The hike out, down Cottonwood Canyon.  ©http://backpackthesierra.com

Photos from some of our 2015 hikes.  Above: Cottonwood Springs in Death Valley.  As always, if you click on the photos, they will take you to our trip photo logs on Picasa.
Camping at 13,000 feet in the Cordillera Blanca region of the Andes in Peru
Nice view, huh?   ©http://backpackthesierra.com

Below, Roosevelt Lake in the northern part of Yosemite 

As is the lake ©http://backpackthesierra.com

Pioneer Basin in the John Muir Wilderness

Mt. Crocker  ©http://backpackthesierra.com

Humphreys Basin out of North Lake trailhead

And evening light comes again   ©http://backpackthesierra.com


posted Jan 21, 2016, 3:14 PM by Paul Wagner

Just in case you need some inspiration for your next trip, here's a great video about the making of the High Sierra Trail, across the Sierra West to East, in Sequoia National Park.  Nice video.  Good visuals. 

Lots of places to visit this summer...and doesn't this just make you want to get out there and see some of them?  By the way, permits are now available for many of the hikes you might want to take, so get it's time to start dreaming, planning, and reserving.

Things are looking better

posted Jan 20, 2016, 7:59 PM by Paul Wagner

According to the weather reports, we have finally had enough rain this year to be AHEAD of normal, and ahead of last year as well.   You may not remember this, but last year wasn't too dry in the fall.  It was only after a desert-like January that the drought really became so apparent.

And even better news than the rain is that we have a nice solid snowpack right now in the high country.  Let's hope this rain and snow continues for the next few months and helps get us back on track...

Want to Get Started?

posted Jan 19, 2016, 9:40 PM by Paul Wagner

We recently got a question from a lovely lady who is now getting on in years and still wants to backpack---but can no longer put in big miles, long days, or high elevations.  And as we worked out our answer to her, it was obvious that this is a good list of hike for anyone who wants to take a nice and easy approach, and still get out on the trail for a few days.  If that's you, or somebody you know, here are a few ideas you might look at: 

Grouse Ridge off Bowman Lake Road off Highway 20/80 on the way to Donner Pass.  You can start you hike at the fire lookout on Grouse Ridge, and hike down to about ten different lakes, all within about a five mile hike.  So you could easily hike around there for a few days, and the good news is that when you hike back UP to the fire lookout, your packs are empty and will weigh a lot less. 

Carson Pass has some nice destinations as well.  You could easily hike to Meiss Meadow, Showers Lake,  Round Lake and Dardanelles....and if you have two cars, you could even make this a bit of a through-hike to Echo Summit along the Pacific Crest Trail.

South of Carson Pass are a couple of nice lakes as well--Winnemucca and Round Top.  They are within 2 miles of the trailhead, and about 2 miles from each other.  So you could hike as slowly as you like and still arrive with lots of time left over.   Some of the initial trail out of Woods Lake is steep, but just take it nice and slow.

I saw the suggestions about Emigrant Wilderness.  We've done quite a few hikes there.  Lost and Sword Lakes (in Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, north of Highway 108) might work...only five miles.  But you might have lots of younger company there, and those young folks might want to party a bit.  We went when there was still snow on the ground in early June, and had the place to ourselves.  That's the view from Lost Lake below left.

This was better than TV©http://backpackthesierra.com

You could also work out a trip from Crabtree Trailhead (behind Dodge Ridge) to Grouse Lake and the Chain Lakes, but the camping at Grouse Lake isn't great---it gets lots of horse traffic.  Camp Lake, in that same area, is lovely, and you could continue on to Bear Lake from there.  

On the East side on 108 you can find Roosevelt and Lane Lakes, and make a loop through to Secret Lake.    Just a bit further South, look at the Green Lake area--that's West Lake below--lots of Lakes to explore within five miles of the trailhead.  And Virginia Lakes, the next trailhead south, is similar.  Neither of those make you hike over the pass to get to the lakes...Not so much wind--perfectly still.    ©http://backpackthesierra.com

But even better would be Twenty Lake Basin on the east side of Yosemite out of Saddlebag Lake.  There are lots of lakes (20!?) and you can explore to your hearts' content there.   You can also access that area through Lundy Canyon off 395


If you keep heading south on 395, look at Little Lakes Valley--that's it at left, from the trail up to M9ono Pass--a perfect spot for what you're looking to do.  And if you feel up to it, you can hike over Piute Pass and spend days exploring Humphreys Basin...but the first day would be a long hike up and over the 11,000+ foot pass---about six miles or so?    And Duck Lake and beyond out of Mammoth would work---but you'll see a lot more people there.

On the West side again, you should check out Dinkey Lakes---lots of lake with easy access within 2-5 miles of the trailhead, and you could make some easy loops here.

Finally,  back up above Bass Lake, take Beasore Rode out to Chiquito Trailhead and hike to Chain lakes, or Fernandez Trailhead and hike up the string of lakes to Vandeberg Lake and beyond. 

Hope that gives you enough to think about!

This was a fun exercise---and I hope you don't mind if we post this on our website at some point for people who are looking for a way to go backpacking with limited time or physical resources. 

