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

Women's Gear

posted Oct 16, 2018, 5:36 PM by Paul Wagner

Backpacking gear has come a long way over the years, but it still falls way short of what we should expect.  And this article by Kate Worteck for Elle really caught our attention.  It's well written, funny, and spot on.  Here's how it starts:

Last fall, a friend and I were packing up for a weekend of backpacking in the Desolation Wilderness. She's a badass professional guide and I work in the outdoor industry, so naturally we started comparing gear—which led to a list of all of the gear we'd passed on buying because it was only available in "girl colors." At times, we've both resorted to shopping in the boys' section of REI (size-wise, it turns out that I'm either a slim woman or a very strapping 12-year-old boy).

And here's a link to the rest of the story:

More Evidence that Fall is here

posted Oct 14, 2018, 8:45 AM by Paul Wagner

Tomorrow night Tioga Road will be closed to all vehicles for overnight parking.  You can still drive on it and park for a day-hike, but don't leave your car overnight anywhere along the road between Crane Flat and the Tioga Pass entrance station. 

The Park Service does not want your car stuck in snow for the entire winter, and this parking regulation recognizes that a big storm could come along at any time after October 15.

Something to keep in mind when you plan your backcountry trips!

More good news: Yosemite Bear Report

posted Oct 8, 2018, 8:02 AM by Paul Wagner

2018 Total Bear Incidents: 15
2018 Total Property Damage: $1,085
Compared to this same week 2017 (the lowest year on record), bear incidents in 2018 are down by 55% and damage amounts (in dollars) are down by 78%.
Compared to 1998 (when incidents in the park peaked), bear incidents and damages in 2018 are down by 99%.

Bear Activity Summary: Bears are busy across all elevations of the park devouring whatever food they come across, including late fruit, acorns, and even fish trapped in shrinking pools. Help protect bears by storing your food and scented items (toiletries, drinks, etc.) in a hard-sided building or in a latched food locker. Keeping food within arm’s reach day and night (when not stored properly) also keeps your food from curious bears. One incident occurred recently at North Pines Campground after visitors accidentally left out drinks in a cooler overnight. The bear knocked the cooler over and bit or clawed open the drinks inside.

Red Bear, Dead Bear: So far this year, 13 bears have been hit by vehicles along park roads. Please help protect wildlife by obeying speed limits and being prepared to stop for animals on roads.

Fascinating Bear Fact: During the fall, bears are consuming around 20,000 calories a day. An individual acorn has 70-100 calories, which means a bear must eat 200-300 acorns each day to meet its food requirements.

Fire restrictions are easing

posted Oct 7, 2018, 4:22 PM by Paul Wagner

Following the nice rains of last week, a number of forests are easing the fire restrictions. Inyo National Forest has announced theirs...and this is from SEKI:

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. October 3, 2018 – Effective October 5, 2018 at 12:00 p.m., Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are lifting fire restrictions inside the parks. Changes in weather patterns, cooler days, and longer nights have reduced the risk of unwanted human-caused fires. Even with restrictions lifted, visitors must still follow the parks’ year-round regulations concerning fire. Wood and charcoal fires will be now permitted within designated fire rings in all Foothills Campgrounds of Sequoia National Park. Charcoal grills may also now be used in the Hospital Rock and Ash Mountain Picnic Areas, and smoking is permitted unless posted, regardless of elevation.

Campfires are also now permitted in Wilderness areas regardless of elevation. Year-round fire restrictions may still apply to specific sites in the wilderness. In the Wilderness:
  • Keep campfires small, in a safe area, and away from overhanging limbs.
  • Use existing campfire rings - do not build new rings in the wilderness.
  • Extinguish fires at least ½ hour before leaving camp; add water and stir the ashes.
  • If you are backpacking, you are responsible for knowing the fire regulations where you travel. Check with the wilderness office about your destination. Fires are prohibited in some areas of the Wilderness due to scarcity of wood and resource concerns.
Additionally, all visitors must:
  • Use the designated campfire ring in all campgrounds.
  • Gather only dead and down wood; do not cut limbs from trees.
  • Extinguish cigarettes and properly dispose of the filter.

One Last Trail Crew

posted Oct 2, 2018, 8:25 AM by Paul Wagner

P managed to fit in one last adventure with Chip Morrill in the Mokelumne Wilderness last weekend, this time hiking down the Mokelumne River from Hermit Valley to Deer Creek and beyond.  This is a really beautiful area with deep pools in the river, wonderful views, and great campsites. 
Gotta love the welcome  ©http://backpackthesierra.com
But this is also very isolated country.  In fact, the sign at the trailhead pretty much discourages anyone from hiking down more than a few miles.  On the other hand, the scenery in amazing, and we had a great time trying to make it more accessible to more people. 

