An Alum’s View of Backcountry Debriefing, and Dallion Gayner (Kings, 2018)

On today’s episode of CCC: Hard Corps, I talk (starting at 1:30) about debriefing from an alum’s perspective thirty years after debriefing for my own Backcountry season, and the ghosts that I still find at Camp Mather.

We also hear from Dallion Gayner, of the 2018 Kings Canyon crew. (Starting at 19:30)

I also start a new segment (at 32:00) for CCC: Hard Corps, in which I tell you about items I think will be of interest to you. In this episode, I tell you about Cascade Hiker Podcast. Host Rudy Giecek’s goal is to inspire you to get on the trail. Sounds like a familiar goal to Corpsmembers, huh? Check out Rudy’s podcast. The focus of Cascade Hiker Podcast tends to be the Pacific Northwest, because that’s where Rudy is, but his topics and guests on the show are usually of interest to anybody who loves the outdoors. For a story focused a little closer to home for folks in California, check out his interview with Bobbi Walters, about hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. I know Corpsmembers have been involved in construction and maintenance of that trail! (And a shout out to Mark Hanson, and the Corpsmembers and staff of Tahoe center.) Other recent Cascade Hiker podcasts have been with Tough Girl podcaster Sarah Williams, and on Ticks and Lyme Solution with Dr. Darin Engels.

To start things off…

Going to the Backcountry Trails debriefing as alumni can be kind of weird. After my own debriefing in 1987, it never occurred to me to go back to one. Why would I? Seemed like a thing for this year’s CMs and sponsors. I knew that I would feel weird going to one.

Twenty-nine years later, I finally made it back to one. And I had been right. It was weird. But it was cool!

There is a lot of reminiscing involved when an alum goes back to debriefing, as memories come back about your own season and your own debriefing.

The first one I made it back for was in 2016, and so this year’s was my fourth debriefing since my own. Normally, I take I5 south to Manteca and cut over to Yosemite on Hwy 120. This year I had some business in Stockton on the way down. When I finished my business, I headed east out of Stockton on Hwy 4. I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken this route—at least 25 years. As I went through the little hamlet of Farmington, I saw an old general store-type building on the corner at the one stop sign in town.

And I suddenly remembered stopping at this general store in 1987. Orientation then had been at the old Delta center in downtown Stockton. Hwy 4 to 120 was the quickest route to Yosemite then. We had been picked up by our new NPS sponsors. Kim Orr drove the van. Erin Anders drove the six-pack pickup truck. Our C1, Diane Brown, drove her personal Toyota pickup with the MOOSEX4 license plate. We hadn’t been on the road very long when we stopped here for drinks and snacks.

All of that memory came back at the stop sign.

I had been listening to podcasts all the way down from Redding to Stockton. I turned them off and drove up Hwy 4, with only my thoughts and the road noise.

New Priest Grade. Over one hundred curves and hairpin turns as it climbs over 1700 feet in less than eight miles. Old Priest Grade is worse. Kim told us a few stories as we made the climb.

Groveland. 1987 was a bad fire year. There were a lot of lightning-caused fires in Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. The town of Groveland could have burned down, but firefighters were able to stop the fires on the edge of town.

Right before the official Yosemite National Park entrance, I turned north onto Evergreen Road. I passed the cattle guard with the sign that says ‘OPEN RANGE; WATCH FOR LIVESTOCK.’ It was right on this stretch of Evergreen Road, on the van radio, that I heard the Grateful Dead song ‘Touch of Grey’ for the first time.

A little farther north, I looked to my right and could see Bald Mountain. 1987 was such a bad fire year that Yosemite had asked the CCC if they could use our trail crew for fire duty. We had spent a few days on Bald Mountain, mopping up a fire that regular Yosemite fire crews had gotten a line around. We had relieved the Yosemite crews so they could go attack another fire. The best part: we were transported to that fire on a Huey helicopter out of Crane Flat Fire Lookout.

Evergreen Lodge. My crew had eaten dinner there once while working the fires. The Evergreen had been off limits to Corpsmembers at debriefing, because of the bar.

Lots of memories. And I hadn’t even arrived at Camp Mather yet.

For a further walk down memory lane, including my own Ghosts of Mather, continue with the podcast…



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