Photos from some of our hikes in 2017.  The Blog posts are just below the photos.

(Until July of 2016, if you clicked on the photos, they will take you to our trip photo logs on Picasa.  But then Google decided to make that impossible, even though they had provided us with both the website software and the compatible Picasa software so that we COULD do that.  Now the photos are on Google Photos, where we cannot make albums visible to the public.  We HATE Google photos.)

Cerro Torre, Patagonia                                                                           Buckeye Valley, Hoover Wilderness                                                   


Evelyn Lake, Mineral King, SEKI                                                            South Sister, Sisters Wilderness, Oregon


Summit City Canyon, Mokelumne Wilderness                                      Echo Peaks, Yosemite

Rails to Trails on the Stanislaus

posted Nov 13, 2018, 6:40 AM by Paul Wagner

After heading up to Sonora Pass, we decided we'd hike where the weather would be a bit warmer the next day.  And since we had fun following the old pioneer trail yesterday, today we took the West Side Trail from River's End on the Cherry Lake Road back towards the town of Tuolumne. 

This trail begins with a steep but short climb from the road up to the old railroad bed, and from there on it is almost dead flat.  There were a couple of gullies that required us to climb up and down a total of maybe fifty feet because the trestles were no longer safe, but other than that, this was a cakewalk. 

But that didn't mean it wasn't lots of fun.  We rolled along at a good pace, and covered about seven miles in our afternoon walk.  We found a nice spot for a picnic, read a few educational signs, and really enjoyed the fall colors and the cool autumn air.

This trail in the spring can be quite hot---but it also has loads of wildflowers.  In the fall it was a completely different experience.  And we saw a total of one person, a lonely mountain biker, during our three-and-a-half hours on the trail. Pretty nice.

More photos:

  And the rest of the photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/bjSdN25VZMNhJM5PA

Hiking Local

posted Nov 12, 2018, 5:16 PM by Paul Wagner

With our youngest daughter in town, we headed up to our cabin near Sonora to get some cleaner air and hopefully to a little hiking.  The air in Napa has been so bad that we haven't been out much at all, on a bike or on foot.  It has been truly miserable.

But we were happy to see that the air in Twain Harte was much better.  And so on Saturday we drove up towards Sonora Pass to see if it continued to improve as we went uphill.  It did.  And we took the opportunity to do something we had wanted to do for a long time.

Every time we drive along Highway 108 below the pass, we note the remnants of the old Pioneer trail that brought early immigrants into Tuolumne County over Sonora Pass.   And we've always wondered exactly where it went, and how we could follow it.  Saturday, we found out.

Parking just above the 8,000 level on the highway, we crossed the creek and clambered up the slope to the obvious traces of the old road.  From there we followed it East towards the pass, until we finally lost it in a sea of alders.  But as we climbed up above the alders to get a better view, it was clear that the old road continued through the alders and across the creek, to head up the pass underneath the existing highway. 


And then we went back downhill and followed it in the other direction for a while, until it did the same thing at that end, crossing the creek to avoid some steep granite, and getting paved over by Cal Trans. 

It was an interesting hike.  And while we didn't find any truly historic treasures, we did get a sense of how much work went into building this old road.  Some of the stonework was still visible today.  The air was clear.  The scenery was stunning.

And we got to spend some quality time outdoors with a wonderful child. 

A very good day indeed.

the rest of the photos from this trip, as well as the hike the following day, are here:

An Honor!

posted Nov 6, 2018, 8:04 AM by Paul Wagner

Just back from the annual conference of the American Wine Society, where P was given the annual Award of Merit--their highest honor--for his work in the world of wine.  What fun!  And the list of previous award winners is quite impressive:  Robert Mondavi, Vern Singleton, Gina Gallo, Ann Noble, Andre Tchellistcheff, Warren Winiarski...a who's who of the leaders of the wine industry.  P is blushing...

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

P with John Hames on the left...John won the award as the Outstanding Member of the AWS...and is a dear friend.

Turning Back

posted Oct 30, 2018, 6:42 AM by Paul Wagner

I think you can see why.©http://backpackthesierra.com
There are all kinds of wonderful quotes about adventure, epic voyages, and the need to keep pushing forward despite the conditions and the odds.  We haven't found quite so many quotes that urge common sense and caution in the face of danger.  And yet each year we read about people who lose their lives in the backcountry primarily because they just wouldn't admit that it was time to turn around.

