OUR BLOG

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

The Whaleback from Big Wet Meadow, SEKI



With our daughter at Glen Aulin in Yosemite National Park





Half Dome Cables

posted May 22, 2017, 9:41 PM by Paul Wagner

©http://backpackthesierra.com
Due to safety considerations with snow and ice, the cables on Half Dome will not be installed on May 26th as originally planned. The current projection is for the cables to be in place on Friday June 2nd, however depending on weather the cables installation may be further delayed.

And no, it doesn't look like the photo above right now.

The Crick has risen

posted May 21, 2017, 9:39 PM by Paul Wagner

A couple of shots of the Stanislaus River yesterday, in full spring flood:

And in the gorge above Eagle Creek:

That's a lot of water.  Be careful on those hikes!




Happy Mother's Day!

posted May 14, 2017, 4:07 PM by Paul Wagner

Hoping everyone has a wonderful day...

M--being welcomed to Showers Lake©http://backpackthesierra.com

Here is M, mother of our children, backpacking near Carson Pass.

Snow levels at Tenaya Lake

posted May 13, 2017, 10:03 AM by Paul Wagner   [ updated May 14, 2017, 4:14 PM ]

Remember, this is at 8,000 feet.  Most of Yosemite is above that elevation.


Hmm.  Sorry about that.  The link has been taken down.  As of May 13, the Tioga Pass snow plowing had reached Porcupine Creek and the snow was 8-10 feet deep. Porcupine Creek is at about 8,000 feet.


More Artwork

posted May 12, 2017, 1:49 PM by Paul Wagner

A few more paintings from P


McCabe Creek below Middle McCabe Lake.

Falls on the Tuolumne River on the way to Glen Aulin

Current Conditions in Yosemite

posted May 9, 2017, 12:06 AM by Paul Wagner

Straight from the horse's mouth--or the YNP website:

General Conditions

After one of the wettest winters in Yosemite history, spring has arrived with warming temperatures and a host of challenges for backpackers in the wilderness. Despite rising water levels from spring runoff, 4-7 ft of snow persists at 7,500 ft with 10 ft or more at the higher elevations. The snowline has crept up to roughly 7,000 ft but is still widely variable depending on aspect and topography. With such abundance, snow will linger well into the summer months, especially at higher elevations.

Increasing water levels from spring run-off will make many streams and creeks difficult or impossible to cross. This is further complicated by steep snow banks that persist on either side.

With the heavy rain and snow this winter, some trails may have more erosion damage than usual. Trails may have also experienced mudslides, rockfalls, and/or multiple downed trees. Exercise caution when traveling on trails and turn around if you do not feel comfortable going forward.

Winter travel techniques and skills are a must if you wish to backpack in Yosemite over the next few months. Be prepared for near-freezing temperatures at night and variable temperatures during the day. Except for the lower elevations and exposed areas, plan to camp in the snow. Springs storms can come at any time with heavy snowfall, making travel and navigation very difficult. Always be sure to check a current weather forecast before you start your trip and be prepared for a multitude of conditions.

Summer Outlook: Yosemite has received the most precipitation in its recorded history his winter (water year from Oct-Sept). However, the overall 2017 snowpack is only the 4th wettest on record in Yosemite and 176% of average. How can this be? Many of the storms this winter were relatively warm, meaning that while snow fell at the higher elevations it rained at lower elevations where it often times snowed in the past. This bears out in the snowpack with an uneven distribution of snow. The higher elevations, approximately 8,500 ft and above, are about 215% of average and are the highest on record, whereas the lower elevations are only 150% of average. Hence, the overall average of the snowpack is not a record.

It bears repeating, don't let the overall snowpack number average fool you. At elevations at 8,500 ft and above, this year is the highest on record! This Wilderness ranger echoes what the park hydrologist says, that it would be 'overly optimistic' to think about hiking easily in the higher elevations until August.

