Stranded In The Southland

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Constance Peak

Okay, I musta really liked that snow more than I let on, because I wound up slogging through the snow yet again today, trying to bag a peak.

I skipped my usual Wednesday hike 'cause I was up late drinking to celebrate the last WTC class and rain was forecast and I had a cold. So instead I decide to pick off Constance Peak, which looked like a quick and easy hike, and should have pleasant conditions as it was under 7,000'.

Naturally, things didn't quite work out. I'd read quite a few HPS drive-up descriptions, and they always list the exact odometer reading and about a million forks. It turns out that the directions for Constance Peak omitted the first fork, and expected me to zero my odometer when I left the main road and started into a big parking lot, not when I first hit the dirt road.

I wound up driving up the obvious road, and giving up on it because I saw no more forks. Then I tried another of the forks and almost got stuck when it immediately dead-ended into a cell-phone site. Finally I tried the original fork, only to wimp out again when the road started to look far too muddy (my Miata is great for zipping along twisty mountain roads, but the clearance leaves sometihng to be desired).

I parked my car a half-mile down the road (the nearest parking spot) and hiked down the muddy fork in the road. This petered out pretty quickly, so I wound up back on the obvious road again, and just hiked in the 1.4 miles. No biggie. The road looked like it was firm enough for me to have driven it, but I'd've had to have been pretty careful on a few bits.

The actual hike up to Constance was not too bad. The snow really started to come down, reducing visibility to maybe a few hundred feet, but there wasn't much more than an inch or two of snow on the ground. The directions were pretty accurate, and the whole slope had been logged, and the brush cut down, so I had no trouble making good progress.

I'd also taken along my GPS for the first time. I loaded up the waypoint for the peak by hand, using topozone. It turned out that it was off by only 0.06 of a mile. I didn't need the GPS, but it helped add to my confidence as I traversed along the ridge. Plus it was fun.

I logged my assent on the register, and found that it went back to '92, and that nobody had been there since September of last year! Wow, it really was a bit of an orphan peak.

On the way out, I met a forest service truck and an ambulance, both looking for some SUV that managed to drive off the road. I hadn't seen it, but my curiousity was certainly piqued. Plus I figured maybe I wasn't so dumb to leave the Miata behind.

I ran into one more forest service pickup as I was almost out, and the driver informed me with a bit of a snicker that the SUV in question was just hanging off of the road, hung up on a tree. I guess they must get a fair amount of that.