Remember that these trails and destinations, in most cases, will be more crowded than some of the spots you've enjoyed in the past, exactly because they are more accessible.  But that still doesn't keep them from being beautiful.

Corporate Greed Knows no Limits

posted Jan 16, 2016, 7:44 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Jan 21, 2016, 9:27 PM ]

Delaware North, the company that has done a mediocre job running the concessions at Yosemite Park has now lost the contract to a competitor, and has now announced that it is asking to be compensated for the loss of the equity it has created in the brands names of Yosemite--such names as  Wawona Hotel, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Badger Pass Ski Area, Curry Village and the Ahwahnee Hotel. (This list updated for increased accuracy--you can't be too careful with these SOBs!)  And isn't it convenient that they don't have names...they are just the impersonal corporate entity Delaware North? 

So just in case you were wondering, here is a link to their "executives" webpage.  Yep.  All those smiling faces are the ones who made the decision to force you, the American People, to buy back the names of the treasured icons of your national parks.  At a huge profit for them. 

By the way, the photo on this page shows an anonymous individual holding his arm up, welcoming the money that he expects to be falling from the sky as a result of this bloodsucking scheme. 

The NPS has decided to rename those facilities, rather than pay ransom for them to Delaware North. 

It makes you proud to be an American and part of the system that gave birth to Delaware North. 

But the way, if you'd like to do so, you can do a web search for Delaware North to find their corporate email address so that you can send them a note to tell them exactly what you think of them.  We did that.

You can also get a list of the other concessions that Delaware North runs, so that you can boycott them or make their lives less pleasant.

We've done that, too.

Here's a link to the whole sad story:

Let's get planning...

posted Jan 8, 2016, 8:30 PM by Paul Wagner

We're already looking at maps, and making plans.  A week in the Cathedral Range on Yosemite, looking for those bighorn sheep they introduced there recently.  And another trip to SEKI to get way up into the backcountry there.  And Death Valley.  And P's always wanted to fish a couple of lakes that he's noticed on a map...

We've already got our CDF campfire permit, checking that one out online.  And P did the same with the California CFG fishing license. 

It's getting to be that time of year.  The permits are going to be available soon, and trail quotas will start seeing some action.  Start thinking. Start planning. 

And we hope to see you out on the trail.

Delaware North is apparently shameless

posted Jan 7, 2016, 8:13 AM by Paul Wagner

If you know anywhere that Delaware North is trying to stay open for business in the USA, please let us know, so that we can advocate a boycott of their services. 

What jerks!

The U.S. Justice Department has responded publicly for the first time to the lawsuit that DNC filed over the trademark of Yosemite iconic names like the Ahwahnee and Curry Village:

“With an aggressive, 25-page lawsuit response that foreshadows more maneuvering to come, the Justice Department publicly asserts for the first time that the former Yosemite concessionaire proposed an “improper and wildly inflated” value for the trademarked park names.

The company, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite Inc., demanded to be paid for the trademarks it valued at $44 million. The National Park Service, by contrast, said the trademarks for such park names as “The Ahwahnee” hotel were worth only $1.63 million.

“DNCY’s parent company has apparently embarked on a business model whereby it collects trademarks to the names of iconic property owned by the United States,” Justice Department attorney John H. Robertson wrote.

The parent company, Buffalo, N.Y.-based Delaware North, also has a concession at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and “has a trademark application for the name ‘Space Shuttle Atlantis,’ ” Robertson pointedly noted.”

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article53172300.html

The holiday hangover

posted Jan 6, 2016, 9:53 PM by Paul Wagner

There seem to be lots of conversations these days about what people received for holiday gifts,  particularly if they have to do with backpacking.  What did Santa bring you?  And was it what you wanted?  And what's the next thing on your list. And...

We're always a bit overwhelmed by the focus on equipment when it comes to backpacking conversations.   If you visit some of the forums that focus on backpacking, more than half the posts are on equipment--and in some cases it's closer to 90%.  That's crazy, if you ask us.  You don't need lots of expensive equipment to go backpacking.  In fact,. by visiting your local thrift stores, we bet you could get outfitted with perfectly serviceable gear for less than $100.  P's first backpack, when he was twelve years old, was a large pair of his dad's pants.  True story.  And when he was in high school, he backpacked about 40 miles into SEKI with a friend, using a cheap exterior frame pack that you could certainly find on ebay for $10, a synthetic sleeping bag that was supposed to be good down to 20 degrees, and never came close to that, and a tube tent that cost $4...and maybe cost $6 today.  He hiked in Converse All-stars, wore jeans and blue work-shirt, and had an absolutely great time. 

So don't sweat the gear.  If you don't have the latest pack, the coolest clothes, or the most expensive sleeping bag, you can still have a great time backpacking.  In fact, we don't have that stuff today, and we hike somewhere around 100-150 miles a year backpacking in the Sierra, and seeing amazing places,  Which is even better than owning really cool gear. 

What did we get for the holidays?  Well, we got a couple of freeze-dried meals, and P got an extra bottle for his water filter.  That's about it.  We're happy with what we have, and what we got.  We also got time with our lovely daughters in son-in-law, which was better than any backpacking trip.

