A great trip in the middle of summer out of Tuolumne Meadows....on a trailhead that few use.   ©http://backpackthesierra.com

Photos from some of our 2014 hikes.  Above: Echo Peaks from Echo Lake, in the heart of Yosemite's high country.  As always, if you click on the photos, they will take you to our trip photo logs on Picasa.
M in the meadow of Carson-Iceberg Wilderness
m enjoying a hike through a meadow on Disaster Creek. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

and below, Leopold Lake at sunset in the Emigrant Wilderness 

Perfect reflections  ©http://backpackthesierra.com

And then West Lake in the Hoover Wilderness, below.

Nice shot, huh?     ©http://backpackthesierra.com

CSERC doing good...

posted Aug 26, 2015, 10:26 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated ]

Magical scenes...  ©http://backpackthesierra.com

If you love the Sierra and want to do what's best for it, the place to start is with a group of well-informed scientists who have studied the issues for years and can make recommendations based on facts, studies, and research, rather than  pure greed or the heat of emotion alone.

Happily, that's exactly what the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center does.  And they go beyond that, getting involved at an advocacy level with many issues that arise in the complex ecosystems of the Sierra. 

The latest (Fall 2015) newsletter from CSERC has really excellent articles on: 

>>  Plans and efforts to replant the devastation of the Rim Fire in a way that will be truly sustainable and effectively replace the natural ecosystem.  CSERC argues for a more diverse and less dense planting system that would re-create the natural ecosystem of the forest, rather than the very dense, intense plantings favored by lumber companies.  Among the benefits of the more natural system would be a more sustainable and diverse ecosystem, and better resistance to massive fire damage created by dense, drought intolerant "tree farms."

>>  Plans to divert water from the Tuolumne River system during the current drought, which have now become part of longer-term diversion.  While CSERC supported the initial steps to avert drought disaster, they are very concerned that such long-term diversion would have a damaging effect to the Central Sierra.

>>  A call for more discussion and protection of delicate areas from snowmobile access in the winter.  Perhaps most telling in this article is the concern that if snowmobiles are allowed free access to some of the most isolated sectors of the Stanislaus Forest in winter, those areas might no longer be considered for Wilderness protection in the future.

>>  CSERC'S role in doing photo surveys of wildlife in the Rim Fire areas--complete with a photo of a American marten and a gray fox climbing a tree!

If you like what you see and want to help out, you can donate money or simply volunteer for some of their work projects.  Contact julias@cserc.org or call 209 586 7440 for more information.

Captain Kirk on El Capitan...

posted Aug 25, 2015, 8:08 AM by Paul Wagner

Thought you might enjoy this trailer from Star Trek....you'd think after all those years these guys would have learned to act a bit...

What the previous post didn't mention was...

posted Aug 19, 2015, 8:23 AM by Paul Wagner

Plague.  No, we no longer think of it as the Black Death.  But it does live where there are rodents, and there are rodents in the wilderness.  Which is why this note from Yosemite National Park made sense:

Public health officials and Yosemite National Park staff successfully dusted rodent burrows in the Tuolumne Meadows Campground yesterday with the insecticide deltamethrin (DeltaDust). Deltamethrin was used to treat rodent burrows in the campground to reduce the risk to people and wildlife from fleas that may carry the plague bacteria. It is commonly used on pets and livestock to control fleas and ticks, as well as on clothing and lawns to kill mosquitoes and ticks.

We hope to re-open Tuolumne Meadows Campground on Friday as planned. We will do follow-up surveillance today and Wednesday.

Don Neubacher, on behalf of Yosemite National Park

What's the worst thing that could happen?

posted Aug 18, 2015, 6:18 AM by Paul Wagner


As we have said many times, worries about wild animal attacks are greatly exaggerated in the wilderness...

And if you are not careful near the water, it can kill you.

Sad notes from fire season

posted Aug 16, 2015, 6:27 AM by Paul Wagner

In the middle of this drought, and with fires still raging near our home in Napa, we are all too aware of how dangerous this summer is.  And now this:  A note Cal Fire about a fire in one of our favorite spots on the east side of the Sierra:
And he also caught this shot from the lake shore ©http://backpackthesierra.com

The Walker Fire, located north of Walker Lake, is estimated to be 1,200 acres and with no containment at this time. The fire is being managed in unified Command with Mono County. Walker Lake is located northwest of June Lake, on the north end of the June Lake Loop.

The fire was very active today. Fire behavior was slope and wind-driven, growing to the north and east. The fire is expected to remain active tonight with low night-time relative humidity and temperature recovery.

Closures and Evacuations:

· Walker Lake “Fishing Camp” has been evacuated.

· A CodeRed Emergency Alert notice has been issued for Lee Vining and everything north of Double Eagle in June Lake (including Silver Lake and Grant Lake areas) for potential evacuations. This was a NOTICE only to let people know there could be potential evacuations.

· Highway 120 West (Tioga Pass) between Highway 395 and Blue Slide (approximately 5 miles up-canyon from Highway 395) is closed.

· Campgrounds in the Lee Vining Canyon have been evacuated and are closed, including Lower Lee Vining, Moraine, Boulder, Aspen Grove, and Big Bend Campgrounds.
Which helped us catch our breath. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

· The Walker Lake Road (1N17), the Parker Lake Rd. (1S25), the Upper Horse Meadows Rd. (1N16), and the Gibbs Road (1N18) are closed for fire operations and public safety. All of these roads are accessed via the northern end of the June Lake Loop. All spur roads off of these roads are also closed. The trail to Mono Pass (trailhead is at Walker Lake) is closed.

