By: John T. Dobbs
Climbed Granite Chief on a solo day hike from Squaw Valley fire station. Rolling from Walnut Creek at 0611, I was hiking at 0912. An uneventful climb, punctuated only by three mountain bikers who startled me nearly out of my skin as they came over a rise behind me. They make a weird sound if you're not expecting it.
It was trail all the way, with the top of a chair lift in a saddle a couple of hundred feet below the peak. This would be an easy ski climb. I summitted at 12:48 and spent an hour admiring the rather hazy view and doctoring some old blisters. The view to the south included Freel and Pyramid Peaks, with Sierra Buttes and mighty Lola to the north. The view to the east was dominated by Mt. Rose. Lake Tahoe's deep blue riveted my attention like the proverbial moth to a magnet. Only valley haze to the west.
The register was under a four foot black boulder--of different substance than the granite summit "block." The SPS canister was stuffed full of books and scraps of paper, all full. I didn't think to carry an empty book with me. I found a blank space on the back of a book placed by RJ Secor in 1986, and signed that.
I started down at 1351 and reached the car around 16:15, but not before a little excitement: two dogs and two bears. First was a runt of a dog who expressed a distaste for my hat, as translated by her owner. She, the dog that is, refused to be friendly, and as I turned to leave, leapt and bit me. I have since thought of a few alternative messages I might have passed to the owner...
Next was a fuzzy little black dog who was so excited to be in the wilderness that he ran right past without stopping to say hello. Being now .goosey about dogs, I didn't mind.
So I continued down the hill. In a few hundred yards, I encountered a black bear ripping up a log next to the trail. Wishing to take no chances with this one, I requested she please stand aside, at the top of my lungs. She immediately complied. As she bowled up the hill,I noticed two miniature black ears following like periscopes through the underbrush. Mama stopped at the first tree and sent her cub about six feet up. He was quite small, not more than a foot and a half at the shoulder. His tree was too close for my comfort (probably mama's, too). We all stood there staring at each other. More conversation by me caused the cub to climb even higher in his tree and mama to retreat very little; and I thought: "hmm, this is not working..." It occurred to me that if I stood very still and said nothing, perhaps the cub would rejoin mama. That worked! As soon as he did, I suggested to mama that she might be happier farther up the hill. She agreed. Last I saw them, mama was charging up the hill through the underbrush with cubster close on her heels. As I passed her log, I sincerely hoped that she had only one cub. All of this probably 500 feet in elevation above Squaw Valley.
Back to the car around 1615; rolling from Squaw at 1705; home at 1955, happy to check another peak off three lists. Another great day hike. Good views, interesting wildlife. Why didn't I take a picture of the bears? a chance of a lifetime. Did I mention the Golden Eagle riding the air currents above the Granite Chief Wilderness? or the profusion of wildflowers?
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