There was an easy work-around and we were back on track, heading up the canyon ©http://backpackthesierra.com

Photos from some of our hikes this year.  Above: Indian Pass Canyon in Death Valley.  As always, if you click on the photos, they will take you to our trip photo logs on Picasa.

Preston Falls full frontal ©http://ba​ckpackthes​ierra.com

Preston Falls on the Tuolumne River

Airola from near our campsite that night ©http://backpackthesierra.com
Carson-iceberg Wilderness

A Happy Camper

posted Jun 21, 2016, 6:57 AM by Paul Wagner

We loved getting this note from one of our readers:

Hi M&P,

Thank you so much for getting me started on the right foot for my trip to Yosemite last weekend.  I reserved for Young Lakes via Dog Lake.  When I got to the wilderness office to get my permit and bear canister, I learned that the Tuolumne area of Yosemite is still under snow and the rangers said I would have to forge my own trail in some areas.  Being new to this… I did some research and opted for the Porcupine Creek trailhead.  I ended up hiking to North Dome, then going across to Yosemite Peak/Yosemite Creek and Falls, then coming back to Yosemite Peak to camp for the night.

It stormed like crazy at night and I got nervous that it would be storming all day, so I woke up early and opted for going the “easy” way out, straight down to Yosemite Valley.  Little did I know that this route was all rocky switchbacks and was far from easy.  When I got to the Valley, I learned that the hiker bus did not start until later in the season, so I ended up making a hitchhiking sign to get back to my car on Tioga Road.  A nice hiker couple (who mentioned that they had taken many hitchhiking rides in their heyday) picked me and another girl up and took me back to the car. 

The whole trip was life changing.  I met so many friendly people along the way and saw some of the most beautiful natural landscapes while at Yosemite.  I genuinely want to thank you again for your detailed recommendation for my trip.  This weekend I did Big Sur on my own too, and camped along Pine Crest Trail.  Next weekend I plan on going to Tahoe and trying to find a trail there! 



We can hardly wait to meet Sara out on the trail!

Hikers Missing....and Found

posted Jun 21, 2016, 6:31 AM by Paul Wagner

There was great news out of the Emigrant Wilderness this weekend.  We hike this area regularly, and so it was a shock to read of two experienced hikers who were missing for days.  They had entered via the Crabtree Trailhead (we've used it many times) but didn't come out when they were supposed to do so.

And then the search started. 

After a couple of days, the couple re-appeared  in a very different part of the wilderness...and with a story of snow, raging creeks, and no food.  But they were safe.  You can read all the details here:


And found:

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness

posted Jun 20, 2016, 9:16 AM by Paul Wagner

We're back from a short trip up Arnot Creek out of the Clark Fork Road, exploring a section of this wilderness that sees a lot less traffic than you'd think.  We spent two days there, and saw a total of seven people, all on our way hiking out.  The first day we were on our own. Looking back down towards the Clark Fork of the Stanislaus, and the peaks on the far side. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

The trail starts out easily enough as a old logging road for the first mile or more.  Then after a fording of Woods Creek, it starts to climb up the beautiful Arnot Creek Canyon.  Because snowmelt was in full swing, the creek was roaring and made for an impressive  companion on the way up.

The views began to open up, both of the peaks on our side of the highway in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness and on the other side, in the Emigrant Wilderness.  That's Emigrant at right.   

We crossed a series of smaller tributaries, some on the map and some not, and reached the first fords of Arnot Creek by lunchtime.  Sadly, these fords were not marked on our map...and that led us to believe we were about a half mile further up the trail than we were.

looking down on Arnot Creek ©http://backpackthesierra.com
After lunch, we came to the second set of fords, and they looked a little less inviting, with slick rock, fast water, and no easy entry and exit to the stream.

What the heck, we decided.  Let's just stay on this side of the creek and meet up with the trail a but further on, where it crosses back.  How bad can it be? 

Well, it could be very steep.  There's a reason that trail crosses the creek, and as we struggled up towards the top of the ridge, we finally took a few photos and called it a day, heading back down to that ford to camp.   That's the canyon at left.

And there were more snow plants that we could count, as you can see in the photo below.  
Count the snow plants. Make sure you get all three groups. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

That night the wind howled (just as well we weren't camped farther up) and there were a couple of times that we felt a possible raindrop.  But this trip was a test run for our 4-season tent, and it did splendidly.  M loved it.  P wasn't so happy about carrying seven pounds of tent...

