With decades of adventures that I’ve experienced while hiking the remote areas of our Sierra Nevada Mountains, one area triggered the challenges faced before GPS was introduced to the world.
After a recent drive from Oakhurst to Mono Hot Springs, suddenly the door to the lodge I was staying at swung open, and standing within its arches was this lone figure - his appearance indicating he had spent a few days hunting in the mountain wilderness.
He walked over to the table where I was setting and asked if he could join me. I accepted and the conversation of his past week was our main topic. The part of his conversation that got my attention was, he stumbled across an aircraft crash site. As our conversation progressed I managed to get the location and map coordinates.
The following morning I thought maybe this would be an exciting adventure to spend a few days to find and photograph this crash site. I packed my gear and planed a departure for the following morning. I asked around the resort for a volunteer to join me on my search, but with no luck it looked like this would be one of my many solo hiking adventures.
This hike started at the south end of Edison Lake at 7,600 feet. The trail would increase into the elevations of 8,800 to 9,300 feet before entering the remote areas. As per the directions from my new friend, once I arrived at the second stream, I doubled-back five minutes and continued south cross-country.
After almost an hour I arrived at the second stream. Now I’ll double-back again on this trail and check my topo map before hiking south. Thick underbrush with large rock cropping was just a few surprises I ran into trudging through these remote canyons.
One canyon revealed a log cabin that was never completed. Probably started many years ago and all that remains today is deteriorate side walls and collapsed roof. Odd that someone would start this project in a remote area.
My map revealed another large canyon 200 feet above this location. Luck was my companion today - I located a game trail which was an easy route to the next canon.
This plateau revealed a small seasonal lake over an acre in size surrounded by trees and rock croppings. All along this trail were the tracks of area residents, deer, bear and foxes just to mention a few.
I followed the canyon to its western edge, at which point it dropped off more than 200 feet into another canyon. From this visual point with my field glassed I searched the surrounding canyon walls. Still no luck searching for that aircraft.
Now I’ll double back to the small lake and start a new route in the eastern direction. Another hour has passed and I now have a stream to cross. Checking my map this stream will cross the major trail that will lead me back to the trailhead.
After seven hours of searching, maybe that hunter gave me the wrong directions? I searched the areas he described with no luck.
At this point I’m faced with a major decision - do I continue and stay overnight or follow this stream back to the trail? My decision, based on the belief I was given the wrong directions, was to follow this stream and hope I make the trailhead before dark.
While descending following this stream I stumbled across an abandoned Native American camp. Fire rings were still present and chips of obsidian scattered throughout the area. Yes they were here before we arrived in the 1800s.
Once I located the trail I could pick up my pace to the trailhead. I had one distraction along the route. A gray squirrel was chattering in one of the trees along the trail and I watched as he crossed from one tree to another. With each leap he dropped lower until he arrived within six feet of me still chattering as if he wanted my attention.
I had an extra bag of peanuts and we shared them until the bag was empty. Then I continued down the winding trail and arrived at the trailhead just before dark.
It was not until the following year I located the aircraft, realizing my original search for the plane was on the wrong mountain.
The 1962 Piper Cub was on a photo mission over Edison Lake and was lacking horse power on an extremely hot day to clear the pass and crashed. Both pilot and passenger were lucky to survive the crash, and although they had a long walk back to Edison Lake, they were happy to be alive.