Photos from some of our hikes in 2016.

 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.  Gotta love Google..

Reflections in the inlet of Emigrant Lake ©http://backpackthesierra.com
Emigrant Lake, Emigrant wilderness

Whaleback in front of us.  ©http://backpackthesierra.com
The Whaleback from Big Wet Meadow, SEKI

With our daughter at Glen Aulin in Yosemite National Park

A few more paintings...

posted Jul 13, 2017, 6:39 AM by Paul Wagner

Upper Golden Trout Lake in Humphreys Basin

Hyatt Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness. 

Bear at Lassen Volcanic National Park

BOOK Review: Walks of a Lifetime by Robert and Martha Manning

posted Jul 9, 2017, 5:47 PM by Paul Wagner

Full disclosure:  A very nice PR person sent us a copy of this book to review, and we promised that we'd review it.   

When we get a chance to look over a book like "Walks of a Lifetime" by Robert and Martha Manning, the first thing we do is check the list of walks.    If the list doesn't include things like the John Muir Trail, the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu, The Milford Track, and the Camino de Santiago, how good can it be?

Oops.  This is their second book about long walks.  Doh.  Their first book, "Walking Distance," included all of those plus a bunch more that we really liked.  This one picks where "Walking Distance" leaves off, and takes us on a whole range of hikes from the wilderness of Denali to the streets of Paris, New York, Sydney and San Francisco. 

So let's start again.  The Mannings have a really nice approach to this whole topic of walking.  They like it.  They are not after epic adventures  on the edge that test them to their limits, and they admit it.  These walks are supposed to be enjoyable, and they do a good job of communicating the real attractions of every walk in the book.  But this isn't a mile-by-mile guide.  You won't want to take it along on these hikes.  For on thing, it's too heavy :^)

Nope, this is a menu: designed to make every dish seem interesting enough that you want to order it.  And it's completely successful at that.  In each case the Mannings give you enough detail to get you started, and point out a few things they don't want you to miss.  And then they tell you to go do the hike yourself.  We like that approach.   There are enough details to allow you to find the place, and enough flexibility to encourage you to hike your own hike, whether you are a twenty-something peak bagger or a golden years stroller. 

In between the chapters, they offer their comments on everything from leaving no trace to the philosophy of seeing the world from a pedestrian perspective.  And their approach to these is particularly brilliant.  By that we mean that they agree with our approach completely.  Thus, they must be geniuses.  Best of all, they can write.  Their sentences are clear, clean, and well-crafted.  In fact, the whole book reads like a very pleasant conversation around a campfire (or in a pub?) with a couple of well-educated and thoughtful people who love to hike.  Sign us up!

The photographs are in a similar vein.  These are not gloriously staged professional shots done under perfect conditions and lighting.  They are photos taken by Robert on the walks as they did them.  So while the photos won't wow you with special effects, they probably give you a much more realistic view of what you are doing to see on the hike than some of the coffee table books we've seen.  And they are nice photos.

We were particularly happy to see a few hikes from the American Southwest--an  area we are hoping to explore in a lot more detail next year.  Now we have a few more items on our list, thanks to the Mannings.

Would we buy this book if we saw it in a bookstore?  Probably not.  We're cheapskates, and we'd probably just leaf through it and then make a mental note to check if the library has a copy.  But if someone in our family gave it to us as a gift, we'd be delighted.  And we'd go back to it more than once as we think about the adventures we'd like to have in the future, and relive some of the ones in our past.

We suspect that's exactly what the Mannings had in mind when they wrote it.

"Walks of a Lifetime" by Robert and Martha Manning, Falcon Press.  $35.


4th of July Adventure

posted Jul 4, 2017, 6:19 PM by Paul Wagner

Each year we try to get in a backpacking trip over this four-day weekend, knowing that the conditions are never going to be great.  It's always too early, the high country has too much snow, and the creeks are roaring.  And this year that was putting it mildly. 

Still, we had a plan.  By driving over recently opened Sonora Pass, and then hiking up the relatively low elevation valley of Buckeye Creek, we hoped to explore a bit of the Hoover Wilderness that we hadn't seen before.  And we had hopes of making up over the pass into Yosemite.

That didn't happen.  The trail crosses Buckeye Creek a couple of times going up the valley, and the first time the water was over our waist, and moving pretty fast.  We chickened out.  Instead, we decided to see how far we could get by hiking up the south side without a trail.  We even hoped that we might make it to where the trail crossed back. 

