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Random Bits from the Outside World => Non-BIBE Trip Reports => Topic started by: jeffblaylock on February 21, 2008, 11:36:39 AM

Title: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on February 21, 2008, 11:36:39 AM
I am finally getting out to Yosemite in July, and I am planning a 10-day backpacking route. I know we're all focused on Big Bend (and, apparently, guns and immigration), but I'm sure some of you have been out to the Range of Light. What would you do differently? What would you skip, and where would you linger (shorter mileage day, dayhikes, etc.)? Where would you camp? What would you add?

SAT JUL 5. Fly to Fresno.

SUN JUL 6. Take train/bus to Yosemite Valley. Exlore valley floor. Reservation for tent cabin in Curry Village.

MON JUL 7. Take shuttle to Glacier Point. Hike back to valley via Panorama Trail, Nevada Fall, and Happy Isles. Reservation for tent cabin in Curry Village.

TUE JUL 8. Take hiker's shuttle bound for Tioga Pass. Begin backpack at Porcupine Creek TH. Hike to North Dome, top of Yosemite Fall, then turn north along Yosemite Creek. Camp near Yosemite Creek above junction of trail to El Capitan (~11 miles).

WED JUL 9. Continue up Yosemite Creek/Ten Lake trail beyond Tioga Pass Road to Ten Lakes Basin. Camp in Ten Lakes Basin (~13 miles).

THU JUL 10. Retrace path out of Ten Lakes Basin, heading toward White Wolf. Resupply? Or skip White Wolf? Begin descent into Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Camp near Morrison Creek (~14 miles).

FRI JUL 11. Descend into Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne via Pate Valley. Hike upstream toward Tuolumne Meadows. Camp in the canyon (~10 miles).

SAT JUL 12. Continue upstream in Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Camp between California Falls and Glen Aulin (~10 miles).

SUN JUL 13. Hike to Tuolumne Meadows. Resupply. Hike to Rafferty Creek Trail. Camp alomg Rafferty Creek (~12 miles).

MON JUL 14. Hike to Vogelsang. Follow Lewis Creek Trail toward Merced Lake. Camp before reaching Merced Lake (~9 miles).

TUE JUL 15. Follow Merced River through Echo Valley to Little Yosemite Valley. Camp near the Muir Trail/Clouds Rest junction or near Quarter Domes (~11 miles)

WED JUL 16. Dayhike to Clouds Rest. Explore Quarter Domes (~10 miles)

THU JUL 17. Early morning summit of Half Dome. Descend to Happy Isles via John Muir Trail. Reservation at Yosemite Lodge (~12 miles).

FRI JUL 18. Depart Yosemite via bus/trail/bus to San Francisco. Night in San Francisco.

SAT JUL 19. San Francisco.

SUN JUL 20. Fly home to Austin.

As you can tell from the descriptions, I will not be renting a car, so I will be able to go only where my feet and public transportation will take me.

So that's the rough plan. I've posted it to the various Yosemite communities -- none are as robust and cool as this one -- but I wanted to give this group a shot at it too.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: okiehiker on February 21, 2008, 03:05:48 PM
Great itinerary Jeff.

I am always torn.  You have chosen many of the most popular places and will see more people than in some of the Yosemite backcountry.  However, there is a reason they are popular.  Your trip will be absolutely stunning. 

I once led a group at Yellowstone in which everyone of course wanted to go to Old Faithful.  Old Faithful is one of the best known but least impressive features in our major national parks.  In midsummer the traffic jams take hours to negotiate.  We went to Mammoth Hot Springs and the Midway Geyser Basin, got to see Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser.  We also got to see muc of the Absoraka Beartooth backcountry. 

When we got home everyone wanted to know if the people had seen Old Faithful.  No matter what else you may tell them about the trip and the park, all they will know is that you failed to see what really mattered.

You will see much of what really matters about Yosemite.  You and 1,000 of your closest friends will climb Half Dome, and it will be the trip of a lifetime for most of them, as it should be.  You will spend ten days in the heart of what just might be the most spectacular place on the planet.  The rest of us should be so lucky.

Just give us a report when you get home.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on February 21, 2008, 03:27:15 PM
... When we got home everyone wanted to know if the people had seen Old Faithful.  No matter what else you may tell them about the trip and the park, all they will know is that you failed to see what really mattered.

You will see much of what really matters about Yosemite.  You and 1,000 of your closest friends will climb Half Dome, and it will be the trip of a lifetime for most of them, as it should be.  You will spend ten days in the heart of what just might be the most spectacular place on the planet.  The rest of us should be so lucky.

Just give us a report when you get home.

Yes, I will not be alone. And, yes, I feel like I should see the iconic things in this trip, even though I can certainly withstand the quizzical looks and exasperated shots -- Well, why didn't you climb Half Dome? You were there for 10 days! -- that come from failing to do choosing not to do what every tourist does. So I am sure I will see hordes of people, at least relative to the tiny handful I might meet in Big Bend.

The idea is to minimize their impact on my well-being. Part of that is to try to beat the crowds to the icons. With Half Dome, I plan on camping as high above Little Yosemite Valley as I can and getting myself up the cables before the campers below have awakened. That will get me down the trail as the hordes rise from the Valley. At least, that's how it works in my mind.  :eusa_think:

Subsequent trips will aim for the fall, since I will have experienced the waterfalls and can pass on them this time, and for the less populated places. Because then I can still show people my photos from Half Dome and Glacier Point and Clouds Rest to prove I was there.

As for Old Faithful, I dutifully visited it one summer. I arose before sunrise and hit the Loop Road for the long drive halfway around the figure-8 to the geysers. I got there so early, I actually got the closest non-handicapped parking space to the amphitheater they have built to witness the geyser. The time approached, the sun had just cleared the mountains to the east, and there were maybe a dozen people in the bleachers. Old Faithful did its thing. Then I spent the next three hours wandering around, seeing far more interesting features (My personal favorite was Riverside Geyser (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/2004/01/riverside_geyse/index.php).). When I returned to Old Faithful, the bleachers were full, the parking lot was full, the sidewalks were full, the lines for the funnel cakes were full, the whole damn place was full of tourists. It was satisfying to watch people fight over my parking space when I left ... and I didn't stop until I had gotten to Canyonlands.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on February 21, 2008, 03:40:29 PM
Hate to chime in when I haven't even been to the park but a couple of words came to mind. Jealousy and Envy! :eusa_drool:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mountaindocdanny on February 26, 2008, 09:00:01 PM
Don't worry about the people. Sure, they are there and yes, solitude is a more difficult to find than more out of the way places. But the beauty of Yosemite lies in both the grandeur and the culture of the place. If you go with the understanding that you are not there for solitude then you will fall in love with the place. If you are feeling misanthropic you will only notice the cars and hordes of people and overlook some of this country's most spectacular mountain scenery.

Heed the warnings regarding Sierra mosquitoes and bears. Both can not be overstated, but with proper precautions both are easily managed.

Enjoy,

Danny
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: BigBendHiker on February 26, 2008, 09:13:00 PM
Good for you, Jeff!  I visited Yosemite in 1980 -- want to go back someday.  Be sure to share your photos and trip report with us.


BBH
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - REVISED Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on March 11, 2008, 01:06:52 AM
Thanks everyone for the advice. I've rerouted myself a bit based on feedback I've gotten and some further research. The revised plan, with some lingering questions, is:

JUL 5-7 - travel and dayhike starting from Glacier Point

TUE JUL 8 - begin at Porcupine Creek, hike to North Dome and the top of Yosemite Falls. Camp as far up the Yosemite Creek Trail as possible (goal: near the trail split where one fork goes to the campground and the other to White Wolf).

WED JUL 9 - hike toward White Wolf but bypass it to the east, finding a campsite near Morrison Creek partway down the trail to Pate Valley. If especially energetic, get to Pate Valley.

