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Archive for the ‘Hiking and Camping’ Category

Things To Do In Lake Tahoe: The Best Trails and Classic Day Hikes

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

This guest post comes from Lauren Gregg, a professional mountain biker living in North Lake Tahoe. When Lauren’s not working on, or dreaming about mountain bikes, she’s out exploring the trails in the greater Tahoe region. Happy trails, Lauren. We hope your knee heals quickly!

hiking-trails-north-lake-tahoe

Lake Tahoe day hikes are a great way to experience the Tahoe area. From quick picnics to half-day or full day adventures, there are many options for people seeking trails with beautiful scenery, picturesque mountain lakes and spectacular views. There are few better ways to spend a Tahoe summer day than with a hike to an alpine lake! The Tahoe region has an endless amount of awesome hiking trails, but here are highlights from some of the best Tahoe hikes that are not to be missed! Stop by Tahoe Mountain Sports to pick up a Tahoe Trail Map and any gear you may need before your adventure, making sure you are prepared with means for hydration and nutrition, and that you apply sunscreen and suit up with proper hiking shoes and apparel. Once you are all geared up, enjoy one of these classic Tahoe hikes!


Echo Lakes Hiking Trail

Echo Lakes Trail
This trail offers a beautiful hike with stunning views of alpine mountains and lakes. The trailhead begins at the Echo Lakes Resort and is one of the most popular entry points to Desolation Wilderness. Hikers can follow the trail out and back for a total distance of five miles, or can cut off about 2.5 miles by utilizing the water taxi service ($10 per person, $5 per dog) for a fun and scenic boat ride through the granite basin of Echo Lakes. Both Upper and Lower Echo Lake (which connect at a narrow channel) provide awe-inspiring views and relative solitude as well as great swimming in the summer! If hikers are feeling adventurous, they can continue further into the Desolation Wilderness to Lake Aloha and Rockbound Valley, both popular destinations.

 

Skunk-Harbor-Hiking-Trail

Skunk Harbor
Accessing Skunk Harbor requires a short hike down to a secluded bay on Lake Tahoe’s East Shore. Hikers journey 1.5 miles down from the trailhead to the beach at Skunk Harbor where they can explore the remains of the Newell House, a summer home built in 1922. The view of Lake Tahoe from the tiny harbor is the main attraction of this hike, and huge boulders and the remains of an old pier add to the scenery. Skunk Harbor is the perfect place for a summer swim or picnic, especially as a detour during a bike ride on the Flume Trail or around the perimeter of the lake.

 

Five-Lakes-Hiking-Trail

Five Lakes Trail
This easily accessible trail nestled in the foothills of the Granite Chief Wilderness brings hikers through the north side of the Alpine Meadows valleys to the gorgeous Five Lakes Basin. This hike is roughly 4-5 miles out-and-back to the five beautiful lakes between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. This hike is very popular, however the lakes provide many areas of solitude and serenity. Adventurous hikers can continue beyond Five Lakes and into the Granite Chief Wilderness, picking up the Pacific Crest Trail shortly past the lakes.

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Kid-Friendly Hikes on Tahoe’s West Shore

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Growing up on the West Shore, hiking in Lake Tahoe’s woods and spending afternoons wading in high altitude lakes were things I took for granted. In hindsight, I was one lucky kid to have the endless trails in Tahoe just out my back door and I realized it as soon as I moved away. (Which is why I moved back home to Tahoe immediately after college.) Tahoe offers a plethora of scenic trails in the woods for both the avid hiker and the young family. For this post, I thought I would outline a few of my favorite family hikes in Lake Tahoe from when I was a kid. These easy-to-moderate trails are great day hikes with excellent destinations. Some are more crowded than others. But they all offer spectacular views, and most a nice cool body of water to dip your feet — or for the kids, to splash in feet first.

Angora Lakes

Photo Credit: Ktpdancer/Flickr Creative Commons

A gradual two-mile-or-so hike takes you to the two Angora Lakes, which are located above Fallen Leaf Lake. Both lakes are beautiful, but it’s the upper lake that you should hike to. Nestled in a glacially carved basin surrounded by Echo Peak and Angora Peak, the upper Angora Lake features a sandy beach, cool waters, and rocks — even large cliffs for those more experienced — to jump off of. You probably won’t find complete solitude on this popular hike, but you will find fresh-squeezed lemonade and paddle boat rentals operated by Angora Lakes Resort, a string of rustic cabins that have hosted guests since the 1920s.

