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688. Hoover Lake (08/22/09)

Hikers (12): David, Diane, George, Helen, John, Karl, Kirk, Linda L, Paul, Peter, Sarah, Steve
Distance: 25 miles
Rating: 6 difficulty, 8 beauty
Park info: Henry Coe State Park east of Morgan Hill

Write-up by George, Linda L, Diane M, and Karl, with insightful comments by Peter -- Pictures by Karl

Peter: The hike was so tough, it took 4 people to do the write-up! Just kidding .... I originally delegated the write-up to Linda, then she sub-delegated to Diane, and later George. In all the confusion, we got multiple versions! Here's the route we took, with some minor post-hike corrections to take into account key learnings on the day. It's always good to get different perspectives, so read on ....

George's version:

After being tortured in Henry Coe Park the previous week you would think most of us would have the sense to stay away from the area in August. I guess hiking is a low-IQ sport. After today’s hike while recovering in the parking lot we saw Ranger John walking by with a serious looking shotgun and a full load of shells stored along the barrel. I’m sure some of us were thinking it would be nice to be put out of our misery. Several people upchucked after the hike, and others almost tossed their cookies during the hike. Many got lost, at least one had to stop and take a nap during the hike, and one person was on the ground thrashing in the dirt due to cramps and was unable to continue until the painkillers took hold. So, with that cheery opening, here is the story.

1, 2, 3 ... INCH!

Henry Coe in August, but we were not in the middle of a heat wave so how bad could it be? 25 miles - not that big a deal to those who showed up for this hike. And Peter was being kind and letting us go to China Hole and through the Narrows instead of going up and over Jackass Pass to Los Cruzeros in both directions, with the dreaded Poverty Flat climb at the end of the day. I headed out with a pretty cheerful attitude because Peter promised it would be "A nice, gentle stroll through lovely Coe Park ... I'm not planning anything too brutal this week since I'm still recovering from a sore knee and the flu." How many times will I fall for his deceitful lies?

Heading out for 25 miles of punishment

Still, I came prepared – 6 liters of ice cold water, some of it frozen so I would still have ice water later in the day. And I started out nice and easy as everyone rushed off at the start. They must have all been in a hurry to pay their respects to Henry at the monument. Luckily I didn’t jinx the hike for myself when I touched the fence around the monument and said "Screw you Henry!".

Big Henry is smiling because he knows he's gonna kick our ass (again!)

Next came a treat – a new trail for INCH at Coe park! – the STEEP downhill section of Hobbs Road to Manzanita Point Road. It was such a thrill that I’m sure everyone thought the whole day was worth it just for this new section of trail. But there was another new trail coming up later in the day, so it was a banner day!

China Hole is – a hole. Down, down, down, and then you looked down and realize there was still a lot of down-down-down to go. Trail Volunteer Sam Parker was doing a beautiful job of fixing up the China Hole Trail and several of us stopped to thank him and chat. When we actually got to China Hole it was the usual mish-mash of undefined trails going in every direction. A long-distant memory surfaced (yes I know, I actually remembered something!) and I managed to lead Kirk, Sarah, and David through The Narrows. Just then we saw Steve and Helen coming back on the Creekside Trail from the direction of Poverty Flat. Steve told me he wasn’t lost, he knew where he was the whole time. But Helen was lost because she followed Steve.

Later in the day as people staggered into the parking lot with dazed expressions, salt lines on shirts and shorts, and in between hurls, many stories were told. One story was that Peter had somehow led a group - Diane, Karl, John, Paul, and Linda – part way up the Mahoney Meadows Road towards the (aptly named) Lost Spring. Both Steve and Peter got lost in China Hole after how many trips to Coe? Oh, I mean just Peter -- Steve knew where he was the Hole time.