THU JUL 10 - hike up the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, finding a campsite at around 5,600 feet elevation, roughly 2km east of Register Creek. QUESTION: Most of the trailguides I've read don't really discuss camping options between Pate Valley and just west of Glen Aulin. Will I find a suitable site in the area I'm aiming for?

FRI JUL 11 - continue hike up the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, finding a campsite between California Falls and Glen Aulin.

SAT JUL 12 - finish hike up the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, refueling, recharging batteries, and resupplying at Tuolumne Meadows. Continue up Lyell Canyon to the junction with the trail to Vogelsang and Ireland Lake and camp there. QUESTION: What are the odds of snagging a site at TM camp (or backpacker camp if there is one) on a Saturday if I decide refueling, recharging, and resupplying might take awhile?

SUN JUL 13 - hike up to Vogelsang, camp in its vicinity

MON JUL 14 - hike over the pass and take the Lewis Creek Trail past Merced Lake and camp in Echo Valley or near the junction of the Echo Creek and High Trails.

TUE JUL 15 - hike the Echo Creek Trail to Sunrise and camp at the Sunrise lakes.

WED JUL 16 - hike to Clouds Rest, set up what I expect will be a dry camp somewhere near the Quarter Domes. Dayhike down to LYV for water. QUESTION: Has anyone camped here? My thought process is, camp as high as possible to shorten the following morning's ascent of Half Dome, which brings me to

THU JUL 17 - summit Half Dome, hike down to Happy Isles and embrace the loving arms of a shower and a bed.

JUL 18-20 - travel via the City by the Bay

So I've essentially cut out the Ten Lakes Basin and rerouted my approach to Clouds Rest. I haven't re-added the mileage, so I'm guessing these changes lead to a net reduction of about 6-8 miles and eliminate a significant up and down. It also shifts the LONG day from Day 3 to Day 5. It also allows a little more time to make the long climb up the Grand Canyon.

I realize this isn't a Yosemite forum, but any additional guidance y'all have would be fantastic and much appreciated!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on March 20, 2008, 04:25:25 PM
A little wrinkle has popped up with the park's campground opening date estimates (http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/campground.htm). Tuolumne Meadows campground is not projected to open until July 15 -- 3 days after I pass through the area. This by itself is not an issue, since I'm not planning on camping there. But it may mean the camp store won't be open, so resupplying might be jeopardized. I may end up having to carry all 10 days' worth of food when I hit the trail.  :icon_eek:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - REVISED Itinerary
Post by: Summit on March 20, 2008, 10:39:36 PM


SAT JUL 12 - finish hike up the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, refueling, recharging batteries, and resupplying at Tuolumne Meadows. Continue up Lyell Canyon to the junction with the trail to Vogelsang and Ireland Lake and camp there. QUESTION: What are the odds of snagging a site at TM camp (or backpacker camp if there is one) on a Saturday if I decide refueling, recharging, and resupplying might take awhile?


I think there is a backpacker camp near the trailhead for Tuolumne Meadows.  We stayed at the Happy Isles one before heading up Little Yosemite Valley and then up towards Vogelsang.  It was huge and we easily found a spot despite going over memorial day weekend.  Enjoy the trip!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: lighter fluid on March 25, 2008, 10:55:53 PM
A little wrinkle has popped up with the park's campground opening date estimates (http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/campground.htm). Tuolumne Meadows campground is not projected to open until July 15 -- 3 days after I pass through the area. This by itself is not an issue, since I'm not planning on camping there. But it may mean the camp store won't be open, so resupplying might be jeopardized. I may end up having to carry all 10 days' worth of food when I hit the trail.  :icon_eek:

Jeff,
Glen Aulin high camp has a camp store as well. You should be passing right by there on your way out of the Canyon and towards Tuolemne Meadows. I haven't seen any info in regards to it being closed during that time period. It might be worth looking into.

Quote
camping options between Pate Valley and just west of Glen Aulin. Will I find a suitable site in the area I'm aiming for?

I'm not sure about this as I have never camped in the area, but I will ask some of the people I know that may be familiar with it.

Ironically, I am due to be in Fresno and hiking in the Sierra Nevada at the same time.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: lighter fluid on March 26, 2008, 07:09:40 PM
Word on the Glen Aulin high camp store is that it has only a few items such as drinks and candy bars.
I was told that it more than likely wouldn't be sufficient for resupply.
It does, of course, have the Glen Aulin high camp t-shirt if you would like that.

You can only buy each high camp's t-shirt at its respective high camp store.
Many people like to collect them to show that they reached a particular camp.

I'm still checking on the Pate Valley to Glen Aulin campsite situation.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: lighter fluid on March 27, 2008, 10:35:33 AM
Jeff,
Did you see this trip report from 2005.
http://drzeus.best.vwh.net/trips/200507/ (http://drzeus.best.vwh.net/trips/200507/)

They give some details on finding " a great campsite about two miles up from Pate Valley"
and  between Muir Gorge and Waterwheel Falls they say they found "one of the two best campsites on this trip. The site was huge, canopied by giant trees, and had access to a really lovely, calm stretch of the river with a great diving rock."

Its a nice trip report with some great pics and details.

Hope this helps,
Matt
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on March 27, 2008, 11:05:39 AM
Thanks Matt, looks like they had a great trip.

I've been working on elevation profiles. It looks like my current route has about 22,000 feet of elevation gain and 26,000 feet of elevation loss, and ranges from 4,300 feet in Pate Valley to over 10,600 feet in the high Sierra. There are three days with 3,000+ foot elevation losses! The last day loses over 5,000 feet. On at least six days, I will gain enough elevation to go from the Basin trailhead to the top of Emory Peak.  :icon_eek:

At least I won't be carrying gallons of water at a time.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: lighter fluid on March 27, 2008, 02:50:40 PM
Thanks Matt, looks like they had a great trip.

I've been working on elevation profiles. It looks like my current route has about 22,000 feet of elevation gain and 26,000 feet of elevation loss, and ranges from 4,300 feet in Pate Valley to over 10,600 feet in the high Sierra. There are three days with 3,000+ foot elevation losses! The last day loses over 5,000 feet. On at least six days, I will gain enough elevation to go from the Basin trailhead to the top of Emory Peak.  :icon_eek:

At least I won't be carrying gallons of water at a time.

Wow.
When you break it down that way it becomes a bit more intimidating. What a fantastic hike.
My brother and I discussed hiking the Grand Canyon of Tuolumne back in 06
and he had mentioned again for this year, but we also have a real desire to get in the Mineral King Valley
in Sequoia National Park. Knowing us, we will probably end up somewhere else we never planned on, but just as stunning.
Going to the Sierra Nevada is kind of like being a kid in a candy store.  :icon_biggrin:

The NPS site for Yosemite can be a bit of a hassle when trying to find the proper phone #s,
ranger stations in particular, so my brother recommended I pass this along to you.

http://www.yosemitefun.com/Yosemite_National_Park_phone_numbers.htm (http://www.yosemitefun.com/Yosemite_National_Park_phone_numbers.htm)

Among others, the ranger stations #s might prove helpful to you in gathering more information for planning your trip.

Matt
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on March 27, 2008, 03:54:33 PM
Quote
Wow.
When you break it down that way it becomes a bit more intimidating. What a fantastic hike.

Yup, this walk in the park is no walk in the park. All those ups and downs keep me focused on making the best gear choices and bringing the lightest, best options for the money. Hence my internal debate over photography gear (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/photography-gear-and-tips/canon-powershot-g9-t5620.0.html;msg54472#msg54472) -- my current photography setup weighs more than my pack, shelter, and sleeping bag combined. :icon_eek:

I have a buddy who's been to Mineral King. He said the bears were having a convention there. And the mosquitoes, too.

