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July through September 2017

Wildlife in the City Post date: Sep 15, 2017 11:21:05 PM We've been charmed to read about the resurgence of the beaver population in our town. Seems like the local river restoration project has made things a lot more interesting for the critters. And the other evening, when we went for walk around town, we stopped to take a look.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, a beaver set out to swim around and entertain us. How cool is that? We've now seen as many beavers in our own town as we have seen in any national park!

Used Gear Post date: Sep 13, 2017 3:03:48 PM Over the years, we've accumulated a lot of odds and ends of used gear: a few extra backpacks of different sizes, sleeping bags rated to different temperatures, an older version of our tent, some extra pots, pans and dishes, etc.

We didn't realize how much stuff we had until we took our younger daughter and her husband backpacking. We didn't have to buy anything to provide them with a complete set of all they needed. (Well, we did have to buy one headnet for mosquitoes, which was not worn and never needed.)

And now we've got those two packs set up for anytime anyone joins us. We just grab one of the additional packs, add in a sleeping bag, and we're good to go.And we're already planning our next trip with the kids...if they can stand it. Our other daughter isn't quite as much a fan of hiking....but her boyfriend is.

Showing Off Yosemite Post date: Sep 11, 2017 4:59:03 PM With our daughter and her husband in town, we wanted to show them a bit of the Yosemite High Country that we love so much. And so we aimed at Tuolumne Meadows.

Months ago, when we first planned this trip, we asked for a permit for the Budd Lake trailhead. This is a trailhead that doesn’t appear on the list of trailheads in Yosemite, and it doesn’t get a lot of use. The quota is only five people per day…and there were going to be four of us. Since only three of the spots were reservable, we had to add one last person when we picked up the permit. Which wasn’t a problem, although the ranger at the Wilderness Office made it seem quite a bit more serious than we thought it should be. Sigh.

Still, we got our permit and we were off!With the fires in the southern part of the park, and a forecast that called for 20-40% chance of thunderstorms, we had our doubts about the whole thing. The smoke was so bad at Olmsted Point that we couldn’t see Half Dome, but when we got to Tuolumne Meadows, there was no smoke at all, and the sky was clear. All systems go.

There is no maintained trail to Budd Lake, and camping is not allowed in the Budd Lake basin. So we followed the Cathedral Lakes trail for a bit, then broke off along a use trail to follow Budd Creek up the canyon. It was lovely hiking, but quite steep, and starting off with this hike a day after spending time at sea level is a cardio-vascular challenge.(A quick note for those interested in following in our footsteps: there are three use trails that branch off the Cathedral Lakes trail to the left in the first half-mile. The first two really only take you to Budd Creek itself. The third one is now quite established, and has been recently (like this weekend!) maintained by trail crews as the “climber’s” use trail to Cathedral Peak. It is in beautiful condition (far better than the trail to Cathedral Lakes) and leads you right up to the South Face of Cathedral Peak. A branch of this trail leads left over to Budd Lake. In each case, when there is a “junction” on these use trails, the lesser trail always has some kind of minimal barrier across it.

From the Cathedral Lakes trail, the use trail to Cathedral Peak is blocked with a few pieces of wood. From the use trail to Cathedral Peak, the use trail to Budd Lake also has pieces of wood in it, to indicate that it is not the primary route.)

But if you are really interested in following in our footsteps exactly, you’ll take the FIRST use trail over to Budd Creek, cross the creek, then just follow the creek up the canyon.

Eventually, where a tributary comes in from the left, we crossed over to the right (West) side of Budd Creek, and then landed on the climber’s use trail to Cathedral Peak.

We followed this past the first trail crew taking a break, then continued up almost to the base of Cathedral Peak, where we could see the lovely ridge heading over to the pass below Echo Peaks. A second trail crew was eating lunch here. We set off to the left along the ridge above Cathedral Pass, and ate lunch on top of this ridge. We then crossed over to the use trail route that contours along the base of Echo Peaks. To find this trail, just keep as close to the base Echo Peaks as you can on the West side….

The route then leads you down a narrow chute for about 200 yards, until a small canyon breaks off to the left. That’s your opening to the gentler slopes between Echo Peaks and Matthes Crest. (The South face of Echo Peaks is too steep for us to tackle, although the climbing ranger who was supervising the upper trail crew suggested that he chose that option.) Follow the little creek canyon for about 75 yards, and you come out into the forested slopes above Echo Lake. If the going ever gets too steep, just head left until you feel better about things.

Once down at Echo Lake we spent some time finding a campsite. Since there were four of us, we needed something a bit larger than usual. And it was windy, so we wanted something that was sheltered. We finally settled on some rocks up above the lake to the West, well hidden in the trees. After a nap, Estelle and Nico decided their tent site was not flat enough, so we moved them fifty yards to a better site. The forecast called for 20% chance of rain, but the clouds only looked a bit gray, not threatening, and once the wind died down we had a lovely dinner and settled in for the night. We expected it to get cold, and the temp was just about freezing when we got up the next morning.

Bundled in hats, fleeces and puffies, we cooked breakfast and eagerly awaited the arrival of the sun down in the canyon. Once it arrived, we decided to hike over to Matthes Lake in the morning. This is an easy hike, and the route finding is also simple. You just have to go around Matthes Crest to the south. There is some talus in the way, but we have yet to find a route that is too hard. Staying closer to the granite slabs of Matthes Crest usually gives you some better views, and avoids too much up and down.Mathes Lake itself is stunning, and we spent some time enjoying the view. Estelle went wading in the lake a bit, and we saw a few fish jumping in the morning light.

After a snack and a drink, we went back to our camp at Echo Lake, and came to the decision that we would hike out that day. We ate lunch, strapped on our packs, and headed up the valley towards Cathedral Pass. Near the top, the large meadow was boggy in places. Estelle and I went through the meadow and got our feet wet. M and Nico stayed to the left and found a longer route and drier ground. At any rate, this part of the hike was wonderfully easy and a real delight.

Once on the John Muir Trail at Cathedral Pass, it was a whole different story. The trail is quite abused. Lots of rocks, clouds of dust, and hordes of hikers made this our least favorite part of the whole operation.

We did meet a wilderness ranger on the trail who carefully checked out permit and chatted with us. And then we hiked the last three miles down to the car through the rocks, dust, crowds, and even a service dog. A few sprinkles of rain were all we felt, and that only at the very end of the trail.

We drove up to Tioga Pass to show the kids a view more views, and got a few more showers on the way. And off behind Unicorn Peak to the South, the clouds looked considerably blacker and more menacing. On the way out of the park we stopped at Olmsted point for a couple of photos shrouded in smoke from the fires, and then drove back to our cabin, getting just enough rain to turn on the wipers to “intermittent” a few times. Hot showers, warm food, and a soft bed were the perfect ending to the trip.