That didn't happen either.  After a couple of miles, we were bushwhacking through a dense thicket of aspen trees that was no fun at all, and we couldn't see the end of it.  So we called a halt, took stock of where we were, and decided to head back down to the last nice campsite we'd seen.  Which is what we did.

And the next day, with our progress still blocked by high water, we headed back to the trailhead and drove back to our cabin above Sonora...where we
spend a couple of luxurious days relaxing, barbecuing, and living a life of leisure.

But we really did enjoy Buckeye Creek. 
We saw more swallowtail butterflies than we've ever seen in our lives, as well as a lot of other butterflies.  The flowers were blooming everywhere.   Once you get a few miles up the trail, the view up to Yosemite is spectacular.  And we still got to log a few miles, sleep out in the peace, quiet, and isolation of the Sierra, and get some quality time together.

We also had a few missteps.  Hacking through those aspens, we managed to pick up quite a few ticks, which we carefully removed that night before they did any real damage.  But they did make for some interesting nerves that evening.  And waltzing through those glorious meadows meant some soggy, muddy feet for P, whose boots are not waterproof.  Big deal. 

Still, a small price to pay for a nice couple of days away from the rest of the world....

The Company Campout

posted Jun 29, 2017, 10:59 PM by Paul Wagner

Each year we take our company on a four-day camping expedition to the Sierra.  It's a chance for us to have fun together, eat and drink really well (we take turns making memorable dinners) and also do some outdoor activities, although those are purely optional.

This year we camped at the Upper LIttle Truckee River campground, and really enjoyed it. 

On the first day after we arrived we tried to hike the trail to the top of Mt, Lola, but had a heck of a time.  First of all, we didn't have a topo map, and our guide book did not give great directions to the trailhead.  Luckily, after we had given up, we ran into a USFS staff member in the campground who gave us great directions and a map to boot.  Our tax dollars well spent!

We were sure that we would NOT make it to the top of Mt. Lola, given the heavy snowfall this year, and we were right.  The snow was so deep that we only got about three miles in before we had to turn around and head back.  It was either that, or cross a bit of a tricky bridge over Cold Stream Creek that had whitewater flowing over it.   But the trail is delightful, following Cold Stream Creek up a canyon, and then eventually leading to a beautiful meadow at mile four or so.   After that, the trail is supposed to take you all the way to the top of Mt. Lola, with views up and down the Sierra Crest.  We'll have to tackle it again when there is less snow.  There might have even been a few nice campsites for backpacking trip at some point. 

The second day we hikes the Pacific Crest Trail from where it crosses Jackson Meadow Reservoir Road North for a few miles and found a scenic overlook that had a nice view of the Sierra Buttes.  But since the trees had grown up since the viewpoint was created, we pressed on for another 1/2 mile or so and then climbed a ridge off trail to get a perfect view, like the one below. 

Other members of our team visited Independence Lake, Donner Lake (kayaking and paddle boarding until sunburned!) drove around Lake Tahoe, and generally put in a full day of fun in the mountains.

But the real highlight of the trip each year is our fabulous dinners.  We eat and drink like kings and queens, and everyone tries very hard to outdo the previous night for delicious treats.  If you want to get an idea of both the activities and the amazing food, take a look at the facebook photo collection, which is here: 


And some good news, too

posted Jun 28, 2017, 6:22 PM by Paul Wagner

The Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park (Highway 120 through the park) will open for the season to all vehicular traffic beginning at 8:00 am on Thursday, June 29, 2017. There will be limited visitor services available from the Tioga Pass Entrance Station to Crane Flat. Tioga Road will open for bicycle and pedestrian users at 8:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

All visitors on the road are encouraged to use caution as there may be dirt, debris, and water flowing over sections of the road. Visitors are encouraged to keep an eye out for maintenance vehicles working on the roadway.

There will be minimal services available along the Tioga Road for several weeks. There will be no drinking water. Visitors should use the vault and portable toilets located along the roadway to help protect water quality in the Tuolumne River watershed. Food service and lodging are not available along the Tioga Road. There is no mobile phone service at this time and 911 emergency calls will not be operational. There are no gasoline services available along Tioga Road. Visitors can purchase gasoline in Lee Vining and at Crane Flat.

For maps and visitor information, visit the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center, open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, the Big Oak Flat Information Station, the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, and the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center in Lee Vining.

Tamarack Flat Campground is the only campground that is currently open along Tioga Road. This campground is first-come, first served and fills early in the day.

Anyone planning to hike or backpack near Tuolumne Meadows and in all high elevation areas of Yosemite should be prepared for winter hiking and camping conditions. Trails are still impacted by snow and ice. River crossings are high and swift moving. There are several high water areas currently impacting the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the John Muir Trail (JMT) in Yosemite National Park. Trail conditions may vary at any time.