Directions to the trailhead are a bit confusing, and I can’t guarantee signs. But take Fallen Leaf Road off of Highway 89, turn left on Tahoe Mountain Road, and then right on Angora Ridge Road. Follow Angora Ridge Road until you reach the parking area where the trailhead is located.

Eagle Lake

If you just have an afternoon (preferably on a less-crowded weekday), Eagle Lake is a great place to take the family. Located on the edge of Desolation Wilderness, this lake is very popular, and rightfully so. It’s a quick hike that’s not too steep. And the setting is spectacular with views of Emerald Bay on the way up and plenty of beach next to the lake. Bring your dog and throw a stick in the water. And don’t forget your bathing suit. You’ll find the trailhead in Emerald Bay. This is also one of the biggest access points to Desolation if you’re feeling like a longer hike and bigger adventure.

Vikingsholm and the Rubicon Trail

Take a stroll down history lane on this trail. Start at the top of Emerald Bay and walk down a wide dirt road to the famous Vikingsholm Mansion, where the infamous Mrs. Knight spent her summers and entertained guests in the early 1900′s. This Victorian mansion looms over the beach of one of the most famous landmarks in Lake Tahoe. A few hundred feet off shore sits the island, where Mrs. Knight hosted afternoon tea. There are plenty of trails that weave around the mansion, and you can walk up to Eagle Falls from here. But for those with a full day and more energy, I would highly recommend the Rubicon Trail.

You’ll find the trail weaving its way north from Vikingsholm. It follows one of the most dramatic shorelines in the Basin between Emerald Bay and Bliss State Park. Hikers pass secret coves and azure waters, and meander above gigantic cliffs that jut down hundreds of feet below the surface of the water. This is a great trail to set up a shuttle and park a car at Bliss and Emerald Bay if you don’t want to hike back.

Platypus 1 Litre Bottle
Platypus 1 Litre Bottle
MSRP: $16.95
Deuter Speed Lite 20 Backpack
Deuter Speed Lite 20 Backpack
MSRP: $88.95

 

 

High Sierra Music Lovin’

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

For this Adventure of the Week, TMS Blog Editor Julie Brown writes about the High Sierra Music Festival, which took place in Quincy over the Fourth of July weekend.

Who: Julie and lots of friends

What: High Sierra Music Festival

Where: Quincy

When: July 5 to 8

Gear: Tent, sleeping bag, sunscreen, water bottle, sunglasses

For years, my friend has always told me that I should go to the High Sierra Music Festival. But being on the Fourth of July weekend, I’ve always had to work and made excuses. Not this year. I finally put my foot down and bought my four-day ticket to this little festival with a big heart. And after four whirlwind days of solid music, dancing the night away, 95-degree-cool temps, camping in stables with an endless crew of friends, and immersing myself in an eclectic community of music lovers, I’m sitting here writing this and thinking: Did High Sierra really happen? I’ll definitely be attending the High Sierra Music Festival again next year, and for years to come after that.

The town of Quincy is small and quiet. But for four days, the High Sierra Music Festival transforms this sleepy town into a pulsing city of tents that never goes to bed. When we arrived, camps were set up in a matter of minutes. Shady Grove, the most popular camping area, was filled to the brim immediately. Good thing our friends beelined to the stables, and reserved a nice area under the shade. Conveniently located next to the Vaudeville Tent where dozens of bands played all day, this was our home sweet camp for the weekend. And we filled it with friends of friends of friends from Tahoe and Davis and Reno and SLO and beyond.

I can’t give you an exact rundown of this and that. It’s all blurred together in a mesmerized medley of color and eclectic people and dancing and hot sun and good music and late nights. But I can give you a couple glimpses of favorite moments:

Like watching Tahoe’s hometown band, the Dead Winter Carpenters, kill it on the Grandstand stage in front of hundreds of patrons.

Stumbling upon a silent disco at 3 am, where to the observer people danced in silence, but to the participant, a massive dance party could be accessed via head phones.

