Plan B

posted Dec 14, 2010, 3:19 PM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Dec 14, 2010, 3:51 PM ]
We're always just a little amazed at the way some people approach backpacking routes and itineraries:  as if they were written in stone, and must be obeyed to the letter, come hell or high water.  Yowza, that's a bad idea!  Particularly in the case of high water...if the water looks too dangerous, go somewhere else!
Of course, if you  are trying to do the whole PCT in one season, you better keep moving, and in the same direction.  But otherwise, we're big believers in taking it as it comes. 
We start every trip with a clear idea of how we'd like to start...and maybe where we'd like to go. But we always know, in the back of our minds, that we don't really have to follow the plan.  In fact, we've had some of our best trips when we decided to do something different.  And we look for ways to get off the main trail just for a little adventure. 
Heck, in some cases, we didn't have a choice.  We ended up exploring Cherry Canyon and the Boundary Lake area of Yosemite (you'll find that in our favorite lake section!) because our initial permit was for the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne--and a major forest fire there closed the area for weeks.  So we went to plan B.  We had to buy a couple of extra maps at the wilderness center---and then had a great time.  That's Boundary Lake at left...
This last summer we decided to hike the generally trail-less lakes of southern Emigrant Wilderness:  Pingree, Big, and Yellowhammer Lakes.  We didn't have a strict day-to-day plan, and we thought we'd just play it by ear, and see how far we'd get.  First day, to Resasco Lake, was a tough climb but a great hike.  And the second day we found the going so easy (and the route-finding so clear) that we made it all the way to Big Lake by lunch, and Yellowhammer soon after that.
Perfect!  Who knew it could be this easy?
Except that Yellowhammer Lake wasn't our idea of a great campsite, for lots of reasons.  So we looked at the map, and decided that we could probably climb right up the ridge to Leighton Lake from Yellowhammer.  An hour later, high on the granite cliff with our water supply dwindling quickly, it became clear that we weren't going to make it to Leighton Lake.  It was hot, dry, dusty, and we were discouraged.  We didn't want to go back to Yellowhammer, and we couldn't make it to Leighton. 
But below us, like a blue-green jewel in the forest, was little 5 Acre Lake.  We slithered down the cliff through the Manzanita, and set up camp at what turned out to be our favorite spot of the whole trip.  At right is the photo of 5 Acre Lake, taken from up on the ridge towards Leighton Lake.
And the next morning, after more work with map and compass, we found another, easier route to Leighton Lake that worked perfectly. 
And if it hadn't, we had a plan B for that day, too. Now THAT'S good trip planning!