And yes the NPS site for Yosemite is not very well laid out. I've been thoroughly spoiled by Ranger Eric's work  :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: lighter fluid on March 29, 2008, 09:10:38 PM
102.5 ounces (6 pounds, 6.5 ounces) ! That'll mess with your base weight, won't it?
I imagine the opportunity to drop about 4.5 pounds from your pack has to be tempting.
Especially when you consider the info you posted earlier:


I've been working on elevation profiles. It looks like my current route has about 22,000 feet of elevation gain and 26,000 feet of elevation loss, and ranges from 4,300 feet in Pate Valley to over 10,600 feet in the high Sierra. There are three days with 3,000+ foot elevation losses! The last day loses over 5,000 feet. On at least six days, I will gain enough elevation to go from the Basin trailhead to the top of Emory Peak.  :icon_eek:

That is a considerable amount of loss and gain to be carrying an extra 4.5 pounds around.
I would imagine it will be quite noticable after 100+ miles as well.
Then there is the question of food resupply. If you can't find a resupply and you are carrying all of your food
is that going to play a role in your decision on the the camera?

Matt
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: sleepy on March 29, 2008, 11:35:24 PM
hey, didn't Moses and Jesus and that guy that walked across the Sahara have less on their back?   Except maybe Jesus.


Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: badknees on March 30, 2008, 09:45:32 AM
102.5 ounces (6 pounds, 6.5 ounces) ! That'll mess with your base weight, won't it?
I imagine the opportunity to drop about 4.5 pounds from your pack has to be tempting.
Especially when you consider the info you posted earlier:


I've been working on elevation profiles. It looks like my current route has about 22,000 feet of elevation gain and 26,000 feet of elevation loss, and ranges from 4,300 feet in Pate Valley to over 10,600 feet in the high Sierra. There are three days with 3,000+ foot elevation losses! The last day loses over 5,000 feet. On at least six days, I will gain enough elevation to go from the Basin trailhead to the top of Emory Peak.  :icon_eek:

That is a considerable amount of loss and gain to be carrying an extra 4.5 pounds around.
I would imagine it will be quite noticable after 100+ miles as well.
Then there is the question of food resupply. If you can't find a resupply and you are carrying all of your food
is that going to play a role in your decision on the the camera?

Matt


When you run out of food you could always eat the camera :willynilly:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on March 30, 2008, 11:56:34 AM
Hey Jeff,

I'm sure you already know this, but NPS requires that you carry a bear-proof food canister out there.  On the upside, the canisters do make for a nice outback table or chair.  Don't know for sure, but I'd guess that mosquitos will be at their peak durring your trip.  Do not underestimate how bad they can be.  Based on my experience at Kings Canyon, repellent is not sufficient.  Long sleeves, light gloves, long pants and a head net should be carried.

Just my 2 cents.  You can pay me back later.

B
Title: Off to Yosemite, Finally
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 05, 2008, 09:15:10 AM
I'm off! 2 days of dayhiking followed by 10 days of backpacking. Anyone interested can track the trips progress on my homepage (http://www.jeffblaylock.com). Using Twitter and Flickr, I'll be posting updates when I find a cell signal. Catch y'all when I get off the trail!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on July 05, 2008, 10:33:10 AM
 :eusa_drool:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: homerboy2u on July 05, 2008, 11:55:21 AM
Buena Suerte y Vaya con Dios, Jeff !!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: sleepy on July 05, 2008, 02:56:39 PM
WELL ALRIIGHT!

watch out for bears.  if you get tired, stop and rest.  if you get hungry, eat something.  try to enjoy the scenery, if you can.

Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: RichardM on July 06, 2008, 03:58:44 PM
This cartoon seemed appropriate for a trip into bear country.
(http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/herman/archive/images/herman2008020959704.jpg)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on July 06, 2008, 10:05:47 PM
How's bout 1 more..... :icon_wink:


(http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c153/padme919/maxbear.jpg)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 21, 2008, 05:00:33 PM
WELL ALRIIGHT!

watch out for bears.  if you get tired, stop and rest.  if you get hungry, eat something.  try to enjoy the scenery, if you can.



Just four bears. One solo, three together. The solo was a yearling along a trail to the Sunrise Lakes. He scampered off the trail as I approached. The other three made for a really cool encounter on my last day on the trail. As I was hiking down from Little Yosemite Valley, I heard the unmistakable sound of a bear tearing apart a downed tree. I looked below the switchback and saw a mother teaching her two cubs -- one golden red, the other chocolate -- how to hunt for grubs/ants. I shuffled my feet so she would know I was there. She looked up at me and returned to her bear business. The cubs were really cute digging in to the log. After watching them a moment, I continued my descent. Down a switchback or two, the three crossed the trail right in front of me. And, yes, Homero, I got some photos. They are somewhere in all those memory cards.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: homerboy2u on July 21, 2008, 05:09:01 PM
. And, yes, Homero, I got some photos. They are somewhere in all those memory cards.

 I'm gonna shut up,again, grab my Corona Light and head over to home to enjoy this one. If all of you should need me, you know where to get me.....shhh!!!. The show is about to start...lights out! :eusa_shhh:

My 2900 post!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 21, 2008, 06:51:08 PM
. And, yes, Homero, I got some photos. They are somewhere in all those memory cards.

 I'm gonna shut up,again, grab my Corona Light and head over to home to enjoy this one. If all of you should need me, you know where to get me.....shhh!!!. The show is about to start...lights out! :eusa_shhh:

My 2900 post!

Homero, turns out I took exactly 1,500 photos and 10 movies. The show may get off to a slow start, but I think you will enjoy it.

For now, here's a teaser: me atop Half Dome.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1637.jpg)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on July 21, 2008, 06:55:21 PM
. And, yes, Homero, I got some photos. They are somewhere in all those memory cards.

 I'm gonna shut up,again, grab my Corona Light and head over to home to enjoy this one. If all of you should need me, you know where to get me.....shhh!!!. The show is about to start...lights out! :eusa_shhh:

My 2900 post!

Homero, turns out I took exactly 1,500 photos and 10 movies. The show may get off to a slow start, but I think you will enjoy it.

For now, here's a teaser: me atop Half Dome.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1637.jpg)


WOWZA! Are you sure that's not Brazil? :icon_wink: What an amazing shot! :eusa_clap:

Can't wait to hear and see the rest. I know, 10 photos are for us and the 1495 are for Homero? :rolling:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 21, 2008, 07:14:26 PM
One more teaser. This is the only way up to where the previous photo was taken:

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1638.jpg)

This is the view from the bottom of the infamous Half Dome cables, looking straight up. The cable route covers most of the last 500 feet of elevation needed to gain the broad summit.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: randell on July 21, 2008, 07:34:17 PM
whew!  We are in for a ride of eye-candy on this one, I can tell already!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: BigBendHiker on July 21, 2008, 07:35:27 PM
Hey, Jeff!
WOW.  Love those first few pics.  Can't wait to see the rest.  What were the crowds like at the cables on Half Dome? 

BBH

Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: homerboy2u on July 21, 2008, 07:56:08 PM
................... ................... ...Brazilia  :icon_biggrin:......Shhh!!!...sit down lady!: CM , your blocking my view......... :eusa_shhh:................... ...........
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 21, 2008, 08:48:38 PM
Hey, Jeff!
WOW.  Love those first few pics.  Can't wait to see the rest.  What were the crowds like at the cables on Half Dome? 

BBH



We were up and down before the herd from Yosemite Valley made it up there. From a comfort standpoint, you need a certain critical mass of bodies along the cables to provide the proper tension (otherwise, they're awful loosey goosey), but too many presents real challenges of getting past each other. On the way up, we were behind a guy who shouldn't have been up there, so it took about 15 minutes longer than it should have. On the way down, there were probably 50 people on the cables going each way. Some folks were passing the bottlenecks outside the cables, which is something in common with most people who have perished from the cables during the summer months. I'd say, get there before 10 to avoid most of the crowds.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: SA Bill on July 21, 2008, 09:00:07 PM
Wow Jeff!!
Can't wait for the report and more pics! The wait, however long, will be worth it.