Falling in love with new music — the folksy Elephant Revival, Rubblebucket whose lead singer is full of rad personality and jumped into the crowd to dance with the rest of us, Delicate Steve, Kids These Days, David Garza… there was so much!

Rediscovering music legends like Toots and the Maytals. And getting to know the bands I already listen to. STS9 put on one crazy light show.

Destroyed guitars and crowd surfing.

Lotus drew me right up front. And I spent the last few late night hours of the weekend with Paper Diamond and Big Gigantic, closing out the festival with some sweet beats and jams.

High Sierra sold out this year. And I am very happy that I got to be part of the celebration. It was my first time at High Sierra Music Festival, but definitely not the last.

 

Snow Peak Spork
Snow Peak Spork
MSRP: $9.95
Eagle Nest Single Hammock
Eagle Nest Single Hammock
MSRP: $54.95

 

11 Tips to find the Best Campsites on your next Wilderness Adventure

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Max Neale, Review Editor for Outdoor Gear Lab, shares some tips on how to choose the best campsites and where to set up your tent for the next time you hike into the backcountry. Max regularly contributes reviews and tales from the road on our blog.

A good campsite can make or break your wilderness experience. When traveling long distances or through remote areas, I break the campsite selection process into two steps.

At the macro level, I look at maps an hour or two before bedtime and identify — based on my average speed and the desired time I want to bed down for the night — a general area to sleep. At the macro level, I look for an area that is:

  • Off trail, so you don’t interfere with other people’s wilderness experience
  • Flat, where you’re most likely to find a level place to lay down
  • Near resources such as water and firewood
  • If the bugs are bad, in a breezy area away from breeding grounds such as swamps and slow moving water
  • Not in the bottom of a valley where the air will be colder and dew and frost will be greater
  • Not near animal paths or ideal habitat, which might lead to an unwelcome nighttime guest
  • Finally, away from natural hazards such as flash floods, potential rock fall, and avalanche

Once I’ve identified a site at the macro level I zoom in and focus on micro level details. Specifically, I look for a campsite that’s:

  • Dry, because wet ground is more thermally conductive and can promote condensation in your shelter
  • On a surface that’s not prone to being flooded by rising groundwater during rain
  • Covered in soft materials like leaves, pine needles, sand, or moss, which will be more comfortable and warmer than compact ground (Note that it’s also important to camp and travel on durable surfaces. Weigh your comfort with your potential environmental impact. Camp in established sites while in a high use areas.)
  • Next to or under something that will act as a windbreak and reflect heat back to your shelter. Trees, bushes, and rocks can work well.

Finally, once I identify a potential campsite, I lie down and mark the location of my head and feet with a rock.

Happy camping! And may you find some of the best campsites out there.

Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2
Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2
MSRP: $194.95
Sierra Designs Lightning HT 3
Sierra Designs Lightning HT 3
MSRP: $349.95

 

Zion Hiking and Camping: Our Utah Roadtrip, Part 1

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

WHO: Lis and Chris

WHAT: Zion hiking and camping, part one of our Utah roadtrip, from Tahoe to Zion National Park to Escalante and back

WHEN: April 14–22, 2012

WHERE: Zion National Park, Utah

GEAR: MSR cookset, Lole Twist tanktop, leatherman

Wow. Utah is amazing! Zion National Park was the first stop on our roadtrip last month and the weather was prime for hiking and camping. Cool nights, not too hot days, I highly suggest a spring visit to this park. It took us about 11 hours to get to the park from our home on Tahoe’s West Shore, but we stopped for plenty of photos.

We arrived to the park at sunset and chose the Watchman Campground to set up our tent. It’s more set back from the main road than the South Campground, with newer amenities. Our site was on the outer rung of the campground, providing great views of the towering Watchman right from our tent. We couldn’t secure the site for two nights though, so night 2 we set up camp at the walk-in site the next night. You have to walk in your gear, but bear boxes keep your food safe for the night, and some communal campfire spots make the walk-in sites great for groups. An extra bonus was a short, steep trail up the knoll behind our tent to a historic Indian storage site with great valley views.

Day One we got right into hiking, choosing to tackle the famous Angels Landing first. A rocky cliff that juts up from the valley floor right smack in the middle of the park, it’s a one-of-a-kind hike that provides views of the canyon from every angle. You start at the Virgin River, near towering Fremont cottonwoods, on a very pedestrian friendly trail (mostly paved) trail. There are tons of switchbacks but the hike is very easy due to the mostly paved terrain.