The Narrows was the usual bit of rock-hopping and trail-finding, but what a relief to get to Los Cruzeros and start our first big climb of the day! I stepped aside and let Kirk and Helen crank up the afterburners. A few minutes later I spotted a fairly complete snakeskin just off the side of the trail. I picked it up and put in on the trail and mentioned it to David who was coming up the trail. As I walked away all kinds of wicked ideas started to bubble up, and I realized I was passing up a chance to do something nice to Peter in return for the "nice, gentle stroll through lovely Coe Park ...”, so the snakeskin went into my pack – for later ...

Starting the climb up the Willow Ridge Trail from Los Cruzeros

Again I took it real easy, all that cold water was heavy, and the air temperature was warming up. My plan was to try to finish while still feeling human – for once. Henry Coe had turned me into a muscle-twitching zombie too many times in the past.

Willow Ridge Road was a welcome site at the top of the climb. Nobody was in sight. I did some downhill jogging to make up for my slow climbing pace and before long I caught up to David, Sarah, and Helen. We toddled along the ridgeline until we got to the "unmarked trail" and followed it to Hoover Lake. There was a post there, but in the past it was just a plain post. Someone had tacked up a piece of paper with the words "Hoover Lake" on one side. I’d been there before, and it didn’t occur to me at the time that it might confuse someone. Not that it wasn’t MORE obvious that it was the trail to Hoover Lake, but in comparing it to the junction for a trail later in the day it did manage to create some confusion later in the hike. (One person complained, "Why did the unsigned trail have a sign, and the trail that should have had a sign was unsigned?" -- because Peter wants to screw us, that's why!).

The top of Willow Ridge was hot and dry

Hoover Lake? You gotta be kidding! It looked like a cesspool. That was the ugliest body of water I’ve ever seen. I’d rather swim in a sewage treatment pond. Compared to the lake we saw in Hike 498 (write up also by this author) this couldn’t be the same lake. Just look at the Hike 498 picture of Helen chillin in the wildflowers with the lake in the background. Nobody even thought of stopping there for lunch today. We went straight across the dam and right up the hill. Not sure where the trail was, but we ended up on a cow path and then up on the landing strip. Sarah was in good spirits enjoying walking FLAT ground for half a mile.

A few minutes later we turned left on Willow Ridge Road again, but I was determined to follow Peter’s example and stop, sit, and eat lunch. David, Sarah and Helen headed off to find the brand-spanking-new-to-INCH trail named George Milias. We all noted it was .9 miles down the road. Let me see, .9 miles. That is about 1 mile, we were walking a bit faster than 3 miles an hour, so it would be safe to start looking around for the trail in about 15 minutes or so. You may be wondering why I am including 5th grade math in the write-up. Seems as though we had a number of people on this hike who didn’t get past 4th grade.

I found a shady spot under a tree and managed to actually sit down for 10 or 15 minutes. Strange feeling to sit down during an INCH hike. Popped off the shoes, wiggled my toes, drank ice water, snacked. Oh man, if only the hike were more than 45% completed at this point. And it was really warming up now as the sun beat down. I’ll tell you later what happened to Peter when he took his shoes off.

[Peter: When I got to airstrip, I saw Steve had left me a note. When I bent down to pick it up, a big surge of blood rushed to my head, making me completely dizzy and almost knocking me over. I should have sat down on the spot to recover, but I wasn't too keen on sitting on the airstrip under the blazing sun, so I kept walking. I did eventually take a break a couple of miles later with Linda and Paul in a semi-shaded bug-infested spot along the Kelly Cabin Creek, but after that dizzy spell I never was the same for the rest of the day. I guess Steve finally got his revenge for the note I left him at China Hole back in '97. By the way, many who were ahead of me never saw the note even though Steve had placed it in an obvious place -- it makes me wonder if they even made it to the airstrip!]

