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Ruth Lee Dobos Memorial Hike - Mt. Josephine

31 May 2003

By: Laura Quinn

Leaders: Frank Dobos, David Eisenberg, Laura Quinn
When Ruth Lee Dobos passed away last August, her devoted husband, Frank, and several of her friends felt that a memorial hike in her honor was a grand idea. We still do, although most of us would probably agree that hiking to Josephine Peak on a hot day in May is probably not the way to honor one of the HPS' greatest leaders.

So why was Josephine selected? Ruth and Frank's first solo date - after many a night carousing at the Tam with the Wednesday night Griffith Park hikers - was a hike to Josephine. One hiker, who played a significant role in helping Ruth and Frank get together, the Matchmaker Dotty Sandford, played an equally significant role this day (more about that later.) As the hike started, our thoughts were of Ruth, and how she would have advised us against scheduling a hike to Josephine in late May

Forty-one hikers, may of them leaders (including: Frank Atkin, George Denny, Peter Dogett, Diane Dunbar, Charlotte Feitshans, Harvey Ganz, Frank Goodykoontz, Tom Hill, Gabriele Rau, Virgil Popescu, Dotty and Mike Sandford, Susanne Weil and Peter Glover, and last but not least, Joe Young) ascended to the peak of Mt. Josephine from two different routes on Saturday, May 31. In triumph. every single last one of us staggered to the top of Josephine to enjoy the sunshine and mid-80 degree temperatures -- after enjoying the burning sunshine and heat all the way up. In contrast, the tragedy was that there was no comfort in climbing to a relatively higher elevation -- it was equally hot up top.

So hot was it, in fact, that a few of the potluck items did some pretty nifty shape-shifting. A fruit sorbet turned to liquid, and while the crackers did okay, the cheese meant to go with them exited the pack as a congealed mess of grease with liquid Cheddar, Gouda and Mozzarella all merging together to form one ugly collage (no surprise that this item was NOT consumed).

One pleasure of the hike up was the abundance of wildflowers that dotted the mountainsides, thanks to our late season rains. Spanish Broom, although a parasite, is wonderfully fragrant. We also saw red and white oleander, (names of other flowers).

After almost an hour on the peak, it became clear that group climbing the east ridge had not made it through the brush to join us. We began to pack up for our return, when - wait - first one, then another and another and another and finally the last of the five East Ridgers emerged from the brush. It was apparent by the numerous scratches and bloodied arms and legs that much DNA was left on that trail in order to reach the peak.

With the entire group assembled, Frank shared some remembrances of Ruth, and we were all left to reflect her passing individually. I recalled my last hike with Ruth. A scant two months before she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, Ruth and Frank co-lead one of the Waterman Rendezvous hikes. She hiked very slowly that day, and no one, myself included, thought she would make the peak. We were all wrong. She did. When she and I arrived up top, the last group was just departing. Conquering that peak that day was, unfortunately, a victory that went unrecognized.

Ruth, however, made it clear that for her climbing Waterman was a victory she anticipated. As we sat atop the peak sharing a can of tuna and some crackers (and watching the crows dive bomb for all the crumbs you people leave behind), Ruth's never said I told you so. Her most memorable comment up there was in reference to her vegetarian husband. "Frank's not going to like to smell tuna on my breath," she said. For the record, Frank never mentioned the tuna-breath.

After recollecting privately, the group assembled for the traditional HPS peak-top picture. That when the trouble began. The picture-taking went on a tad too long. Those are not grins you see on the faces of the people in the front row, but grimaces at having to kneel down for so long. Despite the vast potential for locked knees, everyone was a good sport. The group's cheer only evaporated when it became clear that one of our members was suffering from heat exhaustion.

With conditions that can best be described in one word -- HOT -- one hiker insisted on wearing a sweatshirt while hiking all the way up to the peak. This person also carried a folding chair along with a daypack and once up top, refused to remove the sweatshirt, and said, in his opinion it wasn't hot enough to be without a sweatshirt.

That Mike Sandford didn't suffer from heat exhaustion and his wife, Dotty, did defies reason, but then. (Okay, I'm not going there.)

As soon as it became clear that Dotty was, indeed, having problems, Diane Dunbar immediately put her EMT training to good use. Dotty moved to a shady area and lay down as Diane put wet, cool compresses on her head. After about 45 minutes had passed, it was apparent that Dotty was getting better slowly -- she was telling jokes, but still felt dizzy when she sat up. Since we were approaching the hottest time of the day, it was felt that she shouldn't hike down and risk getting overheated again. We decided that an evacuation was in order.

Mike, still wearing that sweatshirt, called 9-1-1 and attempted to describe where Josephine was. He later said that person on the other end of the phone asked if Josephine was in Northern California. Lacking confidence that help would actually arrive, Mike (in the sweatshirt) and Gary Murta, hiked down to make sure that SOMEONE would respond to the emergency call.

About 15 minutes later, I climbed back up to the top and spied a green Forest Service vehicle chugging up the Josephine fire road. According to Dotty's rescuer, Captain Steve Johnson of Forest Service Fire Engine Co. #11, Mike was transferred to LA County Fire. They, in turn, contacted the Forest Service station in La Canada and provided our location. It's good to know the system works.

t seemed like an inordinately long time before the Capt. Steve arrived in the truck. He admitted that he would have been up "10 minutes earlier" but that everyone was waving him to stop so they could report a sick hiker on top of Josephine. That is almost everyone. Capt. Steven told us that the first person who stopped him wanted to know the names of all the wildflowers!

In conclusion, a yearly Ruth Lee Dobos Memorial Hike does sound like a good idea. Why not honor one of the HPS' most committed leaders by keeping her hiking spirit alive. However, let me be the first to suggest that any future hikes to Josephine take place in March or October.

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