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January through March 2014

Keep an Open Plan Post date: Mar 20, 2014 5:29:05 PM It's springtime---the time year when a young man's head turns to....plans for backpacking. Young women, too. And old people. Everybody! Check out those maps and start finding the routes! We're getting lots of questions about what it is going to be like in May or June.

And the answer is:We don't know. So much depends on the weather between now and then that it is really impossible to say. We got snow at 5,000 feet in Yosemite a couple of years ago in mid-June...and that's not really unusual. That's our tent in the photo near Hetch-hetchy.

So yes, this has been a very dry year. Depressingly so. And it is pretty safe to assume that water is going to be scarce later on in the summer. But that doesn't mean that the first part of this summer is going to be like April in Paris. It could be like eve y other year in the Sierra, when you can expect storms at any time, and snow at the higher elevations.So the best plan of all is to plan carefully---and then leave room in the plan for adjustments like the weather, or high creeks.

Because when it comes to Mother Nature, it's best to pay attention to her.

America's Second Greatest Idea Post date: Mar 4, 2014 7:50:09 PM It's the Wilderness Act--legislation that encourage the protection of some of the most spectacular places in America. And it started fifty years ago, in 1964. No, not before we were born. But thank you for asking!

The US Forest Service is hoping to make a big deal out of this, and we hope they are successful. After all, this act is what has allowed us to hike for days on end through the Sierra Nevada without crossing a road, seeing a power line, or hearing the noise of chain saws or cars. That's wilderness in the photo at left, near Sonora Pass.

If you want to know more about what the USFS is doing for the anniversary (the official date is in September) check out this link. if you want to see what it all means, put on a backpack and head into the many wonderful wilderness areas of the Sierra Nevada.

Fear and Planning Post date: Feb 2, 2014 11:34:16 PM We have a lot of emails from people who are thinking about taking their first backpacking trip this summer. It's always interesting to read what they are most concerned about---which is often something that we rarely give much thought to. And the things that we worry about often aren't on their radar.

For one thing, we never leave on a trip without checking the weather. If it looks like it is going to be ugly, we stay home, or at least give ourselves a couple of options to hike out early. Yet we hear from people every week who are planning a trip in March, April, May...Yikes! Those months are sure to include a few snowstorms down below 6,000 feet, and sometimes much lower. We don't tackle long trips before the middle of June just for this reason. And even in July and August the weather can be nasty in the SIerra, at least in the afternoons. That's why we always make sure we have a place to stop before the afternoon thunderstorm kick in--and one that is well below tree line, off the high passes. That's part of good planning. So it taking enough food and warm enough clothing. There is no better way to be unhappy in the backcountry than being hungry and cold.

And while we're at it, make sure your daily hikes have enough water sources to keep you well hydrated. We don't really mind getting into camp with an extra liter of water--but we absolutely hate running out of water on the trail. So we plan ahead, and make sure that we have enough to get to our next stream or lake.Speaking of streams, we never force ourselves to cross a rushing stream or icy snowfield if we are not comfortable doing it.

There's always another way...even if it means just turning around, or taking another route. All part of planning ahead so that the trip is fun.

So what do they worry about? Bears...of course. And also how many miles they are going to hike each day. Many people think that since they can manage a ten mile dayhike without much trouble (and at sea level sometimes!) that they should be able to manage the same miles backpacking. We don't think so. Hiking up and down the Sierra with backpack on is a lot more work--we are always surprised at how easy dayhikes seem after a summer of backpacking--and hiking at 10,000 feet is a lot different that at sea level, or even 3,000 feet. We don't worry much about bears. We've never had a problem, because we always use a bear can, and don't camp where a lot of other people camp. And we know that hiking in the Sierra is something that shouldn't be rushed. We figure on 6-8 miles per day, although we've done 15. Part of the plan is keeping that open each day, and taking the hike as it comes, depending on how we feel.

And when we find a nice lake, sometimes we stop and rest, or camp, even though it wasn't part of the plan. But you can only do that if you plan ahead, and know that you've got options. Options, and planning are the cure for anxiety on the trail.

Sort of Resolute Post date: Jan 3, 2014 5:33:04 PM

Yes, it's the new year. And yes, like everyone else, we did spend some time thinking about the big questions: the passage of time, what we are doing with our lives, etc. Generally taking stock of where we are, and where we might like to be.In terms of backpacking, we are still pretty darn enthusiastic. We've got more trips on our wish list than we will ever get to this summer, and happily, there seems to be no end in sight.

And we are also excited about the feedback and responses we get to our posts here. It's nice to know there are people out there reading us, and taking the time to write in as well. Thank you all for making that happen.

No, we don't need more equipment. In fact, the holidays brought a few gifts of cash our way, and we didn't immediately know what new piece of backpacking equipment we wanted to buy. We don't need any new equipment, we just need to keep using the stuff we have. (Maybe, if we use it enough, it will wear out, and THEN we will need to buy new things!)

The good news is that we are really looking forward to 2014 and all that we hope it will bring to us--mainly more time to spend doing the things we love with the people we love. So we didn't make any New Year's resolutions this year...we'll just keep trying our best to keep doing what works. Which is a kind of a resolution in itself.

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