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October through December 2016

New Year's resolutions? Post date: Dec 31, 2016 9:01:50 PM We're not big on new Year's resolutions, mainly because if we think something is important, then we'll tackle it head-on, and certainly not wait until the first of the year to address it. But on the other hand, we do have some things we've always wanted to do...and we're doing some of them in 2017.

For one thing, we'll go hiking in Patagonia. We've been to the Andes twice in Peru, and loved it both times. This year it's going to be Argentina, at the hiking center of El Chalten.

P is also looking at retirement full in the face, and that should leave some time for more adventures in the mountains. He still has a number of conferences and other activities in the summer, but we do hope to get into the Duzy Basin this year, and a few other areas that we have yet to hike.

This year, we just might get to Mineral King...Meanwhile, we're recovering from too much food over the holidays, and determined to lose some of the weight we've gained during those big meals. By the time we hit the trail, we'd like to be back in hiking trim. That's not a resolution exactly, but it's a good idea.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times... Post date: Nov 30, 2016 4:53:30 PM What's the weather outlook for the Sierra? Depending on your point of view, things are looking up, or maybe starting to look really down.First of all, the good news: we've had a ton of rain this fall already (1/3 of our normal rainfall before the end of November!) and that bodes well for the rest of this winter.

But if you take a longer view, the picture isn't so pretty. We may be seeing the beginning of a prolonged and deep drought for the next eighty years.

If nothing else, the two stories should encourage you to get out and enjoy the Sierra now...and next summer...while it is still as beautiful as it is.

Giving Thanks Post date: Nov 23, 2016 4:44:47 PM Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which is certainly the holiday with the best food in our country. A great day for everyone except, perhaps, turkeys. Along with everyone else, we'll be chowing down on a fabulous feast. And worrying just a bit about how we are going to lose all those extra calories.

Let's see.

How many calories are we going to be eating? And how many calories do we use up on a day of backpacking? the more we eat tomorrow, the more days we'll have to go backpacking next summer. That seems like a win/win.

Hope your Thanksgiving is a good one.

And fire isn't the only issue... Post date: Nov 21, 2016 5:54:34 AM Recent studies have shown that trees in our forests are dying at an astonishing rate, particularly in the Southern Sierra. The combination of five years of drought, added to higher infestations of bark beetles, and warmer winters, are taking a huge toll on the pines and firs of the Sierra.And, of course, millions of dead trees add to the fire danger every year.

Here's a link to a study by the USFS

Let's hope this early and heavy rainfall is the beginning of a long wet winter, with some long periods of extended cold to kill off more of those beetles...

A history of fire in the Sierra Post date: Nov 17, 2016 4:39:26 PM With winter drawing nigh (and Tioga Pass closed again yesterday due to snow...who knows if it will open again before spring) it's the perfect time to learn a little more about the Sierra Nevada and its history.And this article, in Science Daily, is an interesting read. Fire has played a role the Sierra ecosystem forever, but this paper argues that since 1600 the hand of man has been the key factor in fire size, frequency and intensity.

Check it out:

And next time you're in the mountains, think twice before you set something on fire---even in an existing fire ring.

Hiking helps you deal with stress--even the stress of winning the popular vote and still losing the presidential election Post date: Nov 13, 2016 5:51:38 AM This is pretty much what we like to do in times of stress: get out on the trail and get in touch with the things that really matter.

One lump or two? Post date: Nov 8, 2016 7:21:14 PM Over the past ten years, we've had some serious discussions about socks. P has always followed the philosophy that two pairs of socks are best. One nice thick pair of hiking socks cushions your foot and helps the fit of your boot or shoe, and another thin pair that serves as a kind of overall blister prevention, as it fits tightly to your foot, and absorbs any abrasion--saving your skin. He's used this system his whole life, and it works for him.

But on the other hand P often bought very inexpensive boots or hiking shoes, and used them up within a single season, often only getting 100 miles out of the pair.Initially, M was not convinced.

She thinks that she should be able to buy really good boots that fit, and wear only one pair of socks. And extra socks make her feet warm...something that bothers her on the trail. So over the years she's experimented with different boots, different socks, and occasionally different applications of moleskin to address blister issues. But over the past couple of years we've both changed our positions a bit. P did buy a nice pair of Merrill's hiking shoes, and he's used them for well over 100 miles with no apparent wear and tear. And M has finally come round to the idea of two pairs of socks. She hasn't had a blister since taking that "step."

On the other hand, her feet may still get warm in the summer...but summer is months away.For now, two socks. no lumps.

Yosemite's new chief Post date: Oct 18, 2016 6:25:36 PM "Starting Monday, October 17th, Woody Smeck will be joining Yosemite as our Acting Superintendent. Woody has been serving as superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for the past 3.5 years, where he shepherds conservation efforts not only in the parks but also throughout the Sierra Nevada.

Prior to his position at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, he served as deputy superintendent in Yosemite from April 2012 to April 2013. Prior to Yosemite, Woody served as superintendent for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (November 2001-April 2012), the nation’s largest urban national park."

"Woody began his professional career with the National Park Service in July 1991 as a landscape architect and has worked on complex land use planning, recreation, and open space management issues for 28 years. His other accomplishments for the NPS include serving as Regional Director for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service. Woody is a graduate of Cal Poly with both Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Landscape Architecture. He is a native Californian (born in Bakersfield) and is married to wife Karen. They have two daughters, Allison and Megan, attending college in California."

All this from Yosemite News and Discussion, a great website for those interested in the park.

New Neo-Air Post date: Sep 29, 2016 9:08:06 PM We've had a lot of people ask us about what we use for sleeping pads. "How can you be comfortable sleeping on the ground?" they ask. They seem to think that sleeping on the ground is...hard.

Well, to be fair, the ground is hard, and we've made some adjustments over the years. P slept for many years on a 1/2 inch piece of closed cell blue foam. M was always trying something new, and usually in combination with at least one other pad--the best combination was a Thermarest Z-rest mattress over 1/2 of foam pad.

But then one year for her birthday, P bought her a Thermarest Neo-Air mattress--the modern version of that old inflatable plastic thing that we used as scouts. It was a revelation, and she was in heaven.

P remained unconvinced. "Goldurn fancypants foolishness" or something like that, was what he could be heard to mutter under his breath.

Until, that is, one day when he accepted her offer to borrow her Neo-Air to take a nap in the afternoon. Holy Mackerel was that nice! He quickly bought one for himself. One order of fancypants foolishness to go, and make it snappy!

They are relatively light (about 12 ounces, all in) and inflate to a VERY comfortable 2 inches or more. Of luxury. All part of our home away from home.

So we used these pads for about four years, and were pretty darn happy with them. Over time they began to leak and flatten out over the course of a night. And after living with them for a couple of years that way, re-inflating them in the middle of the night, we finally contacted Neo-Air about getting them fixed.

Very simple process, and they made it easy. We sent them our mattresses, and they promised to fix them for very little money indeed--all in the course of a promised 4-6 week turnaround. Can't beat that.Well, you can beat that. Because about two weeks later, instead of fixing all of the leaks in our older model mattresses, they sent us brand new ones that don't leak.We're sold. Again.

We can hardly wait to sleep on them. Again.

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