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July through September 2019

One Last Trail Crew... Post date: Sep 19, 2019 5:10:25 PM This post is by P: It was supposed to be a three day trip, but I bailed. First we were supposed to hike into Scout Carson Lake, where we would set up a spike camp and work on the Horse Canyon Trail. But with the weather report calling for a series of showers, Ranger Chip opted to play it safer and set up camp near Silver Lake. at the Silverado Camp.

That's where I met him on Wednesday morning.My day had started much earlier, when I got up before 5 a.m. (after teaching my class at the college the night before) and drove up to Silver Lake near Carson Pass. When I arrived Chip was just getting ready to hit the trail, so I threw a few things into my day pack and followed him up the trail. The weather was cool (50 degrees) and overcast, but there was no rain, and the showers were only predicted for the afternoon. But hiking uphill at a good pace quickly encouraged us to strip off a couple of layers on the way up.

After about two miles, we met the first group of young workers from the East Sierra Conservation Corps--a great group of young people from all over the US who had spent the summer doing trail work in the Sierra. This was their last week of work, and we were hoping to get most of the Horse Canyon Trail in shape. This is a big project, because the trail is open to mountain bikes and dirt bikes--and those can really tear up a trail that would normally stand up to simple foot traffic. Every section had to be overbuilt to withstand the impact of a dirt biker racing along.

During the morning, Chip directed the six members of the ESCC on various projects along the trail, while he and I tackled others. At one point we were carrying large rocks between the two of us so that we could protect the exposed roots of some ancient junipers on the trail. These were large, flat slabs of granite, and I used some muscles that I hadn't used in a while...One rule about rock work--always choose rocks above the trail. It's much easier to roll them downhill than it is to carry or roll them up!

Lunch was chilly, as we sat among the rocks with the ESCC team and chomped down our food. There was just a hint of sunshine from time to time, and the showers we had seen were very light, or headed to the peaks north of us. So far, so good.In the afternoon, Chip suggested that we tackle a series of water bars on a long straight section of trail. (Water bars are angled dams that direct water and erosion off the trail and down the hill.)

Again, given that these were going to get hammered by dirt bikes, they had to be built to last. And as we worked on the first water bar, the rain showers became slightly more frequent, and heavier. By the second one, it was a steady cold rain, with temperatures in the low forties, and gusty winds--since we were working at about 8500 feet near the top of the ridge. Over the course of the next two hours. we watched the rain get more consistent, and the peaks above us disappear into the clouds, until we, too were enveloped in the mist and gusty winds. What fun! And it didn't get any warmer, either.

At 3:30 Chip suggested that we begin to pack up and head down the hill. back to camp Most of the tools were left on the job site, carefully tucked into the shelter of some dense juniper trees, and we struck off down the hill at a brisk pace for what was now nearly a three-mile hike in the rain and wind. By the time we got down to Silverado Camp at 4:30, it was still raining, the temperatures were dropping, and I was soaked to the skin from the waist down. (Note to self: water resistant pants are not water proof. In fact, they are simply pants.)

I thought about what I had in the van. My hiking boots were soaked. I had clean, warm sock and undies, and I had brought along a nice warm sleeping bag. I had food and a stove. But the thought of spending a night in the van, hoping some of my gear would dry out, and then doing it all over again, had me thinking hard--especially because the weather report called for more showers the following day--and lower temperatures.

And so I bailed. I thanked Chip for a fun day on the trail, and he laughed. I congratulated the kids of the ESCC for being better people than I am. They were. And I got in the van and drove home, with the heater and defroster on high. I drove through another 25 miles of cold, miserable weather before I got down below the cloud cover. By the time I got to Sacramento, it was almost sunny, and I was toasty warm.

And today I read the weather report: Partly cloudy in the morning then becoming mostly cloudy. At lower elevations, a slight chance of rain showers. At higher elevations, a slight chance of rain showers in the morning, then a chance of rain and snow showers in the afternoon. Highs 43 to 58 higher elevations...57 to 67 lower elevations. Snow level 7500 feet increasing to above 8000 feet in the afternoon. Prevailing southeast winds up to 10 mph shifting to the west in the afternoon.

Rx: Nature Post date: Sep 5, 2019 1:53:49 PM We loved this video that our niece in Spain sent us:

There are more of these on

Dinkey Lakes Trip Report Post date: Sep 3, 2019 3:16:45 PM Hoping to sneak in a few days of hiking before the big crowds of Labor Day, we drove south to the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and found just what we were looking for.

