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Wright Mountain, Pine Mountain #1, Dawson Peak

20 August 2001

By: Karen Isaacson Leverich

Leaders: Byron Prinzmetal and Rich Gnagy

Pack, check. Socks, check. Poles, check. Hat, check. I busily shoveled my stuff from the back of my car into Byron's at the Myrtle Park and Ride. It was early, I was tired, I didn't feel like driving all the way to the trail head. Twenty miles later, it hit me out of the blue: my boots! They were still back in my car, hiding behind the passenger seat instead of in the cargo area where they belonged, where I would have remembered them. "I'm not hiking today," I said plaintively to Byron. He suggested I might be able to do it in my sandals, if they had good tread, if I had socks, if I felt foolish and brave. "It's all on trail, though the bit after Wright, going up Pine, is a little steep..."

I've always suspected I live a charmed existence. Now I have proof. Our next stop was the McDonald's at the Wrightwood exit from I-15. I shared my woeful situation with Winnette, who looked at my feet (the ones that shoe clerks at REI and Adventure-16 have failed to find any boots I can get on, let alone fit properly) and said, "I have a spare pair in my trunk that will probably fit you. They're even broken in." Yeah, right, what are the odds?

Would you believe, Winnette's boots fit me more comfortably than my own? I couldn't believe it myself, but it's true. So when Byron Prinzmetal and Rich Gnagy headed out from Guffy Campground for Wright Mountain, I was one of the six hikers accompanying them. (I did slip my sandals into my pack, just in case.) Also participating were Winnette Butler, Doris Duval, Joanne Griego, Ingeborg Prochazka, and Sheldon Slack.

My boots weren't the only equipment missing in action. Doris was hiking without her trekking poles, which she was fairly sure she had left back at Myrtle. We theorized her poles and my boots might go out and have a nice day hiking on their own, without us.

Our first peak, Wright Mountain, wasn't too challenging, even in borrowed boots. We'd had a nice walk along the PCT and the road (noting that we started out by going down, which meant we'd finish by coming back up, oh well), though Rich (for whom this was a new peak) wasn't quite sure where to find the register atop the relatively flat wooded summit. Problem quickly solved, we signed in, took a short break, and were soon on our way.

The bit after Wright would be a little steep?!? Gulp. Looking up at the Devil's Other Backbone, snaking abruptly up that narrow narrow ridge, with scree falling steeply away on each side, I knew where I would have sat and waited, if my only footgear had been my trusty sandals. I wasn't at all sure about tackling it, even in boots. And Doris, how was she going to do this without poles? (She bravely told me that for terrain that ugly, she'd rather use her hands than poles anyway.)

Up we went. It was a little slippery, but not as bad as it had looked from below. Oh, and hey, it's leveling off already, whew! "That's it, that's the Devil's Other Backbone?" asked Doris. "That wasn't so bad!" Turns out we were only on a bump part of the way up, and the really good bits were yet to come. Figures. Though even the second part wasn't too bad -- a bit more rock scrambling, a bit less loose stuff, but I was terrified I would slip on the way down, on our way back.

Even after getting off the Backbone, there's still rather a lot of mountain to climb, but at least it's less steep, and there are trees to shade the trail. Byron was amused by the chorus of numbers atop Pine: "98! 96! 146! 106! I'm 146, too!"

We decided we'd eat lunch after visiting Dawson and returning, since at that point most of our elevation gain would be complete, with only the last bit before returning to the cars remaining. So we were off and down a steep slope (sometimes it seemed our whole day was spent going either steeply up or down, whatever happened to well-graded switchbacks?), and then gently up Dawson. Another chorus of numbers -- Winnette and Joanne were at 147, Rich at 228, Sheldon somewhere in the 50's or 60's, Ingeborg at 97, and I'm finally at 99. Look out 100, here I come!

But first, there was the little matter of getting back up and over Pine. Ingeborg: "The hard part of Dawson is the return." Karen, remembering that to get to Dawson in the first place, we'd had to climb Pine: "The hard part of Dawson is Pine."

I was terrified (I said this already, right?) about descending that steep trail off Pine along the Devil's Other Backbone. I still have to internalize that I haven't fallen down once since Byron showed me how to properly use my poles. But I was also worried about my feet -- it's on the downhill stretches that boots often turn on me and generate blisters. So far, Winnette's boots had treated me miraculously well, only biting slightly on my right ankle on occasion, during the really steep uphill portions. But would my feet be hamburger by the time we'd descended to the saddle?

I think under that gruff exterior, Byron may have a heart of gold. (Er, don't tell him I said that?) He took us down that trail at the sluggiest pace I've ever seen him set. I was able to carefully choose where to put my feet, didn't slip once, never felt a twinge of worry. And my feet, when we got to the bottom? Not a single hot spot. Doris came down OK, too, even without her poles. A wonderful conclusion to a hike that had gotten off to such an addled start.

Oh, guess what we found in Winnette's trunk when we got back to the campground? Doris' poles weren't out hiking with my boots, they had come along and then simply hidden at the trail head. My boots, on the other hand, really were back in my car. But I'd managed ten miles or so, over 3000' gain, and three peaks, rather tidily without them.

On the other hand, you can bet I'll never leave them behind again!

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