Grab another cerveza and settle in for a while Homero! Red wine for me!!
  Bill
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on July 21, 2008, 09:09:28 PM
.........................................Brazilia  :icon_biggrin:......Shhh!!!...sit down lady!: CM , your blocking my view......... :eusa_shhh:................... ...........

whoa............ hold on there, hermano! :icon_wink: my booty's not THAT big! :rolling:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: homerboy2u on July 21, 2008, 11:01:01 PM
 :rolling: :rolling: :rolling:....Jeeefffffffff !!!!! I can't control the kids any longer. Roll on in when ever your ready, son.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on July 21, 2008, 11:13:46 PM
homero, put those kids to bed!  They're distracting and slowing Jeff down!

Al
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on July 22, 2008, 02:31:36 PM
We....

We?  I thought this was a totally self-indulgent, masturbatory type trip.  :eusa_think:

BTW...you do look just like "The Jesus" standing on that rock.   :icon_lol:

(http://usera.imagecave.com/ClaytonJ/the_big_lebowski_jesus1.jpg)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on July 22, 2008, 02:38:21 PM
:rolling: :rolling: :rolling:....Jeeefffffffff !!!!! I can't control the kids any longer. Roll on in when ever your ready, son.
homero, put those kids to bed!  They're distracting and slowing Jeff down!

Al
I think the kids he might be refering to are all of us being impatient  :icon_wink:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 22, 2008, 03:04:35 PM
We....

We?  I thought this was a totally self-indulgent ... trip.  :eusa_think:

I went up Half Dome with two guys who I had met during a hail storm two days earlier, and we (and their father and uncle) got a campfire going to dry out since we were camped in adjacent areas along the shore of lower Sunrise Lake. It was otherwise a pretty solo experience.  :eusa_whistle:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: sleepy on July 22, 2008, 03:23:59 PM
as I remember, the approach to the chains was more exposed and vertiginous.  i kept saying, just look down at the steps, not off into infinity.

Those chains provided some drama when I was there.  A woman was crying about having to go up, while her boyfriend told her she had to go.  what a chump!  Another guy got within 50 feet of the top and turned around, because he said he couldn't go anymore.  The woman made it up, no thanks to her mate.  I couldn't convince the other guy to rest for a few, then push on.  I mean, it's 8 miles one way from the trail head! 

Jeff, it's probably take you three solid days to put something together, huh?

Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 22, 2008, 04:53:39 PM
as I remember, the approach to the chains was more exposed and vertiginous.  i kept saying, just look down at the steps, not off into infinity.

Those chains provided some drama when I was there.  A woman was crying about having to go up, while her boyfriend told her she had to go.  what a chump!  Another guy got within 50 feet of the top and turned around, because he said he couldn't go anymore.  The woman made it up, no thanks to her mate.  I couldn't convince the other guy to rest for a few, then push on.  I mean, it's 8 miles one way from the trail head! 

Jeff, it's probably take you three solid days to put something together, huh?



Yeah, the cables get all the attention, but it's the 423 steps and then the exposed scramble when the steps end that sap your energy (and some of your nerve) before the cables even come into view.

Going up the cables, I kept my eyes focused on the rock at my feet. On the way down, I tried to do the same but had to look down behind me to see if anyone was coming up. Once during a traffic jam, I had to swing my body over to just one cable and wrap my leg around one of the poles. As I did, I casually looked up and saw the 50-degree slope I was standing on, and the blood ran from my body. There was plenty of sobbing and "I can't go on" going on. I can't imagine doing it as a dayhike from the valley -- 8.2 miles one-way with 4,800 feet of elevation gain (the last 1,000 of which occurs in about a quarter mile). It's like climbing Emory Peak twice.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: SA Bill on July 22, 2008, 05:06:49 PM
Quote from Jeff:
" I can't imagine doing it as a dayhike from the valley -- 8.2 miles one-way with 4,800 feet of elevation gain (the last 1,000 of which occurs in about a quarter mile). It's like climbing Emory Peak twice."

Holy elevation gain Batman! I nearly died doing S Rim as a day hike when I was younger and in better shape. I can't imagine that hike as a day hike except for the insanely fit.
   Bill
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: sleepy on July 22, 2008, 05:31:37 PM
I can't imagine doing it as a dayhike from the valley -- 8.2 miles one-way with 4,800 feet of elevation gain (the last 1,000 of which occurs in about a quarter mile). It's like climbing Emory Peak twice.

Got up before sun up and the most of the crowds, then plugged away.   Luckily I had lots of daylight.  As fate would have it, I was on the penance path anyway and it all added up for me.  I hope. 



Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on July 22, 2008, 05:35:26 PM
We....

We?  I thought this was a totally self-indulgent ... trip.  :eusa_think:

I went up Half Dome with two guys who I had met during a hail storm two days earlier, and we (and their father and uncle) got a campfire going to dry out since we were camped in adjacent areas along the shore of lower Sunrise Lake. It was otherwise a pretty solo experience.  :eusa_whistle:

I see.   :icon_frown:

My hope was that perhaps you had met a couple of blond-haired co-eds from Arizona State University, or something similar.  :icon_biggrin:

(Inside joke.)
Title: Yosemite Trip Report - Prelude
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 22, 2008, 10:30:43 PM
On the morning of Saturday, July 5, I told Chisos to be a good girl and jumped in a cab bound for the airport. My flight to Sacramento via D/FW was uneventful, save for the sobering views of the Northern Sierra mountains on fire as we descended into California's capitol city. A cab took me to the REI, which did not have the GPS maps I was looking for. Fortunately, I had loaded some waypoints into it before I left, and I always bring paper maps, albeit at a greater scale than I like to use. I picked up some supplies which I couldn't bring on the plane, such as solid stove fuel, and then I walked to a light-rail station a mile away. The train took me into downtown, and another train took me to the Amtrak station.

The San Joaquin train was on time, and I was off to Merced, one of the gateway towns for Yosemite. I walked 2 1/2 miles to the hotel -- practically the furthest hotel from the train station I could have picked -- and spent the evening hanging out with some fire fighters getting an R&R night. One told a harrowing story of a rescue in which they had to let the flames pass overhead.

The next morning, I had a cab take me back to the train station, where I caught a YARTS bus for Yosemite National Park. I finally made it, after five years of planning and two aborted trips, and marveled at the scenery out the windows before I was dropped off at Camp Curry, my home for the next two nights.

I stayed in a sweltering one-room cabin (without a bathroom), which didn't really cool down until just before sunrise. Fortunately, there was a fan, which sat on the heater and blew air across the bed. But this wasn't time for resting in a cabin -- it was time to explore. Well, first I grabbed a bite to eat at the pizza patio, then I caught the Yosemite Valley shuttle bus to Yosemite Village and walked to the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead. A short, fairly level hike leads to a viewing platform, bridge, and giant rockpile at the base of the falls. People were crawling all over the rocks, and I was soon among them.

Despite it being late in the waterfall season, there was still a fair amount of water rushing over the falls, which are 320 feet high. The upper fall was reduced to wispy curtains of water, a far cry from its peak flow, but impressive nonetheless. The middle cascades were hidden from view. Altogether, Yosemite Fall is 2,425 feet high, one of the 5-10 tallest waterfalls in the world depending on what list you're reading.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1639.jpg)

I spent over an hour at the lower falls area before beginning a meandering ramble back to Camp Curry. I criss-crossed the Merced River over a series of bridges and paths, catching nice views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome as I went. I also passed through Housekeeping Camp, a rollicking party of a campground which looked more like the infield of an NASCAR race than a place to enjoy nature. I caught a nice sunset through the haze of agricultural dust and wildfire smoke before enjoying the buffet at Camp Curry.

After an uncomfortable night, I was off to the Wilderness Center to pick up my permit for the next day's backpacking trip. I had reserved it months ago, fortunately, and I was among the first group of folks who got the spiel and were given permits that morning. From there, I hustled over to Yosemite Lodge to catch my shuttle bus to Glacier Point. After picking up my previously reserved tickets for that day and the next, I ran over to the food court for a quick hot breakfast. In the ensuing scramble, I managed to leave my trekking pole at the cash register. Too late! I had to get on the bus.

