Historic List Finish Number Six!
May 12, 2012
By: Bill Simpson
Leaders: Bill Simpson, Wayne Bannister
William Yragui, Zobeida Arauz, Lupe Daly, Brittany Higbee, Bob Stuard, Wayne Bannister and Bill Simpson (left to right) on Madulce Saddle with Madulce Peak in the background to the right of center. Celebration of sixth HPS list finish of Zobeida Arauz, May 12, 2012. Not pictured: Ken Rose (photographer).
Zobeida Arauz has always been a person who brings honor to the Hundred Peaks Section. She exemplifies the qualities that leaders desire in their participants. She is very enthusiastic about hiking, has the ability to withstand pain, and has one of the best attitudes towards her fellow hikers that I have ever seen. Although she can be heard frequently to praise other participants and leaders, she is reluctant to comment negatively on others. It has been my pleasure to have had her as a participant on a multitude of hikes. It was a great honor for me to be present when she completed her sixth HPS list on Madulce Peak, one of the Big Four.
In her country of birth, Nicaragua, Zobeida was a dentist. She had to flee Nicaragua with her husband and two infant children during a revolution in the late 1970s. They received political asylum in the U.S. and made their first home in the East Coast. She and her husband didn't speak any English when they arrived in the United States. She learned English and was able to work as a dental assistant. Although she worked in that capacity to allow her husband, a doctor in Nicaragua, to receive his medical license in this country, Zobeida was never able recover her professional status as a dentist. Instead, she wound up working as a dental assistant. A hiking star was born when she suffered work-related back and neck injuries that led to surgery. Her doctor, knowing that she was a hiker, recommended that she continue doing so as a therapeutic measure.
Wayne Bannister and I have been hiking with Zobeida for years. She is well known for hiking under extreme conditions. She is the only female HPS hiker to have achieved 200 Explorers (i.e., hiking to 200 peaks via three different routes). Many were done under very difficult circumstances. Hikes classified as "drive-up" have been hiked by her the "long way" - up ridges, trails and dirt roads. She earned a multitude of her Explorers while hiking with the legendary George Wysup, who was known by me and others to be a stickler for complying with high standards and honorably achieving peaks for Pathfinder (two routes to the same peak) and Explorer recognition.
Last year Zobeida could have finished her sixth list - if only she could have gotten to the Big Four. Unfortunately, she was unable to accomplish that feat in 2011. She asked Wayne Bannister and me if we had plans to lead the Big Four this year, and we informed her that we did and would enjoy having her as a participant. We knew how important and historic this hike would be. There is only one other female in the HPS who has finished six lists - Dorothy Danziger. Dorothy is another hiker that it is my pleasure to know. Not surprisingly, Dorothy also has all the good qualities of the best HPS hikers. Curiously (or not - the Big Four is arguably the toughest test for HPS hikers), Dorothy also finished her sixth list on a Big Four peak.
Dorothy finished her sixth list on West Big Pine, and Zobeida finished her sixth list on Madulce Peak. At the outset of our trip to the Big Four, I had favored a hiking order that would have had Zobeida finish on West Big Pine too. However, our trip took a surprising turn when we found that the rangers for the area wanted our group to improve the trail to Madulce Peak in exchange for permitting us to drive into the wilderness area (much thanks are due to Wayne Bannister, my co-leader, for setting this in motion with the rangers). This required me to come up with an appropriate game plan. Instead of a backpack of in excess of 50 miles to get four peaks, we would be doing a car-camp for hikes to four peaks totaling around 14 miles while spending significant time improving the Madulce Trail.
Wayne and I ended up with seven hearty participants for this adventure. In addition to Zobeida, there were Greg and Lupe Daly, Ken Rose, Brittany Higbee, Bob Stuard and William Yragui. We had four 4wd vehicles, three picks, four shovels, three loppers and four clippers as well as a two-person saw (which we picked up at a pre-arranged location from the rangers) for cutting downed trees as necessary. We drove past the gate at the trailhead and into the area on Friday morning, May 11. The plan was to arrive at Chokecherry Spring and hike to Samon Peak. I had classified Samon Peak as our toughest peak and wanted to put it behind us as soon as possible. We met our first driving challenge when shortly before we would have arrived at Chokecherry Spring we encountered a "hardened" landslide that blocked the road. Undaunted - and armed with the correct tools - we knocked down the blockage with our picks and shovels within about ½-hour. Upon our arrival at Chokecherry Spring, we hiked to Samon Peak. It was a very warm day, and one of our participants needed a little extra time because of heat exhaustion.
Having finished Samon, we needed to explore in one of the vehicles the remainder of the dirt road into the area. We had to determine how far into the wilderness we would be able to proceed in our vehicles before deciding in what order to do the remaining peaks. The over-riding concern was to have sufficient time to make meaningful improvements to the Madulce Trail. Happily, we found that we were able to drive all the way to the turn-off for West Big Pine. Knowing this, I decided that we would car-camp at Alamar Campsite, which is between Madulce Peak and Big Pine Mountain on Friday night and hike to "the Pines" and Madulce Peak on Saturday. Courtesy of the Daly's, we enjoyed frozen margaritas on Friday night.
On Saturday morning we left early for the turn-off for West Big Pine and hiked to that peak. Then we drove to the trailhead for Big Pine Mountain and hiked our third peak of the trip. We then returned to Alamar Campsite and broke camp. We then drove to the trailhead for Madulce Peak and hiked the trail to the peak. I instructed all to do no work on the trail on the way up to the peak. My goal was to evaluate the conditions along the way so that - on the way back to the trailhead - we could apply our trail work in the most effective manner. We made it to the peak and celebrated Zobeida's sixth list finish. Then we spent many hours doing trail maintenance (using primarily loppers and clippers) while making our way back to the trailhead. Indeed, some of the work we performed was actually trail reconstruction (using primarily picks and shovels). Although we carried the two-person saw, the only trees that were in our way were either able to be moved out of the way with brute strength or were much too big for the saw. We returned to the trailhead and seven of the nine of us decided to depart for home, having completed our missions of 1) maintaining and improving the Madulce Trail and 2) bagging the Big Four.
The two who stayed in the area Saturday night were Zobeida and Wayne. They wanted to take advantage of the circumstances - a nobel and well-established HPS doctrine - and hike to each of the Big Four peaks once again on Sunday! [It's possible Zobeida may be well on her way to finishing her seventh HPS list.] Their Sunday adventure was significant to me in a very important way: they informed me that it took them about an hour less time to get to Madulce Peak - a distance of only about 3 miles - than it had taken the group of us the day before. This was proof positive that the hard work that we had done on the trail on Saturday had paid off in a meaningful way. I am especially pleased that the benefit of our trail work was soon realized (perhaps unknowingly, since it was impossible for us to make all the improvements and complete all of the trail maintenance that we would have liked to have done) by a group of hikers of Big Four hikers led by Matt Kelliher, Jim Fleming and Ignacia Doggett.
I almost forgot: once we finished Madulce Peak on Saturday, we had a wonderful celebration on Madulce Saddle to recognize Zobeida's historic sixth HPS list finish. There were beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), there was cake, and there were other delights for all celebrants. I'm looking forward to being present for Zobeida's next list finish, and hope many of the readers of this article make it a point to join in the fun too. Zobeida is a great role model and inspiration to all HPS hikers!
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