For almost three years now, two of my former roommates and I have been planning The Man Trip, to take place during summer 2008. The idea was to do something really manly (like smashing rocks together or grunting a lot) for a week or so. Erik couldn't make it (due to marriage and graduation and other grown up stuff), but Hyrum and I decided to go backpacking this week in the Trinity Alps in northern California. (You can read his account of our trip.)
Since internet access isn't something that normally comes with a weeklong backpacking trip in the middle of nowhere, you might be wondering how I'm writing this blog entry. Well, the truth is, our trip had some problems. Here's the main one:
Those little red flames are forest fires. The big red arrow is where we were planning to hike. You may notice a problem with that situation. We did too, actually, but we figured that there would be other nearby options if the fires were too bad where we were planning to go.
We set off last night on the five-hour drive from the Bay Area to Weaverville. I was amazed at the variety of crops that were grown along the highway: rice, corn, wheat, alfalfa, sunflowers, olives, fruit trees, grapes, and more. The sunset over the coast range as we were driving up I-5 was amazing, thanks to a thin layer of hazy smoke in the air.
That haze thickened as we got closer to our destination until it smelled like my car's air conditioning intake was ducted directly from a campfire. That was a little worrying. It was dark by the time we were nearing Weaverville, and at one point we saw a small forest fire blazing through the darkness not too far from the road. That was a little more worrying. We stayed the night in my car in the Long's Drug parking lot. (Word to the wise: don't try that at home, kids. It's not comfortable!).
When we got up in the morning, we headed straight for the Trinity-Shasta National Forest Ranger Station in Weaverville. We were hoping to hear that the fires were dying down and that the winds were blowing the smoke away from our intended route. What we actually heard was that the fires were near our route, they were growing, they were mostly uncontrolled, and the winds were blowing toward where we had planned to go. Uh oh.
As we drove around Weaverville, there were far more fire trucks than regular vehicles on the road. Here's a picture that I took:
The ranger there didn't really have any good suggestions for alternate routes, so we decided to find somewhere ourselves. During the next little while we:
- Tried to go to the Weaverville library to use the internet, only to discover that it didn't open until 1 p.m.
- Called the main Forest Service office in Redding and found out that the ranger who knew what was going on wouldn't be in for over an hour.
- Decided that the smoke was too thick in the Trinity Alps for us to hike there.
- Bought a map of California to help us look for other places to go.
- Made the hour-long drive to Redding.
Here's what the road looked like on the way out of town—and for those of you following along at home, that's not fog:
In Redding we:
- Talked to the ranger who supposedly knew what was going on and discovered that she wasn't as helpful as we had hoped.
- Tried to find internet access in Redding, only to find that the library had an insanely long wait, and the internet café's phone had been disconnected.
- Called almost every national forest and national park in the northern half of California and discovered that apparently the whole northern half of the state is on fire.
- Decided to go south to avoid the smoke so that we wouldn't have to drive home even further.
We finally decided to drive to Sacramento and go to REI to look at guide books and trail maps. I found a few options that looked pretty good in a guide book and asked Hyrum what he thought of them. He wisely said that he was trying to feel, not think. As I did the same, I felt the same thing that he did: that we should go home.
We had invested a lot of time, money, and planning into the trip, and going home felt a lot like like quitting—a decided un-Manly thing to do. However, we had prayed for guidance, and accepting and following that guidance was more important than following through with our own plans. We drove the couple of hours from Sacramento back through San Francisco and then to Palo Alto, stopping at In-N-Out for dinner.
I'm still disappointed that our plans didn't work out, but I think it's for the best. I've been on interstate trips for the last two weekends, so it's not like I'm hurting for vacation, and this week will give me some extra time to work and finish up some things that I've been putting off for a while (like writing blog entries about those trips). I know that I'll be blessed for following what I was prompted to do.
Our packs, all ready to go, will have to wait for another day. California fires: 1; us: 0.