Revenge is apparently a dish best served under the hot sun

Plodding along the ridge in the warm sunshine after eating and resting I was sort of daydreaming – mostly about gruesome forms of torture I could use when getting my revenge on Peter (emptying all of the beer bottles in his cooler for example). All of a sudden I popped back into real-time and had a brief moment of panic wondering if I might have passed the George Milias Trail. I referred to the wonderful map and instructions that Peter gave us and started looking off to the right watching for the trail. In a couple of minutes, there is was, dropping down a narrow canyon, but where was the entry point? I didn’t see a post, or obvious trail, but all I had to do was keep watching and see where the trail came up to the road. Ahhh, there is was, and oh look, someone had thoughtfully put an arrow in the dirt. Hmmm, was it Steve, or Kirk, or had David/Sarah/Helen left it there for me? [Steve: it was me!] It seemed like a great spot to leave a really big arrow so I dragged a tree limb and some sticks over and made a REALLY BIG ARROW (more on that later). I assumed David/Sarah/Helen were about 15 minutes ahead of me, so I took off jogging downhill trying to catch up.

It was like descending into an oven owned by Beelzebub. The breeze on the ridgeline was cut off, the sun had been warming up all the surfaces, and down, down, down the trail went. At the bottom it felt like mid-90’s. Before too long it ended on the Cross Canyon Trail, and there was some shade and the canyon was wider, so it seemed like the air was moving around a bit more. After the hike several people commented that this was the nicest part of the hike, a very nice trail, easy climb, some shade, maybe this would turn out to be a nice day after all!

We saw lots of dry creek beds all day long

Back up on Mahoney Ridge it was cooler, and the breeze was still going. And clouds had moved in to provide a bit of shade. Things just kept getting better. I jogged and jogged and jogged but could not catch sight of David/Sarah/Helen. Strange, maybe they were jogging too, so I picked up the pace. After a long time I finally spotted someone but realized it was Kirk, so David/Sarah/Helen must have really been making time and passed him by. When I caught up to Kirk he said he hadn’t seen a single person. Huh? I figured David/Sarah/Helen must have missed the turnoff onto the George Milias Trail. More on that later.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I felt really sorry that 3 INCHers had missed the George Milias Trail, but how could I pass up the chance to be one of the first 3 to finish – after Steve and Kirk? Oh boy, I took off downhill – I was on a mission to stay ahead of as many people as I can. A short while later while running downhill Kirk and I saw Steve sitting down by the side of the trail. That is a very rare site, and asked him about it. He was really tired, been up late, very little sleep. And I found out later he had a water situation as well (more on that later). All of a sudden Kirk and I were the frontrunners, now that is something that has not happened to me in many years (if ever). We ran all the way down to China Hole.

I knew Kirk was a faster and stronger uphill climber than me, so I just kept up a pace I could live with. Kirk pulled ahead, but not too far. And sometimes we hiked together and conversed a bit. At one point I could have sworn I heard him say "I’m going to survive this hike if it kills me!", but he had said something else using a lot of those same words. It was my hallucinating brain that came up with what I heard. When we finished the climb and got to Manzanita Point I took off at my fastest non-climbing pace but I noticed Kirk was slacking off, and I exhorted him to keep up the pace so we could stay ahead of Steve. I was positive that Steve was zooming up the climb and would pass us at any moment. Kirk wasn’t feeling too good, he was trying Gatorade today and it wasn’t agreeing with him. He made a pit stop at the next bathroom, and I was off to the races. Didn’t know if I had it in me to keep up a pace to stay ahead of both these guys, but the gods were on my side today. How many people had to get lost and/or sick in order for me to finish first? Apparently when there are 12 hikers, the answer is 11.

Recently foreclosed house for sale -- cheap!

The last couple of miles went by in a bit of a haze, I was fading fast. But before too long I found myself at the parking lot. First order of business was washing off all the salt and dust and getting into clean clothes, then sucking down lots of cold liquid, and best of all, sitting down. Ahhhhh, nothing like it after a tough Coe hike. Kirk came in about 5 minutes later and then we waited, and waited, and waited. What the heck? Had we made a mistake and taken a shortcut? Where was everyone?