Here's a link to the rest of the photos:

Catfight! Post date: Sep 5, 2017 7:58:33 PM On our last trip down Summit City Canyon, we were astonished to hear a rather fierce and lengthy catfight up on the granite cliffs above the canyon as we walked the trail. P heard it first, a violent roaring and snarling that then died down. He mentioned it to M, and then walked on up the trail. M waited a bit longer, and heard more of it--this time sounding a bit more like a pair of very large cats in playful wrestling. We never saw the cats. But it was really cool to know that they were up there. Somewhere...

And just as cool to know that we hadn't met them in person!

Beating the Heat, Beating the Crowds. Post date: Sep 4, 2017 5:23:03 PM Labor Day weekend is one if the busiest times of the year in the back country. The combination of a long weekend, minimal mosquitoes, and a last gasp effort to get out in the trail means that many wilderness areas can be positively crowded, tent to tent at some lakes.

Which is what we were hoping to avoid by heading into the Summit City Canyon. We'd read the reports. There are no gorgeous lake destinations. It's hard work to get there, and the trail can be minimal at times. And it's not on the way to anywhere else, unless you're trying to hike the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. We thought we might not run into many crowds. We'd been warned about this trail: difficult, hard to follow, steep, rough, and unmaintained.

Labor Day weekend was the perfect time to find out if all that was true. Besides, temperatures were supposed to go well over 100 in Northern California over the weekend. It was time to get up into the mountains!

It started well when I contacted the permit officer at the ranger station. She was so prepared to deal with one more permit for an easy to hike to lake just off the highway, that when she heard where we were going, she wondered if we even needed a permit. We did. And ours was the only permit for Summit City that she wrote for the whole weekend. in fact, she said it was the first one she could remember writing.

By arriving Thursday night at Upper Blue Lake campground, we had a wide choice of campsites. Of course they were all booked for the weekend, but getting there a day early meant we could stay there for one night and start hiking Friday morning. Perfect. We were the only car in the trailhead parking lot when we started at 8:15, and twenty minutes later we were at 8600 feet at the top of the pass. It was all very much downhill from there. Way downhill.

The trail crosses Summit City Creek and then starts to follow the old Pioneer mining road down into Summit City, often straight down the canyon. We were a bit concerned about the smoke from fires that had closed Monitor Pass, and kept looking up to see how bad the air was. It wasn't great. But as we headed down the canyon past the junction to Fourth of July Lake, we started to really enjoy the hike. There was nobody in the trail. Nobody. It followed the creek, sometimes near, sometimes farther away, always within earshot. A glimpse of white water through the trees, or burbling current underneath a cloud of alders kept us entertained. On a hot day, the canyon was pleasantly cool. And we were hiking downhill. I had promised M an easy day, so we stopped near Horse Creek and took a look around. We ate lunch, checked out the neighborhood, and found a spot nearby we liked as a campsite. After setting up camp, we took a nap, fished, sat around, and generally dawdled the afternoon away. Lovely.

The trail to this point had been perfectly maintained, except for the last junction post, which had been torn to pieces by bears. Weird. Some big puffs of smoke coming over the ridge from Round Top that afternoon got our attention, but they soon cleared up in the face of a few CDF planes. We tried some new Singapore style ramen noodles I picked up at an Asian market for dinner...and fell into bed early feeling relaxed, secluded, and quite happy.

The next day the smoke had cleared a bit, and we decided to day hike down the canyon. We had no real destination, but we took a lunch, a fly rod, and played it by ear. What a marvelous hike. The terrain alternated between cool green forests and sunny bare granite slabs that sent the creek into magical cascades and deep aquamarine pools. Each section seemed better than the last. We waded through a sea of ferns, and dipped our toes into pools twenty feet deep.

At the first ford, we debated continuing. If the smoke got worse, it would be better to head back. And M was a little hesitant about the ford. Ten minutes later, she put on her water shoes and away we went, meandering down through granite domes, navigating manzanita, and overlooking spectacular granite pools. We did lose the trail very briefly a couple of times, once in the sea of ferns, and again just above the first ford, but each time a quick check of the topo map showed us where the trail needed to go...and we found it there. By late morning we realized that we had covered a lot of ground, dropped quite a bit in elevation, and we would have to do all of that in reverse to get back to camp.

Which we did, happily, stopping for lunch by one especially nice pool. I fished, M napped, and then we went back to camp and napped again. Despite the relatively easy hiking and crowded weekend, we hadn't seen anyone for two days.

By the evening the smoke had pretty much cleared up. We had a few clouds form, but that just gave us a little extra shade. The moonlight that night from a nearly full moon lit up our campsite for hours. The next day was a cakewalk back to the car, which was now one of seven at the trailhead. We'd only seen one other couple on the way out, and they had hiked down from Fourth of July Lake. Three days backpacking over Labor Day weekend, and we had the place to ourselves. Amazing. On the drive home we noted that the cars at the Tahoe Rim trailhead on Meyers Grade filled the parking and lined both sides of the highway, and the backup in Meyers went almost to the top of Echo Summit. Which made our adventure even more delicious. A couple of notes about this trip. The fishing, despite the stunning beauty, was crappy. Not many fish, and they were small and skinny. It took me most of two hours to catch five fish over 7 inches long, and the biggest was a 9-inch stringbean that looked like it was starving. With all the bare granite, there may not be that much for trout to eat.

And this trail is not for everyone. If you are not comfortable following rock cairns for long distances, or don't like an occasional scramble up or down the granite, this is not for you. if you feel more comfortable seeing a few people every mile, that wont happen here. And we did not follow this trail all the way to the Mokelumne River. The last mile or two down into that canyon are reportedly more difficult than anything we hiked. Don't say we didn't warn you. Still. Three days of backpacking over Labor Day weekend and complete solitude. Mmmmmmm.

The link to the photo log of the whole trip is here:

A Day Hike to Leavitt Lake Post date: Aug 28, 2017 5:16:48 AM This past weekend we went up to our cabin near Twain Harte, and managed to get in a day hike to Leavitt Lake. We'd always been curious about this trail, since it is also a 4x4 road, and we wondered if we could drive it in our 2WD Escape. Either way, it's a very good route into the upper reaches of both the Emigrant and Hoover Wildernesses.

So we decided to hike it and find out exactly what it was like. We found at that the road is really pretty rough. We certainly saw standard 4WD SUVs taking this road slowly but surely. But we didn't see anyone with a 2WD do the same thing. It's not bad for the first third (a bit less than a mile) but once you cross a creek, it gets steep, rocky, and pretty rough. We were glad we chose to hike it rather than test our driving skills.

That said, it's a really nice hike to the lake. The views are wonderful, and there are creek crossings, meadows, peaks, ancient trees...everything you'd want in a nice Sierra day hike. And at the end of it, you get Leavitt Lake.

