camp ground to Marble Falls. After following a clear path for several hundred metres, we suddenly found ourselves climbing a very steep hill, grasping at roots and rocks, with Brad vocalising bitterly what our park entrance fee was for if not clearly marked trails and a few signs. Fortunately, the prior days experience, together with the lack of evidence of other hikers having taken the trail (we'd seen multiple groups set off earlier), led us to return not long into our climb and once back on the definite path we spotted a not very obvious sign the to correct direction. The trail travelled through several different types of terrain as we gained roughly 400 metres in elevation and was littered with an assortment of lizards and hopefully harmless snakes and, given the much lower elevation, was snow free and rather sunny (Brad will now take more bottles of water for himself on such hikes, rather than drinking from questionable water sources). The falls were well worth the 12km round trip, which the following day reminded us that yes, we do have leg muscles, with a huge amount of water quite literally thundering down, amplified by melting snow.

We still haven't seen a single bear!

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