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.
All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1, except yellow poppy photo.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Climbing up the 10,856′ Mt. Hoffman, it’s hard not to reflect on those who made it possible for us to enjoy it now. John Muir first ascended Hoffman on July 26, 1869 nearly 150 years before us; it’s incredible to think that after the century and then some that has gone by, that what we experience can still be so similar when everything else in the world is so drastically different.
In May of 1903, John Muir and then President, Theodore Roosevelt met in the Yosemite; they rode, hiked, ate, slept, appreciated, and pontificated under the magnificent blanket of the unimpeded starry Sierra night sky. It’s common to say that Muir gave Roosevelt a mission on this visit, a mission with which our President was familiar, but a mission at that; one of conservation.
On his journey back to Washington, President Roosevelt made a speech in Sacramento, he ended with this, “We are not building this country for a day. It is to last through the ages.”
Sunday – 2 miles to Lower Canyon Lake for a dip and 8 miles out
There is just something about waking up a bit earlier to catch the stillness of the early morning light creeping through peaks and trees to illuminate the vibrant green and powder white of alpine terrain. Sitting on a rock, a stump, a blanket; stretching your arms and yawning, taking in your first cup of coffee. It’s as if the world isn’t spinning, eternity has stopped, and its just you and everything else; stone in a brisk mountain breeze, waiting for the sun’s tendrils to brush your skin.
“I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.”
– John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938)
Happy 4th of July everyone, this year leave the BBQ to your neighbors and do the most patriotic thing you can – explore and treasure your protected lands. (Or just combine it all and break out the Dutch Oven BBQ ribs over the campfire).
Lost Coast 4th of July – Black Sands Beach to Mattole River
South to North – 24.4 miles
Day 1 – 8 miles – Black Sands Beach to Big Flat
Day 2 – 6 miles – Big Flat to Oat Creek
Day 3 – 7.2 miles – Oat Creek to Punta Gorda
Day 4 – 3.2 miles – Punta Gorda to Mattole River
More photos after the jump of last years 4th of July backpacking adventure along the northern half of California’s Lost Coast.
Tahoe Rim Trail – Weekend in the Tahoe Basin from Big Meadow to Showers Lake
16 miles Total
Friday Night – 3 miles in to Round Lake
Saturday – 10 miles to Showers Lake and Back to base at Round Lake
Sunday – 3 miles out and a dip in Lake Tahoe just 20 minutes down 89
About halfway to Showers Lake we came across a rustic cabin and barn; this is the original home and barn of the Meiss family, pioneers that came to the area in 1878 and in time used the property only during the summer for grazing cattle. Eventually, through a land exchange in 1965, the Meiss family property was turned over to the Forest Service.
Evelyn Meiss Richards said of the family property,
“My father…drove his herd of cattle by horseback, taking five days, through Plymouth, Silver Lake, and Caples Lake…to our range for the summer… My three sisters and I had many a lovely summer fishing and riding horseback. Once a week some of us would ride our horses to Meyers to pick up our mail. It took us most of the day for the trip. My mother, in the meantime, would either make ice cream to be frozen in the snow bank, or bread and biscuits in the wood stove.”
The cabin and barn are still there to see in the midst of a vibrant green meadow full of wildlife just before climbing to the refreshing waters of Showers Lake. It’s quite an experience while hiking through Meiss Meadow to reflect on a “simpler” life of subsistence vs. our hectic daily grind; are we better off with our iphones and desk jobs or are we just longing for a return to a life based on need. To imagine what it would be like to make life in the meadow for the summer, only leaving for supplies and waking daily to the sounds of chipmunks, birds, and the strong Sierra wind blowing through the tall grasses of your very own meadow.