(Note that despite these fatal accidents, it's still much safer to be hiking than driving in your car to the trailhead--or the local supermarket.)

And this got us thinking.  We have made the decision to turn around because we didn't like the option of pushing forward on a number of occasions.  Twice, that involved the potential crossing of a roaring creek;  Mono Creek towards Second Recess in early July, and Frog Creek Towards Laurel Lake in late May in Yosemite.  In both cases there was a log that provided at least a hope of getting across.  But it was a long crossing, the log was high across the creek, and to fall into the creek below would have been disastrous---it was at full flood. 

And so we turned around, and selected another route, and another destination. 

We did the same thing as we worked our way cross-country above Yellowhammer Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness.  The cliffs got steeper, the manzanita got denser, and we decided that there had to be another way. 

There was. And we found it the next morning.

And just six weeks ago we did the same thing in the face of strong winds below Bishop Pass.  With the winds blowing a steady 30 mph and with gusts to 50 mph where we were, a full 1500 feet below the pass, we decided that we didn't want to make the effort.  Those we met on the trail who had come over the pass looked shell-shocked, to say the least. 

And so we turned around, and chose another ending to our trip.

In each case, we were really happy with the decision.  We love hiking, and seeing new things,  And we are really  that we are still here, still able to hike, and enjoying the benefits of turning around when it was the right thing to do.

Women's Gear

posted Oct 16, 2018, 5:36 PM by Paul Wagner

Backpacking gear has come a long way over the years, but it still falls way short of what we should expect.  And this article by Kate Worteck for Elle really caught our attention.  It's well written, funny, and spot on.  Here's how it starts:

Last fall, a friend and I were packing up for a weekend of backpacking in the Desolation Wilderness. She's a badass professional guide and I work in the outdoor industry, so naturally we started comparing gear—which led to a list of all of the gear we'd passed on buying because it was only available in "girl colors." At times, we've both resorted to shopping in the boys' section of REI (size-wise, it turns out that I'm either a slim woman or a very strapping 12-year-old boy).

And here's a link to the rest of the story:

More Evidence that Fall is here

posted Oct 14, 2018, 8:45 AM by Paul Wagner

Tomorrow night Tioga Road will be closed to all vehicles for overnight parking.  You can still drive on it and park for a day-hike, but don't leave your car overnight anywhere along the road between Crane Flat and the Tioga Pass entrance station. 

The Park Service does not want your car stuck in snow for the entire winter, and this parking regulation recognizes that a big storm could come along at any time after October 15.

Something to keep in mind when you plan your backcountry trips!

More good news: Yosemite Bear Report

posted Oct 8, 2018, 8:02 AM by Paul Wagner

2018 Total Bear Incidents: 15
2018 Total Property Damage: $1,085
Compared to this same week 2017 (the lowest year on record), bear incidents in 2018 are down by 55% and damage amounts (in dollars) are down by 78%.
Compared to 1998 (when incidents in the park peaked), bear incidents and damages in 2018 are down by 99%.

Bear Activity Summary: Bears are busy across all elevations of the park devouring whatever food they come across, including late fruit, acorns, and even fish trapped in shrinking pools. Help protect bears by storing your food and scented items (toiletries, drinks, etc.) in a hard-sided building or in a latched food locker. Keeping food within arm’s reach day and night (when not stored properly) also keeps your food from curious bears. One incident occurred recently at North Pines Campground after visitors accidentally left out drinks in a cooler overnight. The bear knocked the cooler over and bit or clawed open the drinks inside.

Red Bear, Dead Bear: So far this year, 13 bears have been hit by vehicles along park roads. Please help protect wildlife by obeying speed limits and being prepared to stop for animals on roads.

Fascinating Bear Fact: During the fall, bears are consuming around 20,000 calories a day. An individual acorn has 70-100 calories, which means a bear must eat 200-300 acorns each day to meet its food requirements.

Fire restrictions are easing

posted Oct 7, 2018, 4:22 PM by Paul Wagner

Following the nice rains of last week, a number of forests are easing the fire restrictions. Inyo National Forest has announced theirs...and this is from SEKI:

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. October 3, 2018 – Effective October 5, 2018 at 12:00 p.m., Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are lifting fire restrictions inside the parks. Changes in weather patterns, cooler days, and longer nights have reduced the risk of unwanted human-caused fires. Even with restrictions lifted, visitors must still follow the parks’ year-round regulations concerning fire. Wood and charcoal fires will be now permitted within designated fire rings in all Foothills Campgrounds of Sequoia National Park. Charcoal grills may also now be used in the Hospital Rock and Ash Mountain Picnic Areas, and smoking is permitted unless posted, regardless of elevation.