At Glacier Point, I chugged some water and bought another trekking pole. It was basically a varnished broom handle with a leather cord strap and the word "YOSEMITE" burned into it, but it was cheap. It was 8.5 miles and a net loss of 3,200 feet of elevation back to the Valley, so even a broom handle was better than no trekking pole at all, despite the bad blister it put on my left hand.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1641.jpg)

The views from Glacier Point are incredible. Yosemite Valley wraps around the base of the point, and Yosemite Falls looks like a pair of ribbons hanging from a distant cliff. Most of the Valley's iconic landmarks are visible from the point. After soaking in the views, I headed for the Panorama Trail and began the descent back to the Valley. This was my warm-up hike. The views along the Panorama Trail are amazing. Half Dome shows its sheer profile, its summit hanging precariously over empty space like a great nose, its mighty shoulders, tree-clad and steep, crash down to the valley below. From the trailhead, one can see straight up Tenaya Canyon, bounded on the right by Half Dome and Clouds Rest behind it, and Mount Watkins to the left. Nevada and Vernal Falls look positively puny from that lofty perch, and Liberty Cap appears as a gumdrop.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1642.jpg)

The trail swings away from the valley to cross Illilouette Creek, and it provides the only good vantage point to see Illilouette Fall when it's not at peak flow (at which time, it's visible from the Mist Trail). Following a steep but brief climb out of Illilouette Gorge, the trail continues to swing closer to Half Dome, which begins to resemble a giant loaf of sourdough bread, its sheer edges replaced by a vast hump. Liberty Cap also grows in size, revealing itself to be a massive conical dome, which would be more impressive but for its proximity to Half Dome.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1643.jpg)

The thundering sound of Nevada Fall accompanies the hiker for the last mile or so, when a sharp descent leads to the John Muir Trail and a bridge across the Merced River at the fall's brink. From the opposite bank, it's possible to gain several vantage points of the top of the falls and even sit beside the rushing water. Some folks were wading in a pool just yards upstream from the falls -- unwise, to be sure -- while a cadre of resident squirrels were begging for, and receiving, handouts from children. The Muir Trail provides even better views of Liberty Cap and its friends.

From the Muir Trail, a cutover trail leads to the Mist Trail, which descends alongside Vernal Fall and the swirling mist it creates. The Mist Trail is essentially a staircase -- a crowded one at that -- which I would not recommend taking a full pack down. The stairs along the 100 yards or so of mist are slick, though the mist is certainly refreshing on a hot day.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1644.jpg)

From there, the trail rejoins the John Muir Trail at a bridge across the river, providing one last glimpse at Vernal Fall. The trail follows the river downstream to Happy Isles, the appropriately named trailhead (Hikers are happy to see the isles.) which brought me to the end of the warm-up hike.

I took a shuttle bus back to Camp Curry, where I took a shower in the gross stalls by the swimming pool, hung out by the pool awhile, and caught another buffet dinner at the camp diner. I was going to watch the ranger program that evening, but it was a movie about the history of one of the park's hotels, not exactly what I had in mind. I retired to my hot cabin and got my backpack prepped for the next morning, when the grand adventure would officially begin.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on July 22, 2008, 11:28:19 PM
Sounds like many lessons learned but all things considered things are going well.  An incredible place! 
Thanks,
Al
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 26, 2008, 06:53:37 PM
The hiker's shuttle picked me up from Camp Curry promptly at 8 a.m. before making a couple of other stops in Yosemite Valley. Before long, we were headed out of the valley for the Tioga Road. It was bound for Tuolumne Meadows, but I got off at the Porcupine Creek trailhead. I was the only person who got off there, and only a couple of other cars were in the parking area. It was almost a quarter after 10 before I started hiking -- a very late start indeed -- and the temperature was already pushing 80 degrees.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1645.jpg)

The trail follows an old road for about three quarters of a mile before the road disappears and instead a path through the forest takes over. In Yosemite, there is an immenseness of scale even in ordinary places. Old pine trees soared above the others, seemingly hundreds of feet high, and big enough around that it would take four or more people to embrace them fully. There is also evidence of fire everywhere. Periodically the trail passes through ghost forests of tall, dead, blackened trees, where grasses, wildflowers, and young trees thrive. Lupine were especially numerous, and beautiful, glowing purple and indigo in the sun-splashed portions of the forest.

Granite boulders are strewn about randomly as well, becoming more numerous as the trail approaches North Dome, part of the northern wall of Yosemite Valley. The trail stays mostly level, gently falling and then rising, until it reaches Indian Ridge. There's a side trail which leads up to a natural arch, but I decided not to take it. My late start made side-trips a luxury. Because of camping restrictions near the valley, I would need to hike nearly 11 miles, so the side trip wasn't happening.

The forest gradually began to open up, providing some tantalizing glimpses of what was to come. There was a confusing stretch of trail near one of the better viewpoints, and I wound up backtracking a bit to relocate the trail. After another hour, I'd reached a high granite saddle overlooking the bald head of North Dome. Mighty Clouds Rest and Half Dome rose to the left. The high cliffs cradling Yosemite Falls were to the right. Glacier Point and the Panorama cliffs were straight ahead, and Illilouette Gorge and its reclusive waterfall could be seen directly across from North Dome.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1646.jpg)

I paused for lunch -- well, an Odwalla bar and water, on this high saddle, debating whether to make the mile round-trip hike to North Dome, one of the trip's primary destinations. I was already tired, and I knew I had at least 5 more miles to hike, and the clouds were gathering ominously. As time marched on, my resolve steeled, and I charged down the steep trail with just my camera. Unburdened from the pack, I made pretty good time and bolted up the summit trail to see the incredible views.

Clouds Rest and Half Dome are an unbroken mass of granite thrown up toward the sky from deep Tenaya Canyon. Half Dome is at its most imposing and dramatic from North Dome, it's sheer stained face staring directly at you. Its summit nose looks virtually impossible to reach as the cable route is hidden from view. In nine (actually eight -- plans changed) days, I'll be standing on top it, I thought to myself. In the distance rose the peaks of the Sierra crest, some snow still clinging to their northern faces. What a view! Very much worth the effort.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1647.jpg)

It was now well passed 2 o'clock, and I had more than 6 miles to go if I stuck to the plan. I had left my pack conveniently near the trail junction, so I was soon following the north rim of Yosemite Valley to Yosemite Creek. I got water from Royal Arch Creek, and I was pleased that the SteriPen worked. I had been holding my breath -- a similar model failed in Big Bend earlier this year.

The trail swings away from the valley to cross Indian Canyon Creek, and the net loss in elevation from the trailhead was now 1,000 feet. I would drop another 500 feet or so to reach the banks of Yosemite Creek. It was thundering in the distance. I picked up my pace. By 4:15, as I neared Yosemite Point, it began to rain, and the normally spectacular views of the Valley's granite monuments were obscured by mist and clouds.

Half Dome's beaked summit peeks up over the surrounding highlands, and North Dome's bald head sits across the valley to its left. The jagged summit of Clouds Rest is visible above North Dome, while the coming storm gathers strength beyond the Sierra Crest. This day -- the first of 10 I'd spend backpacking -- marked a shift in the weather. A monsoonal flow was taking hold, meaning afternoon thunderstorms would become increasingly common. Lightning was already flashing all around, and I was still at least 2 miles short of my goal for the day.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1648.jpg)

Shortly thereafter, I ran into a couple who were standing under a lone, tall pine tree atop the highest granite ridge in a mile. They were watching the lightning draw closer, hoping -- if that's the right word -- to glimpse smoke from any wildfires it might start. I suggested they look for safer cover and left them to their fate. The trail descended rapidly to Yosemite Creek. A group of hikers had taken shelter in a creekside hollow, and I rode out a wave of heavy rain under some trees. Just after 6 p.m., I settled into a campside on a slight rise between Yosemite Creek and a small babbling creek running down from Eagle Peak.