Day One: it began a long drive down to Courtwright Reservoir with stops in Madera for lunch at a Chinese restaurant (forgettable) and Prather to pick up our permit and get the latest Tom Harrison Map of the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. As usual, during the hike we noticed a few differences between the USGS topo maps and the Harrison map—and in this case, the Harrison map was a bit more accurate. We camped at the PG&E campground at Trapper Springs, even though we could have camped right at the trailhead. But the campground had vault toilets and drinking water. We paid $24 for that! After dinner we climbed up on the nearby dome for wonderful views of the reservoir and surrounding peaks. Day Two: With M’s foot still a question, we’ve been aiming for shorter hiking days, and this was no exception. Our goal was Cliff Lake, less than five miles from the trailhead. The first three miles was a cakewalk, with quite a few bugs in the middle, but the last third climbs up to Cliff Lake and was about as much as her foot could manage. We were at the lake by lunchtime. After our PB&J sandwiches, we set up our tent in a quiet spot a bit back and away from the lake and took a nap.

With most of the afternoon still ahead of us, we set out cross-country to find Christenson Lake, which was lovely and quiet. We hiked around it, then went back to Cliff Lake to catch a few brook trout.Boy are there a lot of campsites at Cliff Lake. Most of them are huge, too close to the water to be legal, and completely cleared of anything organic—just rocks and sand. That night we were joined by two couples—one quiet couple camped far away on the other end of the lake, and the other couple camped between us and managed to shout, hoot and holler most of the evening as they played some kind of game through the forest... Day Three: This was going to be an easy day, just up and over the pass, and then another mile to Island Lake. We took it slow up to the pass, and then the trail drops very quickly to Rock Lake. The trout were rising like crazy at about 9:30, but we continued on to Second Dinkey Lake, and then took the more rustic trail up to Island Lake. This is marked as not suitable for stock, but it is really only difficult in a short section—one that was also complicated by a massive treefall.

Once we detoured past that it was easy, and we arrived to find only two people there—and they were leaving that day. We found a nice campsite perched up behind some huge boulders on the west side of the lake, and set up camp. We explored around the lake for the rest of the morning, and then after lunch we climbed the small dome north of the lake for some absolutely stunning views of the other lakes in the area, plus the whole Sierra crest to the east. Fabulous. We also met a group of about six or eight guys, one of whom was flying a drone around. A few cross words were exchanged at that point. Grrr.

And once back in camp, we decided to cross-country over and down to Fingerbowl Lake—another absolute jewel of crystal clear water set into a granite bowl. Wonderful spot. And while there were no fish in the lake, it would have made a very nice and quiet campsite. Next time.

Day Four: We thought we would leave Island Lake to the flying droners, so we got up early and left for Second Dinkey Lake and Rock Lake. Since the fish were rising there the day before, P thought it might be worth fishing there this morning. It was, for 8-10 inch brookies. We didn’t set up our tent at Rock Lake though, because we really weren’t sure about our plans. We waffled about this all day long. After fishing, we decided to day-hike down to Little Lake for lunch: a short, steep trail that led to another amazing lake. There was a perfect (and perfectly legal!) campsite there, and we ate our lunch out on the peninsula underneath the towering Dogtooth Peak. Had it not been for the steep climb back out, we might have gone and fetched our packs and camped here for the night.

After a lovely lunch (we didn’t see another soul on this trail) we got back to Rock Lake where P fished a bit more. A group of three guys had set up camp on the far southeast corner of the lake, and we had staked our claim to a nice spot on the ridge to the northeast. They skinny-dipped while P fished, and luckily we weren’t too close to each other. But as the afternoon progressed we started thinking about the hike out the next day…and M was worried about it. So we decided to hoist our packs and hike back up over the pass and down into Cliff Lake. But this time we camped at Christenson Lake instead, and we had the place to ourselves. It was a really lovely spot, with views from the ridge behind our camp to the far Sierra, and towards the lake and this side of Dogtooth Peak. Idyllic. Day Five: This was an easy one, just about five miles, almost all downhill. But we were surprised by the number of hikers we met. We had seen an average of six people per day for the previous three days, and now we were meeting real crowds hiking up to Cliff Lake on Sunday. We made it back to the van to discover that the parking area (which had had only five cars in it when we started our trip) was now packed to the gills with at least thirty cars. In fact, P moved the van so that a late-arriving hiker could park in our place.

What struck us about this area was that it was really quite easy to access, and yet we hadn’t met that many people. Sure, some of the lakes were heavily impacted by campsites and fire rings, but all in all, it was everything we could hope for in a trip that didn’t require long miles on the trail, and still delivered everything you’d want in a backpacking trip.

The photos from our trip are here:

We are getting on...but not so fast! Post date: Sep 3, 2019 3:52:24 AM With our deteriorating joints, we've found that we can't hike the same trails we used to hike--or at least, not the same way. A few years ago, we hiked fourteen miles with a pack on, and felt reasonably good about it. Now we aim at closer to five miles a day. And while we have done a number of five to eight day trips in the past, these days we're usually planning for 2-5 days, to limit the total pack weight we have to carry.