Yes, there were maybe 10 4WD vehicles scattered about, and we met about ten cars on the road during our hike, but it was still a nice way to spend a summer day, and we're glad we did it. We're also glad that we now know exactly how hard it would be to take this trail up to the PCT. It's less than 4 miles total to the PCT. and since it's an old road, it is pretty well graded without major steep climbs. It's already on our list of places we're going to hike next year.

And at least one of those 4x4s did us a nice favor. After we had walked around the lake, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the outlet stream. Yes, we could have waded it (it was too big to hop across) but a nice guy from Jamestown gave us a quick 75 foot lift in his 4X4 through the ford. Apparently, he lives down the hill in Jamestown, and his family makes the Galvan fly reels. Nice to know.... On our way home, we stopped to explore a bit of Highway 108 and its surroundings. It's a beautiful highway, with lots of intriguing things to stop and see...but often we're too focused on where we are going to stop and look. This time, we looked. We found waterfalls, granite peaks, a section of the old Emigrant Trail on the far side of the canyon, and a forest fire slowly burning away on the way home...

Just about a perfect day in the Sierra.

Here's the usual link to the rest of the photos:

Emigrant Trip Report from one of our readers Post date: Aug 24, 2017 3:27:52 PM Joe wrote us:

Hi PI noticed you were at Emigrant this past weekend. So was I! I wish we could have met. I took my wife and a couple of friends for their first trip. The plan was to go to Powell, Chewing Gum, or Y Meadow, depending on how everyone was feeling. We made it to Chewing Gum lake on Friday and stayed there on Friday and Saturday nights. We went to Powell lake on Sunday night and had it to ourselves. Monday morning, we had an easy hike to the car at Gianelli.

I found this hike on your site, so thank you for the recommendation!We endured the thunderstorms, which was a new experience for me. In 10 years of backpacking in the Sierra in August, I've never had rain. Fortunately we all had adequate rain gear, so it wasn't a bad experience.The wildflowers in Chewing gum meadow were amazing.

Bust Rock? Post date: Aug 23, 2017 7:03:45 PM The last day hike we took out of Gianelli Cabin in the Emigrant Wilderness took us up the trail to Burst Rock. According to the historical marker there, nobody knows exactly what rock is Burst Rock...and since at least one emigrant woman gave birth on the ridge, the theory is that perhaps "Burst Rock" is a corruption of Birth Rock.

Or maybe not. As we explored this are last weekend, poking around both on and off trail, we discovered this really unusual rock formation right at the top of the ridge where the trail began to head down towards the trailhead, Pinecrest Lake, and civilization. It would certainly have been noticed, and key marker along the trail to those who were looking for an identifiable landmark. The thing is at last twelve feet tall.

And no, the rock is not burst. But it sure looks like a sculptured bust. We think Burst Rock is not a mispronunciation of Birth Rock...we think it's a mispronunciation of Bust Rock. And we're going to do a little more research to see if we can't find more information on this...

Good Eats in Tracy? Yes! Post date: Aug 23, 2017 2:59:15 PM On our way home to Napa from the Sierra this weekend, we drove through Tracy about lunchtime, and we optimistic enough to think that we could find a good place to eat there that wouldn't be too far from the highway.

Bingo. Mazaa Kabob House is really good. Tasty food (the checken kabobs were perfectly cooked, and delightfully spiced) and friendly service which included the owner coming over to our table to make sure that we were enjoying everything. The tab came to less than $40, and that included enough food for us to take a box home and have dinner two night later. And we were in an out in well less than an hour. For a stop on the road, that's as good as it gets!

What a treat. And now we feel a lot better about sometimes having to drive through Tracy on the way to backpacking in the Sierra....Here's a link to their website:

A guest post from one of our old friends... Post date: Aug 17, 2017 10:56:04 PM Walter sent us this...and we enjoyed it so much we asked him if we could share it with you...

Last year I reported on a trip I took in late September from Sonora Pass north on the PCT and down to the bottom of Golden Canyon to where the trail crosses the East Carson River. On the second day it rained all day, and the temperature seemed like it never got above forty. I spent an unhappy night and could not bring myself to cross the river the next morning. I was already frozen, so I headed back. That day was even colder, and in the late afternoon it snowed a couple of inches. What fun! Came back out at Sonora Pass the next day but have held a grudge against this area ever since. I thought I might have another go at it this year in late July, but this time from the Clark's Fork trailhead.Day One was uneventful.

I left the car at two o'clock and headed up the Clark's Fork trail, which rises gradually for two miles. At that point the trail splits, and I took the one that heads up Boulder Creek to Boulder Lake. Kind of a crappy trail for the next two miles -- very steep and rocky, nothing like the well-built trail that goes up Disaster Creek, and not the kind of thing you want to do very much of if you've just come up from sea level; but for two miles on fresh legs, I could manage. The plan was to spend the night at Boulder Lake, and that's what I did. There is a large camp area on the north side of the lake that appears to get plenty of use. Not very attractive, and the lake itself is small and nondescript; but there was no one else there. I had seen half a dozen day hikers on the trail but no backpackers. It was peaceful. Day Two. I hiked one more mile up to the junction with the PCT and headed north. I ran into ten or twelve through-hikers in the first half hour, all but one headed south. I assume they all camped in the same place the previous night. I also saw an older, somewhat chubby guy lying by the side of the trail. I asked him if he was OK. He said everything was fine. He was just taking a nap. At ten o'clock? I figured that he was not a through-hiker. After lunch I headed down Golden Canyon once again. Maybe this is the right time to say that it was a very wet winter. This was a good thing for many reasons, including the fact that it was a bonanza for vegetation. Not so good for unmaintained trails that were already overgrown.

Finding the trail, which I had been down the previous year, was a continuing chore. There were a lot of down trees, which never fall neatly and simply. There was a big mudslide that wiped out about a hundred feet of trail. But mostly there was high grass and willows into which the trail would just disappear, again and again. And apparently no one ever comes this way, so there are no use trails through the high grass. As you point out in your 2014 trip report, the trail is sketchy, but you are headed down a canyon. So what could go wrong? Well, you can venture out into a meadow and still get righteously lost. There is a path of beaten grass that looks promising until the bear poop suggests that this path was not trod by humans. So I sang the bear song as loud as I could for a while. Bears don't like surprises. All I learned from my long foray into the meadow was that seemingly impenetrable willow thickets are in fact impenetrable, and you can waste a lot of time that way. Eventually I rediscovered the trail.

I will say this. There is a lovely waterfall in Golden Canyon, particularly lovely because Golden Creek is very full. You have to cross the creek three times. The first time is nothing. The second time I found a place to jump across. It is probably pretty entertaining to watch a seventy-year old man with a 35-pound pack doing a running broad jump across a creek; but there was no one there to watch. So if a tree falls in the forest . . .