We hiked in on Friday morning, a crew of four volunteer and Chip.  We did a bit of lopping and trail work on the way in, and set up camp at the confluence of Deer Creek with the Mokelumne.  The trail to this point was not bad...and M and P had hiked it years ago, and we managed to follow it to the cascade at the bottom of Deer Creek. 

But then came the crossing of Deer Creek.  This creek is fed by the outlet from Meadow Creek Reservoir, so it runs all year with a good flow.  Our crew
spent at least an hour and half just looking for the best possible place to cross:  the perfect solution would include a nearby dead tree to drop across the creek to form a bridge.  After a lot of bushwhacking and consulting, Chip made the call, and we got to work with the saw.  Before you knew it, we had a bridge that would withstand high water and was pretty darn stable.  We use it for the rest of the weekend as we worked lower down on the river. 

The next day we hiked the trail, lopping bushes where they impeded progress, cutting through logs where they blocked the trail, marking the trail with logs and branches where we could find them, digging out duff through the forest floor, and putting up cairns where the trail went over solid rock.  Hard work, but we got a lot done. 

Day three began with Chip suggesting that we might want to take a quick one-hour hike up Deer Creek to see the cascades.  I think we were all perfectly happy to get to work, but also really appreciated Chip's desire to make sure that we really enjoyed the trip.  We happily followed him on a bushwhack up the creek...which turned out to be a two and a half hour adventure up granite, through manzanita, under trees, and over logs.  What fun!  And the views we attained were really amazing. 

Once back in camp, we loaded up our tools and headed down the Mokelumne.  Another tree sawn through, more work with McCleod and loppers, and we stopped for lunch on the gravel beach of a lovely deep pool.  From there the trail became a bit confused, and we finally determine the best route through the last bit of forest...and then it opened up into the granite of the canyon itself.

We followed cairns and did some minor work for another stretch of the trail, until it dipped down around a small granite dome.  We were done for the day, so hiked up to the top of the dome and took in the view--well worth three days of trail work!

The next day we packed up our camp, packed up the tools, and hiked back up to the trailhead, stopping to fix one section of the trail that had really been mixed up, and lopping whenever we got the chance.  By 11 we were back at the cars, and driving off on our separate routes back to civilization.  We had seen only a handful of other people over four days.

How much fun was this trip?  Jan and Vicky, excited about the work, decided they would come back in the near future to finish off the lopping and trail clearance nearer the trailhead. 

A great way to spend a few extra days in the wilderness, with good people and glorious weather. 

This is not good news...

posted Sep 26, 2018, 10:24 AM by Paul Wagner

A major new study indicates that not only are temperatures going up around the world, they are going up warmer and faster in our national parks. 

With hundreds of millions of trees dying in the West, and temperatures continuing to rise, and drought becoming an annual experience for us all, it is critical that we take action as quickly as possible to reduce the impacts we have on the world's climate.

The Deer Hunters

posted Sep 19, 2018, 7:59 AM by Paul Wagner

On our drive very back from South Lake this past weekend we coincided with the opening day of deer hunting season over Sonora Pass.  Suddenly those clearings in the forest along Highway 108  we're full of groups of grown men dressed in camo....and they were not from the Marines' Mountain Warfare Training Center.  They were loaded for deer.  They were everywhere, although most seemed to be within a few yards of the road by the time we drove by before noon.

Given the massive fires this summer, you have to assume that the deer range is a lot smaller than it used to be, and the hunters were stacked in pretty thick.  We were glad we weren't hiking in this area.

At the same time, we noticed a check point for successful hunters on the way down the hill.  There was only one truck with a deer in it at the checkpoint...so the deer were holding their own, apparently.

Donnell Fire Photos

posted Sep 18, 2018, 7:04 AM by Paul Wagner

Last time we drove through Sonora Pass after the big Donnell Fire traffic was directed not to stop in the fire area, and so we kept driving. 

But this week this signs were now down, and we took a few photos to document the damage.  Very, very sad.

The slopes to the left, above Dardanelles resort, lead up Eagle Creek to the high country.  They are burnt to a crisp.

The Iceberg, in the distance, gives it's name to the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.  It's at the upper end of Clark's Fork of the Stanislaus, and the whole canyon is burned.

South Lake Blowhard

posted Sep 16, 2018, 6:22 PM by Paul Wagner

With M's foot slowly recovering from tendonitis, we decided to push our luck a bit and take a hike out of Bishop via the South Lake trailhead.  The weather was windy as heck (up to 70mph over the passes) on Wednesday, but those winds were supposed to die down on Thursday morning.

Or not.

We picked up our permit for the trail into Dusy Basin at the Mono Lake office with no trouble, and had plenty of choices for a campsite at the Willow CG below South Lake.  Everything was perfect. 

