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April through June 2014

Day Hike in Tuolumne Meadows. Post date: Jun 29, 2014 1:36:04 AM As part of our company campout, we spent a few days last week near Yosemite--always a good idea. And one day we decided to take a hike. One of the nice things about the High Sierra Camps is that almost all of them are really only a day-hike away from a trailhead (Merced Lake is the only one that's a bit too far). So we took a look at the map and headed out to Glen Aulin for the day.

The Tuolumne River is just plan gorgeous, and this hike kept us entertained throughout. Great places to take a dip, cast a fly, eat lunch, read a book, or just sit and enjoy the river.

We've always wanted to hike the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, but the only time we had a permit for it, a local fire closed down the trail. It's still on our list...but so are a lot of other things. This hike certainly gave us a slight taste of how lovely it must be. And so it moves up our list a bit...

Nothing new under the Tuscan Sun Post date: Jun 22, 2014 2:09:39 PM Ok--we're back from our trip to Italy, and we can hardly wait to hit the trails up in the Sierra. Summer is here, and the mountains are calling us. But when we were in Florence, we couldn't help noticing a remarkable object invented in the 1600's there--backpackers will immediately recognize this as a spork, the essential dining implement of the backcountry. Admittedly, this is a heavier version, made in silver. But there wasn't a lot of plastic around in the XVII century... If you are interested, this is in the Bargello Museum in Florence. And no, it's not the most impressive thing in that museum, either.

We're back... Post date: Jun 21, 2014 1:15:15 PM But not from a backpacking trip in the SIerra...Nope, we were lucky enough to get invited to spend two weeks in Italy visiting all sorts of wonderful places, and we usually ended up hiking around once we got there. We'll have a trip report, and photos, in a day or so.

But first, we could not resist this story that appeared while we were gone:"According to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, your odds of becoming a victim of violent crime in a national park are one in 708,000. In the United States overall, it’s one in 50."

We've talked about this before...including a conversations with someone who works in an urban environment completely unarmed, but then wanted our advice on the appropriate sidearm for the wilderness.

Just for the record, we don't carry a firearm when we hike. It's unnecessary weight, and if you've read ANYTHING on these pages, you know that we hate carrying unwanted weight.

And in forty plus years of hiking, we've never felt the need for one, either.

FIFO Post date: May 16, 2014 4:48:04 AM It's fun to be the first in--the first hikers on a trail as the season begins.Sure, there are a few downed trees (hopefully not many) and a few other inconveniences that need to be negotiated. But there is also a nice sense of adventure, knowing that nobody has been along this trail for at least a few months.

On our last trip to Disaster Creek, we were certainly the first human footprints on the trail since the fall, although we did have a chance to follow the leader with a nice-sized bear for part of the trail.There were the usual downed trees (not many, or large) and more pine cones on the trail than we've seen in many a year. And the trail did disappear from time to time under the snow. (The bear appeared to know exactly where the trail went---because he followed it perfectly, even when it wasn't apparent to us!)

All in all, a really nice little adventure. And we were sure that when we got to the top, we were not going to see anyone up there waiting for us!

Bearly missed Post date: May 13, 2014 3:28:52 PM A few people have commented on the bear tracks we found on our hike up Disaster Creek. Most of them were somehow worried that we might have met the bear face to face and, like Daniel Boone, be forced to fight him hand to hand.

Not exactly, no. In fact, if you’ve read our website, you know that bears in the Sierra are simply not much of a danger to anyone in the backcountry. We've only seen two bears in the backcountry, and both of them made tracks (pun intended) away from us as soon as they saw us. So we weren’t afraid. We were charmed.

And we have to admit that we were just a little hopeful that if we walked quickly enough, and quietly enough, we might catch of glimpse of that bear.We didn’t.But we did decided that he wasn’t far away. Because the first paw prints we saw in the snow were very clear and distinct. You could easily see each claw mark and foot pad. When we returned that way a few hours later, those prints had become less distinct. Which means that they were quite fresh the first time we saw them.

Perhaps because the bear either saw us or heard us, and headed up the trail to avoid us. Nuts. If we’d only known, we’d have walked faster. Or more quietly.

Not the way we planned it... Post date: May 12, 2014 4:25:27 AM With the advent of warmer weather, we were itching to get out on the trail and see how our favorite mountains were doing this weekend. We had a nice simple trip lined up: hike up the Disaster Creek Trail in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. If we ran into too much snow, we would just stop and camp along the creek.

