Previously: Simon, his two children and 88-year-old brother gear up, drive into the mountains to set up camp. Next morning, older brother Thayer collapses from dehydration. He rests.


After sleeping several hours, Thayer gets more to drink and lies down again.

3:00 PM. Robin covers Thayer’s tent with the ground cloth for shade.

While Thayer sleeps, the three of us decide this is a perfect time to go down to the nearby Stanislaus River and soak our tired, hot feet in the cool water… Oooh, but that feels so good!

I decide to find deeper water for wading. Mmmm!

We take pictures of each other and then some of a large tree that had fallen and exposed its roots, some of which were still holding large rocks tightly in their grip. On closer examination, I notice “figures” in the twisted shapes. I spot a harbor seal, Chris sees an otter. Robin sees a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s better than finding “cloud critters.” The wood doesn’t drift or change.

Back at camp, we relax in the shade, snacking on mixed nuts, beef jerky and moist trail mix. After a bit, Chris and Robin decide to drive back to a gas station we had passed at Dardanelle.

I stay in camp, to write in my journal, and be available if Thayer needs me when he wakes up.

I enjoy a small but brisk breeze. Thayer had explained these small breezes occur fairly regularly, and usually only last for two or three minutes.

6:00 PM. As I sit here in the warm summer sun of the high Sierra Nevada mountains, I ponder the chances of getting Thayer at least to the one landmark he remembers from his trekking days near the Emigrant Wilderness.

I check on Thayer again. He has had more to drink and is still resting. Though he appears to be OK, I am concerned in the face of his dream of resuming a life of trekking the backcountry trails.

Settling back down, I see the setting sun illuminate haze rising from the Stanislaus River. I review pictures of the river stump, and discover the shape of the head of an alligator. This is cool. When we went down to the river’s edge, Chris had teased Robin with: “See any alligators?!”


This is an on-going family joke. Chris’s daughter is a competitive swimmer, but when near an unfamiliar body of water, always asks, “Are there any alligators? … Are there any sharks?”

The kids are not back with the car and gear yet. What’s happened to them?

There’s no phone reception up here. If worse comes to worse, I can always hike down to the general store and use their phone to arrange for help.

Luckily, Chris and Robin roll into camp. “Sorry guys!” Chris says, “The station in Dardanelle hasn’t had gas for years –not since the EPA updated their rules and required them to replace their under-ground storage tanks.

gas pump

“They stopped selling gas, but kept the old fashioned pumps for the atmosphere. We had to drive another 27 miles to fill up.”

Simon Stargazer III (May ‘15) adds, “And so the little signs begin to add up. Is our goal in jeopardy?  Tomorrow will tell.

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