My first night in the hammock was a pretty good one. It had been so hot in Texas this summer that I hadn't actually tried to fall asleep in it before. I was pretty tired after a 10.6-mile day -- about a mile short of my goal -- and already faced a decision as to how I wanted to proceed. The plan for the next day called for nearly 13 miles of hiking, the last of which would be a substantial climb over Ten Lakes Pass. Did I want to end my day like that, and did I want to risk being on the pass if the thunderstorms returned? I did not, though I would put off the decision until morning, when I'd undoubtedly feel better.

In fact, I was so tired that I failed to eat my Mountain House meal for the day, so I woke up hungry and a little stiff in the legs. I got off to a slow start and didn't break camp until a little after 8 a.m., which didn't bode well for going on to Ten Lakes. I decided to cut that portion of the itinerary out and instead use the extra day for a more leisurely exploration of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. It was a beautiful, sunny morning.

The Yosemite Creek Trail follows the creek upstream for a couple of miles on its way back to the Tioga Road. The creek has cut a V-shaped canyon out of mostly sheer granite. It rushes and tumbles in places, and sits in placid pools in others. Wildflowers -- mostly Indian paintbrushes -- bloomed among the cracks in the granite.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1649.jpg)

I got water a little after noon, nearly 5 miles into the day's journey, and was at the old Tioga Road (now a road to an established campground) in another hour. In a while, I had reached the Tioga Road itself, the roar of traffic giving it away as I approached. It was nearly 2 o'clock, and I was hungry. It was less than a mile to Lukens Lake, so I decided I would stop and eat there. The trail climbs over a ridge, topping out a little over 8,300 feet, which was 1,500 or so feet higher than my campsite. From there, the trail descends to the lake, which sits at the north end of a large, marshy meadow ablaze with wildflowers.

I found some rocks on the lake's northern shore which I turned into my kitchen. I got water from the lake, and, lo and behold, my SteriPen failed. It would work intermittently for a few more days, forcing me to use my backup water treatment, iodine pills. These stain my water containers and impart a not-so-fresh flavor to the water. And they take 30 minutes to take full effect, where the SteriPen takes 90 seconds. The delay in getting water ready left me at the lake longer than I'd planned, and I didn't hit the trail again until nearly 4 p.m. (as the clouds were gathering overhead). It was nonetheless a pleasant place to stop for lunch, except for the hikers who believed an appropriate activity was to scream as loudly as possible, as blood-curdlingly as possible.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1650.jpg)

From Lukens Lake, the trail leads to a junction with a major trail to White Wolf, a semi-developed area with a series of tent-cabins and a restaurant for its guests. I decided not to go there, and instead pressed on toward the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. There was some distant thunder and dark clouds overhead, but no rain. Still, I was getting tired. The trail passed through an especially eerie ghost forest, part of a significant recent forest fire. I decided to exit the trail when I saw a high shelf strewn with boulders to the right. After some wandering, I found a satisfactory place to tie up and set up a dry camp. It was after 7 p.m., and I didn't even make it until sunset.

I'd seen glimpses of the Grand Canyon through the trees, but the real treasures would not start revealing themselves until morning.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: bdhawk133 on July 26, 2008, 08:37:18 PM
This is great..... Anyone care for some kettlecorn?  :cool-thumb:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: SA Bill on July 26, 2008, 09:10:48 PM
Get me a beer while you're up bd!

This is a great report Jeff! That scenery is magnificent!! Can't wait for the next installment!
   Bill
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: homerboy2u on July 26, 2008, 11:26:06 PM
Make that 2 cervezas BD, please.

 Jeff, how did Garmin 60 CSx worked?
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: TheWildWestGuy on July 27, 2008, 11:10:44 AM
Thanks for posting this Jeff - I want to go!   Sounds like the adventure of a lifetime and all brand new.  It's been too long since I have seen whitewater streams filled with trout and hiked on trails with alpine flowers.  Texas has a lot to offer but not everything.. TWWG
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: BigBendHiker on July 27, 2008, 11:41:16 AM
Hi Jeff!
Great pictures and trip report thus far.  Thanks!


BBH
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 27, 2008, 02:26:29 PM
Thanks for the good comments -- the story and photos will only get better. We haven't gotten to the life-threatening part yet!

Thanks for posting this Jeff - I want to go!   Sounds like the adventure of a lifetime and all brand new.  It's been too long since I have seen whitewater streams filled with trout and hiked on trails with alpine flowers.  Texas has a lot to offer but not everything.. TWWG

Very true TWWG. Every step was a new one. It was also nice that the most water I carried at any point was 1 gallon, and that was to make a dry camp beneath Half Dome. I carried that water just 3/4 of a mile! Otherwise I usually topped out at 2 liters. I got some funny reactions when I told folks I was going to camp just off the Half Dome trail. "There's no water there," was their first thought, every one of them.

Jeff, how did Garmin 60 CSx worked?

Disappointing. The unit worked great in the field in terms of telling me where I was. It obtained signals pretty quickly and held on to them, except for a couple of stretches in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and in Yosemite Valley. Unfortunately, it did not accurately record time stamps on my saved tracks -- every breadcrumb it recorded occurred at 12/30/89 at 6 p.m.  :eusa_doh: -- so I can't know for sure where my photos were taken unless I created a waypoint. I also did not have any maps for it, though I managed to upload some waypoints, which were helpful. The REI in Sacramento was sold out, and they weren't carried anywhere else I could get to. I clearly could have gotten by with a less expensive, non-mapping model, although the convenience of the buttons and functions on the 60CSx are far superior to those less-expensive, non-mapping models.

My other piece of gear that performed miserably was my SteriPen. Some may recall that a similar model failed me on the Marufo Vega hike earlier this year. I exchanged it at REI for a new one, and it failed on the second day. It worked intermittently for several more days, then died for good. Back to filter/pumps for me. Anyone know how to get iodine stains out of Platypus bags?
Title: Re: Yosemite - Entering the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 27, 2008, 02:31:06 PM
(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1651.jpg)

This gorgeous sunrise, as viewed from my second night's campsite, made it clear I was in for a grand day. Day three of my backpacking trek would see me enter the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne (pronounced TWALL-oh-me) and a prolonged period of radio silence. I had been Twittering from the trail and posting a few cell-phone camera photos via Flickr, but there would be no signal until I reached Tuolumne Meadows several days later.

I caught glimpses of the far side of the canyon through the trees. It was a hazy morning. Smoke from fires near and far, combined with agricultural dust and other central valley pollutants was going to rob me of some of views. The glorious vistas may be compromised, but the waterfalls will still be spectacular. I began my descent around 7:15 a.m. from my off-trail campsite at about 7,950 feet. The trail would drop all the way down to below 4,100 feet in about 8 miles of walking.

First I had to leave the forest which had hemmed in my hiking and views for most of the last two days. The trail descended steadily via a series of taut switchbacks down from my campsite, passing an unseen trail junction leading to Harden Lake, before continuing over a slight rise and then down sharply again.

A swift mile into the hike brought me to a thrilling viewpoint. A giant fallen pine added to the drama of discovery. This canyon would be my hiking home for the next three nights.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1652.jpg)

This view is downstream, toward the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the source of San Francisco's drinking water and John Muir's broken heart. I thought I would be able to glimpse a finger of the reservoir from the trail, but I did not. There is a high point beside the trail a little lower down that probably offers such a view, but I did not see an easy way up (and definitely not one down), so I didn't bother. I would be headed upstream from Pate Valley, still more than 6 miles away, and there would be another 21 before returning to civilization at Tuolumne Meadows.