The first photo is one from Lower Sardine Lake, which is what you see when you hike this trail up towards the Yosemite boundary.  This second one is looking down at Walker lake.   Ironically, we took this hike during the famous Rim Fire that burned so much of the West side of Yosemite---and many of our photos of this area have smoke in the sky...

Speaking of LeConte...

posted Jul 31, 2015, 11:12 AM by Paul Wagner

His family roots were French, so his name was probably pronounced LeCONT...with no final "e."    But there are some other names in the Sierra that can be confusing as well.

We've been listening to an interesting series of lectures on Victorian England, and one of the lectures has been about the key scientists of the age, including Charles Lyell, after whom a few features in Yosemite are named--like the Canyon, the mountain, and the Lyell fork of the Tuolumne River.  But we were surprised to learn that he pronounced his name Li-YELL, with a clear accent on the second syllable.

We've always pronounced it, and heard it pronounced as if it were a cotton: Lisle.

Now you know.  It's Ly-YELL.  And he was Scottish.

Loving Kings Canyon

posted Jul 30, 2015, 6:43 PM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Jul 30, 2015, 6:43 PM ]

Here's what the sober and scientific Dr. Joseph LeConte, professor of Geology at UC Berkeley, said when he first visited Kings Canyon: 

"The trail becomes steeper and rougher, and falls more frequent and more beautiful, and the scenery grander and more impressive, until finally as we approached the summit I could not refrain from screaming with delight."

Gotta love those dry academics, huh?

That's P at right, enjoying the view from the area around Ranger Lake as he ate his dinner and took in the whole Sierra crest in SEKI.

He did not scream with delight this time.  But it wasn't the first time he'd seen it, either...

Thirsty Bear Vault update

posted Jul 30, 2015, 5:53 AM by Paul Wagner

Sarah at BearVault was kind enough to respond to our recent questions about water getting into the BearVault during a storm.  Here's what she wrote:

There is a small lip on the BearVault housing which prevents a bear’s claw or tooth from getting under the lid during an attack.  If the BearVault is almost perfectly upright then during a rain this lip can allow a small “moat” of water to form at the top of the housing.  If the storm then passes during the night, the atmospheric pressure gets higher and this forces the water in the “moat” up the threads and into the housing.

To prevent this, just tilt the unit slightly during the night so that the water cannot accumulate in that “moat” if it rains- it’s that simple.

Here's the original post:


Where to eat in Bishop?

posted Jul 23, 2015, 9:33 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Jul 25, 2015, 11:03 AM ]

We're always looking for somewhere to eat that will be a bit different, and a bit better, than the usual small town trailhead fare.  Yeah, we've found good burgers in a few places, and every town has a pizza place, a Mexican place, and at least one BBQ joint...etc.  But our last visit to Bishop gave us another reason to return.  Not only was the hiking great, but we found a really nice restaurant there.

While the location isn't ideal (it's in a small local shopping center on the road that leads to the North Lake/Sabrina/South Lake trailhead) Sage Restaurant is a step above the usual small town café.  The menu is interesting, with enough dishes that we were tempted to eat there two days in a row.  The wine list is reasonable, and has some good choices on it.  And the whole feel of the place is more sophisticated and food focused than anything we'd expected--at least, anywhere on 395.  

True, if it were in Napa, where we live, we probably wouldn't give it a second thought.  But it's not in Napa.  It's in Bishop.  And if you want a culinary experience in Bishop, it may not only be a good choice---it may be your only option.  We were delighted with it. Check it out the next time your are in Bishop:  621 W. Line St. #101 Town & Country Plaza. 

On the other hand, we also stopped for lunch at the Cardinal Café in Aspendell.  The menu had three choices--a hamburger, a hot dog, and a grilled cheese sandwich.  We asked if they had a salad, and the very perky and cute waitress suggested that we could order lettuce, tomato and an onion on the cheese sandwich---and that would be kind of be like a salad.

Well, not really.  Oh dear.    

Luckily, the guy running the store in the other half of the building pointed out that he had a green salad in his cold cases...and we bought one of those.  It was green, a little faded, and came with a package of dressing in the box.   But we won't go out of our way to eat there again... 

Found far off trail...

posted Jul 22, 2015, 7:50 AM by Paul Wagner

We hate finding trash in the back country at any time, but we were absolutely depressed to take a hike far from any trail across Humphreys Basin and find all sorts of trash along the way.  In one short section we found a rifle shell, a comb, a shoelace, a plastic bag, and a Clif Bar wrapper.  All this at least a mile and half from the nearest trail, and given the various stages of decomposition of the items, they were left by more than one person and over a period of time. 

It's pretty sad...
Snuffing giant candles?©http://backpackthesierra.com

We've found everything from mylar balloons (too many to count---thanks to birthday parties everywhere) to sweatshirts, a perfect good cooking pot (still in use with us!) toiletries bag with toothbrush and toothpaste, tons of old fishing lures and line, a rainfly for a tent, at least two pairs of hiking boots, a day pack...all of this far from the trailhead. 

What's the wildest thing you've ever found?  And no, you can't count the "historic" items like old mining equipment and refuse, tin cans from 50 years ago, or a steel cable and bucket from the Hetch-hetchy dam project....

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