21-Apr-2001 -- Our Group (Paul Catura, Andrea Fori, Mike Etz, Christy Johnston and
Shirts) assembled on Saturday, April 21 at 8:30 am in Sunnyvale, CA, and
headed as a caravan of three cars towards the confluence point of 38N, 120W
in the Sierras, west of Sonora, CA. We wondered if there would be snow on
the ground at our chosen confluence, as there had been a fresh snowfall in
the mountains during the preceding days.
After several hours of driving (and brunch at Lyons), we reached the town of
Sonora. A helpful mini-mart clerk allowed us to leave one of our
cars in their parking lot. We took off in our two 4WD vehicles with GPS and
topographical maps in hand, to follow the route as planned out earlier.
The GPS was a marvel, and showed us each time that we left our plotted
course (not that we paid much attention). The Forest Service roads that we
followed were sometimes steep and rutted, but always scenic. Several times,
we wished that we had gotten Forest Service maps from a ranger's station.
One especially "exciting" moment was when the dirt road we followed
turned into a stream.
Eventually we met some friendly locals who explained that "you can't
get there from here", as we would have to go over a closed, private road. So,
we pulled back, re-checked our maps, and found another (paved) road that
led up the mountain. We left the maintained road, and started seeing a fair
number of fallen rocks on the road. As we climbed higher, snow covered the
road. However, another truck had been on the road earlier, -- so we followed
in its tracks.
Later still, and higher up the mountain, we saw that that the preceding truck
had given up and turned back. Only slightly deterred, our caravan pressed
onward through the untrammeled snow.
We descended below the snow line again, stopped for a break, and also to
take our first picture, -- atop a bridge across a narrow gorge (with a sign
reading "XX Bungy Jumping Allowed" (The first word had been crossed
out. We're presuming that it used to say "All").
Back into the 4WDs, we climbed back above the snow-line, and again ended
up pushing through new snow. This time, however, the snow became too
deep (exceeding 2 feet - see photo) and stopped our progress. While backing
up, one vehicle entrenched itself in a ditch. After a sufficient period of
armwaving and teeth gnashing, we managed to free it from the ditch. We
the GPS, and found we were only 1.2 miles from the confluence point (as the
crow flies). It was now 4:00 pm, and we decided to leave the vehicles
behind and hike the remaining distance to: 38N 120W.
The climb started out steep and was slow-going through the 1-2 foot deep
snow. Additionally, most of us weren't accustomed to the uphill climb and
thinner air (Our elevation now being over 4000 feet). Phil, our team
photographer, was unaccustomed to walking as well, and was forced to
turn back 0.7 miles from the confluence point. Amongst us was a
Registered Nurse (Christy). Out of graciousness and a sense of duty to the
Hippocratic oath, she also turned back then to make sure that Phil didn't die
going down the hill. (Fortunately, Phil later recovered to help write
this account of our journey.)
Paul, Mike and Andrea forged ahead. We reached the confluence point at about
pm and started taking photos. The confluence point consisted of a dense
conifer forest on a slight slope near the crest of the hill. The view from
confluence was the same in all directions; only the slope varied. The
majority of our photos at the confluence point are dark and grainy due to the
failing light and density of the trees. However, these give a fairly
impression of the dreariness of the site at this time. The photo of the sky
through the trees was taken at the confluence point, looking directly
The return trek was considerably easier since we now had a trail of postholes
to follow downhill. Total roundtrip was a bit more than 4 hours.
The photos of the GPS were taken after our return to the city, and show our
recorded track as we hiked from our vehicles to the Confluence point
It was a fun, cold, wet and tiring adventure. After dinner, at Denny's, in
Sonora that night (about 9:30 pm) we concluded that the journey was well
worth the effort.