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October through December 2014


John Muir, 100 years later

Post date: Dec 24, 2014 10:39:44 PM

"John Muir is dead. Up through the far-flung reaches of the Yosemite, the Sequoia, the Muir Woods and all the mountain wilds of the West will ring the mournful echo of that message, for the birds, and the beast and all living things have lost a friend."--Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1914


On December 24, 1914, Christmas Eve, John Muir passed away in a hospital in Los Angeles of pneumonia.Luckily, his work and the mountains he loved still survive...



Really nice example... Post date: Dec 22, 2014 3:01:58 AM Remember our post about those who have been nice this year? We mentioned the rangers and volunteers who help keep our parks open and functioning.


And here is a great example of that at work:http://www.climbing.com/video/video-the-nosewipe-cleaning-el-cap/


Yep--they rappel down the nose of El Capitan to clean up the trash that a generation of climbers have left 2,000 straight above the floor of Yosemite Valley.God bless 'em. And what's the deal with climbers leaving all that trash? Who do they think they are, fishermen? Just kidding. But you'd think people who spent that much time so close the El Capitan would want to treat it better than that...



More nice people... Post date: Dec 19, 2014 9:40:57 PM Marksor, a moderator who volunteers his time to support High Sierra Topix, posted this response to our nice list. And it was nice enough that we'd like to reprint it here. It's a good example of the kind of contributions that are made on that site on a regular basis...


Here's the link to the main page:

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/#sthash.L3ioysR7.dpbs


Having spent most of my last summers out backpacking - somewhere between Mammoth and Yosemite Valley, I am thankful to many who have made my summers amazing.


Specifically to mention a few individuals that stand out...My Nice list


Aline, who runs the Yosemite Art Center in the Valley. She lets me store my watercolors there all summer long, May to October...(hard to backpack with an easel and full palette.) Additionally, she holds my backpack safe when out painting plein air with the world-class instructors that teach daily classes. What an amazing woman and friend.


Parson's Lodge Summer seminars - A continuing series of scientists, poets, and musicians, all gathering in an old stone Sierra palace.


The YARTS bus drivers who go out of their way to drop you off anywhere on route.


Dave, the head Valley bear Ranger...Valley backpacker camp. Artist, fisherman, and sarcastic POS - my kind of friend.


Jen and Greg - head Tuolumne Wilderness Rangers...no permit lectures, no marks on my permits, always a smile...lots of mutual respect shown.


Harry, (pith helmet cashier) - Tuolumne Store...Come to think about it, all the Tuolumne Store denizens.


Degnans Deli employees...my usual pre-art Valley breakfast... a morning paper in the shadow of Yosemite Falls...opens early, a quiet spot before the Valley wakes.


All those who stopped to pick up an old-fart hitch-hiking with a backpack.


Mike, my hiking partner...but I cannot think of why.You can read more of this at: http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=12136#sthash.XNVjWVqu.dpuf



And who has been nice? Post date: Dec 19, 2014 7:30:41 PM First, a big shout out to the men and women who have been fighting the fires we mentioned on our naughty list. Thank you. And please stay safe.


And also to those wonderful people who work in our national parks and forests, and make it possible for us to enjoy them. Thank you for listening to a thousand points of view and trying to come up with management plans that really do capture a sense what is fair and reasonable in our wonderful resources. We just wish there were more of you, so that you could support those regulations in the back country.


We’d also like to extend those thanks to the volunteers who work in the parks and national forests as well. And this includes some of the members of the SAR teams who go out and find the lost sheep of our community. They make more things possible. How cool is that?


Those who take someone backpacking for the first time. Yeah, it can be a bit of an adventure. But the rewards are truly worth it. This year we took a friend from Italy into the Emigrant Wilderness, and enjoyed every minute of her enthusiastic delight in every foot of the trail. We try to do this each year…and we should probably do more of it.


And you people right here: the many members of the backpacking community on the internet. What a wonderful resource for anyone who is interested in this activity! Trip reports, equipment reviews, suggestions for new techniques or tactics, or just plain sharing the joys (and frustrations?) of backpacking. Somehow, the backpacking and forums and message boards are always more reasonable than most internet forums—probably because we all know that there are more important things than getting in flame wars on the internet. Like getting into the woods.


And finally, Mother Nature, with a series of storms this November and December that look like they will put an end to the drought. Whatever we did to offend you, we’re sorry. Please keep those rains and snows coming!



It's time for our naughty list... Post date: Dec 18, 2014 4:38:50 PM It’s the end of the year, and we’re making our usual naughty and nice listsSo who’s been naughty this year? We came up with a few ideas of our own...and then asked some of our friends on the backpacking message boards for help. We hope you don't yourself in any of these!


