Closed for the Winter: Yosemite High Country

Trips, Weekends

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls fly fishing

Hike to Glen Aulin Falls

Out and Back – 12 miles
Saturday – Tuolumne Meadows to Glen Aulin – 6
Sunday – Back to Trail Head – 6
An abandoned high sierra camp and a picturesque waterfall gushing into oblivion.  It’s a quick trip, basically 6 miles each way leaving from Tuolumne Meadows, typically bustling with folks seeing all of the Yosemite high country that they can muster, but not so for us.  For us, this is basically the last weekend of high country backpacking with a weather system promising the rest of California some much needed rain and a good dump of snow at elevation, needless to say Tioga Pass will close.
We park down a dirt road off Tioga road, throw our packs on and get on trail right on schedule; knowing that the distance is short makes the journey light and easy, fun and we are generally excited to be hanging out with friends from the east side.  Making our way in, we don’t see a soul, one of Yosemite’s favorite trails and not one person do we pass heading in, it’s kind of remarkable.  Passing cascades, waterfalls, and iced over puddles, we all fall in love with the day, crisp and in the 60’s, sun out with some cartoon clouds to interrupt the blue expanse of the sky.
Glen Aulin leaves nothing to be desired.  A beautifully lonesome and quiet seasonal camp a couple weeks past it’s close date and now some great friends throwing lines into the water to try and nail one of those little Sierra Brook Trout to snack on before dinner.  As afternoon progresses, we laze about, basking in the sun as we know it will dip into the 30’s this evening.  The sun goes lower and lower until it disappears behind the wall of pine; its instantly cold and the small fire is the only source of heat for us now.  Snacking on our friend’s lucky catch while we wait for dinner to rehydrate, we sip red wine with a whiskey chaser and reflect on good times past, present, and future.
Dinner is backcountry chicken burritos, wrapped in foil, and thrown in the fire to get that extra heat and cheese melt; again we are thankful for a dehydrator back home and the leftover chicken carcass from last week. The night rolls through, the cold sneaks in, the whiskey warms, and voices get louder as the “cheers governor” games get belligerent.  Drown, stir, and off to sleep; warmth in a bag and a high country cool just kissing all of our faces.
Waking up, we linger in our bags, holding on to that last bit of heat until the need to pee is too much and we’ve got to get the day started and confront the cold of the outside as the sun meets the frost and warms the forest. Coffee to melt away the headache that the Turkey 101 birthed in the night and whatever is left for food to put in our stomaches.  Break down camp, pack it away, give it a stretch and make sure no T’s were L’d; we are off, marching from whence we came, up up up and along the trail this time passing a few folks out on a morning day hike in the Yosemite High Country.
A quick one out, and we are back at the car ready to head back to the city, refreshed and relaxed.  The ticket on the windshield could say otherwise, but fuck it.  Note to self: dirt roads off Tioga road are apparently still part of the Tioga Corridor on which there is no overnight parking allowed past 10/15.

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Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin fly fish flies

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Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls fly casting

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls fish

Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin brook trout

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Cramped Up Yosemite Glen Aulin Falls Trail

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Photos in this post taken on Canon Rebel SL1

Until the Dam Breaks: Hetch Hetchy to Tiltill Valley

Trips, Weekends

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Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to Tiltill Valley
Out and Back – 18.6 Miles
Saturday – Hetch Hetchy to Tiltill Creek (in Tiltill Valley) – 9.3
Sunday – Back to Hetch Hetchy – 9.3
The mark is still there from the mid 90’s, the painted-over crack and words that an environmentalist artist repelled and painted in the middle of the night on the O’Shaughnessy Dam.  The words echoed John Muir, “Free the Rivers.”
It’s hard not to agree; hydroelectric power is on its way out, and wild salmon populations have been decimated by the hatchery system.  Restoration seems appropriate now, seems necessary now if we want wild salmon to have a fighting chance of survival or hope to see some of our most scenic rivers run free.
There are 75,000 dams in the US alone, a third of which are over 50 years old, and 14,000 of which are considered “high-hazard,” meaning their failure could result in the loss of human life.  This isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s an issue of infrastructure in disrepair and public safety. It just happens to have an environmental facet as well.
Stepping down from our soap box, we can think on this from the point of view of the future; of what our children and our children’s children are able to experience and share with their friends and families.  Of what they are able to gain knowledge and experience from, and what kind of people we give them the ability to become. There is a direct correlation between our decisions today and the outdoors and America’s natural lands tomorrow, it’s time for that to be recognized.

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 All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1.