The next day we had an easy stroll back to the car, and made it back to our cabin in time to eat a late lunch, take a nap, and then clean up the yard for the rest of the afternoon. 

Which made Sunday a delicious day of rest. 

The rest of the photos from the trip are here:


And more news about LNT

posted Jun 14, 2016, 9:35 AM by Paul Wagner

Remember that idiot who thought it would be fun to leave her mark on national parks around the West?

Well, we're not sure she got what was coming to her---but they did catch up with her and she is sentenced to 200 hours of community service, two years probation, and a clean-up fee yet to  be determined at a later hearing.

Wilderness in the news

posted Jun 7, 2016, 8:56 AM by Paul Wagner

This sad story out of the Grand Canyon.  It's hard to understand why people would do this.  Maybe they never read our section of Leave No Trace. 


Meanwhile, our advice about staying alive by staying out of the roaring creeks and rivers during the spring is also being ignored---although this time it wasn't fatal!

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, CA –On Saturday, June 4, 2016, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' Dispatch Office received a radio call at 4:16 p.m. from a park employee relaying a report from park visitors of someone in distress in the Kaweah River near Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park. A swiftwater rescue was initiated at that time. Upon arrival at Hospital Rock, rangers found the victim, a 17-year-old female from San Jose, CA. She had been swimming in the river at Hospital Rock when she was swept 500 feet downstream by strong currents through sections of rapids. She was clinging to a rock when two visitors pulled her to safety. One Parkmedic and one EMT provided care to the patient. The girl complained of shortness-of-breath and pain where she had hit rocks in the river. The girl was transported by ambulance from Hospital Rock to a local hospital. A total of 10 park staff and a deputy sheriff from the Tulare County Sheriff's Office responded to the swiftwater rescue.

"The person involved in this incident was incredibly fortunate, as others have died in similar scenarios," said Incident Commander Chris Waldschmidt. "Don't let their beauty fool you…rivers can be deadly!" he added.

Drowning is the #1 cause of death at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Most drownings happen from May through August. Even when temps in the Central Valley are hot, river water is extremely cold, as it comes from melting snow in the mountains. Cold water quickly induces hypothermia--which dramatically reduces your ability to react in an emergency. Many drowning victims have fallen in accidentally on slippery rocks at the river's edge or have been carried away by currents, which are especially strong in spring. Never swim or play by the river alone. Watch children carefully--drowning occurs without a sound. Stop by a park visitor center to inquire about river conditions before going in the water and heed the advice for your safety. Info:

Practice makes perfect

posted Jun 2, 2016, 9:46 PM by Paul Wagner

We sometimes hear from hikers who have made mistakes.  Serious ones.

We never do that.

Of course, this weekend P packed up all the food for our trip except the lunches which were going in M's pack.  P assumed that she got them, since they were going in her pack.   M assumed P had put them in her pack, since he was in charge of the food planning.   One way or the other, we were both sure they got packed.

The "good" news is that M came down with a nasty virus, and we never went backpacking.  We only discovered this problem when P reminded M to put the salami back in the fridge.  That's when M told P she had never taken it OUT of the fridge, nor had she packed the cheese or crackers. 


Would have made for an interesting hike---lots of oatmeal and freeze dried dinners.  No lunches...

So we started thinking.  We had plenty of energy bars--enough for us each to have one for lunch.  And we had dried fruit aplenty, too.  And GORP. 

By the time we added it all up, we figured that we probably could have managed a three-day trip with the food we'd brought along.  And we would have had a lovely time.  I bet we would have lost some weight, too!

The best laid plans

posted Jun 1, 2016, 9:26 PM by Paul Wagner

We had high hopes for this past Memorial Day Weekend.  Even better, we had a permit for a four day backpacking trip into Dinkey Lakes.  But then M started to feel poorly....

She went to the doctor on Thursday, and was told she had a virus that's "going around" and would take about two weeks to disappear. 

Loaded with medicines and certain amount of unrealistic hope, we headed to our cabin on Friday afternoon.  By Saturday, M was feeling worse, and we scrapped our plans and our permit.  By Monday morning she felt so rotten that we simply came home early and let her sleep away the rest of the day in her own bed. 

She's now feeling better, thank goodness. 

And we're making plans for another trip soon. 

How well do you know your National Parks?

posted May 31, 2016, 10:23 AM by Paul Wagner

Here's a fun quiz from the Christian Science Monitor based on some iconic photography.  If you know the parks, this shouldn't be too hard.  Sometimes the other options are silly.  Sometimes they don't exist. 