At the top of the most-traveled trail is a fork: Left leads on the West Rim Trail, along a trail affording views of Moonlight Buttress (one of Chris’s climbing goals so we made an excursion out here after Angels). Right leads the rest of the way (1.5 miles) along a spiky ridge to the top of Angels Landing. This part is not for the height-sensitive. Or is it? I am pretty afraid of heights but was so happy that I did this hike, or scramble. Lots of chains are installed to help you up the tricky sections. The slickrock topped with sand is a bit fear-inducing if you’re not used to it but you’ve just got to trust your feet. It’s amazing the amount of people that do this hike despite its difficulty. As we were going up, an older couple from Florida was behind us and made it to the top. I kept watching all the flatlanders around me and told myself that if they could do it, I had no excuse to be afraid.

After descending we treating ourselves to lounging by the Virgin River in the sun, shoes off and bare feet in the frigid water.

Day Two we set off for a full lengthwise hiking tour of Zion. We took the park shuttle to the end of the canyon and hiked the 1 mile approach to The Narrows. The water was too high for The Narrows to be open but when it is you can continue up canyon to ultra-narrow walls as you walk up into the Virgin River.

Though not advertised, there is a small riverside trail that runs most of the way down the park. It’s a beautiful way to see the park outside of the shuttle; we were even treated to a deer herd running by us and crossing the river. Big Bend was one of our favorite stops as it’s just north of our previous day’s hike and has great vistas as the river takes a huge turn around Angels Landing. From there, we continued down the small river trail to Weeping Rock, where we hiked up to the Weeping Rock and to Hidden Canyon, for more chain-assisted hiking to a dark hidden canyon. As you can see in the below photos, the trail wraps along a cliffside for some pretty cool hiking terrain.

From Weeping Rock to the next shuttle stop down canyon (The Grotto, where you get off to hike Angels Landing), there is not a good riverside trail, so you’ll need to take the shuttle. We tried to do that hike but had to hike on the road for half of it, so take my advice and shuttle it!

At The Grotto, we crossed the river to the Kayenta Trail that follows the riverbank up to Emerald Pools. This trail was awesome, with great river views, mellow hiking and a cool section that goes through a split rock. This trail is definitely one of the best Zion hikes that the whole family can do.

After two full days of hiking (and a big backpacking trip ahead of us), we treated ourselves to afternoon ice cream and then dinner at the Whiptail Grill in Springdale, the town just outside the park. The chicken enchiladas with chile verde sauce are a must-order!

Day Three we headed on our next adventure, toward Escalante, which afforded us a great opportunity to see the rest of Zion National Park with a drive on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. While you can’t drive up the main canyon, you can drive on this part, and the road takes you through a long tunnel and then out onto a dramatically different landscape that looks a lot more desert. Then it was off to Escalante for slot canyons and backpacking… which I’ll tell you all about in Part Two of this adventure.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk, hike, bike, or Zion National Park hike in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Lole Twist Tank Top
Lole Twist Tank Top
MSRP: $49.95
MSR Stainless Steel Camp Mug
MSR Stainless Steel Camp Mug
MSRP: $14.95
Leatherman Juice Pocket Knife
Leatherman Juice Pocket Knife
MSRP: $84.95

 

Hiking the Lost Coast Trail: Two romantic days on the beach

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

This Adventure of the Week comes from Max Neale, Review Editor for Outdoor Gear Lab, which was recently named Best Gear Website by Outside Magazine. Max regularly contributes reviews and tales from the road on our blog. He took us climbing in Turkey in February, and now we head down California’s Lost Coast…

WHO: Max Neale

WHAT: backpacking on the Lost Coast Trail

WHEN: March 6-8 2012

WHERE: Northern California coast

GEAR: MSR tent, waterproof jacket, plus gear to impress her like the Platypreserve to hold your finest wine and the luxury Nemo Fillo pillow

If backpacking trips were like dinner dates, the Lost Coast Trail would be a seaside French bistro. It doesn’t get much better than this: the logistics are simple, the terrain is mild, and the views are spectacular. Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend outing, or a peaceful solo hike, the Lost Coast Trail could be one of the best coastal walks in the world.

