Snowshoeing to Euer Valley, Tahoe Donner

Ben, Brent and I went snowshoeing to Euer Valley yesterday. The conditions were pretty darn good considering it’s still early season in a drought year. A half a foot of snow had fallen the day before so we had plenty of heavy powder to tromp through.

MSR snowshoes

Tromping is how I think of snowshoeing. And that’s what we did for a couple of hours. Tromp, tromp, tromp, choosing our own adventure and breaking trail. Euer was recently purchased by Tahoe Donner and it was my first time in the area. Their cross country ski network is really growing and it seems excellent.

We went up a ridge, then dropped down to the creek in the valley before returning to the cabin for meatballs.

Beyond snowshoeing, it was a great two nights at a cabin in the mountains with college friends from all over, beer and games.

Another car camping trip in Big Sur

After a week of very heavy rain, about twenty of us headed down to Big Sur for a joint birthday celebration. It was a damn good time.

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We pulled into Big Sur Riverside Campground the back way – the main concrete bridge was deeply flooded by rushing water. A small landslide had just come through the campground. Our cars rallied through mud to get us to camp. It all made for an interesting and empty camp.

Basically, we celebrated and went to the beach. The river at Andrew Molera was too high for a group our size to cross reasonably at the parking lot. We took off pants and crossed at the beach instead. Walked the bluff, swam, looked at big waves and played. Watched clouds. Played more.

Another great trip to Big Sur.

Road biking around Lake Tahoe

It was Dani’s idea. We’d bike around the lake the day after a hard backpacking trip in Desolation Wilderness.

We started near home base on the west shore of the lake. I was a little nervous about that as it meant we’d be doing the largest climb just south of Emerald Bay towards the end of the day. It turned out to be not all that hard of a ride.

If you’re going to do it, Columbus Day, or any other mid-week day in the fall, is probably the time to do it. I wouldn’t exactly want to do this ride on a summer weekend when there are far more cars on the road, more boat trailers and more RVs. This Monday, traffic wasn’t much of a problem. I was only buzzed too closely once.

I was surprised and happy to experience the Tahoe bike paths. There was more miles of it than I expected. It would have been easier to stick to the road because the paths are windy, littered with pine cones, bumps and steeper grades, but it was far more pleasant to be on the trail.

For lunch, we braked in South Lake Tahoe. We braked again at Taylor Creek to watch bears eat salmon.

My legs have never been so dirty with road grime as they were after this ride. I should probably clean my bike.

Still smiling after nearly sixty miles.

Still smiling after nearly sixty miles.

Backpacking the PCT across Desolation Wilderness

I saw WILD, the movie, as part of a pre-release screening last Friday. I loved it.

Already in SF, I headed over to Dani’s house to ride with him up to Lake Tahoe. We made it before I fell asleep.

Saturday, we met Kyle and Simone at Meeks Bay, left a car and drove to Echo Lake. We’d walk the thirty some-odd miles between the two over the next day and a half.

We slept at Fontanillis Lake, up high in the rocks, after a long day of walking.

The cabins on Echo Lake really are special. Those that own them are incredibly fortunate. Lake Aloha on the other hand was at its most depressing.  Come fall, it’s always low, showing bathtub ring lines, stained rock and dirt. I’m not sure if it was especially dried up because of the drought, or if it’s sorry state was nothing unusual.

I’d only ever crossed Dicks Pass on my PCT hike. That day it was one of the scariest ice sheets of my hike. This weekend there was just a dusting of snow from a recent October storm. Still, I was surprised at how steep the north side of the pass was. I imagine that it’s always a challenge when it’s covered in snow.

Kyle holding down the map in a slight breeze with Dicks Lake and Fontanillis Lake in the foreground.

Kyle holding down the map in a slight breeze with Dicks Lake and Fontanillis Lake in the foreground.

We left the PCT just south of Middle Velma Lake. We’d thought of going all the way to Barker Pass (or crazily, to Donner Pass) but a shorter trip was still more than plenty walking. Leaving via Phipps Pass was a perfect choice. The views, especially south of Phipps Peak looking back toward where we came from, were great. It really gave me the feeling of having walked across all of Desolation even though we technically didn’t.

PCT Days 2014

I’m two naps in today. PCT Days was a really good time.

