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

Death Valley IV

posted Feb 17, 2018, 6:30 PM by Paul Wagner

We’re back from a week-long adventure in Death Valley.  It’s something we’ve been doing now every other year for the past eight years, and we love it.  But this year was a bit different, to be sure.

To begin with, neither of us was feeling on top of the world when we left home.  M was slowly working through her recovery from the flu, and P was a few days behind her in that.  So we had minimal expectations of what we might be able to do.

Of course, this was also going to be the shake down cruise of Le Vin Blanc, and we shook down immediately on the first morning, when we needed to charge the battery to start the van.  Even though it started fine after that, we finally decided to check the battery for real in Merced and ended up buying a new one.  Problem solved in an hour at Pep Boys.

That night we camped at Rad Rock State Park outside of Ridgecrest, arriving just about dusk—dark enough that we couldn’t really see what there was to see.  But the van set up perfectly, we cooked our lasagna dinner on the table in the back and slept well in our new bed.  So far, so good.  
That's the storage under the bed at right.

The next morning, we hiked a bit around the park, wishing we had more time, but we also were to meet a friend for brunch in Ridgecrest.  And it was during brunch that we decided that P really needed more than a few doses of Dayquil and Nyquil. A quick trip to the urgent care center in town, and a longer wait for Walgreens to fill the FOUR prescriptions, and we were on our way to Furnace Creek with a full diagnosis of ear infection, sinus infection, and bronchitis.  What fun!

When we arrived at the campground, it was dusk again—and despite our reservation.com confirmation the campground had left no note for our campsite.   Luckily the campground wasn’t full, and our site was still available.  The next morning the rangers apologizes for having missed the reservation---but it makes us wonder what would have happened if the campground had been full.

Doped up on meds, and feeling ever so slightly better, we decided to drive up to Hole-in-the-Wall and hike around the Red Amphitheater.  The van did great—handling the “only 4WD high clearance” road with aplomb.  And then we hiked around and looked at rocks, which is pretty much what you do at Death Valley.  There were amazing rocks here, and we loved the hike, lunch in the Amphitheater, and the hike and drive back out.  From there we went to the Visitors Center to ask a million questions, went back to camp to take a nap, had an early dinner, and went to bed. 

P was determined to feel better the next day, and he did—a little bit.  This stuff was slow going.  Since our campsite reservation was now over, we decided to move to Texas Springs Campground on the other side of the highway, which has a better view and is a bit quieter.  We drove around, saw that there were some free campsites, and decided to go see the Salt Creek Pupfish and allow a few more people to depart.  M loved seeing this little Darwinian mating dance a few years ago, but this year it hadn’t started yet.  So the pupfish were there, but they weren’t so entertaining.  Instead, we hiked out to the end of the boardwalk, and then down the stairs on the trail out along the creek for a mile or two.  By this time we lots of campsites to choose from at Texas Springs, and we picked the best of the lot for the next few days.

In the afternoon we took a tip from Steve Hall’s Panamint City website (highly recommended!) and hiked up to Foundry Canyon.  P had printed out a Google Earth map for this one, because for some reason, Steve’s GPS coordinates often don’t match up with our maps.  Some of the rangers noted the same issue, so be warned.  Foundry was lovely, but M was not feeling like climbing the first rather slick dry fall, and P only climbed up a bit beyond that.  On the way out P’s toe was bothering him, so he clipped an offending toenail to correct it.  And left the clippers on the perfectly sited white granite rock right at the entrance to the canyon.  Help yourself, if they are still there…sigh.  With a few more hours in the day, we drove up to Death Valley Junction, where we had a coffee at the Amargosa Café, checked out the hotel and opera house, and then drove back to camp.  Despite the lazy day aspect of this one, we figured that we ended up hiking about eight miles, and were both feeling a bit stronger.

So the next day we tackled Funeral Slot Canyon, again c/o Steve Hall and Panamintcity.com.  This was a real treat.  The route starts right at our campsite in Texas Springs, and heads up a wash to a wonderful slot canyon with two side canyons also worth exploring. In one tiny side canyon we climbed as far as we could, to find a tiny water hole and plenty of evidence of Bighorn Sheep.  When we told the rangers about it later, they were unaware of the water there.  Beautiful Canyon and lots of fun.