Looking south from the Punta Gorda Lighthouse

The Lost Coast is a mostly undeveloped section of the California coast. It lies far up north, just south of Eureka. The terrain is mountainous and wet; this is the land of Redwoods and pristine aqua-blue rivers. Lost Coast can be done anytime, but summer has best weather and winter has the lowest tides (so you may be able to pass through some sections that would otherwise be impassible at high tide). The trail that bears the area’s name stretches roughly eighty miles from where Route 1 cuts inland, south of Garberville, to Fortuna where it rejoins 101. Though this whole stretch is walkable, most people do a 26-mile section (from the Mattole River to Shelter Cove) along the water. This is a rare slice of beachside wilderness. Sea otters and sea lions chatter as you walk along deserted beaches scattered with polished rocks and driftwood. Camp wherever you like: anywhere is a five star site.

Lost Coast Logistics

Park at the Mattole River Trailhead, where you self-register for free permits. “Mandatory” bear canisters are available at the Petrolia General Store (707-629-3455) for $5 plus deposit. Hike south for two nights, being mindful of several sections that can’t be passed at hightide, and hitchhike back from Shelter Cove or leave a car there. This Lost Coast map shows start and end points, particularly good campsites, and tide-related information.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk, hike, ski, Lost Coast Trail backpack in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Platypus Platypreserve
Platypus Platypreserve
MSRP: $12.95

Nemo Fillo Luxury Pillow
Nemo Fillo Luxury Pillow
MSRP: $49.95

Tahoe Bikini Chicks interviewed: Yosemite ice skating at its finest

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Tahoe isn’t that big of a town, so when we saw some of our resident action heroes plastered on a SuperTopo forum for ice skating on Tenaya Lake in January, IN BIKINIS, we called them right on up for an interview. Check out the original SuperTopo bikini ice skating post to see all the banter.

Who are the Tahoe Bikini Chicks?

We are local Tahoe ladies who take advantage of whatever the day may bring. If it’s snowing, you’ll find us skiing the deep at Squaw or skinning into the Sierra backcountry. If it’s a cool, crisp, fall day, you’ll find us climbing at Donner Summit or Lover’s leap. If the air is warm and the sun is shining, look for us on an East Shore beach, riding our road bikes up Barker Pass, mountain biking above Tahoe City, or backpacking into Desolation Wilderness. We are ladies who love to smile and love an adventure. And we always have our bikinis on hand for a hot spring, an alpine lake, or recently, ice skating.

What were you ladies doing in the valley that day?

It was the first week of January. We had been skiing Red Dog, Squaw Creek, and Roundhouse for six weeks. Don’t get me wrong — we were stoked to ski on what man could make. But like most Tahoe-ites, after lapping the same three groomers for days, and no forecasted blizzard in sight, we were getting bored and needed to change it up.

If you have lemons, you might as well make lemonade, right? It is so rare for Tioga Pass to open in January, so we decided on a road trip to Yosemite. We left after work and spent our first night camping next to Buckeye Hot Springs in Bridgeport. After spending the morning in the hot springs, we packed the car and drove up Tioga Pass.

It was a beautiful, clear, 50-degree day. Driving up, we eyed the backcountry lines that we wished we could ski. But instead of skis, we packed bikinis on this trip.

When we drove up to Tenaya Lake, we pulled over like everyone else. Kids, dogs, hockey players, lovers, families, friends, athletes, first-timers — everyone was skating on the lake. The four of us had one pair of skates to share — we scoured the thrift stores before the trip, but the word is out on backcountry ice skating and the inventory is scarce — so we took turns gliding out to the middle of the frozen lake.

It was Elan’s idea to put our bikinis on. She laced up her skates, and immediately wanted to put her bikini on.

Why?

Why not? Next thing we know, all of us are ice skating in our bikinis.

It was a defiant strike against winter. If Father Snow won’t give us the cold stuff, then we will wear our bikinis in January. On the ice!

I hear bikini ice-skating was just part of the fun that included extreme sunbathing. Tell us what else you did on your trip.

