Sunday, January 10, 2010

Soft Shell SAR

How many times have you ever had a gaff and said to yourself “I can’t believe I did that”? If you’re like me, and probably like most people, it’s more times than you are willing to admit. My latest one starts like this. I got up early on Saturday morning and began getting ready to embark on my favorite pastime, hiking. Sometimes I have not even made a final decision on where to go yet before I have already eaten some breakfast, put my gear on, checked the weather reports, and packed up to go. In that case I usually have some tea and peruse our collection of maps. This time of year I am sure to be using my trusty, well broken in, REI branded soft shell jacket, along with what ever other layers I think I need underneath. It’s great for being active because it really does breathe pretty well. It repels moisture, does a very good job of cutting the wind, plus it’s light and durable. I went to find it in my closet, but it was not there. I looked around and it was not in my gear storage or in my car either. This didn’t make sense at first, but then it finally hit me. Last week I did my Happy New Year hike to Vasquez and Rock Spring Peaks in Henry Coe. During that hike I had gone off trail a bit and taken a little siesta by leaning against some rocks up on Vasquez Peak, and I remembered using my folded up soft shell as a pillow. Doh! It became apparent to me then that I must have left it there. Curses! Of course this could have been a fairly good excuse to buy a new one. The technology keeps getting better and the newer ones even look better. I know the prices on soft shells have been coming down as popularity has risen, but I bought mine at least 6 years ago when the soft shell jacket was still a fairly new concept. I remember paying somewhere north of $200 for it, so I am loath to donate it to the squirrels and spiders, or the next passer by. Besides, it’s kind of like an old friend.

I thought about the place where I had left it. I had picked a nice quiet spot which was not real close by the trail, so it would not have been immediately visible. Also the color of the jacket is actually very close to the light greenish lichens covering those rocks camouflaging it quite well, which probably helped me miss it when I was leaving. Besides, that trail is not a busy route. Occasional long range hikers might use it, but it’s not a normal day hike route, and it’s kind of out of season for back packing. Anyway, all things considered, I figured that the odds of finding it still there were very good if I went back. So I decided to attempt a rescue.

The weather was overcast and foggy. I decided to use the most direct route to the peak where I hoped the jacket would still be. I went to the Hunting Hollow trail head and used the Lyman Wilson Trail, to the Bowl Trail, to connect with Vasquez Road. I began hiking briskly up the ridge to build heat. It would have been really nice to have a soft shell. Duh! But I made due with what I had. I paused for a moment to watch a young bobcat, which was also intently watching me sitting under a tree. I didn’t realize it but its mother was nearby too. I tried to move a little closer to take better pictures using the bushes as cover, but it didn’t fool the cats. They began moving away into the thick brush down in Coon Hunter’s Gulch. I had not seen the larger cat until they moved, and only got the one photo of the young one at about 25 yards. I made good time, reaching the junction at Vasquez Road by 9:00 am. I marveled at the sight of a blooming gooseberry bush. I have never seen gooseberry in January before. There were also some cattle grazing right along Vasquez Road. They kept moving away from me as I approached, but only further down the trail. I kept encountering the same group of cows who seemed to think I was after them. I tried to be careful not to startle them too much, and finally got past them. When I reached the place where the rocks were, there was my jacket right where I left it a week ago. I considered it a kind of a victory, even though it was quite stupid of me to have left it there in the first place. Plus I have now lost my excuse to get a new one. But I just like the way this one feels. Ok, here it comes; I can’t believe I did that! On the way back it warmed up so the jacket was just extra bulk in my pack, but I’m glad I found it again. I also spotted a lot of milk maids blooming just like last week. January wild flowers. Wow! I added some additional pictures to my photoset from last week.


Dave Miller said...

Glad you found your jacket!

My favorite Marmot cap is somewhere on above the Bunnell Cascades in the Merced River Gorge. Never found it and still miss it!

Waypoints said...

Thanks Dave. If I ever see that cap up in the Merced River Gourge I'll be sure to get it back to you :-)