What other ways have we adapted to our weakened knees and feet? We like the idea of a base camp, where we can set up camp and then day hike to a series of destinations within a few miles of our campsite. Those work well. And we've become more focused on finding those remote trailheads that scare away some hikers, but allow us to hike a few miles and still find some semblance of solitude. An example of the former was our recent trip to the Lake Sabrina Basin, where we camped above Dingleberry Lake for a couple of nights and explored many of the lakes above that as day hikes. And our hike to Chain Lakes in the Emigrant Wilderness was an example of the latter--a difficult drive to the trailhead, and when we got there, we were the only vehicle in the parking area. So was the hike into Thornburg Canyon near Carson Pass. Once we got a mile into the hike, we were alone.

We hope those of you who are younger and more athletic are taking full advantage of your youth and fitness--and hiking to those wonderful destinations that we can usually only dream about now!

About those orange tents Post date: Aug 26, 2019 10:20:27 PM Since we posted about highly visible and brightly colored tents on our blog, we've received a lot of comments. And we did some poking around. Turns out that REI and MSR only use that bright orange for rain flies on expedition/alpine tents--in other words, only on tents that are intended for use in snow. Same with Kelty. For their three-season tents, the rain flies for all three companies seem to be a nice calm grey....which is easy on the eyes. That's nice.

And as we have noted, our Tarptent is a lovely granite grey---and so are most backpacking tarps. Seems like those companies get the message. Marmot, Big Agnes, Nemo, Black Diamond, and The North Face all use bright colors for many of their tents. Maybe they haven't actually read the Leave No Trace principles. Here's what the LNT organization itself says: "Bright clothing and equipment, such as tents, that can be seen for long distances are discouraged. Especially in open natural areas, colors such as day-glow yellow may contribute to a crowded feeling; consider earth-toned colors (ie. browns and greens) to lessen visual impacts." We welcome comments from tent manufacturers on this topic!

Fire restrictions in Yosemite Post date: Aug 21, 2019 7:39:31 PM Yosemite National Park is experiencing high fire danger, along with continued hot and dry weather patterns. Due to the current and predicted fire conditions and fire behavior, the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park will be implementing Stage I fire restrictions until further notice is given.

By order of the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park and under authority of Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 2.13(c):No building, maintaining, attending or using a fire (including campfire, cooking fire, and charcoal fires) within Yosemite National Park below 6,000 feet in elevation. Portable stoves using pressurized gas, liquid fuel or propane are permitted, as are alcohol stoves, including tablet/cube stoves. Twig stoves are not permitted.

No smoking below 6,000 feet except within an enclosed vehicle, a campground or picnic area where wood and charcoal fires are allowed or in a designated smoking area. All public buildings, public areas of Concession buildings (including restrooms), other areas as posted and within 25 feet of any non-single family residential building remain closed to smoking at all times.

Campfires and cooking fires may still be used in designated campgrounds and picnic areas in developed portions of the park in accordance with park regulations.

Designated Campgrounds: Upper Pines, Lower Pines, North Pines, Yellow Pines, Camp 4, Wawona, Bridalveil Creek, Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Tamarack Flat, Yosemite Creek, Porcupine Flat,Designated Picnic Areas: Tuolumne Meadows, Lembert Dome, Tenaya Lake, Yosemite Creek, Wawona, Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point, Cascade, El Capitan, Cathedral Beach, Sentinel Beach, Swinging Bridge, Housekeeping Camp, Church Bowl, and Lower Yosemite Falls.

Campfires and cooking fires may still be used in residential areas in developed portions of the park in accordance with park regulation.

Residential Areas: Wawona, El Portal, Yosemite Valley, Hodgdon Meadow, Foresta, Aspen Valley, and Tuolumne MeadowsThere are no administrative exemptions to this order. Notice of closure will be posted and areas will be monitored to ensure compliance. This designation will remain in place until rescinded.

Epic Campsites and International Orange Tents... Post date: Aug 20, 2019 3:41:45 PM It's true. When P started backpacking, he used a bright orange tube tent, and it served its purpose. And there's a reason that alpine shelters are bright orange. When you need a rescue in the snow, that orange color can help get you seen, found, and rescued.

So what does that have to do with backpackers today? Not much. And frankly, we've grown a little tired of seeing bright orange and yellow blobs of color decorating so many photogenic sites, as if they are posing for the cover of a magazine. If we really subscribe to Leave No Trace principles, shouldn't that also apply to leaving the landscape views unmarred by glaringly unnatural colors? It's a little like those hikers in the Southwest who insist upon climbing up into the rock arches, and then staying there for hours, ruining every other hiker's hope for a more natural photo. In fact, when was the last time you saw a magazine photo of a backpacking camp that didn't feature day-glo colors? All well and good, but hardly the epitome of the natural world. We hope that tent manufacturers will take note: stop polluting the views with your logoed eyesores. Epic campsites? We think they should be quietly hidden in among the trees, where they can't be seen (and where you can also enjoy some shade during the day), not plopped into the view of every other hiker who makes the effort to enjoy the wilderness.

When P started making his own tents, he began with a neutral slate blue material. And then later on, he used an even lighter pale granite color. This was so successful that we once found that another group had set up their camp within 25 feet of ours, because they didn't realize that our tent was a tent, not a granite boulder among the trees.

