Photos from some of our hikes in 2017.  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.)

Cerro Torre, Patagonia                                                                           Buckeye Valley, Hoover Wilderness                                                   


Evelyn Lake, Mineral King, SEKI                                                            South Sister, Sisters Wilderness, Oregon


Summit City Canyon, Mokelumne Wilderness                                      Echo Peaks, Yosemite

Here's the photo

posted Dec 3, 2018, 8:32 AM by Paul Wagner

For those of you who don't like to click on links!

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

Photo credit

posted Dec 3, 2018, 8:26 AM by Paul Wagner

We were charmed to learn that our friends at Backpacker's Basecamp have chosen to use one of our photos for their header for the next couple of weeks.  This is a rotating system in which they choose a different photo every once in a while to illustrate their community message boards.  We like that community a lot: it has a nice blend of real expertise with people who are genuinely pleasant and polite to each other.

And you might note that attractive photo in the upper right of the page: Leopold Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness at sunset, during the first few days of the Portal Fire in July of 2014...which added to the dramatic lighting of the photo.

Backpacking has made us thankful...

posted Nov 28, 2018, 3:44 PM by Paul Wagner

Yes, of course we are grateful for so many things, including living in a wonderful place and getting out into the mountains pretty much whenever we want, now that we are full retired.  And if you've read this blog at all, you know that we do get out as often as we can, whether that be on backpacking trips, day hikes, or even our van adventures in the Southwest last spring.

But the other day P was in a small local restaurant and went to wash his hands before eating.  And guess what?  They had hot running water, soap and towels in that restroom.  It reminded him of the many times in the mountains when soap and warm water was a true luxury.  And yet here it was, for the asking. And he remembered the number of times that finding warm water and soap after a week on the trail was heaven on Earth.

There are lots of people who live in different parts of the world where something we take for granted is rare or even unknown.  And backpacking has made us more aware of some of those things, like soap and warm water. 

We wish everyone had access to them.  And we are grateful that we have them, even in a small time local restaurant. 

Dragging the JMT

posted Nov 28, 2018, 3:38 PM by Paul Wagner

We saw this story from Outside magazine, and immediately liked it.  Here is someone who is bringing a sense of humor and a very personal perspective to the backcountry, and all with a simple goal--to get more people out into the wilderness.  That's a goal that we endorse wholeheartedly. 

Check out the six inch heels on top of the mountain.  Now that's high altitude!

A Day for Thanks

posted Nov 22, 2018, 9:16 AM by Paul Wagner

We would like to thank everyone who reads this blog---and especially those who write to us.  We love hearing from you and seeing your photos. 

Most of all, we would like to thank those who write to us to add information to something we've written, or correct something that we have wrong.  A great example of this is our correspondent Walter, who often does both.  Here is what Walter wrote to us about our recent post on the old road we followed up at Sonora Pass:
The trail follows the river, and is both gentle and beautiful©http://backpackthesierra.com

"I enjoyed your piece about the old Sonora Pass road.  It’s pretty cool that you can still find it after all this time.  The road was not used by “early immigrants,” as you suggest but was mainly a commercial route for men and materiel between California and the mines in Nevada.  It was opened in 1864.  There was an earlier route to California that actually was used by early immigrants in the early 1850’s.  It went over “Sonora Pass” but had nothing to do with the road that you were exploring.  It was a different pass entirely.  The route went up through Leavitt Meadows past Fremont Lake and turned west just a bit short of Cinko Lake to go over the pass.  It then wound its way through the Emigrant Wilderness down to the town of Sonora.  There is no trail there today, and you will not find the “pass” on any modern map.  The historical plaque at the current Sonora Pass is misleading. 
Lovely lighting at sunset.©http://backpackthesierra.com

"If you are wondering how the pioneers got their wagons over such rough country the answer is that they often didn’t.  It was an absolutely terrible trail, far more difficult than the Carson Pass trail to the north, which had a lot more traffic.  In the few years that it was in use it became littered with the carcasses of dead stock, abandoned goods and entire wagons.  It was promoted by the good citizens of Sonora who were concerned that the more northern route was directing settlers away from their town.  They wanted respectable settlers rather than the riffraff that was attracted to the mines.  They told folks that the Sonora Pass route was best way to cross the mountains, which was emphatically not the case; but hundreds believed them, much to their sorrow.  Marketing!