About 45 minutes later a very exhausted looking Steve rolled in and quickly sat down to rest. We found out that his plans were to start the hike with 3 liters and a water pump, but he forgot to bring the filter – only 3 liters for a 25 mile hike in Coe – yikes! You can see elsewhere in the write-up about the note he left at Hoover Lake. Not only that, but due to his severe self-rationing he actually only drank 1 liter in the first 17 miles, crikey! And, in his words, the funny part is he finished with water still in his pack. So he ended up using less than 3 liters. I’ve never seen 2 bottles of beer and can of coke go down a human throat so fast! He also told us that after Kirk and I passed by he hiked a bit more then stopped to take a nap, and figures he slept at least 20 minutes. And if not for the flies torturing him, he would have slept longer.

Where were Sarah, Helen, Karl and Diane? They usually leave me in the dust, especially on a hot day. 20 minutes later Diane came in, walking at high speed, poles snapping forward and back, didn’t look like she had just completed a 25 mile hike. It was Diane who explained about the extra climb out of China Hole early in the hike. And 5 minutes later Sarah, Helen and David arrived. They all looked okay to me, well, okay for completing a 25-mile Coe hike. But I found out that they had indeed missed the George Milias Trail and went to the next intersection, then doubled-back. That added 1.2 miles to their journey. On the way back the large wooden arrow made it obvious where the George Milias Trail was. But, still, why an hour and 10 minutes later than I finished?

Turns out that poor Sarah suffered very bad leg cramps – see her account attached later in this write-up. It was so bad she was laying down in the road twitching and thrashing. Helen had to practically force her to take some painkillers (Vitamin V), and in short order Sarah was miraculously able to continue hiking. When she finished the hike and seemed in good order, it was the happy pills talking. Helen played nurse, and deserves great thanks for sticking by Sarah and getting her back safely. Kudos Helen!

David quickly laid down in the back of his truck and just relaxed. Steve had told us that during the hike he was dreaming of a can of Coke and when there weren’t any to be had among our many coolers, he went into the office and bought one. David either heard about this or thought of it on his own, but he went and got one as well, planning to use it to help calm his tummy down. Oops, the opposite happened, and he basically left the Coke scattered about the parking lot. Four different loca-Ralph-tions, if you catch my meaning. He mentioned that he felt a lot better after that.

After another half hour Linda came strolling in – she likes to start out slow, then come in and dance and jog around the parking and talk about doing another 10 miles. But it did take a few minutes before she could talk coherently and answer questions. A lot of hikers that day couldn’t talk very well when they finished. After a few minutes we finally started getting information from her – who had she seen, when, where ? Paul came in 10 minutes later and was surprised to hear that Peter, John, and Karl were not back yet. Uh oh, where were those guys ?

Twenty minutes later when Peter strolled in, looking like death-warmed-over, he was very surprised to hear that Karl and John had not returned yet. And Peter did something I had never seen him do before – he refused a beer! That is how sick he felt. He’d been feeling the need to drive the Big White Bus for miles and miles, but made it in without Launching His Lunch. He saved that threat for later when he was in my car!!!!!! His legs were twitching and he was groaning, and explained to us that when he had stopped to rest and eat he popped his shoes off, ahhh, felt great. But then when he tried to put his shoes back on he got a violent leg cramp that took all his strength to overcome and get his leg straightened out. Okay, now what? How the hell to get the shoes back on?!? I would pay big bucks to have a video of what happened next, but he somehow managed to get his shoes back on.

As a little bit of payback I’d tucked the snakeskin into Peter’s cooler full of beer. When he finally got around to opening his cooler I gave everyone the big-eyes-head-wag motion to watch Peter and sure enough when he popped it open his whole body jerked. Much laughter ensued. Yahoo!