And that night the stars were spectacular, with no moon and extremely dark skies.  P pulled out his binoculars and spent quite a while gazing at the Andromeda Galaxy, the Orion Nebula, and lots of other old friends up in the heavens.  Andromeda just about filled the whole field of view of his binoculars that night.  Stunning.

But that was a long day, and we chose to take it easier on the following day, going down to little Desolation Canyon to explore.  The wind was blowing a lot, and that didn’t help our sinuses or coughs, but we still had fun.  The NPS likes this canyon and gives good directions to it.  But we think they undersell it a little bit.  We must have hiked up six or seven of the side canyons, as well as all the way to the top of Desolation Canyon, and what was supposed to be a 1.8 mile hike took us most of a day!  M wanted a shower at that point, so we went back to camp and cleaned, P using the solar shower we bought for the van…which was not very warm.  Sigh.  And then a quick drive out to the Devil’s Golf Course before dinner topped off the day.

Each day we were feeling better, but both of us were still fighting a fairly nasty cough, which tended to terrify the tourists nearby.  To spare them, the next day we took the van to drive the 4wd recommended Titus Canyon Road—27 miles of it.  It’s a nice drive, and we enjoyed the ruins of Leadfield and the petroglyphs near the spring but driving that much on a gravel road isn’t all that entertaining.  We’d rather be hiking.  Le Vin did a marvelous job on the road, however.  And since we had plenty of time, we drove over to Stovepipe Wells to gas up and visit the Mesquite Dunes.  At that point it was almost lunchtime, and we were tired.  We decided to drive to Darwin Falls by Panamint Springs to eat lunch there, and then hiked in to see the falls. Both the hike and the falls exceeding our expectations…a lovely little oasis in this bleak desert. 

Did I mention we were tired?  At that point we looked at each other, looked at the van, and figured that we could be home by bedtime.  Off we went.  It didn’t quite work out that way.   We stopped to see the Trona Pinnacles in Trona.  We stopped for dinner in Bakersfield and got caught in a crazy traffic jam in Walnut Creek at 10:30 at night.  But we stumbled into our house at a bit after 11 and fell fast asleep. 

Today we are exhausted, as well as we should be.  We’re resting, taking our meds, and enjoying soft beds.  But we’ve already made a list of places we want to visit the next time we go to Death Valley.

Firefall Permits

posted Feb 5, 2018, 7:05 AM by Paul Wagner

You have probably seen photos of the famous Firefall in Yosemite.  No, it's not the one we remember from when we were kids, when the rangers would build a massive bonfire on Glacier Point and then rake the coals over the edge and down into the valley each night for a spectacular show.  (For those of you who are younger, yes they really did this!)

Image result for firefall yosemiteImage result for firefall yosemite

On the left is the new firefall,.  On the right is a version of the old one.

No, this is Horsetail Falls near El Capitan which turn a deep orange right at sunset if conditions are perfect for a few days in February.  It's become such a major tourist attraction that last year the valley was inundated by cars and tourists hoping to get that "once in a lifetime shot" of something that happens every year, more or less,.

So now there is a reservation system for parking anywhere near the best spots to take this photo, with a limit of 250 people per day.  It's just another example of how Yosemite is in a constant struggle to save itself from being loved to death. 

And we wish it well in doing so...

New Name in the Sierra

posted Jan 29, 2018, 9:25 AM by Paul Wagner

This is what she was looking at  ©http://backpackthesierra.com
California names a mountain after Marine from El Dorado who died in combat January 24, 2018:

Sky Point, a roughly 11,240-foot Sierra Nevada peak in the John Muir Wilderness, honors [Sky] Mote, who died while serving as an explosive ordinance disposal technician with the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion.

A presently unnamed peak in the center of Humphrey Basin holds special meaning to the friends and family of Sky Mote, as their annual hunting trips set up camp beneath this point; under the stars, the memories made beneath this rounded peak will be cherished forever.

The mountain in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest in California, located at 37°15′16.10091″N 118°43′39.54102″W, shall be known and designated as "Sky Point."

In the photo above, we think that Sky Point is one of those lower rock ridges immediately in front of Pilot Knob, dead center.

