Photos from some of our adventures in 2019.  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.)


            Rainstorm in Death Valley                                                             Canyon de Chelly


        `                    Chaco Canyon                                                                    Carson Pass

            Blue Lake above Lake Sabrina                                                             Dinkey Lakes

On the other hand...Yosemite's not having a great January

posted Jan 11, 2020, 6:53 PM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Jan 11, 2020, 9:12 PM ]

Not only has the Ahwahnee lost one star from its rating:

https://www.sfchronicle.com/environment ... 954351.php

But now there may be a food problem:

https://www.yourcentralvalley.com/news/ ... -clean-up/

Sad news for our favorite park...
It's still beautiful...

Starting the New Year off right...on the trail

posted Jan 2, 2020, 5:54 PM by Paul Wagner

Since we spent New Year's Eve at our cabin near Sonora, we thought that it might be a good idea to start the year with a nice local hike.  And as we reviewed our options, the trail up to Table Mountain seemed just the ticket.  Besides, we thought, on a day like today we'll probably have the whole place to ourselves.

(We can hear you laughing from here, you know...)

Because yes, the trailhead was packed with cars.  Apparently, everyone in Tuolumne County who wasn't skiing up at Dodge Ridge was hiking this trail.  Which was absolutely OK, because we started a little late (2:30) and met more people coming down the trail than were going up it.  And once we got up on top of Table Mountain, there was room for a multitude and more.  It's huge, and thoroughly
impressive. That's a panorama at the top...

In addition, we got great views of New Melones Reservoir, which looked almost Norwegian from up on the mountain. See the photo at left.  We've already made plans to go back again when we can start earlier and spend more time up on top.  What a great little adventure, and what a perfect way to start the New Year.

(For those interested in hiking this trail:  Take Rawhide Road in Jamestown for about 3.5-4 miles until you can turn left on Shell Road.  Take Shell Road to the closed gate (you can open it and continue by 4WD--but where's the fun in that?)  And start hiking.  There is a vault toilet about a mile in, and from there the trail climbs pretty steeply up to the top of Table Mountain.)

Prepping for 2020

posted Dec 29, 2019, 8:18 AM by Paul Wagner

Yes, we know it's still 2019, but that hasn't stopped us from getting ready for next year. 

We've already got our CDF campfire permit, available on-line after you watch a video and take a short quiz.  You need one of these permits anytime you are going to have a fire outside your house--including a camp stove on a backpacking trip. 

And a fishing license is now on its way as well, direct from the California Wildlife website. (Be a little careful here, as there is an ad for CA fishing licenses at the top of most Google searches.  That's a private company that charges a few dollars more...)

And yes, we're also working on campground and backpacking reservations for a couple of our trips this summer. 

So not only are we prepared--we're really getting excited about our hiking plans for 2020!

Wishing Everyone Happy Holidays!

posted Dec 24, 2019, 6:51 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Dec 24, 2019, 6:55 AM ]

We hope your winter celebrations include some time in the Sierra...and that next year brings you joy on the trail !

The last stretch up to the peak. Very Steep.©http://backpackthesierra.com

More Winter News

posted Dec 19, 2019, 10:15 PM by Paul Wagner

It is a good time to hike some of those roads...

SONORA, Calif. — Seasonal road and trail closures on the Stanislaus National Forest begin Dec. 16 and will remain in effect until April 14, 2020.

The free STF Motor Vehicle Use Map, or MVUM, indicates which roads and trails will be closed and may be picked up at any ranger district office, or by visiting STF’s maps webpage at
http://go.usa.gov/x8ysh. Please note if the MVUM identifies a road as closed, regardless whether a gate is closed and locked, it is closed for the season. Additionally, roads identified in the MVUM as being open may be hazardous due to local weather conditions, such as snow or fallen trees. Drivers and hikers are urged to be prepared for hazards caused by hazard trees.

In addition to road closures, many motorized trails at elevations of 3,000 feet and higher closed Dec. 16 for the season as well. Roads and motorized trails in below 3,000 feet are open all year.

On the Calaveras Ranger District, only the White Pines Lake/Sierra Logging Museum Trailhead (with access to the Arnold Rim Trail), Upper Valley View Trailhead and the San Domingo Trail are open for winter hiking. All other trails are closed for the season.

Be advised that forest roads are not maintained for winter or wet weather use. Use caution and drive defensively when traveling on open roads in the forest through the winter. Rocks, snow and ice may be encountered in the roadway. Wet, saturated roadbeds are easily damaged, which can require costly repairs to roads and adjacent resources. Snow, ice, rocks, and debris may be in travel way. Please contact your local ranger district office for current information on road conditions before traveling on the forest.

Want to Climb El Capitan?

posted Dec 10, 2019, 12:34 PM by Paul Wagner

This astonishing photo allows you to get very close...pick your route, and have fun!

It was taken over a period of time, so the climbers appear to have cloned themselves. 

Report on Chile

posted Dec 9, 2019, 8:34 AM by Paul Wagner

P is back from a short trip to Chile, where he spoke at the United Nations Wine Tourism Conference in Colchagua.  Here is his report.

Between a long delay for mechanical issues in Houston, and a massive traffic jam between Santiago and Colchagua, it took me almost 36 hours to get from Napa to the conference.  But once there, it was a whole different story: people from all over the world got together to talk about wine, tourism and just about everything else.