It was after 6 now, and no sign of Karl and John. I was hoping they were together, and not severely lost. INCH was getting quite a reputation with the Rangers. 15 minutes later they arrived! Yay! John was exhausted climbing the hills and Karl stuck with him to make sure he got back okay. Kudos Karl!

There were so many coolers and so much beer, but hardly anyone was thinking about drinking a beer. Most people wanted to just sit down and suffer in silence until they could manage to get to their cars and go home. One person drove away from Coe HQ, but didn’t make it home that night – see Sarah’s account elsewhere in this write-up.

Oh, and a note to John – next time you see a log in the road don’t jump over it. Look first and see if it is an arrow pointing to the George Milias Trail. [Peter: Can't blame John for wanting to steer clear of any log that George may have left on the trail!!!] But he and Karl had the same issue that David/Sarah/Helen had with the George Milias Trail. No signs. For future reference, note that the Henry Coe map indicates that trails marked by dots (as the George Milias Trail is) are "obscure". So I guess that means we have to be on the lookout for dotted trails and not expect any signs either. Good old Coe, always giving us the shaft!

Thanks to Helen for the great honeydew melon and rice chips (but skip the eggplant garlic stuff, Linda HATED it), and thanks to Linda for the ice-cold watermelon.

Just as we were about to get in my car and leave, Peter asked if anyone had an extra plastic bag – he needed a barf bag for the ride down! Great! But he said "just in case". We found bags of one sort or another and rolled all the windows down. Jeez, with all the barfing going on and being talked about I was starting to get queasy too! Peter behaved and did not have to hurl, but still felt like he was going to have a terrible night with legs curling up like pretzels. His comments are worth including in the write-up: "I'm glad everyone survived the hike (especially me). If it had not cooled down in the afternoon, I definitely would have had to be rescued. As it was, while I was sitting at Manzanita Point, holding my head, gasping for air, with my arms and legs covered in dirt, scratches, burrs, poison oak, and watching my legs twitch about uncontrollably, I was thinking that if Ranger John happened to come by in his truck, I would likely cave in and get a ride back. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that didn't happen, so I had to drag my sorry ass the final 3 miles back to HQ. My stomach was hurting worse than it ever has on a hike, and I came close to tossing my cookies a few times along the way, but I managed to stagger to the finish line before collapsing (and I didn't shortcut!). I was too sick to enjoy the fine ale Kirk offered me, but I felt fine a few hours after the hike and enjoyed the beer in the comfort of my clean, air-conditioned living room while sitting on a nice soft sofa!"

Here is a note from John:"If Karl was not with me to help find the trail back to headquarters I think I would still be laying in the road waiting for the ranger to drive by. Too tired to have a cold beer at the finish. I didn't know that was possible."

And here is Sarah’s account of what happened during and after the hike: "I have gotten woozy driving down from Headquarters on other long and cramp inducing Coe treks, but yesterday's leg spasms were more violent as was my "carsickness." I was raising quite a dust storm thrashing about in the middle of Willow Ridge Road. Hurrah for Helen, my drug dealer of choice, my sweet nurse! "Take the pill! Take the pill!," she screamed as she tried to intercept my whirla-jigging arms and legs. In a graciously short time the powerful drug did miraculously untwist the seized up leg muscles; and carefully attended by my angel with her radiant halo, we trod slowly to headquarters. I washed up with cold water and armed myself with a cold water bottle and a coke can and started driving down the tortuous hill. Rounding the first corner, I found myself shaking and nauseated. Three times I pulled off the pavement, stopped the Prius and vomited before I made it to the parking lot of the Holiday Express -- where I vomited again. Obviously, I decided not to cause a traffic disaster by driving home. Nice smelling sheets and convenient toilet and lots of sips of water for $140. Actually, by 8 o'clock I was able to stagger over to McDonald's and get a large orange soda that sweetly stayed in my tummy. To add a bit of sappy symbolism to my tale of woe, what should appear behind the golden arches but a genuine rainbow! Put whatever symbolic significance on that rarity in parched California you would like. I am really quite okay now, planning a hike with Helen and Linda for Monday or Tuesday and trying to rebalance my hydration levels."