The third crossing was boots-off. Amazing when you consider that this Creek was just a trickle last September.At the bottom of Golden Canyon the trail turns left and heads down the East Carson. I was reaching exhaustion. I lost the trail again. I decided to just head down to the river, and by chance I came to a place where there was a fat log going across. It was clearly not a log that anyone had used before. Lots of dead branches sticking up all the way across. But with exhaustion comes stupidity. It took me a long time, but I weaved my way across and swung down on some willows on the other side. You dare not grab any of the dead branches because they just snap off. What larks! So I got across the river that had stopped me last year. I found a trail on the other side, figured out where I was, and made camp, feeling pretty good about myself.

Day Three. Oy! The only thing I was concerned about was the second crossing of the East Carson. It is a river, not a creek, and it was very full, and I'm a great believer in your advice about high water. If I could cross, no problem. If not, I would have to find that log again and go back. The trail was clear until it wasn't. It disappeared into thick foliage. I pressed on. Nothing. Then there was a well-worn track leading straight down to the river. I took it.

The crossing at that point was boots off and pants off. It should have been underwear off as well. The river was somewhere between crotch-high and waist-high and swift, but I never felt at risk. Slow and steady, using my poles, felt completely safe. I crawled out on the opposite bank with the help of some willows. There were cliffs. All I had to do was get up the cliffs and I would find the trail. I scouted a couple of routes without the pack. One involved a series of precarious ledges that I could do without the pack but seemed risky. I am not a rock climber. I have no skills, and I hate it. The other route was straight up through a series of clefts. Crap!

I did that one. It took all of my elderly strength to haul myself and my pack up that cliff, but I did it. Not vertical. I wasn't going to die if I slipped, but I would rather not have been doing it. Then there was no trail. It took me a long time to figure it out, but there was a sheer cliff blocking my way down the river. I had crossed too soon. So I hiked upriver until I found an easy place to recross. Waist high but not dangerous. Clambered up the canyon side, found the trail again, and tried again. Trail disappeared, and I went cross-country.

Eventually the trail appeared again, and eventually it headed down into the river. I crossed it for the third time today. I was an old hand at it now, but it was a tedious, time-wasting process. Proceeded down the trail to Carson Falls, which, I must say, was a disappointment. It's really hard to see from the only vantage point offered. I ate an execrable lunch. The canyon was hot. No problem now. Just follow the trail down to Murray Creek and head up Murray Canyon. But it disappeared again in a jumble of boulders. Am I just really bad at this? No cairns anywhere. No trace of a trail. So my plan was to go down to the river and just follow it down to Murray Creek.

Bad plan. Riverbanks are thick with willows. Seemingly impenetrable willow thickets are in fact impenetrable. See above. But you can waste a lot of time and energy trying to find your way through. Plan B was to walk my way up a shallow creek to higher ground. Also no good. Willows. Finally I just bushwhacked my away from the river through logs, willows, boulders, and assorted other crap. I got lucky and found the trail again and followed it down to the junction with the Murray Canyon trail. It was three o'clock. I had progressed about one mile down the river since I broke camp at 8:30 in the morning. I was tired, but I was sure having fun.

The Murray Canyon trail rises very steeply up a series of well-built switchbacks. I was grateful for such a good trail. At four the trail leveled out somewhat and I came to the first crossing of Murray Creek, which was going to be pants on but boots off. I demurred and made camp. Enough for one day. I had a visitor or two in my camp that night at about one. Deer? Not a bear. I was too tired to be curious. Hardest two miles I've ever hiked.

Day Four. The trail up Murray Canyon is a long, steep grind, but I only lost the trail a few times before I got to the top. Lots of down trees. Lots of pine cones and other forest trash on the trail, plus the occasional grassy meadow. Not only is the trail "unmaintained" but it looks like no one has used it for years. I have seen no one. I have seen no footprints. I have seen no sign of a campsite.

At the headwaters of Murray Creek there is a big, soggy meadow and no trail. Wander around. Check the map. Check your landmarks. I went cross country and eventually found a junction. One way goes to the PCT (the way you went). The other goes over a ridge and down into Wolf Creek Canyon. I took the latter. Huge panoramic vista from the ridge. Just breathtaking.The trail down to Wolf Creek was steep and rocky and exposed. The geology is volcanic. But it was easy to follow.

My plan was to cross the creek and head downstream to the junction with Bull Canyon. Should be easy. Wolf Creek was large and fast but only thigh high. No problem, but I had lost one of my water shoes while bushwacking through willows the previous day; so I used one water shoe and one sock. Not great, but better than bare feet. I had also by this time lost both the knobs from my poles. The trail down Wolf Creek was easy and well maintained. A pleasant mile. Then steeply down to Bull Creek, which was a raging torrent. It wasn't the volume but the velocity that got my attention. More like a waterfall than a creek. Probably only knee deep, but I considered what would happen if I slipped, namely death on the rocks below, maybe preceded by lengthy suffering, maybe not.

I did a 180 and headed back the way I had come.Then it was necessary to cross Wolf Creek again. Pants off. I headed up the creek, looking for the trail up Elder Creek to the PCT. Right away the trail crossed Wolf Creek again, only the creek had split in two, so there were two crossings with boots off. Then there was another where the creek was kind of braided, which I attempted with boots on. Do you know what happens when the water is higher than your boots?

At this point I was a little weary and discouraged, and the trail disappeared. Not a surprise. It wasn't much of a trail anyway. Check your map. Check your landmarks. Head north past the giant volcanic butte. Aha, there's the creek again. This would be my sixth boots-off ford of the day. It looked like this was a well-used crossing, but there was no trail after all. Then what? Keep bushwhacking and hoping. Elder Creek had to be to my right, and by and by it did appear. I will not be defeated!

I made camp somewhere up Elder Creek.Did I mention the heat? It was in the mid eighties when I set out three days ago. It felt hot every day and unusually humid, which is not to say humid but more humid than usual. I drank huge amounts of water (there was plenty of that) and almost never peed. This took its toll on my old body. I cant explain why, but my gut turned to jelly. I was not doing well this night. Maybe I shouldn't have been doing this.

Day Five. Several easy boots-on crossings of Elder Creek, and some soggy meadows near the top in which the trail could not be found. But who cares any more? Just keep going. After a wet mile or so I reached the PCT, just at Wolf Creek Pass, where I saw three young through-hikers taking a break. These were the first people I had seen in three full days. They said they had already cranked six miles, and it was just nine o'clock. I mentioned that I had cranked one mile, and they graciously congratulated me. I will not be hiking the PCT, and this day I will merely be crossing it on my way to Disaster Creek. A series of big, gorgeous meadows followed. I soon ran into a couple of middle-aged trail bozos who were day-hiking from Highlands Lakes, which is apparently accessible to vehicles. They looked very clean. Said they were going to climb a mountain. They told me I was lost. I told them they were lost. They pulled out their map to prove their point. I mentioned that I had just come down from Wolf Creek Pass and that if they kept going that was where they would end up. Nope! Couldn't be. We parted on somewhat prickly terms.