If the snow allowed us to do it, we would climb all the way to Highland Lakes, above Highway 4, and camp there.In the summer, there are lots of people camped at the lakes, because you can drive to them. But the road is still snowed in, so we thought we might have them to ourselves....The first trip of the year is always a bit of a surprise. It's always a bit of challenge to make sure that you have all of your gear ready to go, and nothing extra.

This time we didn't forget anything...but P did manage to carry his phone on the trail because it was in his shirt pocket and he forget to leave it in the car. And M forgot her water bottles, but we had an extra one at the cabin., but this was not an issue, since the trail went right along the creek. We were never more than fifty yards from water.

And it was a glorious hike. The sun was out, the trail climbed steeply and steadily, and the views began to appear as we passed the towering Iceberg and worked our way up into the canyon.The first few patches of snow at about 7,200 feet were nothing to worry about, but of course they got bigger and deeper the more we climbed. By the time we made it up to 8,000, it was time for lunch, we had an awkward stream to cross, and the wind had picked up considerably. We got across the stream, and found a nice spot to eat lunch out of the worst of the wind.

And then the clouds started to arrive...and it got colder. And windier. And there was only snow ahead on the trail. And then the sun disappeared for good. And the wind was really howling.

We looked at each other and remembered that we had a nice cozy cabin just a few miles back down the trail, and an hour back down the road. We made it in plenty of time for a hot shower and a nice dinner. And slept in warm comfort in our bed. We'll post photos in the next day or two...and we'll tackle that hike another day. A warmer one.

Gearing up Post date: May 7, 2014 3:26:48 PM With this year's low snowpack, we are making plans to get out on the trail earlier this year than usual. But before we do that, we need to get our gear in order.

Which isn't an unpleasant task.There is something really nice about pawing through our packs, remembering the sights (and smells!) of where this equipment has taken us. Sure, there are a few things that are a bit worn. One of the headlamps has a sticky switch, but it still seems to work. A couple of half-full fuel canisters will have to be used for shorter trips, we'll put them aside.

The sleeping bags have been aired out and stored in big cotton sacks, so they are nice and fluffy. P found his favorite pair of hiking pants, and M has her best fleece out. P is deciding on which of his rain shells to take--the bright red one or the faded grey one. Yep, there's the compass, knife, and whistle, in the belt pocket of P's pack.

Don't forget to get a couple of the water bottles that we moved to the daypacks for winter hiking. And check the filters in the water pump.And now it's time to pull out that shopping bag of food and see what's in it. There are lots of dinners, a few snacks...hmmm...not enough oatmeal. Time to go shopping.

Maybe get some nuts and raisins for Gorp, too. This is fun.

Da Bears win! Post date: May 1, 2014 3:58:47 PM The final results of our popular place names poll are in (thanks to all of you who offered opinions and documentation!) and the winner seems to be Bear Lake, Creek, Pass, River, etc. There were some other strong candidates, but none of them came close to the 75 entries in the Place Names of the Sierra Nevada, and there was a pretty strong consensus that the Bears were the winners.

Recycling names Post date: Apr 20, 2014 3:53:10 PM As we pore over our maps to plan our adventures for this coming backpacking season, we have been once again impressed with how many places in the Sierra share names. There are at least two Mono Passes, one near Mt Gibbs in Yosemite, the other near Mt. Starr and Mono Rock at the upper end of...yes...Mono Creek. We're planning to visit both this summer.

But there are other names that reappear in many different places. Piute Creek seems to be a popular one, names for the Native American's who people the east side of the Sierra long ago. There are two Slide Canyons in Yosemite alone. And there are more Deer Lakes and Bear Lakes than we can count...and Silver Lakes? So that got us to thinking.What's the most common geographic name in the Sierra, and how many times does it appear?Send us your nominations, with notes on each location, and we'll try to announce a winner at some point.

Time to make some plans Post date: Apr 16, 2014 6:22:12 PM We finally have a schedule for our commitments over the summer, and that is both good news and bad. The bad news is that there are whole chunks of the summer that are going to keep up from backpacking: trips planned, work commitments, etc.

The good news is that there are also some nice fat sections of the summer calendar that have big empty boxes on each day. So now we are in the middle of matching some of those open dates with the long list of trips we want take. And yes, after backpacking hundreds and hundreds of miles in the Sierra, we still have a long list of trips we want to take. We've also got a few people who have indicated that they'd like to go with us on a trip this year, so we're looking at where to fit those in. They will be shorter trips. But we've also got a couple of longer trips we want to tackle.

