I dedicate this trip report to the memory of Grap. He’s not dead or anything or it’d be in memory of. Nope . . . this one’s just to his memory.
This hike began, in a lot of ways, with failure. A few years ago, I attempted to take a 4-cyl, 2wd S-10 down to the Compton Trailhead and ended up shamefully ascending the short initial section of that “road” in reverse. There was no way my little truck was making it down that road. Between then and now, Kat and various generations of his immediate family have made it down that road (with interesting stories to tell) only to fail at finding their real reason for being down there: Thunder Canyon Falls.
Another critical factor in the genesis of this hike is that in September my wife relented to my subtle begging and agreed to let me indulge in a fantasy I’ve had since I was a teenager and first learned to drive stick. I bought a brand new fully-loaded Toyota Tacoma 4×4. I have the best wife ever and now I have the best truck ever. What more could a guy want?
Now, those valued few of you who follow this blog have noticed I haven’t written much recently. It is because I haven’t been out on the trail. In fact, I sent Kat a text in mid-November to ask if it really had been a year since we hiked together without the kids. He responded by suggesting a short weekend hike, just to break the streak. And with my new 4×4, he had the perfect trail in mind: Cecil Cove Loop.
I texted back that I was going to make more than 1 payment on the truck before I drove it across a river in December. He replied that there are other routes equally as fun. I had to go out and hug my pretty, clean, sparkling green (Spruce Mica) girl. There comes a time when you gotta let your truck be a truck, I guess. But does she have to grow up so fast?
Saturday morning, December 1st, I woke up at 5:00 and tossed my gear into the back of the Yota and took off toward Kat’s house. Met him and his father-in-law Grap (a trail name whose origin I have never felt the need to explore) at his mountaintop commune. Had some coffee, loved on his kid and wife, loaded everyone up into the truck and off we went toward the Buffalo Wilderness Area.
The whole way, I’m quizzing them about how to drive a 4×4. This is my first 4×4 . . . and my first time to ever take it anywhere that would require H4 or L4. Kat’s usual way of educating is to stand back and let you try it whatever fool way you’ve figured out for yourself. If you survive, and there’s not much blood to clean up, then he’ll gently (and almost apologetically) suggest his way of doing it that doesn’t involve nearly as much death, blood, or failure. While a particularly polite and sometimes effective method – it is a method I spend about an hour that morning convincing him not to use in the event that I’m hurtling down a non-road toward the Compton trailhead.
We arrive without much fanfare. Turn right down the dirt road at (currently) quiet and (soon to be not) sleepy Compton, and head all the way to the sign. If you’ve been down that road, you know the sign. It is your standard yellow diamond. Black letters. Reads: Travel Not Recommended. We got out, urinated to three of the four corners. Kat took a picture of my pretty new truck next to that sign. I’m grinning and pointing like an idiot.
This isn’t even where everything starts going all Twilight Zone. At this part of the trip report, there are no helicopters involved. We haven’t yet met a quarter of the population of Compton. This part of the trip report simply ends with me pointing at a sign, bladder tactically empty while my new truck is perched atop an unmaintained washout path down the mountain.