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Monday, September 07, 2009

short essay on backpacking - is it for anyone?


I started backpacking the local SCal mountains back in the 1970's. I hiked all over the San Gabriels and San Bernardino Mts. I was an early convert and really got deep into hiking and backpacking. Not only backpacks but hundreds of long day hikes all over the local SCal mt ranges. Then i ran a business from 1980 to 1986. After that venture went under i started getting back into serious hiking and backpacking again but now i was strictly into the high sierra nevadas, the only place to do serious backpacking and see the best mountain scenery in America, maybe the world. For once you do a sierra trip all other mountains pale in comparison. The Sierras are pure magic and mystique, a truly magnificent range with towering Sequoias,luch fragrant pines trees,deep gorges,jagged towers, gushing rivers and creeks,lush lower elevation meadows and high fragile montaine meadows, monumental granite domes and cliffs( think Yosemite), and 10,000 high country sparkling lakes. The visible wildlife is mostly Deer and bears, but if u look and listen carefully u will notice woodpeckers, bluejays,thrushes, and other birds whirling thru the tall pines. If you love blooming flowers the sierra meadows abound with them. If you love tall stately pines the Sierras has 10 varieties from the lordly sugar pine to the ever present lodgepoles with the cornflake bark.

I leave this short essay which is very brief, and will now answer the question-is backpacking for anyone? Answer is, no! It takes a special mindset-an urge to get into the mountains,a special liking for maps and topograghy,maybe high geological interest, a rugged self-reliant personality. And most of all a mystic connect with earth,rock, pines,jagged cliffs,roaring pristine streams,something like when the earth was pristine and primeval before man came and destroyed a good part of it.

Another sierra interlude atop bighorn plateau





The pics above are of tyndal creek campsite and upper kern basin day trip shot


This account followed my Hi Sierra backpack journey from high atop 13,200 ft forester pass down to the Bighorn Plateau and just short of Mt Whitney ascent. It is mostly following the JMT (John Muir Trail) as it traverses this high 11,000 ft plateau. I have already covered the descent from forester pass and the astounding view of the U-shaped, natural 2000 ft high black-colored amphitheater-bowl, which is the kern/kings divide. This was the most difficult section of the JMT to complete and the last gap in the JMT. Anyway, i am now down at the bottom of the bowl and passing thru some lakes as i head to Tyndal creek campgrpund. It is a rocky treeless moonscape i pass thru, eerily beautiful and haunting, though stark and bleak. I did a one mile slant off the main JMT trail to an overlook and saw a 360 % panorama of the entire south section of the sierra range. Very awe-inspiring and in mid-July there was still lots of snow-capped peaks.
I reached tyndal hi-country campsite which is marked as a main backcountry backpackers site. It is quite a beautiful site with plenty of boulders interspersed with small pines, and with the nearby creek. There was a good number of backpackers camping there but it was uncrowded and with plenty of privacy.
I made tyndal my basecamp for 2 days as i did a long adventurous day hike next day, following an unmarked trail westward to the upper headwaters of kern river. Very isolated inaccessible region, and very few ever venture there. Trails are mostly erased & unmarked and much of this jaunt was crosscountry. My goal was lake South America, which upon reaching it was indeed splendid ,and at 12,000 ft the highest large lake in Sierras. There is more to this account but i will post it separately.

Musings on grand canyon hiking, sightseeing, part 1

I want to provide a short insightful acct on my one grand Canyon experience. I spend two days there in late march 1995 on last leg of an eventful 30 day hiking/camping/sightseeing tour of US desert southwest, most of it spent in Utah Redrock Country. I arrived at CG and like everyone else I went to the CG village there which is quite built up with shops,lodges,eateries,almost like the mall at Yosemite.
I left there soon and got a good campsite at Mather Campgound, which is a pleasant, shaded large site. I spend a night there sleeping inside my camper shell as temps dropped to 15% overnight. I was shivering all night in that cold camper shell but survived. Next day i went on a long long all day hike down to canyon bottom. I was in tip-top shape to do the 5000 ft elevation drop and return and 20+ mile hike. At the beginning the Bright Angel Trail was crowded but as i got farther in the crowds dropped off. There was at least one pleasant shaded rest stop halfway to bottom : i rested and continued. At the lower part the trail was more open with desert-like cactus scrubland. I reached the muddy Colorado and walked the suspension bridge to other side. It was around 200 yards wide( my estimation) and the water was rushing and chocolate brown. I spent an hr at bottom before returning. Return trip not too memorial as it was a long grinding slog but i remember that as i got near the top there was a swarm of folks which had attempted the hike but did not get far. It gets really steep as u near the top and that culls out most regular CG tourists. Upcoming Part II will provide more insights on my CG experience.