Bikinis became the theme of the rest of our trip. We drove into the valley after ice skating on Tenaya, and set up camp in Camp 4. We were all used to Yosemite being the zoo it is in the warmer months, so it was bizarre to be in the valley without the crowds. There were a few other campers in Camp 4, but not nearly as packed in as it is in “rock-tober.”

Tahoe being Tahoe, we still ran into friends in the campground. He’s the one who brought up the bikinis — “Did you see the bikini ice skaters on supertopo.com?”

Wait a second! Our ten seconds of fame — there it was in all its glory. One of our many fans had uploaded a photo he took of us ice skating in our bikinis to the biggest climber’s forum in the U.S. We had to keep the bikinis going.

The next day we decided to hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, which was a small trickle free-falling 2,400 feet. When you reach the top, there’s this exposed outlook that sits right over the mouth of the waterfall.

Being the Tahoe girls that we are, we dropped our packs, put our bikinis on, and climbed out to the edge of the cliff for, as we call it, extreme sunbathing.

The next day, Elan, our fearless bikini leader, decided to take it another step further and climbed a 5’9 finger crack on Swan Slabs next to Camp 4 in her bikini. She won the award for most action in her swimsuit.

What other sports have you done in a bikini?

Skiing! It is crazy, but we had more snow on the Fourth of July than we did on January 4. To celebrate the holiday, and my birthday on July 2, I skied in my red bikini down the Palisades.

And of course, we all live in our bikinis in the summertime — river rafting, hiking, biking, you name it.

What was the best pick-up line you heard that week?

We didn’t really hear any pick-up lines — mostly just received high fives. But the photo that was uploaded to SuperTopo got a lot of comments. My favorite was “The Real Housewives of Bishop on the ice?” Classic.

[editor's note: Our favorite SuperTopo comment? Tahoe Bikini Chick's response to F10.]

What’s up next for your bikini?

We joked about putting together a calendar. But we are serious, too. The next shot we want to take — in strike of our non-winter — is a photo of a lost bikinied, backcountry skier who is marooned on a desolate, snowless, sunny East Shore beach, wandering aimlessly towards the lake. Any photographers out there who want to support Tahoe Bikini Chicks?

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, bike, surf, Tenaya Lake bikini ice skate) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Lole Bahamas Triangle Top
Lole Bahamas Triangle Top
MSRP: $23.97
Oakley X-Back Bikini Top
Oakley X-Back Bikini Top
MSRP: $43.95
Carve Maui Halter
Carve Maui Halter
MSRP: $43.95

Twenty-One Days on the John Muir Trail

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

This inspiring Adventure of the Week comes from TMS hard goods manager Kevin O’Hara. He moonlights as a pro photographer, hence the epic shots of his John Muir thru-hike.

hiking in the rain at Tuolumne Meadows

WHO: Kevin O’Hara and Eric Yates

WHAT: Thru-hiking the 218-mile John Muir Trail

WHERE: The High Sierra, from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney

WHEN: Sept 12 to Oct 2, 2011

GEAR: Nemo Fillo Pillow, MSR Quick 2 System Cookset, Deuter Aircontact Pro 70+15 backpack, Therm-A-Rest Prolite Plus Mattress, Snow Peak titanium spork (in purple),  Black Diamond Storm Headlamp, Mammut Gobi Light Hat, Black Diamond Distance Z Poles, Smartwool Microweight Crew, Mountain Hardwear Canyon Shirt, MSR Whisperlite Stove

JOHN MUIR TRAIL MAP: 3 needed, National Geographic Yosemite, National Geographic Mammoth Lakes Mono Divide and National Geographic Sequoia Kings Canyon

Twenty-one days. It was supposed to be twenty-two days, but the weather sometimes has a different itinerary. In this case the early exit to our thru-hike actually increased the enjoyment of our last day, and we met a few new friends the night before. Hiking the John Muir Trail is a pretty big undertaking with a lot of lessons, especially if you’ve never before completed a lengthy thru-hike. Lessons like how much food your body requires, and how your eating habits have changed since your last long hike. With supplies running short because of our misjudgement on how to ration, exiting a day early was a welcome change (the anticipation of greasy burgers and beer was becoming unbearable).