The recent May 1 snow surveys further reiterated this trend where most of the snow courses 8,500 ft and above were 215% or more of average. The two highest elevation courses are the also the highest percentage at 230%. The percentage of snow for the time of year stayed consistent or even increased a little compared to the April 1 snow survey, meaning there was no significant melt in April.

Spring weather will determine the amount of snow on the trails in July and August. A warm & dry spring will promote snowmelt whereas a cool & wet spring will diminish snowmelt. The chances of a warm, normal or cold spring are roughly equal, meaning a 33% chance for each. To make a significant change in the snowpack, the spring will have be particularly warm and sunny, making it even less likely. Spring weather can be highly variable and with any weather, it is unknown what it will be in the coming months.

So far spring has been cooler and wetter than normal, with April having above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures. Despite a few warm days so far in May, the weather is forecast to be cooler with the potential for precipitation for the next week.

For summer trips, be prepared for a different than usual hiking experience. Expect snow on the trails at elevations above 8,000 ft well into July and even August. There will likely be high creek crossings, snow on the trail and you may have to alter your route significantly depending on the conditions. Creek crossings in particular maybe challenging because if the creek is too high there are few options to cross and you may have to turn around.

Things are looking good!

posted Apr 30, 2017, 9:05 PM by Paul Wagner

We were up at our cabin this weekend, taking care of a few things, making sure it was ready for summer.  But that didn't stop us from checking out a few of the local sights.

Up at Pinecrest lake on Saturday, it was opening day of the trout fishing season, and although the lake was quite low (leaving room for some snowmelt that is sure to come in the next six weeks) there was enough water to keep scads of fishermen busy.  We saw at least fifty of them: on shore, trolling in boats, drifting in kayaks, and fishing from islands.  And we also saw two osprey engaged in the same activity.  While we watched, we saw each team catch one fish:  men 1, osprey 1. 

There was very little snow at Pinecrest itself (5,600 feet) but by the time we had driven up to Dodge Ridge, the snow pretty much covered the ground there at 6,500 feet.  It will be some time before Crabtree trailhead will be open, since the road has to go over the top of Dodge Ridge--and that ridge is deep in snow right now.   

The next day we headed over to the West Side Trail, an old rail line that runs up along the North Fork of the Tuolumne River.  It's an easy hike, and we saw lots of family groups and friends out for a stroll.  We also saw clouds of lupine along the trail, and down below the river was really roaring.

Keep that in mind when you plan your early season trips.  The rivers will be high and mighty.

Be safe.


We're back in business in Yosemite

posted Apr 26, 2017, 8:41 PM by Paul Wagner

You may have been following this story along with us;  Highway 120, the Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite, was heavily damaged by the big storms this spring, and a part of it washed right down the hillside.  That meant a longer drive for many people in Northern California.  But the road is fixed, according to this story in the LA Times. 


That will make a lot of folks, including us, quite happy!

How deep is it?

posted Apr 22, 2017, 9:32 PM by Paul Wagner

Check out this report on the snow removal progress in the Sierra.  It's going to take some time to open up those roads...


Crossing Creeks

posted Apr 21, 2017, 8:55 AM by Paul Wagner

Sorry--we've been out of town for the past two weeks.  Actually, we've been out of the country, as P was a speaker on a cruise up the Danube from Budapest to Nuremburg: a wonderful adventure with AMA Waterways...

And while we were gone, this story caught our attention.  A very experienced hiker and her grandson swept away in a creek full of spring run-off water.  Very sad news, as they have now scaled back the search, and hope is dwindling away for any positive result.

Please be careful this spring and early summer,  With the huge snowpack in the West, the creeks will be roaring and rolling.  And you don't have to cross them, ever.  This warning applies not only to wading, but even using a log to cross a dangerous stream.  If you slip, you die--and it's not worth it. 

Water is the number one killer in Yosemite and most other national parks in the West.

As we have done quite a few times, you can always just turn around. 

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