Category: Car camping

Walking and building the new Pacific Crest Trail near the Sierra Buttes

Partly for fun, but of course for work too, we closed up the office and went up to the trail. The goal was check out one of our major projects: the re-alignment of the Pacific Crest Trail north of the Sierra Buttes.

On Thursday, we day hiked and a few of us jumped in a lake. In the afternoon, we joined the ACE corps crew at their base camp. They cooked up dinner of pork, potatoes and carrots. We played ring toss, set up tents, chatted, and enjoyed the evening.

Yesterday, we picked up tools and joined the crew for a day of trail building. It’s a many-year project. I worked on clearing brush along the flag line. It’s the step before cutting new trail tread (which another team was doing).

It’s really neat to build new Pacific Crest Trail. It’s done with so much intention, planning and very high standards. Laying out the trail and constructing it in a way that will make it long-lasting with little maintenance is the basic goal. When it’s open in a few years, the PCT will be further away from roads, pass by more water, mountain views and a nice campground.

Building a new section of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sierra Buttes area.

Building a new section of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sierra Buttes area.

PCT Days 2015 in Cascade Locks, Oregon

It should come as no surprise that PCT Days would be something that I’d like. It’s a PCT festival after all. This is my third or fourth PCT Days but the first one where I didn’t camp. I’ve been traveling a whole lot, and have been generally a bit stressed out with so much going on. When I saw that heavy rain was forecast, the first time in at least six months, I decided to book a last minute hotel room. It also helped keep the electronics that I needed for work charged and me showered and a bit more presentable.

PCT Days 2015

Again, since this was a work event, I’ll write about it at my work’s website later. Probably this week.

On the personal front:

  • I won a pair of Danner boots in the raffle. I’d been lusting after a pair of their shoes for a year or two, but they were far out of my price range. Winning a pair was a real coup. I ended up squeezing in a stop at their store before my flight home and now I’m the owner of a fancy new pair of shoes.
  • Bridge Walk, when we close the Bridge of the Gods to cars and invite the community to enjoy it, was also a huge success. We’re building support to build a non-motorized path on the bridge. It felt like we nearly filled the bridge to capacity with a wide cross section of people.
  • It’s oh-so-great to talk to people that are passionate about the PCT. I work for the PCT day-in, day-out and it’s incredibly necessary to spend some time with people that are inspired by the trail. I spent time with friends and met a whole bunch of new people too. This trail brings together some really wonderful people. It was busy and fun.
  • The rain was really enjoyable. It came mostly at night, and in short, heavy waves.
  • We hosted Dan Ogden and Jean Mathews at our booth. They were key people behind the National Trails System, Wilderness Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Land and Water Conservation Fund and so many other things of incredible importance. Dan’s love of the PCT, at 93, and his genuine interest in how “his” project is going, was very moving. I’m glad that I got to spend time with them.
  • I got a tour of Thunder Island Brewing and got to spend some time there with good friends. I was especially excited to hang out with Thyra, the volunteer that manages our Instagram.

All in all, PCT Days was a fantastic success in my mind. Turnout was much higher than in years past. More vendors showed up (and gave away incredible amounts of quality gear to everyone). And, the vibe is one of a small community of friendly, passionate people.

Bridge Walk on the Bridge of the Gods

Beach camping in Westport, Calif.

A trip that’s anticipated year-round, this weekend we went beach camping in Westport. It’s an annual tradition for Lindsey and her friends. Our crew totalled 19 people and most of us took Friday off work. It was stellar.

We did beach stuff. Tacos and nachos. Hot dogs, corn, and potatoes on the fire. Banana boats and smores. Bacon and eggs. Whiskey and beer.

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Our tents were right on the beach. Guys in Side by Sides pulled our gear from cars to our spot in the sand.

I brought my bike and took off for a quick climb up Branscombe road and some nearby dirt. I played in the surf and caught a few waves on a boogie board.

Reading. Napping. Games. Time at the fire.

Car camping and day hiking in Napa Valley and around Calistoga

For Valentine’s day, Lindsey and I went to Napa. We left on Friday after work and stayed through Monday. It was a blissfully extended weekend.

I pulled a new-to-me camping stunt by leaving my sleeping bag at home. Two towels, a yoga mat and a down jacket were finicky but warm enough. A quick trip past fancy wineries on Saturday brought me to a department store for a new blanket.

Unsurprisingly, it was a hiking trip. Wine tasting? Sit inside?

The town of Calistoga from the Old Mill Hill trail.

The town of Calistoga from the Oat Hill Mine trail.

We ended each hike at dusk. The perfect time.