Ram Lake area, just above Purple Lake

I’ve heard many times before that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit. More than the views, or the mountain air, or even the solitude, I was looking forward to changing my habits. This trip became a form of self-improvement for me in more than one way, and after having done it, I couldn’t really think of a better way to work on one’s self. I began journaling every single day. First, to make a record of the day’s travel and sights, and then it became reflection and a way to process my thoughts about life back home. I also spent every night reading a couple of chapters from Caught Inside by Daniel Duane. A fantastic book that really struck a chord with me and affirmed the elements in my life that are important to me. Finally, I’ve become an incessant foodie. I cook constantly and spend more time on making sure I’m well nourished. This is not only food for eating, but food for my soul. Yes, it’s cliché, so what? All of this really boils down to making more time for me, and I’ve never felt better.

“What about the trip?” you ask? “What did you see? Where did you go? What was your favorite part?” The weather was fantastic. Even the few t-storms that chased us over passes were as humbling and beautiful as they were scary. The microclimates are strikingly different from one range to the next. The rivers and creeks flow with an openness and perfection of lines that makes you think of every perfect mountain stream you’ve ever seen in a film. Evolution basin is as spectacular as described. I could hardly pick my jaw up off the ground. I half-expected a film crew to be working just across the meadow because it is so outrageously picturesque. I had a very difficult time coming to grips with how the trip was panning out versus how I envisioned it. I did not have the time to spend with my Canon SLR and two lenses as I would have liked. Even with a three-week itinerary (most do it in around two) you are required to hike every day, and every day you are tired. The down time, the swimming and the lounging were infrequent events. I found myself wanting to stay in every place I saw. I had to instead make a commitment to return to these places, and devote my energy to attaining the goal at hand. When you are thru-hiking you are doing just that: a thru hike. The journey is the goal, less than each destination along the way.

The gear we brought worked out great for this trip. Our MSR Whisperlite never quit. The Whisperlite has a field-maintainability that is unparalleled by other stoves. We had some pump issues, but thankfully we brought a spare MSR fuel pump, as well as an MSR stove maintenance kit. The MSR Quick 2 System was also a great addition to our kitchen. Bowls and insulated cups are included, and the pots served quite well on fish taco night (yes, we had fresh-caught trout tacos with fresh tortillas). Plus the whole kit nests together while still allowing you to stash a sponge, soap and camp towel inside. My Nemo Fillo Pillow turned out to be my favorite piece of gear, along with my Therm-A-Rest Prolite Plus Mattress. I could tuck the pillow under my arm when reading, and the two worked in tandem to provide the perfect napping/sunbathing spot next to Rae Lakes (the one time I got to nap on the entire trip).

I learned a lot about myself and my own personal needs on this trip. I cannot wait to go back again. Hiking the JMT has been life changing. Not in all the ways I expected, but I am definitely a better person for having done it, and I most definitely have a clearer mind than ever before. I highly recommend some extended time away to anyone looking for a change and a new perspective on their own life. Take twenty-one days (or more) to create some good habits. Make it something difficult that you will not only take great pride in when you’re done, but also something that will challenge you to the point of requiring introspection personal evaluation and change.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, surf, climb or John Muir Trail thru-hike) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

An Unrequited Love Letter – A High Sierra Misadventure

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

We are excited to hear from Tahoe resident and climber Chris Doyle today on our blog. He wrote up his story in response to all the stoke coming from The Love Letter project by Fitz and Becca Cahall, sponsored by Osprey and Outdoor Research. Fitz and Becca are former Tahoe residents who now live in Seattle, where Fitz runs his ever-growing empire of adventure-telling via Dirtbag Diaries and numerous other projects. When they set out on their 300-mile journey to find new and classic climbing routes across the spine of the Sierra, they called up Chris to meet up with them along the way. Here’s his story. Be sure to watch the film (embedded below), and write your own love letter on The Love Letter’s Facebook page.

If we’re talking in terms of love, I had bought the ring. The Sierra is known for perfect summertime weather. It’s got the best climate in the country for being able to make your plans a month before. You usually don’t have to worry much about things not working out because they usually do. There wasn’t a question in my mind when I left to meet Fitz and Becca that we weren’t going to do the route. It’s not too big or too hard; we were destined for a fun, good time. The Edge of Time on the Citadel was definitely going to say “yes.” Or so I thought.