A couple of hours later I saw them bushwhacking down the wrong side of Disaster Creek. I suggested that they cross over to my side and take the trail, which they did. One guy conceded that I had been right. The other guy didn't want to talk. I noted that they were pretty wet and muddy. I also noted that it would be noon on a hot day before they got around to climbing their mountain.

Not much more to tell. It was a long but downhill slog down the Disaster Creek trail to the trailhead. Above the junction to Paradise Valley it's a crappy trail that gets lost in meadows, creeks, and tangles; but it stays to the left of the creek all the way, so you can't go too far wrong. Below the junction it's a grand highway, steep at the end but well built and easy to follow. I got back to the car by about two. Lots of water up there and more wildflowers than I had ever seen. Just knocks your socks off. Lots of glorious meadows, but where there are meadows there are no trails, not trails that you can find anyway. Amazingly, there were few mosquitos. Flies here and there, but not mosquitos. That was great.

I saw no bears but saw lots and lots of bear poop, including one gleaming pile that seemed like it just came out of the bear. For me it's been rare to see bear poop anywhere in California, so this was unusual. Also lots of water. All the creeks were high, needless to say. There were some big patches of snow on the PCT, but nowhere else. Lots of thunder every afternoon but little rain.

And the other remarkable thing was the fact that I saw no one for three full days. Not a footprint or any sign of a camp. Not a bent blade of grass. In fact, on the entire trip I saw no backpackers at all except for the folks on the PCT, which seems overpopulated. So if you like to be alone, Carson Iceberg Is the place for you. But you know that. Overall it was a tiring trip, mostly because of the heat, but it was also mentally exhausting. I could think of nothing but the trail and where I had to go next and all the other practicalities. Not a single deep thought in five days. I'm proud of myself for getting through it, and it was an adventure and kind of fun, but I sure didn't intend it to be that hard.

Our Trip to Oregon: Earth Wind Fire and Rain—not necessarily in that order. Post date: Aug 15, 2017 12:17:39 AM Since I had to speak at a conference in Portland this month, we decided to make a road trip out of it and stop along the way to enjoy some of the sights and trails of our neighbor to the North. As usual, all did not go according to plan! We began with a long drive from Napa to Bend, through a scorching hot string of towns (Red Bluff, Redding, Weed, Klamath Falls all over 100 degrees) and some pretty dense smoke east of Crater Lake due to some large wildfires. We had a hotel reservation at one of the least expensive hotels in town: $180 a night. If we weren’t from Napa, where hotels are insanely expensive, we would complain more. A lovely dinner at the Jackalope Grill (how can you resist a name like that?) and we were set to start our first backpacking trip the next day.

We were starting from Pole Spring trailhead, at the end of one of the best gravel roads we’ve ever driven. But as I was filling out the trailhead permit, M suddenly remembered that she had forgotten to pack any stove gas in her packs. That dirt road didn’t seem quite to appetizing at that point. Luckily, P thought to ask a couple of guys who had just finished their hike in front of us if they might have a spare canister in their packs. They has a partial, easily enough for our overnight trip, and they gave it to us with their very best wishes and kind regards. Thank you, Marvin! You saved us!

So with gas in pack we hiked through three and half miles of burnt to a crisp forest before we finally got some shade. A big fire burned through here just a few years ago, and while it made for slightly better views of the Sisters Peaks on the way, it was pretty sad to see. But once we got across Squaw Creek, we were in heaven: lush forest, spectacular views, and a continually graded trail that never really got steep, even though it climbed 1700 feet from the trailhead to Camp Lake in nearly seven miles.

We had been warned that Camp Lake might be windy and crowded. It was both of those things. There were six or eight groups camped around the lake, and the wind was howling down out of the pass. So we decided to collect some water and hike back down the trail ½ mile, where we had seen some lovely quiet and private campsites with views of all three Sisters peaks. (Middle and North Sister are not visible from Camp Lake).

It was the right move. We were surrounded by clouds of California Tortoiseshell butterflies, the site was perfectly protected from the wind, and the views were simply amazing. So the very first day we got WIND.

At 3 p.m. the smoke from a nearby fire began to blow in, and the views deteriorated. But we ate dinner, looked at the wildflowers, and settled in for a nice quiet night in our secluded nook. Dawn brought a glorious sunrise, and I took quite a few pictures. Then we were up and hiking out, down through the forested section, down through the burn zone, and back to the car in time to make it to the town of Sisters for lunch. There we learned that our next adventure was going to need an alteration, as the Whitewater Fire was pretty much right where we had planned to hike next.

We stopped into an outdoor store to buy gas (good idea!) and consulted. The next best bet seemed to be a trip on the PCT South from Mackenzie Pass. This would take us on the Mackenzie Pass scenic byway, which was very cool, and get us out on a trail that shouldn’t have too much smoke.

That didn’t work. We found a car camping site at Scott Lake that worked perfectly for us. There is no piped water there, so the 21 campsites rarely fill up. But the smoke was everywhere, and there seemed to be little point to climbing up on top of mountains if the view was all smoke. That’s takes care of the FIRE.

We decided that instead of doing a backpacking trip into the smoke, we’d try to limit our lung damage with a day hike across the lava at the pass to Little Belknap Crater. This was definitely the right move—an really wonderful hike first through a couple of forested “islands” in a sea of lava, and then a trail straight across the rocks to Little Belknap. The lava was full of surprises, including lots of lava tubes, bubbles, wild formations, and a few tiny trees struggling to find a foothold 2700 years after the eruption that spewed the lava. So if day two was fire, then day three was EARTH—lava in all its forms. And that night, back at the campground, we got just a sprinkle of rain as well. Not enough to clear the air, sadly, but enough to cool things down a few degrees. And it got us thinking.

There were some wonderful trails along the Mackenzie River, according to hiking book we bought by William Sullivan. Maybe that would be a better choice in the smoke. The next day we packed up and drove the rest of the Mackenzie Pass Byway, and then the lovely Highway 126 along the Mackenzie River.

Yep, there was a campground here that didn’t have piped water, Ice Cap, and we once again found a perfect campsite within a couple of hundred yards of Koosah Falls. We hiked up and down the river, visiting Sahalie Falls and Carmen Reservoir while we were at it, and fell in love with this section of the river. It was roaring, it was icy, it was cascading over rocks and glistening though deep blue/black pools. Old growth forest, rhododendrons, ferns, currents of icy air and an occasional rainbow made this an unforgettable hike.

After the smoke and heat of the Sisters, this was heaven. And it filled out our list with a day of pure WATER.By the end of the next day we needed to be at Big Table Farm, our friends’ winery north of McMinnville, so Day Five would take us a few hours in the car—but not so long that we could stop at Silver Falls and enjoy the waterfalls there on the way. What a treat. A volcanic canyon filled with waterfalls that have eroded the softer rock behind the falls, so that the trails led us through seven waterfalls, three of which we could walk behind.

