On the trail again...

posted Jul 25, 2014, 10:04 AM by Paul Wagner
We wanted to share this correspondence with a reader who is going backpacking for the first time in many years.  It brought a smile to our face...and that's always a good thing!

Hi P and M!

My name is Johanna and I am 43-year-old elementary school teacher who loves walking and loves the Sierra Nevada. I haven't backpacked since my son was born 17 years ago - we've mostly base camped at campgrounds and then done day hikes.

Because of your site, I have found my courage to give it a go again, and I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for all the level-headed and practical information you have so generously shared. We are planning our first backpacking trip to your #1 starter hike, Grouse Ridge!

A couple of things I wanted to ask: Due to California being in a drought year, do you have any knowledge to share about wild fire safety? Not prevention, but actual information for what to do if we see smoke? This is one scary thought keeping me awake at night.

Secondly, my son is a budding fisherman, but he is mainly used to fishing planted creeks up near Lassen where my folks live (Mineral, Ca.) Not wanting to spend a lot of money/weight on fishing gear, what weight of line and type of lures, etc. do you recommend he bring for Sierra lake fishing? 

He has an Ugly Stick pole we picked up at Costco a few years ago. I don't want him to pack bait because of the obnoxious smell. He's like a kid at a candy store when we go into any sports store, so I need enough info to reign in his "Mom, I really need this!" enthusiasm.

Finally, I am kind of proud of this idea I had for using technology. I don't want to have to depend on GPS/cell coverage on our trip, so here's how I am using it to set up before leaving. I have an iPad, so I purchased a $10 topo map ap that allows me access to several agencies and their maps. I zoomed in on the Grouse Ridge area, and took a series of slightly overlapping screen shots of the trails and saved the pictures to my photo album. Then, I printed the photos of my "mini-maps" in color. I figure I can laminate them, or store then in a sandwich baggie.

That's all! No worries if you don't have time to answer. I mainly wanted to say thanks for your site!

:) Johanna

HI Johanna!

What a great note.  Thanks for writing to us.  We're just back from a great trip to Yosemite...photos are here on our Picasa page: https://picasaweb.google.com/balzaccom/Yosemite2014BuddLakeAndBeyond#

Now for your questions.  First of all, Grouse Ridge is a fire lookout.  If anything is going to happen, they are going to know about it first...and you are leaving from their front porch.  We don't really worry about fires, but we do make sure that we never head into an active fire.  The Forest Service is pretty good about keeping people informed in terms of fire safety.  And the good news about Grouse Ridge is that you can climb out of there in a couple of hours if you feel at all worried.  That's one reason we love that area. 

As for fishing....your note made us smile.  P recommends light spinning gear for the trout in that area, with some small Mepps or Rapala spinners.  Nothing too big or fancy.  His biggest worry will be keeping those lures our of some of the fallen logs in those lakes.  But if he loses one, he can always go swimming for it! 

And we love your idea about the maps.  We use a website called Acmemapper.com that does pretty much the same thing.  It's a great service for all hikers. 


Thanks for the reply and the fishing advice. I'm looking forward to showing off my insider knowledge to the boy who thinks he knows everything.

Cheers! Johanna

Good luck convincing your son he doesn't know anything--not at that age.

(If you want to try to teach him something...buy a couple of small clear fishing floats and a few Elk Hair Caddis dry flies.  Tie the float on to the end of his line, then tie on one of the flies with about 2-3 feet of 4 lb. test line.  That's how spin fishermen can begin to fly fish a bit....and it usually works!)

P  (who was once a 17 year old boy!)

We've added the photo of P fishing as an older and wiser man.