We have to start with Casey Knocket, the creepy girl that was proudly vandalizing every National Park she visited. We can only hope that she spends a lot of time cleaning something in jail...or would it be more appropriate if some other "aspiring artist": vandalized her home, car, or private "artwork" under the guise of doing something more than just vandalism? sheeesh.


Also on the list are those knuckleheads who think they are either too smart or too experienced to follow the regulations in the National Forests, and then end up starting massive wildfires. Seriously, we can’t think of an appropriate punishment for someone who starts a fire like that. (This last year we saw someone cutting branches off a tree in the Emigrant Wilderness for his campfire. He knew this was wrong. We reminded him. He kept doing it. Grrrr.)


And then there are the nasty people who seem to think that their trash is somehow less offensive than everyone else’s. That’s the only reason we can imagine that we’ve found everything from toilet paper and tampons to tin cans and micro-trash throughout the Sierra. Please. You are welcome to be a complete slob in your own house, or in your car, but when you are visiting Mother Nature, please make sure that you clean up after yourself. We haven’t done a hike in ten years without finding some trash on the trails. Yeah, we pick it up in most cases. If you’ll give us your name and address, we’d be happy to mail it back to you.


Other nominations include:


>> A demerit badge to those Boy Scout leaders who toppled the rocks in Utah.


>> Establishing new campfire locations. Just to be clear: this is always illegal in National Parks and many other areas.


>> Leaving moose gut piles or fish remains near the trail in grizzly country.


>> Throwing rocks off a high point with no awareness or consideration of trails, hikers, climbers or fishers below.


>> People packing firearms who seem barely able to use a hiking stick.


>> The deer hunters who feel it is OK to leave their orange flags up and who leave their cans and other trash where they were sitting waiting for a deer to happen buy. Their scent packets also. Also the bird hunters who leave their shells behind. Note – not against hunting, just the few that are slobs.


>> Those people who backpack into a place with a large group of people just to get smashed and tell and vomit through the whole night. I am the guy who then wakes up at 6 and makes as much noise as possible to tear down my camp before starting for the day.


>> Those people who arrive at an other-than-your-group empty back country camping area and choose to camp right next to you.


>> Intentional and unintentional arsonists, poachers, those who sneak their wheeled conveyances in where they don't belong, cattle, commercial packers.


>> The psuedo PCT wanabee hikers who bring shame on the program as well as embarrassing the true "long-distance" marvels. Hanging out/sponging, using/abusing trail-Angel generosity, leaving trash, no bear-cans...


>> Those entering any park via an auto who have to ask the kiosk Ranger questions better asked elsewhere, particularly when there is a long line of cars behind them...


And who has been nice? Post date: Dec 19, 2014 7:30:41 PM First, a big shout out to the men and women who have been fighting the fires we mentioned on our naughty list. Thank you. And please stay safe. And also to those wonderful people who work in our national parks and forests, and make it possible for us to enjoy them. Thank you for listening to a thousand points of view and trying to come up with management plans that really do capture a sense what is fair and reasonable in our wonderful resources. We just wish there were more of you, so that you could support those regulations in the back country. We’d also like to extend those thanks to the volunteers who work in the parks and national forests as well. And this includes some of the members of the SAR teams who go out and find the lost sheep of our community. They make more things possible. How cool is that?Those who take someone backpacking for the first time. Yeah, it can be a bit of an adventure. But the rewards are truly worth it. This year we took a friend from Italy into the Emigrant Wilderness, and enjoyed every minute of her enthusiastic delight in every foot of the trail. We try to do this each year…and we should probably do more of it.And you people right here: the many members of the backpacking community on the internet. What a wonderful resource for anyone who is interested in this activity! Trip reports, equipment reviews, suggestions for new techniques or tactics, or just plain sharing the joys (and frustrations?) of backpacking. Somehow, the backpacking and forums and message boards are always more reasonable than most internet forums—probably because we all know that there are more important things than getting in flame wars on the internet. Like getting into the woods.And finally, Mother Nature, with a series of storms this November and December that look like they will put an end to the drought. Whatever we did to offend you, we’re sorry. Please keep those rains and snows coming!And how can we leave out Mother Nature, with one of the toughest Sierra droughts on record. Come on, Mom. Have a heart.



Backpacker Magazine Post date: Dec 9, 2014 6:03:52 PM A few weeks ago we got an email from Backpacker magazine, asking us for "local tips" on where people might go hiking in the Emigrant Wilderness. We were flattered, and even if we hadn't been, we would still have given them free advice. After all, it's what we do on this site!


