GETTING OUT: Effort yields rewards well worth it

From left to right: Mark Hewell, Bryan Barbaglia, Jeff Neal, Dan Furtado, and Dave Sheedy.

Apparently, hell has frozen over. I do not have first-hand knowledge of this – not yet anyway. But recently, something so incomprehensible happened that there is little doubt in my mind about the frigid conditions down below.
Let me explain.  
I moved to south Santa Clara County 30 years ago. Through my father-in-law, I had a great opportunity to get started as a homebuilder – a business in which I had no experience whatsoever. In order to learn the business, and hopefully earn the respect of those with whom I worked, I joined the contractor’s framing crew – a skill about which I also knew nothing.
Picture a soft city boy with a brand new shiny tool belt, stepping onto a construction site with a crew of grizzled framers who drank more Coors Light by lunchtime than I drank in a year.  
Mark Hewell and Dave Sheedy of Hewell and Sheedy Construction ran that crew. When I stepped onto that job site, I felt like a fish in middle of the Sahara Desert. Thirty years, thousands of sixteen-penny nails, and many, many softball games later, we are fast friends.
But back then, I know there was plenty of eyeball rolling at my expense. No topic would get a more animated why-would-you-ever-want-to-do-that? reaction than the subject of backpacking.
Fast forward.
Six weeks ago, another friend and an experienced backpacker, Jim Habing, invited me to lunch to discuss his planned backpack trip into an area of the Sierra I was familiar with. On the appointed day, I approached Jim’s table at Mama Mia’s where he was sitting with none other than … Mark Hewell and Dave Sheedy!  
Do I have the right day? Yes! It turns out that Mark and Dave are going on the trip too. And what’s more, they’re looking forward to it!
The journey would be five days and 50 miles from the Mammoth Lakes area through Tuolumne Meadows and onto Yosemite Valley. It would be a tough task for anyone, much less rookies. We talked about equipment, food, what to look for along the way, and a hundred other things.  Everyone was excited, but how would they feel after five days of walking all day with a pack, sleeping on the ground, eating just-add-water food, and pooping in a hole?  
We agreed to meet for lunch again after the trip for a full report.  I just returned from that lunch.
Mark, Dave and Jim, joined by three other family members, entered the Ansel Adams Wilderness at the Rush Creek Trailhead near Silver Lake. Over the five days, they crossed three mountain passes, including 11,000-foot Donohue Pass – a walloping 4,000 feet above the trailhead. They walked beneath Mt. Ritter, Mt. Lyell, Cathedral Peak and along the stunning Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River. They passed through some of the greatest picture postcard settings in all the Sierra.
They loved it. All the talk was where to go next.
My surprise that Mark and Dave wanted to go at all is only surpassed by my delight that they truly loved it. That magic something I feel in the wilderness, and want others to feel, poured out of them all lunch long. I tip my cap to Mark and Dave for choosing to go, and to Jim who showed the way and made it enjoyable for them.    
Backpackers work hard and go without the comforts of home. The rewards are the amazing sights and the wonderful magic of time spent deep in the wilderness. The question for each person is whether the rewards are worth the effort? Two more people think they are.
NOTE: If in the after-life you will be heading down below, bring a warm parka.

Leave your comments