We had a great turnout, raised a lot of money and had beautiful weather. I really believe that our trail community benefits from, and needs, opportunities to gather. PCT festivals, like this one in Cascade Locks, are something that I’d like to see proliferate up and down the west coast.

The largest vendor fair that our community has hosted. PCT Days 2014.

The largest vendor fair that our community has hosted. PCT Days 2014.

It was great to see so many old friends and meet a bunch of new people.

I also snagged the chance to play tourist in the Gorge. I’ve been to the area quite a number of times now, but I’ve always been narrowly focused on the PCT. Yesterday, driving the old cascade highway, was a great peek into how truly special the place is.

Backpacking loop: Emigrant, Hoover and Yosemite Wildernesses

I have my first real blisters in years. One of them is the good type: blood spreading up between the soft space near my big toe. After eight days on trail, I’m not walking anywhere today. This is trip two of my hiking vacation.

Deciding to hike a bit of the PCT, and wanting to finally visit Huckleberry Lake, I slept in my car just off Highway 108.

My third or fourth exploded balloon of the summer. People need to stop releasing them.

My third or fourth exploded balloon of the summer. People need to stop releasing them.

Southbound from Sonora Pass is one of my favorite sections of the Crest Trail. It’s rare to be so high for so long on an alpine ridge. Add the fact that it’s volcanic, rather than granitic, and it’s a stretch of trail that has stuck strongly in my mind since 2006.

I camped that first night on the West Fork of the Walker River – a place that I figured would be lame because it’s in the forest and I’m snobbish towards the sub-alpine zone. Bedding down off the PCT, I found an old trail sign standing guard over tread that no one walks. Sitting alone, thinking, staring at my map, I thought of the long-ago routes like the one we walked the day before down Post Peak drainage. Tonight’s area had important names: Fremont Lake, Walker River, Emigrant Pass, Emigrant Wilderness. I’m a sucker for early frontier history. Joseph Walker and John Fremont are high up on my list of history’s cool guys. It turns out that the West Walker Route of the California Trail was first walked by the Clark-Skidmore Party in 1852. It wasn’t a good one.

I've added the Wilderness 50 sticker this trip. It's a crazy realization that designated Wilderness is only 50 years old. That something that is so important to me is that new makes me think.

I added the Wilderness 50 sticker this trip. It’s a crazy realization that designated Wilderness is only 50 years old. That something that is so important to me is that new makes me think.

The rest of the trip was marked by walking obscure trails – while technically speaking, not actually going cross country.

I looped down into Yosemite from Hoover Wilderness and then crossed into Emigrant via Bond Pass. I stopped to explore the Montezuma Mine – which I assume predates the 1930s declaration of Emigrant as a primitive area. Before the trip, I compared my four maps of the area and found trails that aren’t included on newer publications. I walked those. At one of the remotest lakes of my week, I was surprised to find two other guys. Pounding miles, I crossed once again into to Yosemite then missed an obscure junction. Foot sore, I ended up at Huckleberry for the night.

A bunch of these little guys joined me in the dark. I've had this experience a few times. It also reminds me of visiting the set of WILD when they were filming the scene with Reese has frogs crawling over her.

A bunch of these little frogs joined me in the dark. I’ve had this experience a few times. It also reminds me of visiting the set of WILD when they were filming the scene with Reese has frogs crawling over her.

The area is pretty damn abused by commercial pack companies. My end of Huckleberry Lake was disappointing with it’s huge, dusty, shit-filled camp and braided stock trails.

Day three was another highlight – swimming between islands, a fun chat with a trail crew (they took my book, Water for Elephants, that I had finished that morning), another scarcely there historic route and the linking of the Emigrant Lakes all the way from the granite domes to the volcanic peaks at High Emigrant Lake.

Being alone for four days was wonderful. Time to read, think, reset, look at birds.

Since I was solo this trip, most of photos are uninteresting landscapes. I did take this good timer shot though.

Since I was solo this trip, most of photos are uninteresting landscapes. I did take this good timer shot though.

This week’s hiking was made more delicious by my effort with the dehydrator the week before. I should fire that up more often.

Yesterday was a bit of a misery hobble. Sore feet, a race to the car and crazy strong winds – I tried to enjoy it. The gusts were enough to blow me around. One pushed me off balance while I was traversing a steep slope. It was the closest I’ve come to “being blown off the mountain”.