Photos from some of our hikes this year...above: Mt. Conness from Ten Lakes Basin Pass. As always, if you click on the photos, they will take you to our trip photo logs on Picasa.
Below: the view from Peak 11845 above Sonora Pass, June 30, 2013: That's most of Yosemite National Park in the distance...
This is Lower Sardine Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness
and below, Stella Lake, below Dorothy Peak Pass later in July.
And then Virginia Peak in Northern Yosemite, below left.
As ex-UCSC students, we were charmed and proud of this recent story about bears in Yosemite National Park, done by researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz. GO SLUGS!
Yes, bears have been eating people food for more than 100 years. But perhaps more important is the impact of the regulations that began in 1999, which restricted food storage in the park, including the installation of bear boxes in campgrounds and at trailheads, and the required use of bear canisters in the backcountry.
Turns out those things work, and bears are eating less human food. That's a good thing, for us and for the bears.
It's the Wilderness Act--legislation that encourage the protection of some of the most spectacular places in America. And it started fifty years ago, in 1964.
No, not before we were born. But thank you for asking!
The US Forest Service is hoping to make a big deal out of this, and we hope they are successful. After all, this act is what has allowed us to hike for days on end through the Sierra Nevada without crossing a road, seeing a power line, or hearing the noise of chain saws or cars. That's wilderness in the photo at left, near Sonora Pass.
If you want to know more about what the USFS is doing for the anniversary (the official date is in September) check out this link.
And if you want to see what it all means, put on a backpack and head into the many wonderful wilderness areas of the Sierra Nevada.
We have a lot of emails from people who are thinking about taking their first backpacking trip this summer. It's always interesting to read what they are most concerned about---which is often something that we rarely give much thought to. And the things that we worry about often aren't on their radar.
For one thing, we never leave on a trip without checking the weather. If it looks like it is going to be ugly, we stay home, or at least give ourselves a couple of options to hike out early. Yet we hear from people every week who are planning a trip in March, April, May...Yikes! Those months are sure to include a few snowstorms down below 6,000 feet, and sometimes much lower. We don't tackle long trips before the middle of June just for this reason. And even in July and August the weather can be nasty in the SIerra, at least in the afternoons. That's why we always make sure we have a place to stop before the afternoon thunderstorm kick in--and one that is well below tree line, off the high passes. That's part of good planning.
So it taking enough food and warm enough clothing. There is no better way to be unhappy in the backcountry than being hungry and cold.
And while we're at it, make sure your daily hikes have enough water sources to keep you well hydrated. We don't really mind getting into camp with an extra liter of water--but we absolutely hate running out of water on the trail. So we plan ahead, and make sure that we have enough to get to our next stream or lake.
Speaking of streams, we never force ourselves to cross a rushing stream or icy snowfield if we are not comfortable doing it. There's alway s another way...even if it means just turning around, or taking another route. We didn't cross the stream below, for obvious reasons, but we did have a great trip!
All part of planning ahead so that the trip is fun.
So what do they worry about? Bears...of course. And also how many miles they are going to hike each day. Many people think that since they can manage a ten mile dayhike without much trouble (and at sea level sometimes!) that they should be able to manage the same miles backpacking. We don't think so. Hiking up and down the Sierra with backpack on is a lot more work--we are always surprised at how easy dayhikes seem after a summer of backpacking--and hiking at 10,000 feet is a lot different that at sea level, or even 3,000 feet.
We don't worry much about bears. We've never had a problem, because we always use a bear can, and don't camp where a lot of other people camp. And we know that hiking in the Sierra is something that shouldn't be rushed. We figure on 6-8 miles per day, although we've done 15. Part of the plan is keeping that open each day, and taking the hike as it comes, depending on how we feel.
And when we find a nice lake, sometimes we stop and rest, or camp, even though it wasn't part of the plan.
But you can only do that if you plan ahead, and know that you've got options. Options, and planning are the cure for anxiety on the trail.
P's been traveling a ton this month, back and forth across the country numerous times, and so he's been able to keep an eye on the snowpack in the Sierra. That is, he could be doing that, if there were one.
But there's almost no snow at all.