So it was fun to see our recommendation appear in the latter pages of the new issue of Backpacker. Of course, it was edited down to fit a small space, but still. We buy this magazine in airport news stands--despite the focus on danger (WAYYY too many bear stories!) and fear-mongering about deadly trails and desperate situations.


It also has some good tips on basic techniques, and lots of suggestions of where to hike the next time you hit the trail, whether that be in Maine or Arizona. And this month, one of those tips is the Emigrant Wilderness...Here's a link to their website: http://www.backpacker.com/



Now you see it, now you don't... Post date: Nov 11, 2014 12:12:18 AM Many years ago, we were given a really nice old French wine poster—one that fit perfectly into the style of our old house in downtown Napa. But the poster was unframed, and we learned that framing it would cost quite a lot of money. That gave us a great reason to scour the local antique stores and thrift shops for suitable frame, and we found one a few weeks later. It had a cheap, funky old Wild West kind of print in it, so we didn’t feel bad about flipping that print around and dropping the French poster into the frame.


It’s lived there ever since.But after the earthquake in Napa, most of our pictures ended up on the floor, along with just about everything else that wasn’t nailed down. The clean-up was a massive job, and it gave us the chance to take a look at almost everything we owned.


During the process, M pulled out that poster from a pile of plaster dust and said:“Hey, Look at this.”


The back of the poster was visible, and that cheap old Wild West print was actually a print of a painting by Albert Bierstadt, the famous western landscape painter. . It still isn’t the style of what we want in our old Victorian…but it was cool, in a different way.


And in meantime, we had bought a small, rustic cabin near Sonora…and this thing would look great hanging in a corner up there. So I cleaned it up and fixed a few spots that were damaged. And I got curious about this guy Bierstadt. I went online and found out exactly how famous he is (very!) and all sorts of information, including a complete illustrated listing of his works. Great! Now I could even find out where it was painted.

I happily scanned through 20+ pages Bierstadt paintings, anxiously looking for ours. At page ten, I found one that was similar, but not exact. Different foreground, slightly different angle of the mountain. So I kept looking. Pages and pages. I got to page 23—the last page. The painting wasn’t there. I looked through them all again. Nope. Then I found another site, with a similar catalog of his work. Still no luck. And as I was mentioning this to M, she took a long hard look at the signature on the print we had. It read “Bierstad.” No final t. Not Bierstadt.


We started laughing. We didn’t have a cheap print of a Bierstadt landscape. We had a cheap print of a forgery of a Bierstadt landscape. How many people can say that?


It will look great in the cabin.



A Wild and Woolly Weekend Post date: Oct 27, 2014 10:46:20 PM We heard from quite a few people who were planning backpacking trips into the Sierra this weekend, and were concerned about the weather report: winds of 30mph, and chances of precipitation. We were cautious, because we know what that feels like when you in the high country. We stayed at our cabin at 3700 feet and puttered around the yard, visited a few local hangouts, even went on a nice hike on Saturday morning. But it rained Saturday night, and by Sunday morning the temperature at our place had dropped below 40—which means it was well below freezing at 8,000 feet. With 30 mph winds? Add in the fact that it was dark about 6:30 p.m., and doesn’t get light again until 6:30 a.m., and you can see why we suggest that you know what you are doing before you strike out on a backpacking trip this time of year.



Do you speak up? Post date: Oct 14, 2014 7:08:56 PM When do you speak up?


This survey that came out of an on-going correspondence with a couple of rangers in our wilderness areas. So here is the scene: You are a backpacker two days in from a trailhead. You find someone in the wilderness doing the following activity. Do you

A. Ignore the activity and hike away?

B. Notify them that the activity violates USFS policy?

C. Notify them that the activity violates USFS policy and ask them to stop?

D. Take a photo to document the activity?

E. Step in and stop/fix the problem?

F. Report the activity to the authorities when you hike out?

G. Other?


And the activities we identified;

Building a new fire ring

Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood

Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden

Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream

Feeding wildlife

Leaving a fire or coals unattended

Littering

Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed

Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite

Mining with a pick and shovel


It’s only fair that P provide the first set of answers:

Building a new fire ring—never seen someone actually doing this. Probably B

Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood. B, C, D, F

Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden. B and/or C, D and F.

Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream. B

Feeding wildlife. B, C….maybe more. I haven’t seen this

Leaving a fire or coals unattended. E, certainly. Maybe B, C and F

Littering. E, usually. We always pack out trash. If I see someone doing it, then B.

Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed. B?

Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite. B or C? D and maybe F.

Mining with a pick and shovel. B, C, D, F


Those aren’t perfect answers, I know. But it’s what I have done over the past ten years or so. And of course it all depends on the situation—if there are more of them than us, I am less likely to try to take a more active role, for obvious reasons.



