Sunday, June 12, 2011

Camp Loll and the Abominable Snow

Only a tribe called the Sacae would neither assist nor be conscripted, 'for they have never been reduced to subjection . . . living in high mountain country, well-wooded and covered with snow. They are also formidable warriors.' Thermopylae, Ernle Mradford (quoting Herodotus)

June 4th, 2011 had long been the date set for the first visit to Loll. A few summers ago I drove into camp on the 5th. The last few summers there have been challenges, but this first weekend in June has always enabled us to gage the date to bring in the staff and start the summer. So, early Saturday the 4th, five of us headed for Loll. Myself, Jody, Quinn, and my grandson Rowan and Jody's son Charlie. The snow has never stopped us before the east base of the Calf Creek divide. This spring we ran into the first snow bank while we were still on the pavement.

We drove through a lot of drifts, here we look back on some we broke through just before the road crosses the creek and narrows. While I brought the truck through, the rest of the guys explored along the road. Just past the bridge they found a long run of grizzly bear tracks.

Note the straight line of the toes and the long claw marks.

We drove on to Indian Lake; not a lily pad to be seen.

Gibson Meadow, which we reached by breaking through a few more drifts, was barely out from under the snow. There was a flock of sandhill cranes.

The were busy with their own spring time duties.

The snow stopped us at the east end of Gibbon Meadows. This is Rowan standing by the snow bank that stopped us. There would be a lot of clear road ahead, but I was not in the mood to dig; we walked up the road a mile or so.

There was not a leaf on the willows.

Charlie and Rowan stand in front of the fast melting snow.

The road was a river in some places.

We reached the limit of any hope of digging through a mile or so before we got to the Loon Lake turn off.

I got to carry Rowan back to the truck. We determined to give it another try in a week. I have to admit I was fairly hopeful.

Before first light on the morning of June 11th, the day we had planned to take our entire staff in for "work week", six of us headed back toward Loll. I was determined to hike into the camp or bust.

We stopped to get our tire fixed at St. Anthony and crossed the highway from Les Schwabs to check out the park. It was under water.

Here are (left to right) Christian Lippert, John Mortensen, and Aaron Bott. They accompanied, Leonard, Jody, and me this trip. I figured I might use some snow shovelers.

We drove past Indian Lake without seeing a snow bank on the road. Where we crossed the bridge at the narrowing of the road we were flagged down by a family who had pulled off the road the day before and got their SUV and camp trailer stuck in the mud. When they asked for help I just said, "we're Boy Scouts".

It took the Toyota and all six of us to get the truck out of the mud. Here is the filled-in mud hole where the truck was stuck.

Leonard with the truck safe on the road.

Not long afterward we pulled out of the trees to see a grizzly on Gibson Meadows. He was grazing on Spring Beauties, and was not at all interested in us.

I suggested one of the younger guys run out and get him coming our way. No one seemed willing to play bear bait.

He was a very big bear.

Within two miles we met some snow banks I decided not to try, unless we could find clear driving beyond. While the diggers worked us old men walked up the road; it didn't look promising so we pulled the truck over and started the hike.

We soon passed Loon Lake turn off, this is looking back on it from the end of a long clear run.

But, the other direction the snow covered the road for most of the rest of our hike.

We were soon in deep snow and knew our hopes of getting into camp the next week were gone, we can only hope that two weeks will make a difference.

This is the road up the west side of Calf Creek divide. Here we got the big truck stuck last summer, and had to rebuild the road in 2008.

It was not just the road that was covered with snow. The unbroken drifts filled the forest to the mountain tops.

In every direction, snow everywhere.

"The winter! the brightness that blinds you,

The white land locked tight as a drum,

The cold fear that follows and finds you,

The silence that bludgeons you dumb.

The snows that are older than history,

The woods where the weird shadows slant;

The stillness, the moonlight, the mustery,

I've bade 'em good-by -- But I can't"

The Spell of the Yukon, Robert Service

After one hour and fifty minutes of hiking, mostly over snow, we reached the top of Calf Creek Divide.

The snow pole showed five feet.

The Crew checks it out.

Aaron Bott and I take a rest.

This is the view down the Calf Creek hill, always the last place to melt off in the spring.

We decided we would not make Loll. We had our lunch at the snow pole. Arron eats his sandwich.

John with his peanut butter and apricot jam sandwich. I made them all myself.

Christian and Jody

Then we headed down. It is so much easier to walk down hill.

Here is a sign that the water can get high when the sun gets hot.

Jody's hand by a moose track.

The guys started picking up beer cans, work in leiu.

Fifty yards before we reach the truck we found a truck which had gone a snow bank too far. We got to do our second good turn of the day. The driver, Alden Dehlin, was 94 years old and all alone in the woods. I hope I can make 94 so well. He had been stuck for two hours.

Once we got him out he gave me his card. Pretty classy isn't it.

Pee Wee posed with us beside our litter collection, then headed down the road; we followed.

As I trudged the miles of snow I thought of the Legend of Bpah Oh Quaidt: "For miles they crossed the rotting snow, but at last the drifts ended. As their tired feet first touched the wet earth they raised a cry of joy. . . where the flowing waters came from the edge of the melting snow, grew tiny white flowers white stripes as red as blood."

The miles of rotting snow.

The wet earth.

The tiny white flowers.

The stripes as red as blood.


Reach Upward said...

I have never seen Indian Lake without lily pads before—not even in a photo. That's still a heck of a lot of snow. The flora an fauna at Camp Loll will be late coming to life this year.

Dan said...

I feel so bad for the staff who will miss out on time this summer. Once you don't get to go, you understand how every day there is precious. Hopefully you guys can get in soon. Agreed on Indian Lake, that always has had lily pads.

Anonymous said...

Any hope for a scout troop to be into Camp Loll by July 4th? That is our scheduled date. said...

Thank you for this article, quite effective data.

Amy said...
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