As the trail approached Morrison Creek, the pine forest turned into a jungle. Humidity levels rose to a sweltering level, and the bugs, noticeably absent so far, were wheeling and buzzing in great hordes. The air was as thick as the flora was lush, and all of it was dark and closed in. The only plus was the mad tumbling of the unseen creek, which was beginning its long crash into the Tuolumne. After about half an hour, the jungle gave way to steep open slopes, and the trail began to switchback down in earnest, dropping about 750 quick feet.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1653.jpg)

The viewpoint seen here, looking up the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, is now fully immersed in the haze. I can only imagine how spectacular this would've been on a clear day. Yet, it wasn't a day to quibble over such details. What waited at the bottom of the canyon was worth the pinched in views above. Discovery is not just about the grand and vast. Discovery is also about the small and the unexpected, and I found an unexpected grotto and waterfall where the trail crossed Morrison Creek for the only time. In this small space I spent a good half hour, filtering water (the SteriPen decided to work that morning) and enjoying the spot. A hot descent awaited, and in a spot like this, it can wait a little longer.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1654.jpg)

While I lingered there, a group of backpackers were coming up the trail from Pate Valley. I told them this was the best spot to refill water bottles. The few other creek viewpoints offer precarious access to water at best. Looking at their faces, I knew I had made the right decision to descend here and spend three days regaining the elevation, rather than leisurely lose it and gain it all back over a few steep miles.

The trail continued its steady descent, swinging away from Morrison Creek, and gradually offering distant glimpses of Pate Valley and the Tuolumne River, whose rapids were slowly overtaking Morrison Creek's tumbles as the primary sound. The immediate goal for the trail is a dome-like outcropping, over which the trail passes before making the final push for the canyon bottom.

After about 6 miles of hiking, the trail finally reached the canyon bottom and saw the Tuolumne River up close.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1655.jpg)

The trail cruelly offers few, fleeting glimpses of the Tuolumne River as it mostly stays away from its banks for nearly 2 miles before it rejoins the river via a couple of footbridges. Those bridges mark Pate Valley proper, and for most hikers, represent camp. I reached the bridges around 1:30 p.m., stopping for lunch and water just upstream from them. I wanted to press on a few miles further, since Pate Valley was a popular with not only campers but also foraging bears. The SteriPen failed again, forcing me to wait a half hour for water to be ready, so lunch was slowed. After the long descent, I didn't mind too much.

As the sun climbed and I dropped below the haze, the canyon seemed to clear a bit, and the views up toward the high cliffs, thousands of feet above, became sharper. The trail passed through open scrub forest and wound around huge boulders. Camping spots suddenly became fewer as the terrain became more vertical, and the valley gave way to topography more expected in a grand canyon.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1656.jpg)

Around 4 p.m., I began looking for a campsite in earnest. I found one about a half hour later, near a spot where the river slides rapidly over a granite chute into a large pool where I could get to water easily. Below the pool, the Tuolumne churns past several large boulders before tumbling over another series of dropoffs. The soundscape was magical, and so were the views. The sun sunk back into the haze, wrapping the canyon, the river, and the rocks in an ethereal glow before vanishing behind the canyon wall.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1657.jpg)

I settled in for the night shortly before the sun actually set, watching the light slowly fade from my hammock. It was a hot night -- relatively speaking -- and I frequently awoke. The heat reflector (actually, a car windshield reflector) was trapping too much heat between me and the hammock body. As the night cooled, I got more comfortable. The sound of what was likely a bear startled me, but it did not come into my campsite. It was probably looking for an easy drink of water. Every time I woke, I was soon lulled back to sleep by the rushing waters, probably the best natural sleep aid on earth.

To be contined.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on July 27, 2008, 07:24:08 PM
Love It! That last photo is fantastic! :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Walking Among the Waterfalls
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 27, 2008, 09:46:54 PM
(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1658.jpg)

Just upstream from my night-three campsite, the Tuolumne River crashes over these boulders before sliding across a wide granite apron and into the deep pool where I got water. For about the next 10 miles, sights and sounds of the Tuolumne will be similar, if not more dramatic and spectacular. Except for the bypass of Muir Gorge, the river will be a constant hiking companion for the next couple of days.

The goal for today, my fourth on the trail, would be to camp just below Waterwheel Falls, the most famous of the named waterfalls up canyon. This would leave either a chip-shot to Glen Aulin, or a longer hike to Tuolumne Meadows (on a Saturday) where I might find a spot to camp. That decision would essentially settle the "extra day" which was created when I decided not to go up to the Ten Lakes Basin. It would either be an extra day in the canyon or an extra day in the high country. It would not be a decision I'd make today -- the 10 or so miles of gentle to steep climbing would be enough to deal with.

The climb began immediately. The trail zig-zagged up the canyon, rising a couple hundred feet over the thundering river. The haze seemed worse than the day before, and the low-angled sun seemed to have difficulty penetrating it. On the plus side, the trail stayed in the shade for much of the early climbing.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1659.jpg)

I saw very few people along this trail. I suppose those few who were in Pate Valley were heading up toward White Wolf, following the trail I descended. I would eventually be overtaken by a group of family and friends who were accompanied by 9-year-old Mason, a Scout and obviously quite a trooper. This was his greatest, longest, and most difficult backpack, and his face showed it. He would end up being more chipper later, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

After 3 miles, I had gained a net 500 or so feet. The rolling trail wandered away from the river off and on, passing through forests of pine, oak, and other lower elevation trees (think scrub) and by dozens of jumbled piles of boulders, each providing a hiding hole for some forest beastie. With the eerie light of the morning haze, one's imagination could run wild, fathoming what horrors lurked in the shadows along the trail.

The trail found its way back to the river's edge, skirting it for some distance before the river veered away. Upstream, the Tuolumne passes through dark, wild Muir Gorge, a place where no trail leads. It can be seen from one small stretch of the trail as a steep-sided chasm, made more mysterious by the persistent haze and low sun. A collection of waterfalls pours from its mouth as though the river were jubilant in its exit from an oppressive prison.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1660.jpg)

The trail climbs nearly 1,000 feet from this viewpoint over the next mile and a half, the bulk of which occurs in a scant third of a mile as it bypasses Muir Gorge. But first it winds across a smaller side canyon cut by Register Creek. A pleasant grotto features a surprisingly vibrant waterfall -- which I dubbed Surprise Waterfall -- and deep pool of clear, cold water. The natural air conditioning from the waterfall, even a little spray, and the shade from the cliff made this a delightful place to stop and rest.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1661.jpg)

It was here that I encountered two athletic guys, both going in the same direction I was. They also stopped for water but headed on, wanting to get the climb around Muir Gorge completed before the sun got too high. In between them and the arrival of the rest of their party, I explored the waterfall grotto, got water, had a trail bar, and relaxed for more than half an hour. The other group came up, some carrying very heavy-looking packs, and I told them the other two had gone on to the trail summit. I departed, determined to reach the top before the 9-year-old and his pack-weary father.

The goal was rather simple. Climb up the steep ridge to just underneath a tall, lonely pine tree. I rather surprised myself, bolting up the numerous switchbacks in just over half an hour. It helped that they were mostly in the shade. The trail topped out at just over 5,900 feet, about 1,400 feet higher than I started that morning. I met the two athletic guys, and we sat in the minimal amount of shade under some brush. The rest of their party followed, and we hiked down the other side together after they rested a bit. We saw a rattlesnake by the trail, the first of several snakes I'd see over the next few days (though the only poisonous one).

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1662.jpg)

We parted company when they reached their chosen campsite, and I continued on along the increasingly open granite slopes beside the rushing river and its numerous cascades and falls. The immense scale of things in Yosemite is greatly apparent in this portion of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolomne. Boulders are the size of houses. The fact that they crashed down from the surrounding cliffs, themselves well over 2,000 feet above the river, creates a disquieting sense that another will join them at any second. The river itself is dozens of feet wide. Trees are at least 100 feet tall. The pine cones they drop are bigger than my hat.