And if you get just a little bit lucky you'll get them all right, like P did:

Visiting Yosemite for the first time?

posted May 26, 2016, 11:29 AM by Paul Wagner

We've had quite a few questions about this topic over the years, and just got another flurry of them, so we've written this summary to help you find your way.    Bear in mind that in August the waterfalls are going to be less impressive than they are in May...but they'll still be cool.  And the High Sierra will be blanketed by snow in a normal year until the middle of June or so...but the mosquitoes will be fierce when the snow melts. 

And September is lovely.  Actually, it's always lovely.

With that in mind, when you first plan a visit to Yosemite:

1.  Don't overlook dayhiking.  Many of the truly stunning parts of Yosemite are easily available as day hikes, and you should make a real effort to see the following:

Too many things here to name---but I'll try anyway. North Dome, Mt Watkins in th left middleground. The Cathedral Range in the center back, Cathedral Peak being the high point, Cloud's Rest. Half Dome peeking over the top of the ridge. And below Cloud's Rest, Tenaya's granite canyon.©http://backpackthesierra.com
>  Glacier Point and its nearby hikes of Sentinel Dome and Taft Point--and if you have time, Dewey Point for a stunning view. That's the view from Glacier Point at left.  The view from Dewey Point is below. 
>  The Giant Sequoias at Wawona--also visible in the Mariposa Grove, although that is closed this year.  Add in the hike to Chilnualna Falls for a real workout near the South entrance to the park.

>  Tuolumne Meadows and its local hikes:  Lembert Dome, Pothole Dome, Gaylor Lakes, and Elizabeth Lake.  That's a shot from near Tuolumne Meadows below, on the trail to Young Lakes.

> A day in the Valley to watch the climbers on El Capitan, view Bridalveil, Yosemite, and the other falls, hike out on the trails into the main meadows, where you will be amazed at how quiet and peaceful it all is...in the middle of everything.

We picked out some of the trails we've hiked through those peaks ©http://backpackthesierra.com
Longer dayhikes not to be missed:
>  Merced Canyon past Vernal and Nevada Falls (Half Dome if you can get a permit).

> Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake (a better hike than Half Dome, and when get to Clouds Rest you are looking down on the people on Half Dome--plus an amazing view of the Sierra crest.

> North Dome from Porcupine Creek--the best view of Half Dome in the Park

> May Lake and Mount Hoffman, one of the best views anywhere, period.

2.  Now, once you've done all of that, you can look for a backpacking permit to some nice locations.  You'll need a permit for a trip.  The most popular sites fill up quickly, but I would recommend the following:

> Ten Lakes Basin is a great hike.  And it's only two days---leaving you some time to explore the hikes above.

> Young Lakes, for the same reason. See photo above.
Cockscomb. Budd Lake is over the ridge to the right...  ©http://backpackthesierra.com

> Cathedral Lakes, for the same reason---explore Echo Canyon from there, just over the pass, if you have time.   That's Cathedral Peak at right.

> Glen Aulin pass through permit to go downstream of the High Sierra Camp to see even more waterfalls.

>>  What I would NOT recommend is a high up to LIttle Yosemite Valley where there are so many people.  Not exactly a wilderness experience.  But it's the most direct route to Half Dome.  Which is why it is so crowded.

What you will need is a campsite, and those can be hard to find during the middle of the summer.  A backpacking permit helps, because it allows you to stay in a backpackers campground the day before and after your backpacking permit.  But you can probably find a site at Tamarack or Porcupine if you get there earlier in the day...

Does that give you enough to get started?  We have photos of most of these hikes in the destinations section of this website...so feel free to poke around there.

Cancellation policy

posted May 25, 2016, 8:43 AM by Paul Wagner

We were so pleased with ourselves.  We had remembered to act early and reserve exactly the wilderness permit we wanted, for Rafferty Creek in the middle of June, to get up into the upper reaches of the Merced Canyon early in the season.  And we got it. 

And then fate intervened.  P was invited to speak at the Smithsonian about a topic near and dear to his heart...and that's an invitation he can't pass up, even at the risk of losing our permit for Yosemite. 

So yesterday he called the Yosemite Wilderness office and explained the situation.  And he was delighted to learn that he can apply the charges he paid for the cancelled permit towards any other wilderness permit in Yosemite this year. 

No, we won't have time to get into the Upper Merced this year.  But we will take a trip in Yosemite sometime later in the season.  And we've already got our permit paid for!

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