Saturday: an afternoon/evening loop around Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

Sunday: the camp host (who saw stickers on my car, introduced himself as a PCT trail angel aspirant) shuttled us for a point to point hike. That coup saw us hike the ~11 miles from Highway 29 in Robert Louis Stevenson SP, out the Table Mountain Trail, across the Palisades Trail and then down the Oat Hill Mine trail. The Palisades portion is lightly traveled, narrow and really fantastic. Our time of year was just right. Green, wildflowers, and the Poison Oak was leafed out enough to see, but not huge enough to encroach.

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Oat Hill Mill.

Monday: hiked the summit of Mt. Saint Helena. Second to last party to summit. Shared it with a dust devil (how cool!). Drove home via Middletown and Butts Canyon Road (how neat!).

Beyond that, it was a great date weekend. Lots of good food, good times, time around the campfire and games.

The summit of Mt. Saint Helena.

The summit of Mt. Saint Helena.

Car camping the Mono Lake region

Lindsey and I headed to the rain shadow for MLK weekend. It’s mid-winter, but it’s a drought and temperatures are mild. We had a great weekend.

With ice and snow at elevation, and curiosity trumping fitness goals, we did more exploring than exercising. The list of places we visited is long:

  • Travertine hot spring: where we soaked and camped the first night
  • Lundy Canyon: where we drove over snow and then walked up canyon just a bit
  • South Tufa: where we lunched and said hi to the lake
  • June Lake area: where we walked up from Silver Lake, hit ice again and played a riddle
  • Mammoth: where we went to the store
  • the green church: where we went to Hilltop hot spring
  • Mono Lake: where we returned to disperse camp
  • Pickle Meadow: near the Mountain Warfare Training Center, where we walked, crossed the river and climbed a basalt monolith

It was a really rejuvenating and grounding weekend marked by good company, asking lots of questions and comfortable nights camping.

I hardly took pictures but I did take this one. Mono Lake, Calif.

I hardly took pictures but I did take this one. Mono Lake, Calif.

Trip planning for 2015

A week backpacking the Ruby (Nevada) and Sawtooth (Idaho) Mountains

Dani and I took an eight day trip. It was pretty darn perfect.

Lunch in the Rubies. Lake two of four.

Lunch in the Rubies. Lake two of four.

We’d been planning a cross-country trip around the Sierra’s Blackcap Basin. It was snow free and I’d always wanted to go. A day before our trip, we shifted gears and decided to head east to new mountain ranges.

Tea time. Dani playing with his new camera.

Tea time. Dani playing with his new camera.

The Ruby Mountains of Nevada met my excited expectations. We walked through big peaks and past many lakes. We car camped and backcountry camped. We visited the crest and saw the desert on both sides of the range. We crossed a snowy pass and left the day hikers behind. It was casual, relaxing, and beautiful. I scored a 15 mile downhill through the beautiful Lamoille Canyon on my new road bike. We drove the “backside” of the range. We’ll go back for the rest of the crest trail.

Early season trips often mean wet shoes.

Early season trips often mean wet shoes.

The second leg of the drive brought us in to Idaho. We landed in a friend of a friend’s backyard in Ketchum. BBQ, bluegrass band practice, welcoming locals, a campfire, a shower and a bed – it was an excellent stop between trips and drives.

With our new beta, we backpacked two nights past Alice, Toxaway, Imogene and Hell Roaring Lakes. We crossed three snowy passes. We had absolutely stellar campsites. On our first backpack in the area, we did Sawtooth Wilderness right. Snow travel makes for wonderful solitude.

On the summit of Sand Mountain, looking out towards where we came from. Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho.

On the summit of Sand Mountain, looking out towards where we came from. Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho.

The area is crowded with hot springs. After tacos at Redfish Lake, we found a soak on the Salmon River before a night around a fire at our next trailhead. The region is absolutely decimated by beetle kill. There was plenty of wood.

On the 4th of July we had three things on our agenda: hike ~10 miles to Sawtooth Lake, soak in a secret off-trail hot spring, and drive 10 hours to Lake Tahoe. Dani set a runner’s walking pace to the alpine zone. The lake was frozen and beautiful. The spring, apparently the best around, was a quick stop before hitting the road.

Sawtooth Lake. Five miles up in an hour and a half. We were there when the backpackers we just starting their days.

Sawtooth Lake. Five miles up in an hour and a half. We were there when the backpackers we just starting their days.

Highway 95 across Oregon between Boise and Winnemucca was one of the straightest that I can remember. It felt like we’d go 20 miles between turns. Driving, I was reminded of these places to visit: the Jarbidge, Toiyabe and Santa Rosa mountains and the Owyhee River canyon.

Sometimes road trips and backpacking trips can be tiring. Re-entering California with a stop at Dani’s home on Lake Tahoe, filled with family, friends and food helped make the week a true vacation. We SUPed, swam, played bocce, and took the boat out. Capped it off with a nice dinner out with just us “kids”.

Dani, dude. It was a fantastic trip. Looking forward to doing it again soon.