I hadn’t hung out with my old climbing buddy Fitz in a long time. You know, he moved to Seattle, started spending lots of time with his phone, became a legit Dirtbag… So when I got the call that they were heading my way on their big trip and I should join them, I didn’t hesitate. We analyzed their timeline, picked a couple dates and places where they hoped to be, thought about spots I hadn’t been — somewhere that’d be a new adventure for both of us.

I like to go to routes that are off the beaten path, ones away from the road that a lot of people don’t climb. I’d always heard the Edge of Time on the Citadel was a really good route, the timing was right, and Fitz was fired up to make it happen. So it was settled, I would drive the 4.5 hours from Tahoe, hike the 16 miles in, and see my trail-worn friends. We’d meet far out in Kings Canyon, their tired arms reaching out to greet me, me fully stocked to stoke them out. I’d packed a nice, boxed wine, some fine cheese they requested, and the fixings for the finest dinner these backpackers would see in all their 300 miles.

I set off the day before our scheduled rendezvous. The plan was to get my wilderness permit that afternoon, then drive up to camp at South Lake where it’s nice and cool. I’d go to sleep, get up early, and hike in. Which is what I did. I just happened to get food poisoning somewhere along the way. My mellow evening turned into four hours of puking on the side of the road at South Lake. The next morning I was pretty worked from the up chuck, and not having eaten any dinner. But it was nice out, and I was destined to see my friends. Puke and rally.

I got brutalized right off the bat. The six or seven uphill miles at the beginning of Bishop Pass (11,972 feet) didn’t help my condition. My stomach was shredded. Some 15 miles later, I made it to within a mile our meeting spot. I had only seen a few other souls out that day, but then two park rangers appeared. As soon as I got within speaking distance, one said, “Hey are you Chris Doyle?” (Strange.) “Yep.” “Well your friends got sick and hiked out yesterday evening. So they’re not here to meet you.”

OH the AGONY! 15 miles in. So close. And now this? Apparently Fitz’s phone didn’t have reception until it was too late to warn me. So there I stood. With no partners to tackle the route, no one in sight but the rangers, I turned around and set up camp by a set of nice lakes in Dusy Basin. Alone. But I made the most of it. And I don’t regret a step. I took a great hike, had a beautiful camp all to myself… any time, no matter how heart-breaking, is well spent in the High Sierra. Sadly though, thanks to my food-poisoned stomach, I couldn’t fully enjoy the gourmet meal I packed, but it probably wouldn’t have tasted that good anyway. Like the wise Charlie Brown once said, “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.”

The view from my camp in Dusy Basin

A month or so later, Fitz, Becca, and I were going to give it another go, this time at the Pharaoh, north of Yosemite. They called me from Twolomne Meadows. The weather had shut us down; they had to hike through a burly snowstorm. Sometimes you have to let love go. Sometimes adventures don’t love you back. Sometimes you get the Sierra bitch-slap.

Hey Man, Are You Going to Burning Lamb?

Monday, September 27th, 2010

This Adventure of the Week comes from yours truly, Lis the trusty web editor of Tahoe Mountain Sports. While Lake Tahoe was reveling in a hot Indian Summer weekend, I headed south to Bridgeport for a little fun.

WHAT: Burning Lamb & some hiking out of Twin Lakes

WHEN: September 25 & 26

WHERE: Bridgeport, California

GEAR: Patagonia Down Sweater with a ratty old jacket on top to avoid bonfire sparks, a swimsuit for the hot springs, Granite Gear dog travel food bowl for the pup to get her grub on too, camping gear for a night in the wild, Deuter AC Lite 20 pack for Sunday’s day hike

For most of the Northern California and Nevada population, Burning Man is the hottest topic of late summer and early fall. But for a small portion of folks of the Lake Tahoe region, we get just as excited about Burning Lamb, a private shindig on a sprawling piece of land in Bridgeport.

Owned by a man with some serious Tahoe lineage, and whose pursuits in backcountry skiing, climbing, sailing and flying airplanes amaze us all, the spread contains just one simple yurt and a few natural hot springs. It’s used as a year-round jumping off point for High Sierra adventures. And it’s been used for 8 years as the home of Burning Lamb, a gathering of like-minded folks for an asada, bonfire, general merriment and catching the last bit of summer climbing, hiking and mountain biking before the snow falls.

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