Campfires are also now permitted in Wilderness areas regardless of elevation. Year-round fire restrictions may still apply to specific sites in the wilderness. In the Wilderness:
  • Keep campfires small, in a safe area, and away from overhanging limbs.
  • Use existing campfire rings - do not build new rings in the wilderness.
  • Extinguish fires at least ½ hour before leaving camp; add water and stir the ashes.
  • If you are backpacking, you are responsible for knowing the fire regulations where you travel. Check with the wilderness office about your destination. Fires are prohibited in some areas of the Wilderness due to scarcity of wood and resource concerns.
Additionally, all visitors must:
  • Use the designated campfire ring in all campgrounds.
  • Gather only dead and down wood; do not cut limbs from trees.
  • Extinguish cigarettes and properly dispose of the filter.

One Last Trail Crew

posted Oct 2, 2018, 8:25 AM by Paul Wagner

P managed to fit in one last adventure with Chip Morrill in the Mokelumne Wilderness last weekend, this time hiking down the Mokelumne River from Hermit Valley to Deer Creek and beyond.  This is a really beautiful area with deep pools in the river, wonderful views, and great campsites. 
Gotta love the welcome  ©http://backpackthesierra.com
But this is also very isolated country.  In fact, the sign at the trailhead pretty much discourages anyone from hiking down more than a few miles.  On the other hand, the scenery in amazing, and we had a great time trying to make it more accessible to more people. 

We hiked in on Friday morning, a crew of four volunteer and Chip.  We did a bit of lopping and trail work on the way in, and set up camp at the confluence of Deer Creek with the Mokelumne.  The trail to this point was not bad...and M and P had hiked it years ago, and we managed to follow it to the cascade at the bottom of Deer Creek. 

But then came the crossing of Deer Creek.  This creek is fed by the outlet from Meadow Creek Reservoir, so it runs all year with a good flow.  Our crew
spent at least an hour and half just looking for the best possible place to cross:  the perfect solution would include a nearby dead tree to drop across the creek to form a bridge.  After a lot of bushwhacking and consulting, Chip made the call, and we got to work with the saw.  Before you knew it, we had a bridge that would withstand high water and was pretty darn stable.  We use it for the rest of the weekend as we worked lower down on the river. 

The next day we hiked the trail, lopping bushes where they impeded progress, cutting through logs where they blocked the trail, marking the trail with logs and branches where we could find them, digging out duff through the forest floor, and putting up cairns where the trail went over solid rock.  Hard work, but we got a lot done. 

Day three began with Chip suggesting that we might want to take a quick one-hour hike up Deer Creek to see the cascades.  I think we were all perfectly happy to get to work, but also really appreciated Chip's desire to make sure that we really enjoyed the trip.  We happily followed him on a bushwhack up the creek...which turned out to be a two and a half hour adventure up granite, through manzanita, under trees, and over logs.  What fun!  And the views we attained were really amazing. 

Once back in camp, we loaded up our tools and headed down the Mokelumne.  Another tree sawn through, more work with McCleod and loppers, and we stopped for lunch on the gravel beach of a lovely deep pool.  From there the trail became a bit confused, and we finally determine the best route through the last bit of forest...and then it opened up into the granite of the canyon itself.

We followed cairns and did some minor work for another stretch of the trail, until it dipped down around a small granite dome.  We were done for the day, so hiked up to the top of the dome and took in the view--well worth three days of trail work!

The next day we packed up our camp, packed up the tools, and hiked back up to the trailhead, stopping to fix one section of the trail that had really been mixed up, and lopping whenever we got the chance.  By 11 we were back at the cars, and driving off on our separate routes back to civilization.  We had seen only a handful of other people over four days.

How much fun was this trip?  Jan and Vicky, excited about the work, decided they would come back in the near future to finish off the lopping and trail clearance nearer the trailhead. 

A great way to spend a few extra days in the wilderness, with good people and glorious weather. 

This is not good news...

posted Sep 26, 2018, 10:24 AM by Paul Wagner

A major new study indicates that not only are temperatures going up around the world, they are going up warmer and faster in our national parks. 

With hundreds of millions of trees dying in the West, and temperatures continuing to rise, and drought becoming an annual experience for us all, it is critical that we take action as quickly as possible to reduce the impacts we have on the world's climate.

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