Sometimes even when you do everything right you can still get into trouble.
Craig Greenlee has a passion for the outdoors. He received an environmental health science degree from Fresno State University in 2008, and waits tables while searching for his dream job as an environmental health specialist.
Greenlee frequently goes on backpacking trips, mostly in different wilderness areas because he said he enjoys the solitude. Most end at a lake or river so he can go fishing. He typically hikes into his destination on the first day, spends two days camping, and then hikes out on the fourth day, he said.
He started out this trip like he does every trip — by leaving an itinerary with a relative or close friend and letting them know when to expect him back.
Greenlee said he also checked the week’s weather forecast for the area prior to leaving Ukiah, which he said looked decent except for one day of probable rainfall on Tuesday with temperatures in the mid-to-low 40s.
“I was prepared for a little bit of rain but not eight inches of snow,” Greenlee said.
Greenlee embarked on his trip to the Stanislaus National Forest about 2:30 a.m. on Monday.
A permit is required in order to backpack for that many days, which Greenlee procured at the Summit Ranger Station around 7:30 a.m., he said. He then drove to the Crabtree Trailhead, which would be the beginning of his 13-mile journey to Hyatt Lake.
Greenlee reached the lake later that day and set up camp. By Tuesday afternoon, he was having little luck fishing and it was much colder than he anticipated, so he decided to leave a day early on Wednesday.
The storm rolled in Tuesday night, and Greenlee woke up to discover the sides of his small one-person tent caving in from the snow piling up around it.
“It was like blizzard conditions,” he said. “I went out to shovel snow away from the tent and probably couldn’t see more than 30 feet in front of me.”
The heavy snowfall, strong winds and cold temperatures continued throughout Wednesday, and Greenlee would only get out of his sleeping bag and tent to shovel more snow away, he said.
By the time the snow started letting up a little on Thursday, about eight inches had fallen and was covering the ground in all directions. Greenlee said he had a hard time locating the food he had hidden in a tree nearby because snow had covered it up.
Greenlee decided not to attempt the hike back to his car because the last quarter-mile into Hyatt Lake is a steep slope of mostly granite rock formations, which he thought could be treacherous when icy.
“I realized it was more dangerous to leave,” he said.
Greenlee’s father, Dale Greenlee, had been expecting a call from his son Thursday afternoon, but when the call didn’t come he knew something was wrong.
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