2010-07-30

Swimming a river

Jess and I went on another trip up to Mendocino.

This time, after sleeping in a field Friday night, we drove down to the intersection of 18N25B and 18N25. We decided we should see if we could get to snow mountain - which we'd been eye'ing the last two times we went to mendocino.

We also realized on this trip that we really didn't need much. Both of us recently picked up new backpacks for work and dayhikes.

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As you can see, they're not big packs. Jess' is 23L Mine is 25L. These are photos from our actual hike, so that's all our gear right there :P.
I had:

  • basic med kit
  • basic emergency/directional gear (knife, sighting compass, headlamp, etc.)
  • sleepingbag
  • cook-kit: pot, woodstove, bandana, spork, lighter (and alcohol stove, forgot to take it out)
  • heavy overshirt
  • nylon pant
  • clothes on my back (t-shirt, shorts, boxers, giant heavy leather belt)
  • bandana
  • car-keys/wallet... at least part of the time
  • map
Jess carried the tarp (no cookkit) - and left her spork by the car.

So, we struck out Down a streambed. We tried milkweed on the way. It appears that some types are poisonous and some are not. I just this minute learned that common milkweed (an edible variety) only grows on the east coast. You can tell by the taste though. This seemed semi-edible, but not in large quantities.

Eventually we hit a river/corner of the lake. So, after some repacking in drysacks... we swam across. After wandering around a bit we realized the scrub in that area was not good for bushwhacking (something we were keenly aware of after our last 2 trips to Mendocino).
So, we swam back across, ate some food. While we were eating we heard some sort of party down the river. So we then began working our way downriver, walking on the sides, towards the lake, crossing as needed (I lost track of how many times). The sides were steep and in areas there was quite a lot of wild-rice.

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(note, this is actually a picture from our way back, crossing an inlet)

Around a sharp right and then as sharp left there was a large rock in the middle of the river, around this rock were gathered boats. They were playing loud music, people swimming, kids jumping off the rock, etc. We walked out and talked to a couple of people - apparently it's a weekly event.

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The river/lake is wider here, maybe a couple hundred meters across. So, after some consideration we picked a path and swam across. Jess got pretty tired dragging her pack. All our gear was in dry-sacks, so the packs floated, but we'd already swam the river several times, so were tired. As you swim the pack slowly fills with water and gets heavier - so you slow down as you go.

After a good break, we struck off up the hill, following more dear-trails. It was tougher going, but not terrible. There wasn't much to sight off of, and both of us were getting tired, it was getting towards evening and we didn't want to be doing this in the dark. We had a decent idea where we were, but not perfect, and we wanted the fastest way back to water (I had 2 liter capacity, jess 3, and we weren't loaded up, so a dry-camp would've been iffy). So... we picked a drainage and started heading down. Eventually we found a nice bit of lake, got some water, ate dinner up on the hill, and crashed... hard.

Just before going to sleep I realized I didn't have my wallet. After some considerable consternation and looking around, I left my wallet, with the zipcar key, on a beach just before we swam the river. I had been wonderfully contented, but now I was a bit more on edge, anxious and double-checking over and over where I might've left it. I figured out eventually that I definitely hadn't had it when I repacked on the far side of the river, and I didn't think I had it on the rock-bar when we ate lunch, before I repacked to go down the river. So that's where it *probably* was.

During the night we kept hearing deer. One in particular was really pissed off about us, I'd intentionally urinated near the ur-sack (soft bear canister), knowing that bears in this area are afraid of people. It seemed the deer came apon this (about 20 feet from us) and was VERY upset that it's planned route onto the point had been cut off. I spent maybe half an hour making annoyed noises.

Next morning we did a bit of scouting and quickly figured out where we were based on the map. We wanted to get back to where I thought the car-keys were. After looking at the lake we realized going down the edge of it wouldn't be easy, and the forests up near the tops of the hills where we were seemed pretty clear. So we struck off down the ridgeline, following the edge of the lake.

This tactic turned out to be VERY successful. We had a couple of dead-ends. It turns out that if you watch where the major deer trails go it tells you a lot about the surrounding geography. Deer don't like to go straight down cliffs (though... what they think of a cliff is a LOT steeper than what most people think of as a cliff). They *do* disappear straight into dense brush though. Keeping these in mind you can look out at the surrounding land and guess based on texture, and where the deertrails are going, which way will be most passable.

In not long at all we reached the rock again, and swam back across. Here we met some people on a boat, who offered us a ride back down to our rock-bar. Not relishing walking/swimming back up the river (and wanting to get to the keys and see if they were there), we accepted. The family had built their own house near the lake apparently about a year ago. They said that mendocino was much wetter this year, and that the area where we first swam was normally "dry" this time of year (I took this to mean, very low, impassable by boat). This explained why no boats had been up there when we first swam the river - the boats weren't used to going up there due to the normally shallow water.

They got very worried about snags (only a 18" draft apparently on the motorboat, so not TOO worried) after seeing a few, so the dropped us off not far from the bar, and we swam the river one more time - it's only ~70m or so across here though, and only a portion of that deep enough to require swimming. So, in short order, we were back on the rock-bar.

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And low and behold, the car keys!!!

Relaxed, contented, and happy, we napped on the bar for a while, then hiked back up to the car :). YAY!
The hike back was AMAZING. On the way down we'd missed a lot of the prettiest parts of the stream. A lot of it was almost like being in the jungle, just beutiful. It was all beautifully lush and full of life.

The rest of the photos are here http://www.flickr.com/photos/smalladventures/sets/72157624494623747/