There you have it. People unable to drink beer after a hike! Happy pills to the rescue! Unable to put shoes back on in the middle of the hike! Coke making people Toss Their Cookies! Unsigned trails! Lost hikers! People without enough water! Someone unable to make it home and staying in a hotel! What is that famous INCH saying? "Some people hike to enjoy the beauty of nature ... some people hike to achieve inner serenity ... some people hike for the physical and mental challenge ... we hike because we love to suffer!" Anyone who hasn’t hiked with INCH before – you’ve been warned!

Hiker NameFinish Time
George3:41 pm
Kirk3:47 pm
Steve4:26 pm
Diane4:47 pm
Helen4:52 pm
Sarah4:52 pm
David4:53 pm
Linda5:29 pm
Paul5:39 pm
Peter5:58 pm
Karl6:14 pm
John6:14 pm

Linda's version:

As Daylight Savings ends soon, which leads to the delay of sunrise, usually getting up at dawn creates some difficulties for some people. Besides work or going places for fun, people normally sleep in on weekends. Why the hell did I get up so early? I doubt it was for fun; yes, it was for insanity, doing another 25 mile brutal hike at Coe.

I set my alarm for 4:45 A.M. so I could leave home at 5:45. (It was still pitch dark when I left; sunrise for Saturday was at 6:20 A.M.) Mission accomplished! Although with the road work and reduction of one lane on I-680 for about two miles between Sunol and Milpitas, I, first INCHer, managed to arrive at 7:10, experiencing the fresh outdoors air at Coe. I was followed by Paul, and then David. A few minutes later, the remaining INCHers started to roll in, filling up the parking lot. Besides us, there were campers and other hikers. (Other hikers! I guess we were not the only insane ones.)

As usual, we get ready —changing shoes, putting on sun block, or whatever we do to prevent ourselves from getting hurt, burnt, or pained. (Preventing pain?! Not likely, if your goal is to finish 25 miles in one day at Coe. Well, after all these years of hiking, we still have not learned.) Just as we were about to begin the hike, Ranger Libby appeared and conversed with George. Then Ranger John, who was not surprised to see the INCHers on canicular days, marched toward us with a big smile. After he was informed where we were attempting to hike, he commented on the water availability (which was none) at China Hole. In addition, he suggested adding a few degrees to the temperature, to whatever the media forecasts, in the future. Putting his fair warning behind us, the intrepid hikers headed up the gate and gathered up for the traditional cheer.

1, 2, 3 ... INCH!

As with many hikes, hikers start to scatter/disappear as soon as they approach the hills. I have repeated myself numerous times, "I am the only normal one when going uphill; the others fly uphill." After paying respects to Big Henry at the monument, the front runners were not within sight. What happened? It was downhill, guys/girls. Perhaps, it was the new trail, Hobbs Road.

Somehow, I ended up hiking with Diane, John, Karl, Paul, and Peter before heading up Willow Ridge. I knew this trail; we have come down a few times before. Because I knew how steep the trail was, I started to consume one Clif Bloks© (200 calories) before climbing up. It didn’t do the trick, so I wolfed down another one and guzzled a 15-ounce can of Arizona Tea with some Plantain chips as I climbed, thinking the sugar and the caffeine would give me a boost. Silly me, I spent more energy digesting the food; food does not immediately kick in after consuming. Anyway… I have not learned.

Literally, I had to stop to catch my breath every five steps. When I got to the junction, Peter and Paul were sitting down, drinking and eating away. I asked, "Are you waiting for me?" Peter replied, "Yeah. We didn’t want to leave because we knew you were coming up soon." I later found out that Peter had got there 10 minutes prior to Paul’s arrival and 20 minutes before I appeared. I was thrilled to see them because I needed their guidance for the rest of hike. We left a few minutes later upon my arrival. Thanks guys for waiting.

