Walk completed August 28, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rescuing Londoners in Yosemite

This week Janet wanted to attend a 3-day session of cooking classes in – of all places – YOSEMITE !!! Now, I don’t exactly need cooking lessons because I’m already widely recognized for making the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the planet. But it’s never a good idea to disappoint a spouse, so I reluctantly agreed that we would go to Yosemite for the cooking classes.

It was pouring rain as we left home, and I knew that driving into the Sierra Nevada during a winter storm would entail some risk. After all, look what happened to the Donner party. So, just in case we were to get stranded in the mountains, I took the precaution of packing my snowshoes, as well as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A cynic might speculate that bringing snowshoes to Yosemite was part of a plan to avoid the cooking classes, but I assure you that my motives were as pure as the driven snow. As it happened, the snowplows did their job, and the road to Yosemite was clear all the way.

Dangerous weather
 Knowing that we had safely arrived at the cooking venue was a great relief. But then it dawned on me: we weren’t the only persons planning to attend the cooking classes. What if some aspiring chef had taken a wrong turn and was lost? Sure, the roads were open, but what if somebody decided to walk to the cooking classes and got caught in the storm? How could I enjoy the classes worrying that some poor soul may be struggling through waist-deep snow while I was comfortable in a warm kitchen? No, that wouldn’t do. I had to launch a rescue.

Without wasting any time to mince an onion or par-boil a potato, I headed straight over to the ranger station, where I found my good friend Ranger Dick. “Dick,” I said, “there might be some cooks lost out there in the storm. Perhaps we ought to go out and search for them.”

“We usually wait for a report to come in before launching a search and rescue,’’ replied Dick.

“We don’t have time to wait,” I implored. “The cooking class will be starting soon, and if we don’t start searching right away, somebody might miss class.”

Being a trained observer, Dick quickly spotted my distress. “OK. I’ll go out on patrol and see if anybody’s in trouble.”

“Not you, Dick; BOTH of us. WE should go out on patrol – TOGETHER,” I pleaded in my most helpful tone. “Good citizens always assist the authorities in desperate times. Look, I just happen to have my snowshoes with me. You lead the way, and I’ll follow. Janet will forgive my missing class for an emergency patrol.”

The search begins

So, armed with a first aid kit and a PB&J sandwich, Dick and I set off into the back country in search of lost cooks.

Nobody at the creek
The weather conditions impeded our search. Any tracks which may have been left by a victim were obliterated by the deep, fresh powder of new snow. Any cries for help would have been muffled by the soft sound of snowflakes landing on the trees. Any victims, themselves, would have been concealed by shadows dancing on the hillside as the sun peeked in and out of the clouds. Yet we struggled on, hoping against hope that we would find a victim in time.

Brave Brits
 And then suddenly, there they were: an English couple, from London, totally out of place in the Yosemite wilderness. Bravely, they insisted that they weren’t lost – that they were merely out enjoying the day. But the look in their eyes betrayed them. Or at least the look would have betrayed them had their eyes not been hidden behind snow goggles. “We’re fine – really, we are.” But despite their courageous words, their smiles revealed relief at being rescued. They offered to share a Kendal Mint Cake with us. These brave Brits may have been stranded out here for days with nothing but Kendal Mint Cakes, and yet they were willing to share their meager provisions with their rescuers. They must be disciples of Shackleton.

Reflecting on the ridge
 Storms pass over California quickly, and the following day brought typical California sunshine. Still energized by the previous day’s rescue, I followed Dick to a high ridge where we could reflect on past events as the sun reflected off the snow. “The Londoners were remarkably calm yesterday, all things considered,” I observed.

“A very nice couple,” responded Dick. “Too bad about your missing the cooking class.”

“Yeah, too bad. Would you like half of my peanut butter sandwich?”

© 2011 Ken Klug