But the next day the wind continued to blow hard.  We took it slowly up towards Bishop Pass, hoping the wind would ease off in the afternoon.  But by the time we stopped for lunch at Saddlerock Lake, it was blowing harder than ever.  And so after lunch we dropped back down below into Timberline Tarns and looked for a campsite.  We figured that we could hide out for the afternoon, and give it a new shot in the morning.  The people we had met on the trail coming down from Bishop Pass looked shell-shocked by the experience, and told of really difficult conditions.  Some had hiked from Happy Isles or Whitney and said that Bishop Pass was the worst experience of their hike. 

With a few days worth of food in our bear can, we thought it made sense to wait a day and let the weather improve.  We had a nice exploration of the two Timberline Tarns in the afternoon--this is spectacular country.  Late in the afternoon we stuck our head up again into Saddlerock Lake and got our hats blown off.

That evening the temperature dropped to the low 40s, and with the wind it was chilly.  We were in our tent by 7:30, snug in our bags.  At least we were prepared with the right gear.  That night the wind howled and gusted, and the temperature dropped to right around freezing. 

By the next day, the wind was still blowing hard, and clouds were moving in.  We did not like the idea of going up over the pass, and so we headed back towards Ruwua and Chocolate Lakes, hoping that they would be more sheltered.  

The trail from Long to Ruwau Lake is really steep, and Ruwau is nestled in a dramatic granite bowl at the base of Cloudripper Peak.  That was hard work   But once we checked it out, we decided to continue on over the use trail to Chocolate Lakes.  Our topo map showed a trail.  It was optimistic, and made us reconsider what steep means.  Straight up and straight down. M's foot was holding up, but barely.

Chocolate Lakes are gorgeous.  We really liked the middle lake best for camping.  We thought about that, but the wind was still knocking us around, and it was still before noon.  Maybe Bull Lake would be better.

We ate lunch there in the shelter of some trees on the east side, but the gusts of wind blowing our food around convinced us that it was time to give up.  As the great cyclist Eddy Merckx once said, "the hills are hard, but wind is the master." And on this trip, the wind was winning.  

On the way back down the trail we ran into quite a few groups heading in for the weekend.  We were surprised to learn that none if them could tell us what the current weather forecast was.  Amazing. I hope they were prepared for temps in the 30s and 30 mph winds...gusts to 50+.  We were, and we still felt the conditions were not enough fun for us to continue. 

We also met a young guy who was literally running up the trail early in the day up by our campsite.  We laughed with him and at him as he jogged by.  Later the same day we saw him jogging back down, nearly done with his hike.  It turned out he had promised a friend to carry a resupply load up into Dusy Basin. And he was seeing how quickly he could run the route, God bless him.  He was still laughing as he jogged off down the trail. 

That night we slept back in the van in Willow campground.  The wind shivered and shook the aspens all night long, and then next morning we drive into Bishop for a warm cooked breakfast.  That settled it.  We were going to the cabin, not back up into the wind. 

The wind blew hard all the way over Sonora Pass, and the deer hunters there must have spent a memorable and cold night waiting for dawn.

Twenty Lakes in Two Days

posted Sep 11, 2018, 9:38 AM by Paul Wagner

As M's tendonitis  in her heel continues to be an issue, we have slowly but surely begun to take a few trips this summer.  We're way behind our usual average, but things seem to be getting better....and so we thought we would look for a trip that wouldn't put too much stress on her heel.  That means not much uphill or downhill, and those hikes are hard to find in the Sierra.

But Saddlebag Lake, just east of Yosemite, offered the perfect solution this past weekend.  While the ferry across the lake no longer operates (sadly the lodge at the lake is closed, possibly forever) the trail around the lake is relatively flat.  We took the trail around the west side of the lake first, mainly because it was shorter, and would mean a quicker return to the car if things didn't work out.  This trail is full of chunks of scree and talus from the mountain above, and so the walking is a bit of a chore.  But we were on the trail, nothing hurt (more or less) and the day was perfect.
Once at the top end of the lake, we aimed left towards Wasco and Steelhead Lake.  But we also noticed that there were a lot of people here.  Not unexpected, as this is one of the few places you can hike out of the Tuolumne Meadows area with no trail quota.  Greenstone Lake had quite a few groups, and the area between Cascade Lake and the outlet to Steelhead Lake had more than ten tents visible right away. 

Hmmm.  Not what we like best about backpacking.  So we went off trail up to little Z Lake, nestled in the middle of the loop trail, but about a half-mile from any of the loop trail itself.  It was a smart move.  We saw only one other person while we were there--a dayhiker who looked somewhat confused--and we had a peaceful, lovely afternoon and evening in the High Sierra.  The views here are gorgeous, and sunset was spectacular.

On the way out, we again went cross country to Hummingbird Lake, and then followed the much nicer and more scenic (but longer) trail around the east side of the lake. 

Fishing as Z Lake was dull---lots of tiny brook trout.  And you may notice that we continue to have issues with our little camera putting bugs where no bugs belong.  sigh.  It may be time to upgrade...

The rest of the photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/v1KoaCTTpPv76ryY6

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