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My Sierra Hiking Blog

7/3/213 - Wednesday

When I go hiking or backpacking in the central Sierra Nevada at altitudes about 6,000 feet, I often hear a noise that I haven't been able to identify. I believe it is an animal. It's a very low frequency (pitch), repetitive sound. It's so low and soft that my wife doesn't seem to be able to hear it, but my sons can. Not easy to describe in words, but think of it as a soft and deep whooom - whooom - whooom - whooom, with each whooom evenly spaced apart by 2-3 seconds.  After asking some helpful folks in a Facebook group that I belong to, I discovered that it is the call of a male blue grouse. Here's an example (

6/8/2013 - Saturday

Alta Peak is located in Sequoia National Park, California. This summit (11,207 ft above sea level) is a high point along the southern ridge of Tokopah Valley, which is the headwaters of the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. The view from the top of this mountain is simply awesome. From the summit you can see a broad 6000-foot drop into Kaweah Canyon, a multitude of crags making up the Great Western Divided along with numerous other peaks, Mount Silliman, the Tablelands, Pear Lake, Aster Lake, and Emerald Lake. The view of the expansive grandeur of the Sierra Nevada wilderness made it hard for me to leave the summit.

This video documents my June 8th, 2013 day hike to the top of Alta Peak. By the time I was done hiking I had traveled 14.3 miles (round trip) with a total ascent of 4984 ft. It was an incredible journey with spectacular vistas. Other than the view at the summit, the part of this hike that was most special to me was passing through a stand of ancient Foxtail Pines. These trees can live for thousands of years. Their tormented shapes have been twisted by countless harsh winters. It was a humbling experience to walk among them.

5/18/213 - Saturday

Today I went on a day hike in Sequoia National Park. I explored the area south of Alta Peak. The last 6-7 months have been a bit hectic and I haven't been able to devote much time to staying in shape so I felt the effects of the altitude. But it was great to go on a solo hike in my beloved Sierras and I surprised myself by how much territory I covered. I walked 11.72 miles with an elevation gain of 2346 feet (max altitude 9470 ft). The weather was cool (which is optimal for me) with a lot of atmospheric haze. Consequently I didn't get any great photos of expansive mountain vistas (too many clouds and haze).

There were far more people on the trail than I expected. It turned into somewhat of a social experience. Of note were a young, lost French couple. They had left the Giant Forest area and were looking for Crescent Meadow. They caught up with me and were quite confused about their location. I have to say I was a bit shocked . . . Crescent Meadow IS IN the Giant Forest area (about a mile from the ranger station). These poor folks had walked a good five or more miles away from that area and were heading deep into the Sierran back country. I gave them directions on how to get back to civilization and suggested they hurry since there was only about 5 hours of daylight left.

And as I was ending my day and walking back out to the Wolverton trailhead, I ran across a group of backpackers (4 young men and a older fella about my age). They were a great bunch to visit with. After comparing backpacking stories we discovered that we had visited many of the same places. They were heading to the High Sierra Trail and started asking me questions about what lay ahead. I shared what I had discovered from my hiking earlier that day (distances to trail junctions, good camping sites, water sources). They seemed quite eager to absorb what info I had. Before parting the older guy asked me if I had a map. I said "sure" and gave him mine. It made him exceptionally happy! I was surprised that he didn't have one.

As I walked the rest of the way back to the trailhead I pondered how unprepared some people are when they venture into the wilderness. This concerns me. I would not imagine walking into the wilderness without having the proper equipment and knowing very, very well where I was heading and how I was going to get there. Please, don't be dumb and head out on a hike unprepared. It could cost you your life. <ok, I'll get off my soapbox now>


I'm considering making my own one micron ultralight backpacking water filter.  I'll base it on this design.  This web page shows some refinements
I found poly felt filter bags at this source