A Walk through the Wildflowers: Merced River Trail

Trips, Weekends

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Merced River Trail
Railroad Flat Camp to North Fork intersection – Out + Back – 5 miles
Spring engulfed the land surrounding the Merced River. Every step we took brought us to a new spread of flowers, tall grasses, and butterflies. Literally butterflies everywhere. As the warm sun cloaked our shoulders we felt lucky to be in such a place for two entire days. With not so far to go, the river and its creeks and its bursting flowers were ours for the taking. Walking, dipping, napping, collecting, eating, drinking, and singing. That’s all we needed.

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All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1, except yellow poppy photo.

Backcountry Dinner: Burritos

Campfire Eats

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This is a bit more complicated than our usual ramen or tortellini dinner in the backcountry, but it’s relatively easy, feeds at least 6 people if needed, and is damn good!
– Burrito Recipe –
Tools:
2 Pots and 2 Cookstoves
1 Hot Fire (or a 3rd Pot/Cookstove if no fires allowed, or you’re using dehydrated beans)
Spoons/sporks
Ingredients:
6 Flour Tortillas
1 Can Refried Beans (or dehydrated beans for less weight)
2 Pouches of Instant Rice
1 Lb of Lean Ground Beef, Dehydrated
1 Packet of Taco Seasoning – mix with dehydrated beef in a ziplock at home
Block of cheese of choice
Avocado
Bell Peppers (optional)
Hot Sauce Packets (steal from your local taco bell)
Water
Do:
Boil two pots of water (one full, one 1/4 full). In the full pot toss in the instant rice packets (follow the box instructions, usually needs to boil for 10 min). In the 1/4 pot, stir in your dehydrated beef with taco seasoning, add more water if needed. Keep cooking and stirring for about 10 min until the beef is hydrated and tastes flavorful. Meanwhile have a friend heat the can of beans in the fire, or re-hydrate your dehydrated beans in the third pot.
As an extra not-necessary-but-delicious addition, we fire roasted some bell peppers. Once hot and lightly charred, slice up for serving. Slice up the avocado. Slice up the cheese into thin easily meltable shreds. Display your hot sauce packets.
Once everything’s cooked, lay out your tortilla, load it up with all the fixings of your choosing, and roll it up tightly. Burritos!
Click CONTINUE READING for more photos.

Obstructed: The Journey to Ventana Double Cone

A Little Longer, Trips
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Ventana Double Cone – Out + Back – 34 miles
Day 1 – 8.5 miles – Bottcher’s Gap to Pat Spring
Day 2 – 17 miles – Pat Spring to Double Cone Summit and back to Pat Spring
Day 3 – 8.5 miles – Pat Spring to Bottcher’s Gap
Two women eager to tackle Double Cone. Seemed fitting. But when we read the tid bits of information online about the trail to Ventana Double Cone in Big Sur, the results were confusing. Some “reviews” told of an impassable, totally obstructed trail with zero water, while others spoke of it as a delightful hike with gorgeous views; the mileage was unclear. Per usual with internet findings you have to find the truth somewhere in the middle. Or by just trying it out for yourself. We found out pretty much for sure that there was water at our camp destination at Pat Spring, and decided to take on the potential challenge. How obstructed could a trail really be?
We doubted our negative informers, and we underestimated ourselves. The trail was longer than planned, and invisible at times, but we found our way to the top of Double Cone. And back down. We had nearly enough daylight left to take some photos, write in the mountain-top log book, and begin our 8.5 mile journey back to camp, with the last hour and a half in the dark. We didn’t listen to everything we were told by the internet, or the Eeyore-like ranger, or even those we encountered along the way. We took pieces of it all, said fuck it and went for it, and ended up with a true adventure of our own.

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All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1.

Heavy Steps

Trips, Weekends

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Big Sur – Ventana Wilderness – Out and Back
20 miles Total
Saturday – 10 miles in to Sykes Hot Spring Camp
Sunday – 10 miles out to Big Sur Station
It’s difficult but well traveled and maintained as if it were a half mile loop in one of our national parks.  Although you don’t necessarily see a ton of folks on trail, they’re in there, crawling around the tubs, waiting in line, calling dibs.  To be honest, it’s off-putting.
Maybe we’re spoiled at this point having soaked all over the eastern sierra and elsewhere.  Honestly, should we be feeling that because we do this all the time, we have more right to it than someone else? No way, these tubs aren’t ours, we didn’t make them and we most certainly do not own this land. So why is there entitlement seething beneath the surface and on the tip of everyone’s tongue upon the realization that you’re not the only one who came out here this weekend?
We all worked hard for this, we all dripped sweat up the steeps and felt our knees pop on the scree filled downs, we all jack-assed heavy packs with more food than we needed; we all did the research, made the effort, rounded up our friends and got here, didn’t we?
Maybe we should all just drop our attitudes and appreciate these places that exist for everyone to enjoy.  After all, this isn’t the hip new bar your friends have been talking shit about lately.
Check your ‘tude at the trailhead.