This is really serious. The snowpack is at less than 20% of normal, and that is no joking matter. The only good news on the horizon is a storm that seems to be heading our way later this week. We need it, and many more, to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
That said, it is still too early to make any plans for when the passes over the Sierra are going to be open, or when the backcountry might be open to someone who doesn't want to sleep on snow. Just one big storm in May could still mean another month of highway closures...and could dump enough snow to obliterate trails for weeks.
But right now, there is less than a foot a snow at Sonora Pass, around 9,000 feet.
That's scary for January 26th!
Yes, it's the new year. And yes, like everyone else, we did spend some time thinking about the big questions: the passage of time, what we are doing with our lives, etc. Generally taking stock of where we are, and where we might like to be.
In terms of backpacking, we are still pretty darn enthusiastic. We've got more trips on our wish list than we will ever get to this summer, and happily, there seems to be no end in sight.
And we are also excited about the feedback and responses we get to our posts here. It's nice to know there are people out there reading us, and taking the time to write in as well. Thank you all for making that happen.
No, we don't need more equipment. In fact, the holidays brought a few gifts of cash our way, and we didn't immediately know what new piece of backpacking equipment we wanted to buy. We don't need any new equipment, we just need to keep using the stuff we have. (Maybe, if we use it enough, it will wear out, and THEN we will need to buy new things!)
The good news is that we are really looking forward to 2014 and all that we hope it will bring to us--mainly more time to spend doing the things we love with the people we love. So we didn't make any New Year's resolutions this year...we'll just keep trying our best to keep doing what works.
Which is a kind of a resolution in itself.
What really happened here?
We were hiking in the Stanislaus
National Forest over the weekend, following a series of old logging and mining
roads above the Stanislaus River. These
roads get some traffic, both from street legal and OHVs, and we were a little
disappointed at the amount of trash we saw in a few places. One particularly area was a clearing at the
top of the ridge, where people had obviously not only used it for target
practice many times (there were targets on the trees, and shell casings all
over the ground) but also dumped a mattress and other trash. Pretty sad.
We continued on, leaving the clearing on our left, as the
road dropped around to the right and then curved back to the left where it
crossed over the ridge about a hundred yards past the clearing. At that point there was an open gate, and it
was posted by the USFS with large signs indicating that the road was closed to
traffic after December 15th.
Good, we thought. We’re
about to experience a bit of peace and quiet.
As we passed through the open gate, we heard a vehicle. Yep—a large white pick-up was driving along
behind us, headed towards the gate. When
it got to the gate, I walked back up to the truck, expecting to have a
conversation about the fact that the road was closed to just those kinds of
Only then they opened the doors, and I saw the USFS insignias
So we had a very nice conversation about the roads and the
area—and the two USFS employees explained that there were there to close the
gate for the season. They had come out
two weekends ago to do the same thing, but discovered that the back side of the
gate had no reflective tape. They were concerned
that someone might run into it at night from the back, and so they had returned
with rolls of tape. (There are some operating
mines in the area, so we assumed that the miners would have access to their
claims, even during the closed season?)
At any rate, after wishing each other well, we left the
rangers to their taping and locking of the gate, and we wandered along the road
for another mile or so.
About when turned around, we heard some shots behind us, and
we guessed that someone was now using the clearing to test their firearms, or
make America free. Something like
So we cautiously approached that section of the road,
although by now the firing had ceased. We
found the gate closed and locked, but with only a few strips of tape on the
back side. But on the ground were rolls
of reflective tape, a pair of scissors, and strips of paper backing from that
tape on the gate.
So we walked back up to the clearing, and found the USFS
truck there, and another SUV. The
rangers were talking to the people from the SUV, who were clearly the ones doing
the shooting. As we arrived, I saw a
citation clipboard in one of the ranger’s hands, and she was filling something
out there. Meanwhile, as we arrived, one
of the men from the SUV saw us, and turned to the ranger to ask if they could
start shooting again.
She told him to wait for the Sheriff to arrive.
We said hello to the rangers, reminded them that their tape
and trash were down by the gate (they were on top of that) and started walking
back out to our cabin. About fifteen
minutes later we met two Sheriff squad cards, two officers in each, passing us
and heading out to meet with the USFS rangers.
