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Wade, rock hop, or fly?

11:38 a.m. on August 16, 2013 (EDT)
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On our last trip to Virginia Canyon, we ran into a group of students from the Athenian School, a high school in the Bay Area.  They were on a 26-day backpacking trip as part of a graduation requirement from the school...and we enjoyed chatting with them.  Nice kids, having fun.

IMG_3837.JPG But one thing struck us as a bit odd.  We met at the junction where the Pacific Crest Trail fords Return Creek in Virginia Canyon, and as we hopped on the rocks across the creek, we noticed that the kids in the group were all sitting down, with their boots off, and wringing the water out of their socks.   

When we asked about it, the bright young woman who was guiding them explained that "We don't rock hop across streams."  

OK.   We do.  We also use trees, where possible, as in the photo here.  We like dry feet, and dry boots.  At any rate...    

We stopped there and pumped some water for the hike up to McCabe Lakes, and as we were finishing up, M noticed that their group was getting ready to hit the trail.  No worries.  Those young people were going to leave first, and were certainly going to hike uphill faster than us old folks.

Not so.  In less than 100 yards we were right behind them, and they kindly let us go ahead.  And fifty yards beyond that we came to the ford of McCabe Creek...which we rock-hopped across, and headed up the hill. And we couldn't help thinking that they were going to stop after that one, sit down, take their boots off, and wring their socks out again.  Seemed like a slow way to hike in the Sierra. IMG_1241.jpg  

Then again, the next day M was carelessly rock-hopping across a small stream, slipped, and dunked her feet nicely into the water.  She grimaced, swore, and then hiked up out of the stream and let her feet dry out, more or less, on the trail. 

That afternoon she set her boots in the sun and completed the drying process.  On the other hand, where there are no rocks, we just take off our boots and wade in our Crocs. 

12:52 p.m. on August 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Crocs excel at creek crossings. I am a convert.  They weigh nothing and make decent camp shoes too unless its below freezing of course.  Wading every time is a recipe for angry feet and a long day of sock drying. 

3:50 p.m. on August 16, 2013 (EDT)
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I'll rock hop or use a log if it's safe and practical. Otherwise I de-boot and wade barefoot or in sandals. I think crossing with your boots and socks on is a slight bit crazy :) 

If you're stopping on the other side to wring out your socks, why not just remove them before hand and eliminate hiking in wet boots and socks? any benefit to crossing in boots is miniscule in my opinion. 

I'll cross a trunk if it is large, sturdy, and not slippery. i'll rock hop if possible until the depth, swiftness, exposure, or distance between stones makes if too difficult or dangerous. 

12:07 a.m. on August 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I rock hop whenever possible.  If necessary, I put on my merrell trail gloves that I bring for camp shoes and wade.

9:52 a.m. on August 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I rock hop or just trudge through depending. But I know why the school trudges through...liability. If a kid were to slip off a rock and fall the potential is there for significant injury. Walking on through mitigates the risk of falling while rock hoping and one of them faceplant ing into a rock etc.

I am willing to bet that is the reason.

11:16 a.m. on August 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I agree.  But given that most Sierra streams are all rock...and that the rocks under the water are almost always slippery, compared to the dry ones that are above water....

 

Seems like misplaced priorities in some way.  I bet some insurance underwriter from Arkansas (where the streams are different) wrote up these guidelines.

11:35 a.m. on August 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Balz,

As we have discussed before there are many right ways to proceed in the Great Outdoors. It is definitely more cautious and conservative to wade in my opinion, and I used to wade for a living sometimes doing stream gauging. Hopping is fine until you slip and sprain or break an ankle or fall on a pile of rocks.

One of the reasons that group you met probably made it 26 days is that understand a steady pace. I have never understood the concept of setting records for backpacking speed, or being in a hurry. There is too much to see. A slow pace is what backpacking is all about, or I would go horseback or ride a mountain bike.

I agree that crocs are great outdoor shoes. I use them for boating a lot.

12:59 p.m. on August 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I rock hop.But when I can't I throw on My sandles and wade.I guess schools look at the insurance when doing a trip..

4:21 p.m. on August 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I go with whatever is easiest starting with creative walking but I don't really hop much any more so if the rocks are too far apart I break out my water shoes. The water shoes are also my camp shoes so I hate to get them wet if I don't have to so I can be pretty creative. 

I've also found that a good set of trekking poles with no spring in them can allow me to vault over things I'd have running jumped 20 years ago but would otherwise have to wade across now.  Not quite flying but as close as an old fat man with a pack can expect to get ;)

6:32 p.m. on August 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I just wade across in my tevas. I used to rock hop till I fell one time and almost didn't make it out.

10:18 a.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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I know one old mountain guide who used to wear neoprene socks. and when  he came to a stream, he'd just wade right through with his boots on. His justification was that your feet encounter the same hazards in the water as they do on the trails, and somehow walking with wet feet on land never seemed to bother him. 

April 16, 2014
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