A lovely way to wrap up our hiking in Oregon.After the conference in Portland, we drove down to Eugene and followed the Upqua River (stunning) to Reedsport on the coast, and then drove the coast highway back into California, so that we could visit M’s sister in Brookings. And decided that we would have to come back and explore some more. As always, photos are on our photo page:

Cloudy skies Post date: Jul 30, 2017 5:28:20 PM We sure saw some stars on our last trip out of Mineral King. There was no moon at all, and the night time sky simply glowed with stars.

At one point P woke up briefly and looked out the mesh of the tent and thought: "Aw nuts, it's clouding over." That was right before he realized that the cloud he was seeing was the Milk Way, bright enough to fool him.

Those were some beautiful dark skies...

Eating Well, or at least better Post date: Jul 27, 2017 8:10:07 PM We had a couple of freeze-dried dinners on this last trip that we really enjoyed. The best of all was a backpacker’s pantry Chicken Picatta withTagliatelle Pasta. With a lemon/caper sauce, and augmented with a small packet of olive oil, it was really, really yummy. Almost as good where a Alpine Aire Black Bart Chili with Beans, and a Backpacker’s Pantry Lasagna—although they both lacked a little salt. Freeze-dried food is getting better.

Back from Mineral King Post date: Jul 27, 2017 12:13:07 AM Here are P's notes from our last trip: As always, you can see the whole photo log by going our to photo page:

Mineral King Loop, July 20-24. Tar Gap to Hockett Meadow, Evelyn Lake, Blossom Lake, Little Kern, and Farewell Gap. 45 miles. We’d originally planned to do a more traditional loop out of Mineral King: over Franklin Pass, through Big Five Lakes, and back over Black Rock Pass and Timber Gap. But when we discussed our plans with the rangers, they suggested that crampons and ice axes were still a pretty good idea on those passes. And that’s not in our toolkit. So we chose a lower elevation adventure, a loop that began with the Tar Gap Trail to Hockett Meadow, then continuing down into the Little Kern Canyon, and back up over Farewell Gap into Mineral King. Farewell Gap was still quite snowy, but we were assured there were ways to work around it. And besides, we had almost a week of snowmelt to improve the situation.

But that’s about all the plan we had: no specific campsites, destinations, or timelines. Something between 35 and 45 miles depending on how we did it. We took our larger Bearvault with five days of food, and left the smaller one, along with a chunk of M’s cosmetics and medications, in the bear boxes at the trailhead. We were a little worried about that… There was plenty of room at the Cold Spring Campground on a Wednesday night in the middle of July, and so we set up camp and took a short hike up to Black Wolf Falls to stretch our legs and get acclimated. The flowers were out in force, we were lucky to see both a grouse and chicks, as well as a rubber boa, and the falls were roaring. We ate our dinner, and went to bed early.

Day ONE: the trail starts right out of the West end of the campground, so I took a quick trip to park the car across the road from the campground entrance (this was at the suggestion of the ranger, to avoid marmot damage. The rodents had already disabled four cars in the main trailhead parking lot this season.) And we were off.

The only real climb of the day was the first stretch of the trail, where we gained about 700 feet to get us up to contour around Hengst Peak. This was not a great trail for expansive views, but we did catch an occasional glimpse of Hengst, as well as the Mineral King Road winding its way up the Kaweah Canyon, and off in the distance, the King’s Kaweah Divide. A beautiful day, with so many rushing creeks that it was difficult to keep track of our progress.

At one point we met one of only two other hikers we saw on the first day, and asked him if he knew which creek we were crossing. “Nope,” he replied. “They are lots of creeks today that aren’t on my map!” There were indeed.

But we couldn’t get lost. There was only one trail, and it continued first Southwest, then curving and twisting South towards Hockett Meadow. National Geographic gave the mileage to the meadow at 9.9, but Sequoia National Park said 12. Hmmmm. This was a pattern we found for the rest of the trip. At any rate, we began to worry about the mosquitoes we might find if we camped at the meadows, and so resolved to take a look at the next couple of creek crossings to see if we might like to stop short and stay at one of them. And while we had been able to rock hop across every creek so far, when we got to Horse Creek, it would have to be a wade. (We knew it was Horse Creek because it came right after the junction with the trail down to Atwell Mill!) And there were nice campsites around, without noticeable skeeters. We picked a spot up on a ridge above the creek, set up camp, and took a nap. Later I fished the creek and caught clouds of small rainbows up to about ten inches—loads of fun. The evening settled in, the mosquitoes never arrived, and we congratulated ourselves on a good day’s hike and a smart decision.

Day TWO: Having consulted the map last night, we thought we’d take a short side trip and visit Cahoon Rock and then camp at Evelyn Lake. It was a nice quick hike down to the Hockett Meadow Ranger Station (no ranger around) and then we set off to cross Whitman Creek and head up the ridge. The mosquitoes in the meadow and along this section of the trail confirmed our decision to avoid these campsites for Horse Creek instead.

We left our packs at the junction of the Cahoon Rock and Evelyn Lake Trails so we could “dayhike” up to Cahoon Rock to enjoy the views. Which were nice, but they were much nicer fifty years ago before the current crop of trees had grown up. We did get some views of the King’s Kaweah Divide, and also of Hengst Peak and its environs, but later discovered that the view of the latter were just as good from the trail to Evelyn Lake. Eh. We did notice that there were a number of stumps along the top of the ridge by Cahoon Rock, and couldn’t help thinking that some time in years past, either private individuals or the Park Service had “improved the view” by taking out some of the taller trees. Thank God times have changed.

Back at our packs, we ate lunch and then headed up a short steep climb to the ridge above Evelyn Lake. A mile along the ridge, and then a short steep descent brought us to beautiful and isolated Evelyn. This day we met our second fellow hiker, a young man who had +camped at Hockett Meadows that night, and was taking these hikes from his base camp in the Meadow. We didn’t ask about the mosquitoes, and he stayed only a few minutes at the lake before heading back to his camp.

Evelyn is set deep in a granite bowl, surrounded by huge blocks of talus. It’s a lovely spot, and we took the largest and best campsite all for ourselves. Lake access was a bit complicated because the water was so high, and much of the grassy shoreline was under water. And we never did find a trail around the lake. The talus blocks were just too big and awkward. We had to pre-filter all the water through a bandana to remove some of the pollen and dust we could see floating in the water, and I was limited to only a few spots that were accessible to fish. I still caught four lovely brook trout about a foot long. We also found a cache of tents stakes here that someone had left…and we left them at the Hockett Meadow Ranger Station the next day.

Another wonderful warm afternoon was followed by a quite amazing twilight, as this lake sits on the very Western ridge of the Sierra, and gets the last rays of the sun as it sets behind the smog of Visalia and the Central Valley.