Worth the Wait Post date: Oct 8, 2014 4:53:10 PM This last weekend was an important one for us, because when we entered the park through the Big Oak Flat entrance station, P was able to show his ID and purchase a Senior Pass for $10.


According to the USGS store that sells them:A Senior Pass is a $10.00 lifetime pass that provides access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services.


It allows him (and anyone with him) to enter any National Park in the USA for free. Plus it qualifies him for discounts on other costs like campground fees. Very cool. Here’s a link to the FAQs about the Senior Pass. Spread the word.http://store.usgs.gov/pass/senior.html



Day Hiking Yosemite Post date: Oct 6, 2014 3:53:21 PM This last weekend we visited Yosemite with a visitor from Italy--one who wasn't sure she wanted to spend the night in the wilderness---so we took her on a few day hikes. And had a wonderful time.

Admittedly, the waterfalls in Yosemite are barely trickles right now. Yosemite Falls is bone day. Bridalveil is merely moist. Nevada and Vernal Falls are tiny. But there are other things to see in Yosemite, and we did.


We hiked up to Sentinel Dome (is there a better bang for your buck than this one-mile hike?) and then on to Taft Point and the Fissures. The next day, we hiked Happy Isles and then took the Valley Loop trail to go around Mirror Lake, up to the bridge across Tenaya Canyon, up Snow Creek for a bit, and then back to the shuttle bus.


And while the Valley was crowded, it was amazing how few people were actually out hiking these trails. Goes to show---get our of your car, get your feet on the trail, and you will get away from most of the crowds.



Taking your first backpacking trip Post date: Oct 1, 2014 5:10:20 PM We get a lot of requests for advice on a first backpacking trip. People have a lot of questions, but most of them are pretty basic. We thought we'd put all of this in one place, so you can consult it over and over again. And we've now added this to our main menu, all in the hopes of encouraging more people to hit the trail!


Backpacking isn't hard. And it's even easier if you follow this tips for a positive experience on your first trip:Pick the right trail. For a first trip, the perfect trail would be not too hard or long. This is not the time for an epic journey. When they launch a new sailboat, they often take it on a shakedown cruise---just to make sure that everything works before they head out across the ocean. That’s the idea here.


The perfect hike would be something four miles or less—so that if things really go haywire, you can hike out in a couple of hours and try again some other time. For a first hike, go where there are other people. You may be a bit worried about what you’ll experience in the wilderness---that’s normal. So pick a spot that will have some other people around. That will feel reassuring.


If you forget your lighter or matches, you can probably borrow some. Of course, if you pick a nice short trail to a beautiful location, you won’t have to worry about this. There are no nice short trails to beautiful locations that don’t have other people camping there! We have a list of started hikes in our destinations section.


Watch the weather. You want perfect conditions for your first hike. Sure, you can probably handle a little rain…but for your first hike you won’t want to have to deal with anything other than ideal conditions. Once you’ve done a couple of hikes, you can see what it’s like to tackle the same kinds of activities under less than ideal conditions. By then you’ll be more confident, and you’ll have most of your trail routines worked out.


Make a checklist for everything you need. We have one here on this site that should be just fine—but there are certainly others on the web that are equally good. Take everything on this list for the first trip---and take anything else that you think you might need. You are only going four miles, and the extra weight won’t kill you. After you’ve done two or three hikes, you’ll look at that axe and decide that you really don’t see any need to carry it any more.


Practice at home first. We do this with every new piece of equipment we buy. Put up your tent in the backyard, and then take it down again. Do it two or three times, so that you really know how to do it. Sleep in your sleeping bag for a night, so you know what that feels like. Light your stove a few times to make sure you know how it works. Cook a freeze-dried meal for dinner at home. Pump enough water through your filter to fill a couple of bottles. Sure, your neighbors may think that you have lost your mind, but it really helps to have practiced all of this stuff. Four miles from the trailhead is no place to find out that the only food you brought requires cooking---and you can’t get your stove to light.


If you can’t do this at home, do it in a local campground next to your car. Don’t just practice using the equipment, also practice hiking. Take a few day-hikes that are at least as long as your planned backpacking hike. And when you hike them, take your full-sized pack. Fill it up with your ten essentials (of course!) but also take along a few other things, so that you get a sense of what it is like to carry a full pack.


And whatever you do, make sure that you have worn your hiking boots/shoes for a few days around town before you hit the trail!


Of course, most people will have done some of this already. They have taken day hikes that are at least as long their backpacking itinerary. They’ve car camped. They know how most of their equipment works. Just fill in the rest, and you’ll be fine. Really.

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