And today, we have to give kudos to our Tarptent. We're delighted with the performance of the tent. And we're delighted that it fades nicely into the landscape with its soft grey color. LNT indeed.

What could possibly go wrong? Post date: Aug 19, 2019 2:39:01 PM By now you know that we have hiked something more than 2500 miles in the Sierra Nevada and other parts of the West. We've backpacked for years and years, and we are as experienced a pair as you are likely to find on the trail. So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, on our last trip, just as an example, we had a few misfortunes. P's toothbrush broke. It was a source of some amusement to see him trying to brush his teeth holding the stub of the brush with both hands.

And his sunglasses also snapped above the ear. No worries, we had packed duct tape--except that for some reason P had switched lip balms, and the duct tape was around the old lip balm tube, not the new one. That's OK. We also have adhesive tape in the first aid kit. In fact, that tape came from P's parents' first aid kit...and let's see...his mom passed away how many years ago? It was tape, but it wasn't adhesive. hmm.

Luckily, we still had a few small band-aids, and a couple of them, wrapped around a twig as a splint, fixed the sunglasses at least enough to get him home. Just a reminder that it pays to make sure all your gear is newish...and that you've also got a back up!

Stunning Sabrina Basin Post date: Aug 18, 2019 2:58:04 AM With only a few more days before school starts, we wanted to get one last trip into the Sierra, and headed for Sabrina Basin. We'd hiked out of both North Lake and South Lake, so this was the last of the three trailheads for us to explore. Day One: It was a long drive from Napa over Echo Summit and Monitor Pass to the Mono Lake Ranger Station, where we got our permit at about 1 p.m. There were still plenty of spaces available for both Monday and Tuesday, so we felt sure that it wouldn't be too crowded. After a quick bite at the Lee Vining Mobil Station, we drove down to Bishop to buy a few last minute supplies (a dinner for that night, a hair clip for M, and an extra bottle of Advil for our aching bones) and set up camp in the Sabrina Lake Campground. There were still places available here at 5 p.m. and we took a short walk around the area and settled in to an early night.

Day Two: We packed up and parked Le Vin Blanc on the road right outside the campground, then hit the trail by 9 a.m. Fishermen were already on the lake as we slowly climbed up past the trail to Lake George and onwards to Blue Lake. We got there in time for an early lunch, and probably should have taken a short rest at that point. But we didn't. The mosquitoes were not too bad in the middle of the afternoon, and we pushed on past Emerald Lakes to Dingleberry Lake. There were a few campers on the granite ledges above the South end of the lake, and we half-heartedly looked for a campsite on the North end. But that was pretty rugged terrain. We wandered along the creek beyond the lake, and finally settled on a campsite overlooking the two fords of the creek: one for hikers, one for stock. It was a pretty spot, with shade in the afternoon for our nap, and nice views all the way around. We set up camp, napped, fished, rested, and generally felt a bit worn out after only five miles of hiking. But that comes with age, we suppose.

That night the mosquitoes made their presence known in spades, and we turned in early to escape them. Still, it was lovely country, and the weather was perfect: warm in the sun, cool in the shade.

Day Three; instead of packing up, we left our camp set up and day-hiked up to the lakes above. After fording the creek, we ran into a wilderness ranger doing trail work. In addition to sharing our experiences working on trails, we got our permit checked and had a nice chat. On our permit we had initially named Topsy-Turvy Lake as our destination, but we were happy with our campsite at the fords. And when we saw Topsy Turvy Lake, we were even happier with our decision. While it was beautiful, there didn't seem to be many campsites at Topsy Turvy amid the vast fields of talus--although there might have been a few above the lake on the South side--and they would have been very exposed. We like shade.

From there we continued on to Sailor Lake, and then topped out at Hungry Packer Lake, which had apparently earned the name Hungry Mosquito Lake this year. The bugs were absolutely fierce. We were hiking in headnets and it really helped to keep moving! Which we did. Lots of people camped around here, by the way.

We hiked cross-country over to Moonlight Lake and had a nice rest and snack sitting among the huge talus blocks above that lake. Then we continued down the granite slabs to Sailor Lake again, and back down to our camp. It was interesting that the ford, which was about 75 feet long over a long string of rocks, was drier later in the day, and wetter earlier in the day. Clearly the snowmelt was taking twelve hours to get down the creek to the ford. After lunch and a nap. we decided we'd explore Dingleberry Lake some more. While much of the shoreline was rugged, we did manage to find a route down from the trail to the North end of the lake, where there was a lovely pool, and a series of campsites further out above the canyon beyond the outlet stream. This would make a nice base camp, and it seemed to get little traffic.

Back at camp that night, we dodged and swatted the bugs, ate our dinner, and again headed to the tent just about dusk, leaving the field to the pesky mosquitoes.