Quite cold, but I had to get up to catch these photos©http://backpackthesierra.com
"The better road that was completed in 1864 was originally supposed to go up the Clark Fork and then on up to St. Mary Pass.  As the work progressed, however, the surveyors found a route they liked better — the current one that follows Deadman Creek, and the rest is history. "

We've hiked up Leavitt Meadows and past Fremont Lake to Cinko Lake years ago--wonderful area.  And Walter is right: we didn't notice any abandoned pioneer route there.   The top photo in today's blog is along the trail above Leavitt Meadows.  The second one is Fremont Lake.  And the one at left is Cinko Lake. 

So thank you all for helping us along our journey--and especially Walter, who makes an effort to keep us on the right trail.

Hope you have a wonderful day today, and that you manage to get out into the mountains soon.


Guardian Story about our National Parks

posted Nov 20, 2018, 7:40 AM by Paul Wagner

We've come to appreciate the perspective that the Guardian gives on many stories, and this one really hit home.  It's an excellent discussion of the issues we face moving forward with our national parks. 

We have always been of the opinion that encouraging people to visit the mountains is a good idea, because the more people appreciate our wilderness, the more they will vote for protection of our wild places.  But this article suggests that we may be well beyond the carrying capacity of some of our parks, and more people isn't going to help that at all.

On the other hand, we never post geo-locations for any of our photos, and we don't usually recommend specific campsites for two reasons.  One of them is that we think you should find your own scenic treasures.  The other one is that you may prefer something different from what we like, and you should feel free to explore a bit. 

At any rate, the story is sobering.  And yes, we contribute to pay for the Guardian's work.

Weather on the Way

posted Nov 19, 2018, 9:45 PM by Paul Wagner

National Weather Service RENO NV
149 PM PST Sun Nov 18 2018

Surprise Valley California-Lassen-Eastern Plumas-Eastern Sierra Counties-Greater Lake Tahoe Area-Mono County-Mineral and Southern Lyon Counties-Greater Reno-Carson City-Minden Area-Western Nevada Basin and Range including Pyramid Lake-Northern Washoe County-Including the cities of Cedarville, Eagleville, Fort Bidwell,
Portola, Susanville, Westwood, Sierraville, Loyalton,South Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, Truckee, Markleeville, Bridgeport, Coleville, Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, Hawthorne, Yerington, Smith Valley, Mina, Schurz, Stateline, Glenbrook, Incline Village, Sparks, Verdi, Gardnerville, Virginia City, Fernley, Fallon, Lovelock, Silver Springs, Nixon, Imlay, Empire, and Gerlach
149 PM PST Sun Nov 18 2018

...Travel impacts likely across the Sierra and western Nevada Wednesday to Friday...

With it being a busy holiday travel period, the anticipated weather could bring significant impacts to travel in the Sierra. I t is best to have a winter travel kit and plan for potentially long delays Wednesday-Friday.

Wednesday: First of two storms will bring a period of rain and snow to the region. Heaviest rain and snow could move through the region late Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday evening. Best advice is to travel over the Sierra passes Wednesday morning or early Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday Night and Friday: Stronger storm possible with high winds impacting travel across western Nevada. Periods of heavy rain and snow possible for the northern Sierra, including the Tahoe Basin and Carson Pass. Minimal amounts of rain and snow will reach Mono County. Have an alternate set of travel plans, if possible consider delaying travel until Saturday.

And with that in mind...