Which is what the holidays are all about anyway. 

On the trail Again

posted Jan 4, 2016, 3:02 PM by Paul Wagner

No, we're not hiking now.  But we wish we were. In fact, we're making plans for where and when we are going to hike this summer:  Yosemite, SEKI, Death Valley...and more.  But we can't do that now, all we can do is plan.

So instead, we are working our way through our photos and pulling out our favorites of one or the other of us on the trail, hiking along. 

©backpackthesierra.com   There were parts of the trail that went through the burned section...but the forest was full of flowers. Quite beautiful.©backpackthesierra.com

   M hiking the PCT near Ebbetts Pass        Hiking up Illilouette Canyon  

  Me admiring hardier specimens.©backpackthesierra.comM at a rest stop...with great trees around us.©http://backpackthesierra.com
        Scoping out the route to Ottoway Lakes                John Muir Wilderness

M stepping along smartly--maybe because she knows she is going to eat soon?©backpackthesierra.com   M, trying out the raincover for her pack...and her rain jacket. There was a lot of fire damage along this trail.©http://backpackthesierra.com

    Groundhog Meadow, Emigrant Wilderness                Hetch-hetchy, Yosemite 


The old man of the mountains.©http://backpackthesierra.comM--being welcomed to Showers Lake©http://backpackthesierra.com

            North Dome, Yosemite                                      Meiss Meadows, Carson Pass

M walking in my footsteps. We've made it across (only knee deep, but FREEZING!) and now we're wandering in the wild meadow. No trail to be seen.©http://backpackthesierra.comM and the granite.©http://backpackthesierra.com

          Hoover Wilderness                                        Cherry Canyon, Emigrant Wilderness           

M in front of granite.©http://backpackthesierra.com   M afraid to look up, for fear it will show that there is more climbing to do!©http://backpackthesierra.com

    Kerrick Canyon, Yosemite                              Louse Canyon, Emigrant  Wilderness


The sun breaking through...snow falling, and steam rising!©http://backpackthesierra.com  Back on solid, or not so solid, snow.©http://backpackthesierra.com

        Hetch-hetchy, Yosemite                                        Mono Creek, John Muir 

   M enjoying the view©http://backpackthesierra.comM easing down on of the ledges...but staying clear of that manzanita, which is impenetrable. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

                          Isberg Pass, Yosemite                                      Lake Vernon, Yosemite

M& P at Tuolumne Pass in Yosemite  ©http://backpackthesierra.comM ready to hit the trail on day five. Six miles, all downhill.©http://backpackthesierra.com

    Tuolumne Pass, Yosemite                                     Clark Lakes, Ansel Adams Wilderness  


M finally gave up and made the smart decision to wade the rest of the way. By this point she discovered her camp/water shoes were no longer attached to her pack.still there  ©http://backpackthesierra.com

            Hyatt Lake, Emigrant Wilderness                         Goethe Lake, Humphrey's Basin  

OK--we're at the top---it's all downhill from here.  We just hope the weather doesn't collapse completely   ©http://backpackthesierra.com

             Mono Pass, John Muir Wilderness

5,006 miles and counting

posted Dec 17, 2015, 8:12 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Dec 18, 2015, 8:47 AM ]

This from P alone: The cross roads in the valley are always quieter.  This is Oakville

I began this year with a  goal:  to ride my bicycle at least 5,000 miles over the course of the year.  This was quite a challenge, given the number of miles I traveled on airplanes (135,000+ through today) and the fact that I was not only running my own business, but also teaching two classes at the local college.

But success is mine!  This week I rode a number of days when the temps dropped down into the high 30's and watched with glee/relief as the odometer on the bike rolled  over 5,000 miles for the year...and it's now over 62,000 miles since I bought my Bianchi Giro about thirteen years ago. 

Now if the weather would just warm up, I'd love to get on the bike and go for a ride...

Naughty List

posted Dec 17, 2015, 8:05 AM by Paul Wagner

So who's been naughty this year?  We usually make a list of those who deserve something closer to a lump of coal in their stockings, thanks to the dumb and/or mean things they've done over the course of the year. 

Given the horrific drought we've suffered through over the past four years, first on that list would be those who are careless with fire in the mountains.  But while California had another year of terrible fires, at least clueless hikers weren't to blame for the biggest of them, as far as we know. Our tent, neatly hidden in the trees. Which was a problem, since two other groups didn't see it and camped quite close to us. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

In fact, we saw people behaving pretty darn well on the many trips we took into the Sierra this year.  Nobody hacking at trees, no dogs on the backcountry trails in the national parks, no mindless campers being obnoxious to everyone nearby.  No idiots feeding bears, or trying to tame the deer. 

The closest we came to an unpleasant experience was at Lower Youngs Lake in Yosemite, when two different groups of campers set up their tents within 75 feet of us on either side.  But then, our own tent was so neatly camouflaged by its granite gray color and its clever placement in a small grove of trees that we're pretty sure they never even saw us.  As you can see in the photo above right. 

So let's just take a pass on the naughty list this year, and just encourage everyone to keep up the good work. 

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