Day Four: We'd heard that Donkey Lake had fewer mosquitoes, and since that was also on our itinerary, we headed there next. The trail back down to Blue Lake is really beautiful, and we enjoyed it much more in this direction. Once at the junction, we took the trail towards Donkey Lake, and were surprised to see a second junction only 1/4 mile later to Baboon Lakes. On our topo map, and on the Tom Harrison map, this junction is much higher up, right where the trail crosses the creek. Hmmm. Oh well. We continued on to Donkey Lake, absolutely loving the scenery of the creek as we followed it up the canyon past pools, cascades and rapids.

And Donkey Lake was charming. We set up camp and went to explore a bit, doing some fishing, filtering water, and getting a feel for the place. The lake was so clear and there were so many trout on the surface that at times it looked like an aquarium. After lunch and our usual nap, we headed back down the hill 1/2 mile to pick up the trail that was shown on our maps to Baboon Lakes.

What a bushwhack! We followed cairns and blazes; struggled, clambered, and finally found a section of trail that looked reasonable. After about an hour, and at least one conversation about turning around, we topped out on the crest of a ridge, and there was Baboon Lake. Spectacular! We wandered around the lake for quite a while before exploring different routes down. We could not believe that was the only trail! But as we explored, we found an easier down to the trail, and as P watched our progress and took in our surroundings, he suddenly exclaimed: "Donkey Lake is right over there!" He was right. It was just 75 yards from where we had found the first real section of cairns to follow...and the whole first part of our hike up to Baboon Lakes had been a complicated and unnecessary circle. For those who are interested, if you find the small round pond just West of Donkey Lake, you can follow a series of cairns southwest up that ridge, over into the next chute, and at the top of that chute the cairns will lead you into the main chute that takes you up to Baboon Lakes. It's steep, but passable and clearly marked. And while it took us just over an hour to get up to the lakes, it took us only 25 minutes to get down, once we understood the geography.

(BTW, the other, signed trail to Baboon Lakes from near Blue Lake must take a very different route---but we never saw it, even though we looked for that trail up at the lake itself. We assume that it stays west of the creek the whole way up...) Great fishing that afternoon in Donkey Lake for brookies and rainbows from 6-10 inches long...and almost non-stop action. That evening we fought the bugs one last time, finally giving up around 8 o'clock to get into the tent.

The Real Adventure Post date: Aug 11, 2019 2:08:53 PM Backpacking is a lot of fun, but the real adventure is reading the news reports after you get back from a trip--some of the stuff is always hard to believe. We loved this story:

Northern California firefighters put out a fire along Highway 96 near Weitchpec last weekend — but it wasn’t until now that officials revealed the surprising cause.A bear fell on a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office patrol car as a deputy was heading north on the highway on Saturday, triggering a crash into an embankment that sparked a fire, Caltrans District 1 said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

The deputy survived the crash and got out of the car without serious injury, according to Caltrans. “Don’t worry, the bear also fled the scene,” Caltrans said.

The Sheriff’s Office said the deputy was responding to a reported overdose in Orleans on Aug. 3 around 11 p.m. when the bear struck the car and triggered the rollover, KRCR reported.The chief of the Hoopa Fire Department said the fire burned roughly half an acre but was extinguished, though crews had to remain at the crash site until Sunday morning because of rolling rock and other issues, according to the TV station.

The crash was about “2 miles south of the Klamath River Bridge,” Lost Coast Outpost reported.Caltrans reminded travelers to “stay alert while exploring the beautiful highways and nature of (the area.) Bears, elk and deer are just some of the critters sharing our coastal home.”And the note from Caltrans about the incident!

app-facebookCaltrans District 1on Wednesday

CAUTION FALLING BEAR! A Humboldt County Sherriff’s patrol vehicle was struck by a falling bear while traveling north on Highway 96 last week. The vehicle caught fire after striking an embankment and the deputy escaped the vehicle without serious injury. Don’t worry, the bear also fled the scene.Travelers are reminded to stay alert while exploring the beautiful highways and nature of District 1. Bears, elk and deer are just some of the critters sharing our coastal home.

Chain Lakes Post date: Aug 11, 2019 12:56:05 AM We wanted a short escape before school starts, and stopped in at the Summit Ranger Station in Pinecrest to see what they might suggest in the Emigrant Wilderness. (A lot of Carson-Iceberg burned last year in the Donnell Fire and is still not open to hikers.)

But since this trip was for P's birthday, we wanted something where we wouldn't run into much of a crowd. That excluded Kennedy Lake (there are lot of people up there right now) as well as the usual suspects out of Gianelli and Crabtree Trailheads. Gem Lake, in particular, was mentioned in a recent magazine story (just possibly because P suggested it to the editors) and now Gem Lake is the icon destination of Emigrant Wilderness. Sigh.

So where else could we go? P asked about Chain Lakes. Nobody there. The trailhead, Box Springs, is a long drive on a difficult road. Not ideal for most hikers. It sounded perfect for us. And it was.