When driving in the park, motorists are urged to drive slowly as bears and other animals are active and may be present on the roadway.

Sad Story from Yosemite

posted Jun 28, 2017, 6:18 PM by Paul Wagner

A hiker died while trying to cross the wooden bridge at Wapama Falls, on the trail from Hetch-hetchy to Rancheria Falls.  Here's the whole story:

Please be careful out there!

Getting out is good

posted Jun 19, 2017, 11:20 AM by Paul Wagner

M was feeling a bit under the weather this past weekend, so we tabled plans to go backpacking.  Instead, we found a nice local trail in the Stanislaus Forest below Kennedy Meadows, and took off on a day hike.  It was warm (it was hot everywhere else, but we were up about 7,000 feet, so it was a bit cooler) the sky was blue, and the scenery was a treat. 

we hiked up a few miles, had lunch, and then wandered around in the forest a bit before we headed back to the car.  On the way, we were accompanied by at least a score of swallowtail butterflies.  We even got one to sit still enough to get a good photo:

And once back at the car, we couldn't resist going up to Sonora Pass to see exactly how much snow is up there.

A lot.  This is about 9,000 feet, and you can see that snow covers just about everything but the most southerly facing slopes.  People were snowboarding and snowmobiling along the road here.  That should give you some idea of what kinds of conditions you'll find if you start hiking anytime soon...

And by the way, this is the Stanislaus River at full flood stage.  Amazing.  Yes, that is solid whitewater.

Good News and Bad News

posted Jun 7, 2017, 9:25 PM by Paul Wagner

First of all, the really good news is that the Sierra got a massive amount of snow this year, and that will make a dent in California's chronic water shortage.  That is great news. 

And taking advantage of all that snow, Mammoth Mountain has announced that they are going to keep operating their ski operation well into the month of August.  There is still ten feet of snow at the bottom of their runs, and more than twenty feet at the top of the mountain.

Here's link to that story:

But it's not all good news.  Yosemite has announced that the High Sierra Camps will not open this year, because there is just too damn much snow.  Well, they didn't exactly say that.  What they said was this:

As you may have heard, Yosemite National Park is seeing a record amount of snowpack in the high country, which includes the High Sierra Camps. The National Park Service has noted that this year’s snowpack is bigger than the previous four years combined.

We are sending you this email to inform you that unfortunately the High Sierra Camps will not open this year due to the record snowpack, lack of access to water for bathrooms and kitchens and other infrastructure challenges. As a result, we will need to cancel your meals-only reservation for the High Sierra Camps. Please note that your wilderness permit issued by the National Park Service is not affected.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and we hope you are able to dine with us next year at the High Sierra Camps. The health and safety of Yosemite National Park visitors is the park’s top priority.

You will automatically receive a cancellation email and a refund for your payment. If you have any questions, please contact us via email at highsierracamp@aramark.com. If you need to speak to a reservations specialist, please call 888.413.8869 and select option 4.

Please note that your wilderness permit issued by the National Park Service is not affected, which means you can still enjoy your overnight backpacking trip in the Yosemite Wilderness.


Yosemite Hospitality

There is still a lot of snow up there...

posted Jun 6, 2017, 9:37 AM by Paul Wagner

This photo is from Sonora Pass a week ago.

Half Dome Cables are going up

posted Jun 1, 2017, 5:15 PM by Paul Wagner

The Half Dome Cables in Yosemite National Park will be in place for visitor use this Friday, June 2, 2017. The trail will be wet and icy in places and visitors planning to ascend Half Dome are encouraged to be prepared for winter hiking conditions.

There is a daily lottery for a limited number of permits which are required to ascent the Half Dome Cables. This lottery opens Wednesday, May 31, 2017 for the summer season. These permits are available online through the daily lottery operated by www.recreation.gov. To apply for a daily lottery permit, applications are accepted from 12:01 am to 1:00 pm two days in advance of the intended hiking date. Lottery applicants may request up to six permits.

Day use permits are required to ascend the Half Dome cables 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A $10 application fee will be charged for each application and a $10 permit fee will be charged for each permit issued.

Day use permits cannot be obtained in person through any office in Yosemite National Park. Permit applicants must use their legal name when applying for a permit and a matching government-issued ID is required at the permit check point.

Overnight use permits are available through the Yosemite National Park Wilderness Center. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm.

Of course, please remember that Tenaya Lake is still frozen over, and you are going to be hiking/climbing in snow part of the way. 

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