So our thoughts:
The rangers were a hundred yards down-range from the
shooters, and below the horizon. I can only imagine their reaction when the
shooting started. I assume that they
yelled (although we didn’t hear anything) and ran back up to the clearing in
Were the shooters cited? If so, what was the citation for? Unsafe operation of a firearm? If so, how does someone at that clearing
avoid violating that law? They were on
top of a ridge! Even if they had walked
down-range and notified the USFS team, and then waited for them to leave---they
still would have had us down-range a few minutes later.
(Don’t worry---if we had heard shots on the way back, we
were prepared to yell our heads off.)
There was another clearing on this same ridge, a half-mile
earlier, and it clearly get used the same way. So this isn’t just a single incident or place. That are these shooters thinking? It would seem to me that there would be
justification for posting something about No Shooting in these areas, since
they are, by definition, unsafe.
On the other hand, on the North side of the ridge is a very
well defined cut in the hill, where the road makes a tight turn into the
cut. The cut makes an ideal background
for target practice, and that spot gets lots of use from firearm fans. The only way to approach it is from along the road, which is always behind
the shooters, as the cut is into a very steep ridge that towers over the road. So it’s not as if the shooters don’t have
another place to go.
What are your thoughts?
It's the holiday season, and that means that we are celebrating with family and friends. Those celebrations are pretty much extended eating and drinking events, and we've been doing them for days...
Man, are we packing on the weight. Despite our best intentions, we're eating more than we normally do, and exercising less, day after day.
But there is good news to all that. We have months to work it off before we really hit the trails seriously in June...and any weight that is still with us will just give us an excuse to take less food on that first trip.
At least, that's what we're telling ourselves...
Yep--it's that time of year again. And we have to believe that Santa takes this stuff pretty seriously. After all, he lives at the North Pole, so he knows how important preserving our wilderness really is.
But just in case he needs little help, we have our own list for him to consult:
The idiot who set off the fire that burned 250,000 acres of
Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park—and started it with an illegal campfire because he was sure the rules didn’t apply to him.
The other idiots who believe that the rules don’t really
apply to them because….well, you get it.
This year we met people who were camping in restricted areas, building
fires where they were prohibited, hiking with dogs in Yosemite’s backcountry,
and endless evidence of people who did not pack out their TP, tampons, etc. Leave No Trace. It isn’t that hard.
At left--Big Litter from a hydroelectric project.
Boy Scout leaders who destroy natural wonders (and national
treasures)—all the while supposedly serving as an example to the young men in
The knuckleheads who defaced Native America heritage sites…or
anyone who vandalizes public property. If
you want to make something ugly, stick with your own property.
Those who choose to step into roaring spring creeks or wade
above waterfalls, despite all the warnings…then again, these people get their
rewards pretty quickly.
Editors who think that the single biggest issue with
backpacking is dealing with bears. See
above. Enough with the bear
The bozos in Washington who continue to collect a paycheck
while doing less and less for the people of this country. If you want to reduce the size of
government, we can think of an easy place to start.
Anybody who takes friends, kids, or anyone else out into the
forest to show them how wonderful it is.
Just make sure they follow the rules.
Those who share their expertise, knowledge, and experience on
backpacking message boards where everyone from fellow experts to rank amateurs
can learn…and enjoy.
A particular thank you to those who blog about their wilderness
adventures. You not only help the rest
of us who are looking for other adventures, but you also show the way for newbies to have fun in the woods.
At right: What you see when you get out into the woods.
The National Park Rangers and USFS employees and the
volunteers who support them. We have
found them almost uniformly really helpful and really pleasant—despite the fact
that they have to deal with all these NAUGHTY people…which must get pretty darn
And SAR teams who regularly go out into the wilderness and
bring the lost back to the trailhead.
The fire crews that fought to limit damage from fires across
The wonderful community of backpackers who continue to visit
and treasure our wilderness areas. And
We've been worried for some time now about the weather patterns in California. We seem to always need more rain and snow, and yet....
If you remember our post from a couple of weeks ago, you'll remember how little snow there was on the ground, even at the very crest of the sierra. That's our photo at right. grim.
Turns out that other people are watching from the skies, as well. And they are using this information to do a better job of managing water resources throughout the winter and spring, so that we might still have water next summer.
That's a good thing. Right now, we need all the help, and rain, and snow, we can get!