The Tioga and Glacier Point Roads in Yosemite National Park will close to all vehicular traffic beginning at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 due to incoming winter weather. The roads will reopen as weather and road conditions permit. This is not necessarily a seasonal closure. A series of winter storms are expected to pass through the Yosemite area beginning on Tuesday evening through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Yosemite National Park is open year-round with snow removal on all other roads within the park. Highway 120 West, Highway 140, and Highway 41 remain open year-round and provide access to Yosemite Valley. The Hetch-hetchy Road is open for day use throughout the winter months.

All roads within the park are subject to chain control or temporary closures due to hazardous driving conditions. All motorists are required to carry tire chains, even if their car is equipped with four-wheel drive, while driving in the park during the winter months.

For updated 24-hour road and weather conditions for Yosemite National Park, please call +1 209 372-0200.

Be careful out there!

Rails to Trails on the Stanislaus

posted Nov 13, 2018, 6:40 AM by Paul Wagner

After heading up to Sonora Pass, we decided we'd hike where the weather would be a bit warmer the next day.  And since we had fun following the old pioneer trail yesterday, today we took the West Side Trail from River's End on the Cherry Lake Road back towards the town of Tuolumne. 

This trail begins with a steep but short climb from the road up to the old railroad bed, and from there on it is almost dead flat.  There were a couple of gullies that required us to climb up and down a total of maybe fifty feet because the trestles were no longer safe, but other than that, this was a cakewalk. 

But that didn't mean it wasn't lots of fun.  We rolled along at a good pace, and covered about seven miles in our afternoon walk.  We found a nice spot for a picnic, read a few educational signs, and really enjoyed the fall colors and the cool autumn air.

This trail in the spring can be quite hot---but it also has loads of wildflowers.  In the fall it was a completely different experience.  And we saw a total of one person, a lonely mountain biker, during our three-and-a-half hours on the trail. Pretty nice.

More photos:

  And the rest of the photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/bjSdN25VZMNhJM5PA

Hiking Local

posted Nov 12, 2018, 5:16 PM by Paul Wagner

With our youngest daughter in town, we headed up to our cabin near Sonora to get some cleaner air and hopefully to a little hiking.  The air in Napa has been so bad that we haven't been out much at all, on a bike or on foot.  It has been truly miserable.

But we were happy to see that the air in Twain Harte was much better.  And so on Saturday we drove up towards Sonora Pass to see if it continued to improve as we went uphill.  It did.  And we took the opportunity to do something we had wanted to do for a long time.

Every time we drive along Highway 108 below the pass, we note the remnants of the old Pioneer trail that brought early immigrants into Tuolumne County over Sonora Pass.   And we've always wondered exactly where it went, and how we could follow it.  Saturday, we found out.

Parking just above the 8,000 level on the highway, we crossed the creek and clambered up the slope to the obvious traces of the old road.  From there we followed it East towards the pass, until we finally lost it in a sea of alders.  But as we climbed up above the alders to get a better view, it was clear that the old road continued through the alders and across the creek, to head up the pass underneath the existing highway. 


And then we went back downhill and followed it in the other direction for a while, until it did the same thing at that end, crossing the creek to avoid some steep granite, and getting paved over by Cal Trans. 

It was an interesting hike.  And while we didn't find any truly historic treasures, we did get a sense of how much work went into building this old road.  Some of the stonework was still visible today.  The air was clear.  The scenery was stunning.

And we got to spend some quality time outdoors with a wonderful child. 

A very good day indeed.

the rest of the photos from this trip, as well as the hike the following day, are here:

An Honor!

posted Nov 6, 2018, 8:04 AM by Paul Wagner

Just back from the annual conference of the American Wine Society, where P was given the annual Award of Merit--their highest honor--for his work in the world of wine.  What fun!  And the list of previous award winners is quite impressive:  Robert Mondavi, Vern Singleton, Gina Gallo, Ann Noble, Andre Tchellistcheff, Warren Winiarski...a who's who of the leaders of the wine industry.  P is blushing...

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

P with John Hames on the left...John won the award as the Outstanding Member of the AWS...and is a dear friend.

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