The road into the trailhead was really quite rough--absolutely not recommended for passenger cars, although our 2wd 2008 Ford Escape managed it with careful driving. It took us almost two hours from the Ranger Station to the trailhead, and that was a total of ten miles on Highway 108, 20 miles on paved County Road 31, and then 7 miles on rough dirt to the trailhead. That last 7 miles took us more than 45 minutes to feel our way along...

And then we got to the trail itself. While it is in fairly poor condition, with lots of downed trees, quite a few trail re-routes around the biggest ones, and some swampy areas, it was also chock full of the most amazing displays of wildflowers. Like walking through a botanical garden. And it is only two and half miles in total. It took us longer to drive to the trailhead than to hike the hike!

Chain Lakes themselves are really just one large lake (fishless, with no inlet or outlet stream) and three smaller and swampier ones. But boy was it peaceful. And we had only one other group for company, and they camped far away---there are tons of good campsites in this area. The weather was perfect, and mosquitoes were only about a 3 on a ten point scale. Perfectly manageable. The next morning, we hiked up to the top of the nearby granite dome, for views of most of the Emigrant Wilderness, and even a distant view of Mt Hoffman to the South in Yosemite. And the road out seemed just a little better, since it was downhill, and we knew that it was passable the whole way. A really nice way to spend a birthday... The rest of the photos are here:

Yosemite revisited Post date: Aug 5, 2019 5:32:06 AM With family in from Europe this week, we organized a quick trip to Yosemite to show them around the place. It was a memorable two days. We began by claiming a campsite in Porcupine Flat, then driving up to Tuolumne Meadows to grab a sandwich and take a hike.

And since we always like to do something a little different, and they had done very little in Yosemite, we were able to find a hike that suited us both: the trail from the meadows up to Lower Gaylor Lake. It's a slow, steady climb that leads up to a lovely alpine lake with some fine views---and in this case, enough of a breeze to limit the mosquitoes. And very few people take this hike--we saw one other group during our entire expedition. Quite nice. And then back to camp for dinner and the starry sky at night. The next day we headed down into the Valley to let them wander around a bit. We visited Lower Yosemite Falls, had a late lunch at Happy Isles, hiked over towards Mirror Lake via the side trail (no other hikers there for most of the distance) and then the shuttle back to our car, where we stopped by El Capitan Meadow so that they could take in the climbers.

From there we headed back out again, stopping at Tuolumne Grove to hike through the Sequoias there, and then back to our cabin above Sonora. Alpine hikes and views, Valley waterfalls, and Sequoias. Not a bad way to spend two days!

The Trail Less Taken Post date: Jul 28, 2019 11:41:21 PM Over the past fifteen years, we've noticed a huge change in the hiking crowds in the Sierra. It's not that there are a lot more people backpacking. In fact, those numbers may not have changed all that much. But these days so many hikers aim for the same hikes, the destinations, and even the same exact campsites.

Of course some of this is due to social media, but it's also due to plain old print media as well. In the good old days (and yep, we're gonna go there...) people used the recommendations of the wilderness rangers, or maybe read books such as Sierra North or Sierra South. Those are still great books, by the way, and they offer a wide range of hiking recommendations for all types of trips, and in multiple locations.

That's very different from what we see in the media today, social and otherwise. Now the stories tend to focus on "The Perfect Yosemite Hike," (there is only one???) or the "Top Ten Destinations." And God forbid any trail or route get its own name or, even worse, an acronym. At that point, you can assume that it will be mobbed by people who want to check it off the list.

The minute you start hiking the JMT, the PCT, or the SHR, you are going to see way more people than you do anywhere else. Which brings up a suggestion. The next time you read about that perfect campsite, or that one epic hike you can't miss, or the perfect time to visit any destination, immediately go to your calendar and maps and black out those times and places. Now look at what else is available.

It turns out that lots of great hikes are right there on the map, just not in the article. And this very snowy year is a perfect example of how to get away from the crowds. Instead of hiking out of the few trailheads open early in the season, take a hike along one of the many USFS roads that are closed early in the season. You'll have the area pretty much to yourself, and there is a no better time to see some of these wonderful places. Later in the summer they will be mobbed by RVs, SUVs, and ATVs, but not before the roads open.

Later in the summer, we aim for middle of the week departures, because that always cuts down on traffic. And if you can get away after school has started in the fall, you'll find fewer people just about everywhere in the Sierra.

That trailhead that everybody avoids because of the steep first two miles? That's a cheap price to pay for having a day of solitary hiking in the Sierra. The first campsite that you see looks good? Fine, but we've found if you hike another 1/2 mile around the lake, you'll have that side to yourself. Or climb the ridge to camp above the lake, where the mosquitoes are few and the people are fewer.

And this is not a new idea for us. P once planned a hike from Yosemite to Whitney back in 1971 that would have avoided the JMT entirely. Sadly, his hiking partner at the time came down with bronchitis two days into the trip, so it was never completed. But the idea is still good.

In fact, let's pull out those old maps and take a look. It just might be the Perfect Sierra Backpacking Trip. We could even call it the PSBT.

