Sunday, December 28, 2008

Super Cool Car

Texas Gal and I decided to boycott the holidays and head up to Sequoia National Park for a winter camping expedition. In preparation for this, despite my already having decided to drive the 4WD Jeep, I needed to make a last-minute chain purchase. Apparently, even if you have 4WD, chains can often be required.

Chains. At the ready - in a big pile in the back...

With everything all packed up, we drove into the park and set up camp just before dark (oh... 4:30?) on the 24th. We were almost the only souls there. This was not surprising. After dinner (stew!) I was urging the fire to be more fire-like and less a giant smoke factory. I was complaining about the suckyness of the wood when Texas Gal pointed out that the reason it wasn't burning was more likely the rain. As the rain pressed on and we got soggier, we packed it in by around 7 and retreated to the tents. This would likely have been more effective if either (or both) of us had been bothered to strap our tent flies down in preparation for a torrential downpour. We had not done this, and after relentless rain through the night and well into the morning, I finally emerged and ran for cover in the Jeep to dry off. Eventually Texas Gal joined me and we tried to figure out somewhere to go that would be less wet. Up the mountain was decided, because, as I pointed out - if it's raining here, an elevation gain should give us snow instead - and then we can go snowshoeing! Well, it turned out that a torrential downpour at our camp translated to a blizzard up the mountain. This should not have been a surprise...

1st attempt at chain-putting-on. Turns out that draping them over my tires is a far more effective method.

So, we had to break out the chains - while the sign can often read "4x4 with snow tires ok" this time it read "no exceptions". On the first chain attempt, one fell off almost instantaneously. This discovery went something like: "why are the chains only making noise on one side?" Apparently when the instructions told us to "drive 1/4 mile and then tighten" they meant "tighten, drive 1/4 mile then tighten again". So we went on a hike in the blizzard (that the coyotes were even trying to escape) to retrieve the chains from down the hill.

No exceptions!

"Feed me!"

*sigh* The expedition in the blizzard proved essentially pointless - when there's almost no driving visibility, it turns out that trying to snowshoe when ice crystals are penetrating your retinas is also not enjoyable. After a silly lunch of soup make in the only "protected" place we could find - the doorway of the men's toilet at the campground - we retreated and drove around aimlessly for the rest of the day until we could justify crawling back into our soggy tents for the night.

The morning of the 26th brought reprieve with the rain having turned to snow overnight. We had a light dusting on and around the tents in the morning, and with the exception of the previously enplaced wetness, the site was dryish. I used Pi's borrowed shovel (thanks!) to dig out the picnic table and make some oatmeal and coffee. Yessssssss - FINALLY! With the snowshoes loaded, snacks aboard, and chains at the ready we were set for what we had come for.

A thin layer of snow covers the day and a half of rain sog on everything.

The "draping over the tire" method.

Moro Rock. Promising! (Closed)

As it turns out the sound of the chains reverberating around the empty uninsulated cavernous back of the Jeep is something like a hundred leaden-hoofed tap-dancing jingle horses following close behind. This is when you are driving on the order of 6 mph. By 11 mph you have somehow angered these horses, and they have also somehow become loud vampire zombie leaden-hoofed tap-dancing horses ravenously chasing you. They have also multiplied ten-fold. Flap-a-wakka-WAKKA-flap-a-WAKKA-WAK-A-WAK-A-WAKKA-wakka-wakka-flap-a-WAK-aflappa-WAK. Over 11 mph the sound was deafening and brain explosion was imminent, so I kept to 11. And pulled over frequently to let the quieter vehicles pass by.

Finally some snowshoeing amongst the big beautiful red trees was had, after we drank in our fill, we "zipped" on back down to camp... at 11 mph. Just as the snow started to thin and I could actually see some signs of tarmac ahead a couple of ladies waving frantically at us caused me to go from a crawl to a halt. I rolled down the window. They cautioningly said "you have to slow down, slow waaaaaaaaaay down, this road is treacherous" - or something to that extent - as Texas Gal and I looked at them quizzically from the 4WD Jeep equipped with ravenous vampire horse chains that had been moving at a speed barely faster than I walk, they continued with some pretty impressive attitude coming from women in a sedan "well maybe in your super cool car you'll be fine". I responded with "... uhhh .... thanks?" and continued to loudly rumble my way down. Had the chains not been so noisy you would have been able to hear us roaring with laughter for the next hour as we "raced" along in my "super cool car".

Snowshoes. Much more "super cool" than my car, but whatever.

A select few tree photos from my little snowshoe treks.

That evening I managed to get a fire started with our soggy wood and soggy paper and soggy firestarter etc. It took a LOT of coaxing, but once it got going it was fabulous. We shared beers with neighbouring tent campers, both PhDs in biology, one from Columbia and the other a Scot. That day really made the whole expedition - of course the next morning I pulled my frozen tent-shaped fly off and chipped away at the ice in order to fold it up and pack it away...

Turns out chains also make a lovely accessory.


Anthony said...

Chains??? Aren't you Canadian???

gnat said...

Nationality plays no part in the laws of the State of California...

Kilometres said...

A) You're crazy.

B) Vampire zombie leaden-hoofed tap-dancing horses! HA!

C) Your snowshoeing photos are OHmazing!

D) Your xmas looked amazing! Well done!