Day THREE: We both woke up feeling quite dehydrated, and resolved to drink more water today. It would be close to eleven miles, a long hike for us, to reach the isolated Blossom Lakes on the ridge above the Little Kern. But the trail back to Hockett Meadows went quickly and easily, and from there we had about four miles of almost dead flat hiking across the plateau. This was made more interesting by the number of deadfall logs across the trail, and those slowed us down a bit. But we met that same first hiker again along this trail. He had camped at Hockett the first night, and was coming back from Blossom Lake, which he loved. He also warned us about the climb from South Fork Meadow up to the ridge, and we decided that we would take a break before that climb.

We passed the junction, crossed Hunter Creek (our only wade of the day) and decided that we would go ahead a leave our water shoes on, and just hike a bit further to a spot for lunch. After filtering some more water from the creek and eating our lunch, we tackled the dreaded climb. Before we even got started, we met two older men (at least as old as we are!) who had just come down. They were tired, carrying huge packs and hiking staffs, and warned us again about the climb. But they were also out on the trail, having a great time, and we enjoying chatting with them.

We took the climb slowly, stopping every fifteen minutes for water and a breather, and were at the top in less than an hour. Wasn’t that hard. From there another steep climb took us to the top of the ridge, and a mile later we were at Blossom Lake. Here again the water was high, and the shoreline was quite grassy. To reduce our mosquito risk, we camped on a granite ridge above the outlet stream, which again turned out to be a good decision. I caught five brook trout in fifteen minutes in the stream, all 10-12 inches. The waterfall across the lake was a delight, the trees around us were absolutely amazing, and the sunset almost lived up to the previous night’s.

After our usual nap and dinner, we got into the tent and watched night fall. We did have to put on headnets for the first time during dinner and breakfast, but these mosquitoes were pesky, not pernicious. The nights on this trip continued to be warm enough to be very comfortable, and the days were warm in the sun, cool in the shade.

Day FOUR: A walk on the wild side. After retracing our steps to the junction from South Fork, we now hiked out of Sequoia National Park and into Sequoia National Forest. And there was a difference. The trail here quickly became hard to follow, and we had to stop several times a mile to consult the map or search for the trail. We’re pretty sure that we simply missed the junction with the trail to Quinn Peak…but it’s possible that either that trail doesn’t exist or the junction isn’t signed.

At any rate, we did find our way to the trail that goes down into the Little Kern via Wet Meadow. Nat Geo shows two trails here, and we think we saw their junctions, but neither was marked, at least from our direction. From the other direction the lower junction had a sign indicating that one of the trails led to Wet Meadow. Hm. OK…

So at this point, we were quite focused on our navigation. To miss a trail or turn here would be a real mess, because one trail led to our route back up the Little Kern to Farewell Gap, and the other one led further down the canyon of the Little Kern and Rifle Creek. We found the junction, and every trail was signed except for the one we needed to take. (There was also a post at this point, with no sign at all on it.) But by deduction we assumed that the third trail was the one we needed. And that’s where the adventure began.

Yes. it was the right trail. It quickly crossed Wet Meadow Creek, at crossing complicated by deadfall logs and the fact that part of the creek ran down the trail long enough and deep enough to have trout living in it. That gave a whole new meaning to seeing a few trout on the trail. And from there, it got much worse. Too many deadfall logs to count. Dense thickets of prickly buckthorn covered the trail. We could either push our legs through it, getting scratched all the while, or stop over the top of it, and hope the trail surface didn’t hide any surprises. And then thickets of mountain laurel densely packed with branches up to an inch in diameter, making every step a struggle. Manzanita thickets.

Finally, after taking the better part of an hour to hike less than a mile, we came out into the sun-baked rocks of the Little Kern. This was the only section of the trail that was hot, baking both from the lower elevation and the heat radiated from the trailside rocks. And all the while, we worried just about bit about how we were going to be able to cross the creek we could hear roaring down below. Ah well. That turned out to be the easiest part of the whole day. A lovely wade, calf deep, in an icy stream after a hot hike. Pretty darn nice.

So nice that we had lunch there, and filtered some more water. Now it should be easy to follow the trail up the Little Kern to a campsite below Farewell Gap.Only it wasn’t. Somewhere near Broder’s Cabin the trail simply disappeared into overgrown brush, deer trails, and confusion. It doesn’t help that there are theoretically TWO trails in this section, neither of which has been maintained for many years. The good news is that we knew that we were going up that canyon and that’s what we did. We followed the canyon, bushwhacking, following deer trails, and continually making progress. We charted our progress past the side canyons, and tracking our elevation with the altimeter on my watch.

At one point near Broder’s Cabin we met a couple who were coming down the canyon, and were also frustrated by the lack of trail. But while we knew where we were going and how to get there, they were trying to do our route in reverse. They had only two more days to hike it, and had spent the entire previous day in two short miles of the Little Kern Canyon searching for the trail that would take them up to Wet Meadow. I did my level best to discourage them from continuing. The fact that they were having trouble here meant that the following section of trail would be a real problem, and I couldn’t see them completing the hike with the food supply they had with them. But they went on their way, and we went on ours.We finally found the trail again, right as we reached Bullion Flat.

We’d decided on this as a campsite because it was a flat area in the steep canyon, gave us a great base for the next morning. And it did those things. But while the scenery was stunning, and gave us a great view of the pass, it was also every heavily impacted by thoughtless hikers. We found a rotting nylon camp chair, a rotting nylon camp stool, a shovel, the head of a mattock, a trowel, some marshmallow skewers, a carbon fiber arrow, loads of micro-trash, and a veritable museum quality exhibit of Neanderthal campsites…with fire rings, benches wind breaks, etc. Not exactly pristine wilderness.

But once again the amazing High Sierra trees, the towering peaks during sunset, and the roaring of the creek below us were wonderful. And then we began to look at the pass. It was snowy. And from where we were, it didn’t look easy. The right-hand side looked completely snowy, with an insane pitch. The left-hand side appeared to be almost as bad, but with a rock ridge that we might be able to climb if it wasn’t too steep. And it was a very long way back to Hockett Meadow if we couldn’t get past Farewell Gap. Oh well.

Day FIVE: M had trouble sleeping because she was so worried about the pass, and that didn’t help her digest her breakfast. And I was worried for her. But we agreed to take it one step at a time, working our way up to see what we had to do to get home. The trail out of Bullion Flat is nicely graded, and it was a real pleasure to hike up the switchbacks towards the pass. And at least in my mind, the closer we got, the better things looked. At one point, at the end of the second the last switchback, I suggested that we should cut across the canyon, cross the relatively gentle slope of the snowfield there, and then climb the rocky ridge to a point above the pass. From there I was sure that we could get across the Gap, which was snow-free at the very top.