With Paul’s awareness of George’s arrow to George Milias Trail, we didn’t get lost, extending the hike like some did. (I don’t know what would happen then.) Thanks George and Paul. I managed to hike with Peter and Paul until we started climbing again. Peter decided to take another sandwich break before turning right at Mahoney Meadows Road; Paul was gone when I got there but still within sight. I offered to stay with Peter, but he sent me off while he was changing his socks. Thinking he was okay and not wanting to disturb his privacy, I left him behind. (I mentioned to Sarah and Helen about this when we replicated the BART to BART hike today, 8/25/09; I was told Peter likes to suffer alone. Found out, he did that to Diane when we did the Ramage Peak Hike. I see.)

Paul left and Peter took a break; great, I had to read the map and directions. So, I did, using my navigational skills which many times have failed in the past. Surprisingly, I was able to find my way back to the headquarters. Thanks for the TM’s distinct directions and map.

As I was approaching the end of my journey, George congratulated me. At that moment, it reminded me when I was near the finish line for my first marathon. The unknown speculators, who many were family or friends of the marathoners, cheered us by saying, “Good job. You’re almost there.” But this time, George, my supporter, was calling my name, “Yeah! Linda.” Wow! There is a nice and warm INCH human after hiking almost a marathon distance.

When I finally arrived, George commenced his interview with regard to the missing hikers, who I thought were in front of me, before I could catch my breath. I told him that no one was in sight. But, I did pass Paul going up Madrone Soda Springs Trail and didn’t believe that he was too far behind. Further, I informed him where I abandoned Peter.

Thanks Helen for the warm but sweet honeydew which satisfied my hunger. Yes, I later remembered and mentioned your eggplant dip which George had thought I was holding out. He quickly opened it but refused it after one taste. Sorry, no post hike drama but a little sore on the balls of my feet which quickly recovered after a swim the next day.

Diane's version:

This was a routine hike. Don't know what all the fuss is about. Temperatures were very mild for Coe in August, and Peter had intentionally included no steep climbs after Willow Ridge. Nice varied scenery, lots of new trails, plenty of time for self-contemplation in the outdoors ... really an all-around enjoyable hike.

We lost a bunch of time early on at China Hole waiting for Peter to heed the call of nature. Took him at least 10 minutes, so he was probably earning a brown leaf. He must be the INCH champ for that. If only it were logged on the Stats page ...

[Peter: I told them not to wait up! I was actually not earning any brown leaves; I stopped to give my aching knees a break after the long downhill and to eat the two bananas I was carrying in my backpack before they got bruised and battered beyond all recognition. And I was stopped and requested to take a photo of a group of backpackers ("say cheeseburger!"). If I hadn't shown Diane & Co. the way out of The Hole, they would still probably be there.]

He then led us about a mile the wrong way on Mahoney Meadows before we got back to Willow Ridge. I ditched him at that point -- clearly a good call as I didn't get lost once after that, thanks to Steve's arrow at Milias trail. Lesson learned: Peter cannot be trusted.

Walking by myself shortly after Los Cruzeros to nearly the end, I feared that Peter would downgrade to a 4, but kept hope that he'd keep it a 5 due to the length. When I saw he called it a 6, it was like winning the lottery. But without getting any money. Maybe he'll give me a beer?

Karl's version:

My story is quite boring actually. A wrong Peter-led turn early on, a wrong turn at the unsigned junction, wasted time at China Hole trying to find misnamed trail(s), multiple stops to clear foxtails out of my socks, and lastly, leaving my really cool hiking poles in the HQ parking lot due to my distraction and excitement of Linda's nice watermelon!

Oh, one of the HQ rangers found my poles and has them set aside for me.

See, my account is very boring compared to all of the excitement I missed ahead of me on the trail.

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