NO! Wait! Scratch that! Just go out and find route that looks interesting, even if it is not on some magazine's bucket list. You'll find a lot of different ideas right here on this website...and they are all epic.

Carson Pass Trail Work Post date: Jul 19, 2019 4:25:41 PM P spent this last week doing trail crew work in the El Dorado National Forest. Here is his report: I joined Ranger Chip Morrill and a Youth Conversation Crew from Generation Green to do trail work in the El Dorado National Forest around Silver Lake this last week. It was a good workout, we saw some terrific scenery, and got a ton of work done--much of it thanks to the six young people with loppers, shovels, and McCleods.

Day One we cleared the trail to Lake Margaret, using every one of those tools at one point or another on the 2.5 mile trail to the lake. The good news is that on the way back, all the work was done, and so we could enjoy the scenery of the hike a bit more.

Day Two focused on tree work around the Martin Meadows dispersed camping area, and then the lower two miles of the Horse Canyon Trail. This trail is part of a larger system around Silver Lake that we got to know much better on Day Three. Day Three was epic--an eight mile loop through the lakes south of Silver Lake, including Hidden Lake and the Granite Lake group. We worked our way through deep banks of snow, huge deadfalls across the trail, lopping overgrown bushes, and improving trail drainage. And some of those trees were huge. The one at left was quite an effort.It was fun to meet hikers on these trails, as they were so deeply appreciative of the work we were doing. That really made the kids' day.

On Day Four Chip and I worked through the two-mile Castle Point trail, clearing up some deadfalls, then joined the crew as they lopped their way to Shealor Lake. In the afternoon, the youth crew headed into the office, and I headed home. The final score was a total of thirteen miles of trails cleared, which was a tribute to the work ethic of this crew. And I returned home with only minor scrapes, two bug bites, and a few sore muscles. And given the fun we had and the scenery we saw, it was all well worth it!

The Ahwahnee is BACK! Post date: Jul 19, 2019 1:19:04 AM Yosemite National Park's iconic names restored, thanks to lawsuit settled todayKatia Hetter, CNN •

Updated 15th July 2019(CNN) — Yosemite National Park's great Ahwahnee Hotel has its name back.The Ahwahnee was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel after the park's former concessionaire filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service in September 2015, claiming ownership of some of the park's trade names and trademarks.

The Ahwahnee Hotel was named The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. The Wawona Hotel became Big Trees Lodge. Curry Village became Half Dome Village. And Badger Pass Ski Area was renamed Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area.

As part of a $12 million settlement paid to the park's former concessionaire, names that had been changed during the lawsuit will revert to their original names. Curry Village had been renamed Half Dome Village.

"We are very excited to restore these historic names to these properties that are so important to Yosemite and the American people," Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman told CNN Travel. "The American people have been very supportive of the effort to restore these historic place names and this settlement agreement is a win for everybody.

"When the lawsuit was filed, the park service told CNN that DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, a subsidiary of Delaware North, had demanded more than $50 million in compensation for the rights to those names. The company concessionaire ran the park's lodging, retail and food services for more than 20 years before being replaced by Yosemite Hospitality LLC, an Aramark subsidiary, in March 2016.CNN has reached out to Delaware North for comment.

During the long legal battle, several of Yosemite's iconic structures and locations had been renamed -- temporarily, park officials hoped.

Now the old names are back. Only Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, which was renamed Yosemite Valley Lodge, will keep its new name, Gediman said.

The original signage was covered up but wasn't removed, and park officials were busy removing the temporary coverings Monday morning, Gediman said. It will take weeks or even months to replace road signs and room directories and update websites, he said.

Of the $12 million settlement paid to Delaware North, Aramark paid $8.16 million and the US government paid $3.84 million, he said.

Under the park service's contract with Aramark, the trademarks and service marks will transfer to Aramark during its contract with the park service and will transfer free of charge to the park service "upon the expiration or termination of Aramark's contract," according to the park service news release.Yosemite National Park went through a competitive bidding process and picked an Aramark subsidiary to provide similar services starting March 1. The new company has a 15-year contact to provide services to over 4 million annual visitors to Yosemite.

"As a member of the Yosemite area community, and as someone who worked in the park for a decade, I am delighted this contract dispute finally got resolved and the beloved historic names are being rightfully restored. Not that I ever called the Ahwahnee, the Majestic, but the official return is long overdue," said Beth Pratt, the National Wildlife Federation's California regional executive director.

For you, a special price! Post date: Jul 13, 2019 12:14:55 AM So I am buying a bunch of energy bars for our summer backpacking trips, and I stop in at a local grocery to see what they have. One flavor of Kind bars is on sale for $0.93 apiece. Cool.

I grab an unopened box of twelve and head to the register.The cashier calmly rings them up for $12 for 12 bars.

I point out that the bars are on special and cost $0.93 apiece.

She replies, and I quote here: "Yes, but you bought a whole box. The boxes are $12."