I was also interested in hiking in Chile, and who better to ask than a bunch of people who were experts in tourism?  Remember that Chile is something like 3500 miles long, and runs from near the Equator to near the South Pole...so conditions are best described as wildly varied.  Rainfall generally increases as you head East, towards the Andes, and South, towards Cape Horn. And you are always within 100 miles of the Andes, even on the coast.  In the North you have the driest desert in the world, the Atacama.  Trekking here is challenging, but the area is famous for its stark beauty--not unlike our own Southwest.  And it has the beginnings of a serious tourism industry, including wineries!   

But I was near the capital, Santiago, at latitude 33 or so. 
Here the mountains are the highest in the Andes--Aconcagua is not far from the primary highway that runs from Santiago to Mendoza, Argentina, over a 10,000 foot pass.  The Andes here are amazingly high, amazingly steep...and amazingly dry  The landscape reminded me of an upside down Grand Canyon---steep as hell, but instead of going 5,000 down, it goes more than 20,000 feet up. There is something impressive about being at 10,000 and looking up at peaks that are another 10,000 feet above you. And the vegetation was cactus and drought resistant plants--no forests here.

There is skiing here, being so close to Santiago, a city of six million people, but the ski season only lasts a few weeks.  Last year, it was only six weeks long. 

Further south, near Colchagua, I was told about a nice 4-5 day hiking route that follows the path of the Uruguayan rugby team that survived a plane crash in the Andes and then finally worked their way out towards Chile.  Those of a certain age will remember the story...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uruguayan_Air_Force_Flight_571.  That may sound rather morbid, but the hiking was highly recommended to me. 

And then further south, you have Valdivia and is many lakes and volcanoes Puerto Mont and its access to the ice fields of Patagonia, and finally Torres del Payne, which are not only legendary, they are now "epic" among a younger generation, and quite crowded with hikers. 

As far as food and culture, we had lovely roast lamb, fabulous cherries, astonishing avocados, and great wine.  What's not to like there?  We also saw a cultural show that included everything from Polynesian dances from Easter Island to elegant horsemanship and Mapu native culture. it's quite a spectrum.

Hope the photos add a bit to the narrative.  Here are the rest>: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yfqsbSLAWxThgtBJA

By the way, I did not see a single protestor in Chile--but Colchagua is 90 miles from Santiago, where the demonstrations have been massive. And the perspective I got from Chileans was determined by their political position. Those on the right decried the violence of the protestors, while admitting that the government and the economy had failed the lower classes in Chile.  Those on the left were more concerned about the violence by the police and military, and explained that hundreds of thousands of protestors were being accused of violence, while only a tiny minority were actually involved.  And everyone agreed that the media has not done a very effective job of communicating the story.   

Beware of Through-hikers!

posted Nov 30, 2019, 5:40 PM by Paul Wagner

We've been pretty impressed with the numbers of through-hikers who have posted their blogs and shared their experiences on various backpacking message boards and forums.  Perhaps it's all because of Cheryl Strayed, but there are a lot of people hiking major trails these days.

That's good.  We're all in favor of anything that gets people out into the mountains and encourages them to protect our wilderness areas.

But as we read their stories, it becomes quite clear that most of those through-hikers have a very different goal than we do when we go backpacking.  And that affects just about every kind of advice they give.  We think their advice is great--for people who want to hike 20+ miles a day for weeks at a time.  In that case, we fully understand why you would want to pack as little as possible, make do with minimal gear, and even go without cooking food to save the weight of your stove and gas.

We simply hike with different goals in mind, and our gear shows it.  iI fact, we take more gear on a single overnight trip than we might take for a week long trip.  Because we can.  Because for a single overnight, weight isn't a concern, and maybe a bottle of wine is worth carrying its weight.  Or on a base camp trip, where we hike for one day, then spend a few days exploring that area, then hiking back out again, we'll take a book or two to read.  Why not?  We only have to carry it for two of the days we're backpacking. 

We do like reading the trail logs of through-hikers.  But when it comes to packing our gear, we also make our own decisions.  We'll never hike 2500 miles in a summer, 250 miles is closer to wha
t we do, and so we tend to pack just a bit more for comfort, and less for speed. 

A Visitor to our Home

posted Nov 29, 2019, 8:56 AM by Paul Wagner

This morning we were having breakfast when M noticed something odd in our fishpond--a great disturbance.  Water was splashing everywhere.  When we went out to investigate we found a river otter was dining on our goldfish sushi....

We chased him away...and he was back in five minutes.  Apparently the sushi was delicious.  Then we chased him away with more determination, and we think he headed back to the creek behind our house.  He'll probably return for thirds at some point...sigh.

Thank You

posted Nov 27, 2019, 4:41 PM by Paul Wagner

Yep--it's the time of year when we all give thanks.  And we've got a short list of those to whom we are particularly grateful:

To the hardworking rangers of our national forests and national parks, who struggle on despite miserable budgets and a clear lack of support from our government in DC.  Without you, we would be so much poorer in so many ways.  And this includes the other staff at our national parks, and our state parks, too!

To our forefathers who had the vision to try to protect those magical places around our country.  We need to do more--we need more places protected--but let's not forget the people who had the idea in the beginning, and made it a reality.

To the many people we've met out on the trail, enjoying the wilderness and sharing their appreciation with their friends and family.  Please keep hiking, camping and getting out in the woods.  In is the single best way we can demonstrate how important our parks are. 

And finally, to those who read this blog and send us notes, comments, and suggestions.  We read them all, and deeply appreciate your feedback and input. 

And here's hoping that all of the above can continue for many years into the future.   Well, except that part about the miserable budgets,  That, we need to fix!

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