M was not convinced, and wanted to hike that last switchback, just to make sure there wasn’t anything easier that we couldn’t see from where we were. And so we did. And there wasn’t anything easier. In fact, the slopes on the right side of the pass were far steeper. I tried to cut a few steps in the snow with my boots, but the snow was icy, the slope was already quite steep, and that seemed an insane risk to take for the 80 feet we needed to get to the trail on the other side. We paused for a rest, a consultation, and a quick bite of energy bar. The only possible route was clearly up the left side.

I led the way as we descended a steep slope of scree down to the snowfield, using what might have been a few diagonal use trails from years past. The snowfield was hard and slick at that point, but almost dead flat, so there was no real danger. On the far side we worked our way steeply up around the Manzanita thickets to reach the edge of the ridge. All of that turned out to be quite feasible, even if M hated sliding down the scree with each step. And the ridge was a piece of cake. Made up of knife-edge rocks set in channels, the traction was nearly perfect, and we simply followed those channels up to the top, about 100 feet above the pass. Class 3 at most. M did it with hiking poles.

A gentle slope down to the pass, and our work was done. From the gusty cold winds on Farewell Gap, Mineral King looked like a slice of heaven in the sunlight.From here on, it was easy, if long. (Again, Nat Geo has much shorter distances for this hike, and the rangers mentioned this to us as well. That’s something we’ll keep in mind as we plan future trips.) The switchbacks are long and gentle—really long and gentle—and so the miles add up. But we were over the pass, headed downhill, and a warm shower was now something more than a fantasy. We met our first hikers of the day just at the junction for Franklin Lakes, and they were dayhikers.

The flowers on this part of the trail were amazing, and we also saw deer, marmots, lots of butterflies. After the windy night at Bullion Flat, it was paradise. And down we hiked, on and on. Lordy, but this trail has a lot of switchbacks. We noticed a use trail closer to the bottom of the valley, and I am sure that locals use that more often to get up to Farewell Gap. Once past the Franklin Lakes junction, we sat down for lunch amid gathering clouds and a few raindrops. There seemed to be a steady stream of traffic as well, both dayhikers and backpackers, but all were using the Franklin Lakes trail. After crossing Franklin Creek, the end was in sight. One last rockhop across a creek, a couple of miles of dusty trail, and we saw the cabins and road of Mineral King.

We finished the hike with exactly two crackers, one energy bar, a few craisins, and two sips of Chartreuse in our bear can. We stopped in at the ranger station, both to inform them about the sad state of the trails in the Little Kern, but also to tell them about the hikers we had met who seemed lost and out of their depth. We picked up our extra food and stuff from the bear box, where it was waiting for us nicely. And then we headed home. Hot showers and a real bed felt great. And as I pointed out to M, there is this device in the kitchen that allows you to lift a lever and water comes out of the spigot, pre-filtered, and ready for drinking. She noted that if you pointed the lever to the left, the water came out warm. Ahhhh.

BOOK Review: Walks of a Lifetime by Robert and Martha Manning Post date: Jul 10, 2017 12:47:27 AM Full disclosure: A very nice PR person sent us a copy of this book to review, and we promised that we'd review it.

When we get a chance to look over a book like "Walks of a Lifetime" by Robert and Martha Manning, the first thing we do is check the list of walks. If the list doesn't include things like the John Muir Trail, the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu, The Milford Track, and the Camino de Santiago, how good can it be?

Oops. This is their second book about long walks. Doh. Their first book, "Walking Distance," included all of those plus a bunch more that we really liked. This one picks where "Walking Distance" leaves off, and takes us on a whole range of hikes from the wilderness of Denali to the streets of Paris, New York, Sydney and San Francisco.

So let's start again. The Mannings have a really nice approach to this whole topic of walking. They like it. They are not after epic adventures on the edge that test them to their limits, and they admit it. These walks are supposed to be enjoyable, and they do a good job of communicating the real attractions of every walk in the book.

But this isn't a mile-by-mile guide. You won't want to take it along on these hikes. For on thing, it's too heavy :^)

Nope, this is a menu: designed to make every dish seem interesting enough that you want to order it. And it's completely successful at that. In each case the Mannings give you enough detail to get you started, and point out a few things they don't want you to miss. And then they tell you to go do the hike yourself. We like that approach.

There are enough details to allow you to find the place, and enough flexibility to encourage you to hike your own hike, whether you are a twenty-something peak bagger or a golden years stroller. In between the chapters, they offer their comments on everything from leaving no trace to the philosophy of seeing the world from a pedestrian perspective.

And their approach to these is particularly brilliant. By that we mean that they agree with our approach completely. Thus, they must be geniuses. Best of all, they can write. Their sentences are clear, clean, and well-crafted. In fact, the whole book reads like a very pleasant conversation around a campfire (or in a pub?) with a couple of well-educated and thoughtful people who love to hike. Sign us up!

The photographs are in a similar vein. These are not gloriously staged professional shots done under perfect conditions and lighting. They are photos taken by Robert on the walks as they did them. So while the photos won't wow you with special effects, they probably give you a much more realistic view of what you are doing to see on the hike than some of the coffee table books we've seen. And they are nice photos.

We were particularly happy to see a few hikes from the American Southwest--an area we are hoping to explore in a lot more detail next year. Now we have a few more items on our list, thanks to the Mannings.

Would we buy this book if we saw it in a bookstore? Probably not. We're cheapskates, and we'd probably just leaf through it and then make a mental note to check if the library has a copy. But if someone in our family gave it to us as a gift, we'd be delighted. And we'd go back to it more than once as we think about the adventures we'd like to have in the future, and relive some of the ones in our past.

We suspect that's exactly what the Mannings had in mind when they wrote it."Walks of a Lifetime" by Robert and Martha Manning, Falcon Press. $35.

4th of July Adventure Post date: Jul 5, 2017 1:19:21 AM Each year we try to get in a backpacking trip over this four-day weekend, knowing that the conditions are never going to be great. It's always too early, the high country has too much snow, and the creeks are roaring. And this year that was putting it mildly.

Still, we had a plan. By driving over recently opened Sonora Pass, and then hiking up the relatively low elevation valley of Buckeye Creek, we hoped to explore a bit of the Hoover Wilderness that we hadn't seen before. And we had hopes of making up over the pass into Yosemite.

That didn't happen. The trail crosses Buckeye Creek a couple of times going up the valley, and the first time the water was over our waist, and moving pretty fast. We chickened out. Instead, we decided to see how far we could get by hiking up the south side without a trail. We even hoped that we might make it to where the trail crossed back. That didn't happen either. After a couple of miles, we were bushwhacking through a dense thicket of aspen trees that was no fun at all, and we couldn't see the end of it. So we called a halt, took stock of where we were, and decided to head back down to the last nice campsite we'd seen. Which is what we did.

And the next day, with our progress still blocked by high water, we headed back to the trailhead and drove back to our cabin above Sonora...where we spent a couple of luxurious days relaxing, barbecuing, and living a life of leisure.But we really did enjoy Buckeye Creek.

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