Let's see....If we go to SEKI in July...What fun!

Faux Paw Post date: Apr 6, 2014 1:17:35 AM

Well, yes. For those of you who might still be wondering, the story about Big Walter and the bear can was posted just in time for April Fools, and we hope it gave you a chuckle. We also had it posted on some of the more serious backpacking sites around the web, and got lots of response there, too. And while many of our friends on those sites got a chuckle out of the story as least one site took the whole thing a bit more seriously.

The members there volunteered all sorts of ideas that would have solved the problem for our pair of hikers. Others suggested a different kind of bear can to avoid this problem. All quite serious suggestions--which gave us a pretty good chuckle, too!

Hope you are getting out the trail. Our own plans are on hold for a bit for work reasons, but we hope to get in a trip sometime in the next month. The mountains are calling...

Bear Can Do Post date: Apr 1, 2014 5:20:06 PM Packing a bear canister can be a bear. And it got even worse for this hiker in the Emigrant Wilderness. Check out his trip report from earlier this month....

"I was so jazzed to be going backpacking last weekend. We had our permit for Leavitt Meadows, heading up over Dorothy Pass into some really great country. But it turned out to be the trip from hell....Following the suggestions I'd read on a lot of different backpacking site, including I had carefully repacked all of our food into baggies and packed them tightly into our BearVault 450 bear canister.

It was a tight fit, but I got it all in, and I didn't have to use 2x4 for leverage like I do sometime. But it didn't work out that well once we got up to our campsite at frozen Stella Lake at 10,000 feet. It had been a long cold day on the trail, with a little drizzle, and we were both starving and slightly hypothermic. And I could not get the bear can opened. I tried everything, but the lid just wouldn't move.

I asked Big Walter, my hiking partner, if he could give it a try, since he is six foot five and mainly muscle. He grunted hard, his tongue wedged tightly between his lips. Beads of sweat appeared and then froze on his forehead. The lid wouldn't budge.The more we tried, the less it moved. I realized that the zip-lock bags that I had packed at sea level were now completely expanded at 10,000 feet, and the pressure against the lid of the bear can was so strong and it was jamming the lid in place. Stuck fast.

And we were now fasting. We had just hiked 12 miles to get up here, and now we had no food to eat. And just so you know, those damn BearVaults work pretty well. They are not only bear proof--they are also hiker proof. I tried forcing a small knife into the lid--and broke the blade off my only knife. I got so frustrated that I threw the whole can against rocks over and no avail. The inflated plastic bags were indestructible inside the can...and the can couldn't be opened because of the bags.

We had to reduce the pressure in those bags before we could get the can opened.

Big Walter was furious, and you don't want to be around Big Walter when he gets angry. Which is right where I was. Then I had an idea. If we could get then can into the lake and we could hold it deep enough under water, the pressure from the water would compensate for the lower air pressure at altitude. The zip lock bags would deflate a bit, and we could get the lid off.Big

Walter said it was a great idea, and I handed him the bear can. He handed it back to me and told me to take a deep breath. Then he picked me up and carried me out onto the ice of Stella Lake. Big Walter held me under his left arm while he chopped a hole in the ice with his hatchet. I tried to protest, but Big Walter had my arms pinned. Once the hole was big enough, Big Walter grabbed me by the ankles and shoved me headfirst under the ice.It was remarkably cold.

I tried screaming, but my throat froze solid before I could get any sound out at all. I looked around wildly for some way to escape, but Big Walter had my ankles in a steel grip. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't scream. I was going to die. Suddenly, he yanked me back out again. I gasped and sputtered while he looked at the bear can. I hadn't even thought to try to open it. Big Walter studied my face for a minute and shoved me back under the ice. This time I got the message.

To my amazement, the water had penetrated the bear can and relieved the pressure against the lid. I managed to turn the lid just enough to get it past the two locks before my hands stopped working and my breath gave out. The world went black.The next thing I remember, I was smelling smoke. Smoke and Chili Mac with Beef. I couldn't see--because my eyelids were frozen shut. I couldn't move my arms or legs, but I felt like I was seasick.

Finally, the ice on my eyelids melted, and I managed to get one eye opened. The world was upside down. There was fire above me, and blue sky below. Everything was moving in my head. I looked down at my feet to see Big Walter holding my legs. He was waving me over a fire like a popsicle. And there was a pot of Chili Mac on the fire as well. The smoke may have come from my wool cap. It was hard to tell.

Big Walter smiled at me. "You got it open," he said happily.I tried to smile back, but my face was frozen.

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