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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

The Reward: Hot Spring Haven

Trips, Weekends

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Backcountry – John Muir Wilderness – Out and Back
26 miles total
Saturday – 13 miles Rainbow Falls trailhead to springs
Sunday – 13 miles back to trailhead
Thirteen miles in a day is a long distance for your legs to carry you. But when you’re walking towards something so enticing, you seem to fly! A collection of pristine hot spring tubs in the middle of the wilderness is the greatest reward a hiker can ask for. Your muscles melt into the steaming water and the miles are far, far away.
Giving yourself a gift at the end of a hard day of work can really do a lot for you, even if you’re not in the middle of the Eastern Sierras – treat yourself daily! A good meal and a beer, a stroll through town, a jump in the ocean; anything that gives you pleasure that you think you can’t squeeze into your busy day – squeeze it in. You’ll see it can go a long way, and help take your daily stresses away…

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Take the Leap, See it Through

Trips, Weekends
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Emigrant Wilderness – Out and Back – Kennedy Meadows to Kennedy Lake
16 miles Total
Saturday – 7 miles in and creek side camp
Sunday Morning – A soggy mile out and back to Kennedy Lake
Sunday Afternoon – 7 miles out
The Emigrant Wilderness’s namesake stems from several groups of Emigrants (folks leaving one area to reside in another) that passed through this wilderness but eventually its use as a route was abandoned as the pass was too difficult and there were safer options.  As we hike through fall fields walled in by sweeping granite mountainsides and side step small creeks meandering through the vibrant autumnal yellows, we can reflect on the people that made those difficult and dangerous treks through unknown lands and what that must have felt like.
    The idea of leaving one’s home for another strange distant land, whether in search of wealth, opportunity, or community is baffling yet was and is commonplace.  The essence of the unknown is a terrifying and at the same time enticing or exciting enterprise and so the mix of emotions that these people would have felt is mind boggling, and yet they did it; scared, unsure, nervous, and excited, they made it work and took that leap to the unknown.  Their influence still holds true as there are numbers of us daily (young, motivated, inexperienced, and scared) making the decision to take the leap and see it through.
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More photos after the jump.

Thoughts on Campfires

Trips
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Despite the drought we are currently facing here in California, miraculously, the Forest Service is still allowing campfires in some wilderness areas, the Emigrant among them.  With that said, we thought it apt to talk a little of campfires, wild fires, and your responsibility involving the two.

-Drown & Stir-

If you are going to have a fire, make sure it is fully extinguished; lots of water, lots of stirring.
We came across a runaway campfire not long ago where, whomever had enjoyed it’s warmth the night prior did not fully extinguish for whatever reason.  Not only was their campsite and fire pit not by any source of water so as to extinguish, but it was in an extremely dry area with loads of debris and dry loose organic matter mixed in with the loose soil.  This was a recipe for disaster where truly just an inkling of common sense could have told these folks not to make the decision to have a fire; they ignored said common sense.

-Do Your Part & Make Smart Decisions-

If you have a worry in your gut about having a campfire, it probably isn’t a good idea despite there not being a burn ban in the wilderness area you are in.  The Californian natural lands are a tinder box at the moment and it is our responsibility as custodians of our wild landscape to protect what we have and prevent unnecessary wildfire.
Listen to Smokey
Below are a few pictures of a helicopter picking up water out of Jewelry Lake in The Emigrant Wilderness to dump on a runaway campfire that got out of control.  Big ups to CALFIRE and their continued commitment to protecting our most valuable asset.
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Lakeside Downtime

A Little Longer, Trips

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Emigrant Wilderness – Lakes Loop

Entire Loop – 26 miles
Day 1 – Crabtree Trailhead to Y Meadow Lake – 7 miles
Day 2 – Meadow Lake to Piute Lake – 11 miles
Day 3 – Piute Lake to Crabtree Trailhead – 8 miles
Lakes Encountered: Chewing Gum Lake, Y Meadow Lake, Deer Lake, Jewelry Lake, Gem Lake, Piute Lake & Camp Lake

DownTime_Emigrant

While hiking long distances and finding beautiful views is rewarding in itself, it’s important to take time to just lay back and give yourself the gift of enjoying your destination. Boots off, pack on the ground and snacks abound, swim in the lake, read the book you carried all that way and doze off…

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