I ask her if she wanted me to take all of them out of the box, so she could ring them up at $0.93 apiece.

"You can't open the box. The box is $12."

I start to laugh out loud, as the does the nice lady in line behind me. At this point the manager comes by and tries to get involved. He opens he box, and scans he bar code on one of the bars.

"They're $0.93 apiece," he says to the cashier.

She fixes me with a death stare and pointedly deletes the $12 charge and then slowly rings up all twelve bars individually for $0.93 apiece.

By this time the kid at the end of the checkout line has put my bars in a paper bag. I explain that I don't need a bag, and that I had brought my own bag anyway. (This is California, we charge for bags and encourage recycling.)

The cashier says in a loud and not particularly friendly voice that she is not charging me for the bag.

At this point I figure I am better off just taking the bag and leaving. But I once I'm in the car, I'm tempted to go back in and by another box...

The Road Less Traveled Post date: Jul 6, 2019 2:14:49 PM Boy, there were a lot of people in the Sierra this last holiday, taking advantage of the mid-week July 4th!

But those people quickly discovered that snow levels in the high country severely limited their options. When we stopped in at the Summit Ranger Station on the morning of the 4th the scene was hectic. There was a triage table out front, with volunteers helping the hikers firm up their plans and get more information. Once armed and ready, the hikers then went inside the office to speak to a ranger and get their permits. And every one of them was going to either Crabtree or Kennedy Meadows trailheads. There must have been a real crowd at Camp Lake, Bear Lake, and Relief Reservoir that night, as all the hikers showed up to the same place at more or less the same time. The rangers even posted a chart on the wall, pointing out that for every permit for Waterhouse Lake, there were about twenty for Crabtree.

On top of that, the creek crossings were being described as somewhere between waist high and chest high, and all hikers were recommended to carry micro-spikes for the snow. All of this was particularly striking to us, because we had just come back from a three day trip where we hiked less than a hundred yards on snow, never crossed a creek except on a bridge, and saw an average of fewer than four people per day, none of whom were spending the night.So where did we go? We had called Summit Ranger Station on Monday morning, and asked them which of the USFS roads were still closed to all vehicles. One of them, Herring Creek Road, leads to a nice secluded valley with a small reservoir and tons of side roads and hiking trails as well. So we parked our car near the locked gate and hiked in. Wonderful trip. The creek was flowing high and fast, but we crossed it on the road bridge built in 1955. We hiked up to Pinecrest Peak for some lovely views, wandered along Herring Creek up to the reservoir, and generally had the place to ourselves. By exploring off road and off trail, we also discovered a mystery trail that seems to run for a least a couple of miles, and that none of the rangers knew about. What fun! We even found four bottles of non-alcoholic beer from Dubai at one of the campsites. Being good LNT hikers, we drank one and packed the rest out. Not bad with freeze-dried Bibimbap. And meanwhile, back at the ranger station, nobody wanted to know about Herring Creek. They all wanted to know how bad the snow was, and how deep the streams were past Crabtree and Kennedy Meadows.

The Bear Facts Post date: Jul 2, 2019 1:45:18 AM It turns out that training people to be smart around bears really does bear fruit! This report from Yosemite National Park:

2019 Total Bear Incidents: 32019 Total Property Damage: $ 190

Compared to this same week in 2018 (the lowest year on record for bear incidents), bear incidents in 2019 are the same as last year, and damage amounts (in dollars) are down by 57%. Compared to 1998 (when incidents in the park peaked), bear incidents in 2019 are down by 99%, and damages are down by 99.9%.

Bear Activity Summary: The beginning of June marked the first bear incidents in Yosemite including a bear attaining food from illegal food hangs at Lake Vernon, and a bear investigating canisters and attaining food at Snow Creek. When out hiking, picnicking, or camping in bear country, it is important to keep food within arm’s reach or to store food properly in a sealed or latched bear resistant food container/locker. Hanging food in Yosemite is illegal.

There are multiple active bears in Yosemite Valley in and near development. Always stay at least 50 yards away from bears, avoid surrounding or blocking the animal from having an escape route, and maintain vigilance on reporting bears and practicing good food storage in the campgrounds, workplace and residential areas.

Red Bear, Dead Bear: A bear was hit by a vehicle on the Big Oak Flat Road near Foresta. Please help protect wildlife by obeying speed limits and being prepared to stop for animals in roadways. A map of bear-hit-by-vehicle hot spots, along with other Yosemite Bear Information can be viewed at

Fascinating Bear Fact: Although mountain lions are considered apex predators, black bears will often push mountain lions off their kills, exhibiting sub-dominant behavior to bears.

Please report bear incidents and sightings: Call the Save-A-Bear Hotline at +1 209 372-0322 or e-mail Wildlife Sightings: Mountain lions have been reported across Yosemite National Park. Recent observations of lions exhibiting curiosity and following visitors have occurred in wilderness areas.

For more information on mountain lions in Yosemite National Park, please visit the National Park Service website:

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