6/5/2012 - Tuesday

I day hiked in Redwood Canyon located in Kings Canyon National Park. It was a good hike covering a little more than 12 miles and just under 2000 feet of elevation gain. It had rained the night before and the temp that morning was a chilly 38F (it only warmed up to about 42F by mid-day). This ancient forest, the largest grove of redwoods in the world, was shrouded in mist from the low hanging clouds. It produced a neat atmosphere that deadened sound. Sometimes it was eerie, sometimes it was spectacular. I saw less than a dozen other hikers that day which was just enough to make me feel comfortable, but not crowded. I left the trailhead and ascended the ridge of Redwood Mountain (known as the Sugar Bowl Loop). I was surprised by how many redwoods could be found along the top of a mountain. Then I descended into the canyon and crossed Redwood Creek and climbed the other side of the canyon (known as the Hart Tree Loop). The trail on this side wandered more and the redwoods were more spread out. It also had more human history and I found the remains of a few cut redwoods, one of which had been turned into a log cabin -- one hollowed out log WAS the entire cabin. Perhaps the most special thing for me was being able to walk among the redwoods without lots of tourist about. There were no paved trails or fences. You could walk right up to the trees and touch them. The only signs were trail markers. I like it that way -- natural, with no human "improvements" other than a trail. I did discover something new: the fallen cones of redwood trees are small and like to collect in the depression of the trails that pass under the trees. If these stretches of trail happen to be on a slope, the round little cones act like ball-bearings and are extremely treacherous. Damn things almost made me fall on my butt several times!

Here's a link to my trip report with pictures. Redwood Canyon.

5/27/2012 - Sunday

I spent the day in and around Grant Grove at Kings Canyon National Park. When I started hiking along the Park Ridge Trail the temp was 38F. It eventually warmed up to 45F by mid afternoon. Brrrr! I saw some beautiful vistas before the clouds rolled in and obscured things, but that just gave the forest an eerie silence. There was still snow in many place but not more than an inch thick so it was easy to hike through. I checked out the trailhead to Redwood Canyon. Someday I want to do a day hike there (it has two nice 6+ mile loop trails and is the largest redwood grove in the world). Then I climbed up to the top of Buena Vista Peak. Very, very cool! The summit is surrounded by huge glacial erratics (round boulders) and it reminded me slightly of stonehenge. The peak had a 360 degree view that included Redwood Canyon, the San Joaquin Valley, Big Baldy, the Buck Rock lookout tower, Kings Canyon, Tehipite Valley, and glimpses of the high Sierra crest. I hiked around 8 miles (I haven't had a chance to download my GPS info to see what my elevation gain was). Overall it was a very good day that left me with the need to do more exploring and hiking. I'll post some photos when I get them processed.

3/21/2011 - Monday

Here's a little John Muir poetry that I recently discovered.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.
– John Muir

“Standing here in the deep, brooding silence,
All the wilderness seems motionless,
As if the work of creation were done.

But in the midst of this outer steadfastness
We know there is incessant motion and change

. . . And here, more simply than elsewhere,
Is the eternal flux of Nature manifested.”

– John Muir

12/30/2010 - Thursday

When I go hiking up in the mountains I often prefer to hike by myself because I enjoy the solitude and it lets me focus on the incredible places and things I discover. But when I come across something really wonderful I find myself wanting to share it with others. It is a weird mix of emotions that tugs at me.

When I went on my first solo backpacking trip in 2009 I camped at a place called Moose Lake which is at 10,500 feet. I had this large alpine lake entirely to myself (except for a pesky marmot). As I sat eating my dinner in utter solitude and watched the sunset illuminate the mountains of the Great Western Divide in a deep orange glow it brought tears to my eyes. It was immensely -- astoundingly -- beautiful. I took lots of pictures of this sunset and when I look at them it reminds me of that evening. But when I show them to others they usually just see nice photos of some pretty orangy-amber colored mountains. Something gets lost in the translation.

I started playing around with Microsoft movie maker a couple weeks ago and dropped a bunch of my Sierra photos into it and added some music. The results were very gratifying! By panning the photos around and adding just the right music it brought to life some of the emotions I experience on my hikes and finally gave me a vehicle that almost, just barely, lets me share what I feel when I'm up in the Sierras.

I'm really are lucky to live as close to the Sierras as I do. They are MAGNIFICENT! And it makes me happy to stir a desire in other people to explore them.

As John Muir said, "Keep close to Nature's heart ... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."

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