Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rocks, The Blog, and sleds all going sliding

Mrs Notthat came up with a great idea - we should head to Lake Tahoe to play in the snow. So she made reservations at a condo in Incline Village and The Boy and Irbua took time off at work and we were all set to spend three nights on the lake.

Then we started hearing talk of a big storm coming in on Wednesday that would make driving up there, at the least, adventurous. The Blog was a bit nervous about this (several years ago we all spent the night along I-80 waiting for it to open after a storm like this - he did not find that as much fun as it sounds).

On the Tuesday before we were to head up, Mrs Notthat got a call saying that the place we'd rented was no longer available due to damage done to it by the last storm. So she found us a room at the Cedar Lodge in El Portal, just outside Yosemite, where the roads would be no problem, at least to get to the motel.

As predicted, the storm that went through on Wednesday was big, but all we had to deal with was some rain.

Note: I have posted a bunch of pictures here. I'll try not to duplicate many of them in this post.

On Thursday morning, we slowly got moving and finally headed out to Yosemite Valley at about 10:30. We hit stopped traffic after about ten minutes (not too far from the entrance station). There was a reasonably steady stream of cars coming at us, so we figured at the worst, a lane was blocked and it would just take a bit to get through. Then the woman in front of us, who had some sort of magical phone that could get a signal here, called to find out what was up - that's when we heard that there had been a rock slide about an hour earlier and that the road was closed until further notice (which turned out to be until 5 PM the next day).

The steady stream of traffic coming at us were people that figured out what was going on and were turning around.

This was a bummer for us; we purposely picked this motel since it provides the easiest way to get into the park. Unless it doesn't. There are two other entrances, but both require at least two hours of driving and putting on chains to get to where we wanted to be. We sighed heavily and chose the southern entrance. We had to put chains on about 15 miles out of Oakhurst, even though the road was just wet. Another 5 or so miles into the park and the road became quite icy, and those that scoffed at putting their chains on were now struggling to get them on in less than ideal conditions.

I figured that the first vehicle we would see in a snowbank would be a 4WD SUV, but it wasn't - it was a Mustang. (We later saw a 4WD pickup that had involuntarily ventured off the road, which made me feel better.)

The Boy and Irbua at the Wawona park entrance.

The Blog and Mrs Notthat and a nice view.

Mrs Notthat thought that this doggy might make a good companion for our aging Teddy. (This coyote pranced and posed for us at the Bridalveil Falls parking lot for several minutes.)

Now for the horrifying part of the story.

Once in the valley, we drove around looking at the sights for a bit, then parked out by Yosemite Falls to walk up and get a picture. Note that, normally this time of year, the falls would barely be running. But this is not a normal year, with lots of wet and (relatively) warm storms that have swelled the creeks and rivers, making them look more like spring runoff.

I thick-headedly took off while the others got their boots and mittens and such on. I took an alternative trail that had the potential to be a shortcut. Then I got to a part of the trail that was covered with about 6 inches of water. There were footprints heading off to the left through the trees, so, smelling a way around the flooded trail, I followed the footsteps. They led to a place where the stream was only about 4 feet wide, and they continued on the other side. I figured I could jump that stream pretty easily, and jumped.

The next thing I knew, I had cleared the stream, but was now standing in a bit over 4 feet of extremely cold water. It was up to my chest, and I was stunned. Apparently whoever made those footprints did it when there was a thicker layer of ice. I pulled myself up more of less on top of the slushy ice, and started kind of swimming towards the trail. Obviously, this was not easy. Some people saw me and asked if I was going to be able to make it out - one even started to step out to come towards me but I told him not to try. The whole area was flooded, but it didn't look like it. There were trees and shrubs and such - it looked like a snow covered field. Once I got within about 6 feet of the trail, they stuck out a tree branch and were able to drag me the rest of the way in. Standing right next to the trail, the water was over 2 feet deep.

Sadly, I have no pictures of any of this since my camera really does not like water. (And neither does my iPhone, both of which are still drying out with small chances of ever working again.) If I had thought of it, I would have asked my rescuers to take a picture. Once I was out, I started to continue heading up to the falls, but then realized my camera was toast, and that my pant legs were starting to freeze up, so I headed back to the van, this time not being so worried about tromping though the flooded trail.

I then came upon the others who had already been up to the falls on the proper trail, and became a bit worried when they didn't see me. We went back to the van and I got out of my wet clothes. By now I was shivering and very cold.

Eventually I warmed up, but even now as I type this two days later, my fingertips are numb (but look normal) as is my belly (which is a weird feeling). Nothing else on my body seems bothered. I'm guessing that I came VERY close to this being extremely serious - but suspect the numbness will go away eventually (after a bit of Googling it sounds like I have a case of frostnip - very mild frostbite). I have little hope of the camera or iPhone recovering (they are both in a bag of rice).

End of horrifying part of the story.

The next day we headed out to find some snow to play in. A helpful guy at the motel told us about some side roads we could take that would probably get us to snow, but they ended up getting us to a muddy, rut-filled road that got The Boy excited but made the van whimper.

We ended up heading back up towards Wawona.

Snow was found and played in! This is from the first run by Mrs Notthat and Irbua - there was a nasty dip that sent them airborne. Not learning anything, they tried it again - this time Mrs Notthat landed badly and her lower-back said "uncle." The Boy and Irbua made several runs, then smoothed out the dip a bit, and made a few more runs. I kept the van warm.

By the time we got back to the motel and had dinner, we were all pretty beat. We all ended up asleep by a bit after 11, and were all woken up at midnight by people blowing on horns and setting off a few fireworks. Welcome to our exciting New Years Eve!

We woke up this morning to rain, which meant it was probably snowing in the park. But home was the other way.

It was a much different trip than originally planned, and overall it was pretty good. The rock slide did not help things, but it did force us to eat more meals in Mariposa and Oakhurst than we otherwise would have, including a wonderful BBQ dinner at a place called Todd's Cookhouse in Oakhurst. The unplanned swim certainly didn't help things, but hopefully I have learned a lesson.

That's it - move along...

PS: In case you missed it earlier, more pictures can be seen here.


notthatlucas said...

One kind of funny thing after the ice plunge - I was sitting in the van at the Yosemite Store with a new dry t-shirt on waiting for Mrs to get back from the bathroom, when I noticed music playing in the glovebox. My iPhone was weirdly playing music. I had no way to stop it, so I turned it down (I was surprised those controls worked) and let it play until the battery died.

DAK said...

I think you were closer than you suspect to being in big trouble. Next time just trail meekly behind the family, will you please?

notthatlucas said...

DAK - you are probably right. And that was almost word for word what Mrs Notthat asked me to do from now on.

mary ann said...

This is very, very scary. Pls. be careful and think before you leap.