Some Good News

posted Jan 27, 2018, 6:41 AM by Paul Wagner

Yosemite National Park’s Michael Pieper wins Prestigious Award
January 26, 2018 10:05PM
Civil Engineer wins NPS Pacific West Regional Director’s Award for Natural Resource Stewardship through Maintenance

Yosemite National Park announces Michael Pieper as the 2016 Recipient of the NPS Pacific West Regional Director’s Award for Natural Resource Stewardship through Maintenance. Michael is a Civil Engineer in Yosemite National Park and he has been recognized as an exemplary employee for his commitment to natural resource protection while working on a wide variety of maintenance projects in Yosemite National Park, including the restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

While Michael is responsible for overseeing many important maintenance projects in Yosemite, he has been recognized for his work as the NPS Construction Supervisor for the restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Over the past three years, Michael has been the NPS Construction Supervisor overseeing the restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Michael has been coordinating and overseeing multiple phases of restoration work, including the removal of a 115-car parking lot, a gift shop, and a fueling station that were all constructed on top of giant sequoia roots. Michael is working with park partners, contractors, and NPS trail and vegetation crews to oversee the construction of a new parking area.

“Michael Pieper is an integral part of a talented team that has made the restoration of the Mariposa Grove possible,” stated Acting Superintendent Chip Jenkins. “We are proud to celebrate and honor Michael for his leadership and the contributions he has made to the restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.”

These prestigious awards are bestowed annually to outstanding NPS employees working on natural resource projects at parks throughout the Pacific West Region. Additionally, Michael has been nominated for the 2016 Director’s Award for Natural Resource Management through Maintenance.

This can't be good news

posted Jan 16, 2018, 8:25 PM by Paul Wagner

In general, we avoid politics on this blog and on this website.  But we do believe in protecting our national parks and managing them for the best possible use for all Americans.  When nine of twelve members of the advisory panel resign because they feel that their input is being ignored, well, that's a disaster

Epic is overrated

posted Jan 12, 2018, 7:01 PM by Paul Wagner

Seems like a lot of people who are backpacking these days want to do a trip that is truly epic.  We're not sure what that means, but it seems to have something to do with being a trip that you can brag about later. 


We've found that hiking into areas you love because you love them is a lot more rewarding than hiking to see if you can.  And it vastly increases the odds of you ever doing it again.  We'd vote for lovely, instead of epic. 

More Paintings

posted Jan 5, 2018, 4:49 PM by Paul Wagner

P has been busy with the brush, but we've been traveling so much that he doesn't have much to show for it.  Still, here are a couple of nice ones from his recent efforts;

That's Mt. Starr King from the Illilouette Canyon at Sunset

Sequoias in Wawona Grove in winter

Tuolumne Peak from the trail back down from Mt. Hoffman

Ending the year with a hike

posted Jan 2, 2018, 6:56 PM by Paul Wagner

It wasn't epic.  It wasn't backpacking.  But we had always wondered about the Eagle Creek Trail, out of the Dardanelles Resort and up towards the Emigrant Wilderness. So on the last day of the year, we started a  bit late, but hiked up a few miles to see what we could see.

Nice trail.  Steep in parts, but certainly not impossible.  And we got up over 7,000 feet, where we could see that the trail flattens out into Eagle Meadows.  Yeah, there is 4WD road into those meadows as well, but we like hiking.

There was patchy snow along the trail, but not more than about 5% or even less.  And that's not good news.  Hopefully the new year will bring in lots of snow.  We need it, and we need the water it holds.

Meanwhile, we did hike past a creek that was frozen solid.  And no, we didn't try to ice skate!

At any rate, here's a link to the rest of the photos...


Happy Holidays

posted Dec 25, 2017, 7:30 AM by Paul Wagner

Hope you are all having a wonderful time with family and friends....and that the New Year brings you wonderful times in the mountains.

Winter Hiking Closer to Home

posted Dec 17, 2017, 9:30 PM by Paul Wagner

With house guests for a week, we took a quick trip West to Samuel P. Taylor State Park and then Salmon Creek.  On a beautiful winter's day, we still managed to get in a few miles, breathe in some fresh air, and see a few sights...

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