A Second Attempt and a Second Failure

5 March 2012 in Trails/Hiking, Traveling


With a beautiful day blossoming and warm, yellow sunlight draped upon the surrounding hills we decided to attempt to ascend High Dome again. The sky was clear and from the top we should be afforded a view of twenty miles east, all the way to the ocean. As we drove through the valley to Patrick Creek Road we thoughtlessly remarked on the snow, still high atop the peaks. We never even considered its depth or the possible issues it might pose in our ascent.

Exiting the highway onto the gravel road leading to the top we began our slow and winding trek. A mile or so in we began to notice snow on the side of the road. It seemed sporadic and of little concern. Most likely just the few patches that had found a fleeting salvation from the sun in the shadows. But then around the bend we found the road covered in about three inches with a single set of tracks cutting through. These sections of road presented themselves at irregular intervals and seemed safely passable so we soldiered on. Eventually we passed the lower trailhead. Here we had previously been prevented from ascending on foot by a swift and cold creek. Our plan today was to drive to the upper trailhead, an additional six miles up.

But as we continued the snow got deeper and the set of tracks that had previously cut straight through to gravel came up short in places. We found ourselves sliding here and there in places you didn’t want to loose control. Finally crossing a narrow, steep pass we lost traction and began slipping backwards slowly towards the edge of the road which offered a long drop, an expensive tow bill, and a totaled truck amongst other possible losses like our well being. This was the final straw. With four miles to go there was no way we were going to make it.

It was relieving to know there would be no more death defying passages on the way down than those we had already treaded on the way up. But this comfort soon wore off when we realized there was no way to turn around. The road was a single lane. And I don’t mean a single lane with shoulder making it wide enough to maneuver a several point turn. I mean a lane just wide enough for our vehicle. On one side, just feet from the door was a rock wall and on the other within the same proximity was a sheer drop fifty to one hundred feet down.

Having little choice we began the nerve-racking task of descending in reverse. It was certainly a test of my driving capability I didn’t wish to take up on the snowy pass of a mountain. I have never, in my life driven so far in reverse let alone did it at an 8% grade with four inches of snow and an inch of slippery slush under my tires. Eventually after what felt like five miles, but was probably more like 3/4 of a mile we got to a point just wide enough to turn around. With Lindsay outside signaling how far from the edge I was we slowing broke new paths in the snow and got ourselves turned around.

Facing the right way the rest of the descent was a breeze. And though it was on our to do list before we leave, High Dome has been removed. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Having so much of a beautiful day still upon us we decided to take a drive down South Fork Road. It follows the south fork of the Smith River. Hence the name. We had unknowingly neglected this path several times turning right at the intersection to head down Hollowland Hill Road and into Jed Smith State Park. Turning left this time we wove our way along the river gorge. To our left, below lay the Smith River in it’s splendid blue green color cutting the opposite direction. Above us on both sides were steep hills completely covered in trees. Here and there the grade was too steep or the ground to loose and the bare rock was exposed and prone to slides. But for the most part the hills were a single carpet of green trees.

Making our way south eventually the canyon began to widen and open to meadows where small ranches lay with sheep and cattle. There were some very striking houses, one in particular had a strange tower erected at its rear and a collection seemingly random additions that somehow fit together. Back here it felt like another state and another time. I felt like we were in Wyoming, in the 1800s. I love how these small wonders sometimes hide down untaken paths in close proximity to places you frequent. These hidden gems probably far too often go unnoticed.

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5 March 2012 Trails/Hiking, Traveling

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