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”.

Backpacking Yosemite’s Clark Range Loop: Fernandez, Red Peak and Post Peak Passes

Last winter, with mountains on my mind, I set aside two prime summer weeks for hiking vacations. On my first, Dani and I put rubber to the road on our way to the Rubies and Sawtooths. This week, I once again did two separate hikes. This post is about the first trip in Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite.

It started with Beasore Road – long, uphill, dirt, dark. My favorite departure – 4:30 p.m. on Friday, straight from the office. Late, I pulled into camp deep in the west side of the Sierra, on the edge of the upper San Joaquin. We’d pivoted from another, longer, further afield itinerary because there was too much work to be done at Dani’s office. At mine too – but boy was I ready for an escape.

An evening of successful tenkara fishing - still totally  beginners.

An evening of successful tenkara fishing – still totally beginners.

This Yosemite loop, over Fernandez Pass, Merced Pass, Red Peak Pass and Post Peak Pass, has been on my list (yes, I have lists) for years. It’s accessed from numerous trailheads – all of which are a long walk away. I chose Fernandez TH for it’s remoteness, proximity to Clover Meadow and opportunity to form a true loop (as opposed to a ‘lollipop’ or balloon with a string).

Dani and I really enjoyed ourselves.

Post Peak Pass is special due to the long time that you spend walking it's high ridge.

Post Peak Pass is special due to the long time that you spend walking it’s high ridge.

With our new tenkara rods, we caught our first fish. I, being at least a bit pathetic, fumbled with holding them and removing the flies. It was really a lot of fun.

Lower Ottaway Lake was my favorite camp – partially because of the fishing. Rutherford and Porphyry Lakes were nice as well. Porphyry especially because of it’s incredible, large, porphyritic granite. The stretch of trail north of Triple Divide Peak warrants another visit.

There is a special feeling that comes with knowing a place. Our trip provided sweeping views and I took pleasure in knowing the peaks, basins and ranges (usually by having visited them) well off in each direction. I’d walked that range, slept in that basin, crossed that pass. There is still much more to visit, but usually there are good reasons that most people don’t go.

Camp was entirely encircled by incredible porphyritic granite.

Camp was entirely encircled by incredible porphyritic granite.

On our way out, Dani and I walked a trail that we’d been told didn’t exist. It was mostly true. With absolutely no sign of the turn off, we headed cross country down the Post Peak drainage. Dani stuck closer to the pools and I hopped between rare cairns and traces of trail. I was a damn good time.

Tuesday afternoon, back at the cars, I’d still not made up my mind as to where to go hiking next. Dani was leaving and I’d be alone. Still cautious about being injured and alone, I wanted to stay on-trail. The list of fifty mile trips, in desirable places that I haven’t been, is becoming pretty short. Somewhat frustratingly so. Beyond decision time, I motored up and headed north to Emigrant for what I thought would be a merely O.K. use of my vacation.

Backpacking to Grouse Lake and Deadwood Peak, Mokelumne Wilderness

We were all pretty fried and not quite ready for my plan to drive seven hours for a high mileage trip. Scratching my chin Friday night, I leveled on the idea that we should leave at 10 a.m. and sleep on the summit of Deadwood Peak. It’s a shorter drive, an easier hike and about as high as you can get in this often low-elevation wilderness.

It rocked.

After seeing summit camp spots on Job’s and Job’s Sister a few weeks ago, the prospect of such a night is high on my list again. Deadwood wasn’t that mountain. Camping would work, but we got there too early in the day and decided it’d be more fun to make some more miles and check out Grouse Lake.

While the hike was a b-list option, it shouldn’t have been. We walked past old growth, alpine areas, both granite and volcanic rock, two lakes and extensive views. If it was only for the swimming in Grouse Lake (which still has amphibians), I’d do the hike again in a heartbeat.

On the summit of Deadwood Peak with Round Top in the background.

On the summit of Deadwood Peak with Round Top in the background.

Day hiking to the Peter Grubb Hut, Pacific Crest Trail

This is one trashed PCT emblem. They're no longer made this way. I think it's neat.

This is one trashed PCT emblem. They’re no longer made this way. I think it’s neat.

We closed down the office, and invited some of our volunteers and all of the organizations in our building for a day hike north from I-80. I’m so glad that we did.