Add the shroud of haze and some high clouds, and the whole scene seems taken from Middle Earth, not taken at 1 o'clock in the afternoon on a Friday last month.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1663.jpg)

Finding a camping space proved difficult. I reached Return Creek, knowing there would be good sites there. Someone had placed his tiny tent in a large site, the only one with trees I could reasonably tie up to. I searched for over an hour, including an ill-advised off-trail scramble that left me exhausted and cut up. The trail got steeper upstream from Return Creek, and I passed up and down it several times, hoping to spy something. I knew if I headed on toward Waterwheel Falls, which was less than a mile away, my chances of finding a spot would thin. Eventually, I found a spot near a place where the river crashes over boulders, and a rock outcrop offers both access to the water and a nice view of the raging river.

This ended up being one of my better night's sleep, probably because of all the energy I spent searching for a camping spot and hiking 10.8 miles. However, I didn't feel refreshed in the morning. In fact, my legs felt like lead. This day would be a short one, distance-wise, but I would still gain 1,500 feet of elevation on my way to Glen Aulin. If I liked the backpackers' camp, I would stay there. I needed this fifth day of hiking to be more relaxing than the previous days' efforts.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1664.jpg)

Since I wasn't camped too far below it, Waterwheel Falls was the first of the day's many impressive waterfalls. Along this granite flat, the waters of the Tuolumne River are shot into the air in a series of arcs resembling -- much more so at higher spring flows -- a spinning wheel. The photo does not do it justice. It is significantly larger and more awesome than it appears. Part of the problem is the lousy camera angle. Had I not just started my trekking for the day, I probably would have taken off the pack and ventured down the rocks a bit to find a better spot. Waterwheel Falls is the lowest of the named falls in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

After 500 feet of total elevation gain and about 1.25 miles from camp, I next encountered Le Conte Falls, which features a long sliding cascade and then a steeper drop peppered with waterwheel-like sprays. Many people hiking from Glen Aulin or Tuolumne Meadows mistake it for Waterwheel Falls, and it's not hard to.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1665.jpg)

As the trail continues climbing, it passes a number of other smaller cascades, flumes, falls, chutes, and aprons. Each one marks another climb in the trail, and it keeps on climbing until it finally reaches a level area called Glen Aulin ("beautiful valley"). There, magically, the river goes quiet, serene, still, resembling a lake. It's twists and turns are broader, weaving gently in and out of forests and meadows. Wildflowers were in full bloom, covering the open spaces all the way to the canyon walls.

Lupine was especially prevalent, blooming a light purple in the splashes of sunshine. A forest fire had blown through this area, clearing the landscape for blooming plants and young trees. It also opened vistas of the surrounding mountains, such as Wildcat Point, seen here.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1666.jpg)

By noon, I had reached the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. Unlike virtually everything else in Yosemite, the backpackers' camp does not take reservations. There is no fee to camp there. There are designated sites, but some of the signs are missing, and there's an open feel to the place. My dead legs were done, save for some exploring around the camp, particularly its striking waterfall and pool. I set up camp and napped in my hammock for awhile. Then it was time to explore.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on July 28, 2008, 07:50:09 AM
Incredible writing and photos, Jeff......one of the few things in my life that I can deem as a "given". (if you are writing and shooting).  :icon_cool: I'm really enjoying this ride!
Title: Re: Glen Aulin to Cathedral Lakes
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 28, 2008, 11:35:47 PM
Glen Aulin (pronounced like the name Alan) turned out to be one of my favorite places during the trip. The High Sierra Camp (HSC), a collection of white tent-cabins surrounding a central dining area and store, is one of five in the park. Behind it lies the backpackers' camp, a collection of cleared areas in the trees running between some low cliffs and Conness Creek, which feeds into the Tuolumne near the bridge into the camping area.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1667.jpg)

Here beside the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, the White Cascade of the Tuolumne River plunges the final 50 feet into a deep, swirling splash pool. A rocky beach lines the pool's north shore, beside the camp, and a jumble of boulders, wet with the fall's spray, creates a scramble along the southern shore to the curtain of water. The cold water beckons weary hikers, while the water's roar drowns out almost all other sounds. The only thing louder was the sound of a rescue helicopter's engine and its blades slicing through the air. A search-and-rescue ended well as I arrived. This particular view, from the rocky beach, is right before the sun disappeared behind the canyon wall, as its last rays kissed the falls goodnight.

Let's back up a moment. I chose a campsite a little after noon and got set up. After eating lunch -- and swatting all manner of ants -- on the rocky beach, I waded out into the pool. COLD! I expected it to be cold, but not that cold. Needle-cold. Almost burning cold. I splashed some water through my nappy hair and quickly retreated to the warm rocks, my pack towel, and some angry ants. I crossed the main trail bridge to the other shore and hopped my way across the boulders, drawing ever closer to the falls. I found a spot close to the spray, where the sun was shining and I could sit and enjoy, or even stand and celebrate this incredible place. Happiness is a gorgeous waterfall.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1668.jpg)

Following my exploration of the rocks and falls, I brought some water back to do some laundry. About that time, the sun disappeared behind some ominous dark clouds, and thunder cracked like a fast heartbeat. The monsoonal flow had settled in, and it appeared we would be getting drenched. I ditched the laundry idea and instead gathered everything under the hammock's canopy. I doubted it would effectively protect everything if it rained hard, but I nonetheless crawled into the hammock and napped. A few drops fell, but mostly the thunder rumbled unfulfilled (at least where I was).

Upon reflection, I knew it had clouded up each of the last couple of afternoons only to break about an hour before sunset. There may have been thunder before, but I was so close to the rushing river that I might have missed it. This weather pattern, and my own tired legs, made me question whether the 12-mile days and 10,000-foot passes ahead were wise. As the skies cleared and I ventured out to watch the sunset, I thought about rerouting my hike to ensure I wouldn't be searching for campsites at 6 or 7 p.m. My brain kept focusing on that first afternoon, dodging the lightning and ducking the rain while trying to get to Yosemite Creek. I did not want to repeat that experience.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1669.jpg)

Meanwhile, the sunset was beyond spectacular, and my mind's wheels, churning as they were over alternate routes, slowed to ponder this glorious sights and sounds of this remarkable place, in this singular moment. Not much I can add to what's here, save to say that this was the sunset, as viewed from a perch just west of the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp. The haze and clouds, the cliffs and the water, together they made for a sunset far more beautiful and radiant than this photo conveys. There were only a handful of moments where I wished I had lugged the EOS and all its lenses instead of the compact, lightweight Powershot G9, and this was one of them.

Despite the relatively crowded nature of the camp, I slept quite well, finally, on the fifth night, finding the hammock's sweet spot. It was a cool night at nearly 8,000 feet. For the first time, I had to zip the sleeping bag up all the way to keep warm.

The next day (Sunday, my sixth on the trail) would begin with a steep climb and then a long, level ramble into Tuolumne Meadows. I got off to an early start, departing camp around 6:45 a.m. The GPS didn't find a clear signal for almost a mile. I had gained about 250 feet and wandered by the upper portions of White Cascade, even visiting the brink of Glen Aulin Falls. In the background, one of the HSC's tent cabins is visible through the trees.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1670.jpg)

The trail passes several waterfalls as it continues to climb up the canyon, weaving in and out of forest, meadow, and open granite. Finally, a last roaring cascade marks the end (the beginning, from the river's perspective) of the long tumble toward Pate Valley. Beyond the brink, the Tuolumne River is placid, calm, and, though moving with urgency, still-looking.  And quiet.

After being in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and wandering alongside a rushing river for three days, it was surprising to see distant mountains, so clearly, and to see water so still, and spaces so open, so sunny, and so crisply. This photo was taken just west of the braided crossings of (dry) Dingley Creek, where the river runs south to north, affording the wonderful reflections of the mountains in the morning.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1671.jpg)

As best as I can tell, the peaks are (L-R): Unicorn Peak, the Cockscomb, Matthes Crest, Echo Peaks, Cathedral Peak, and Fairview Dome. Pothole Dome is squatting down in front. Cathedral Peak -- specifically the upper lake in the shadow of its crown -- would be my ultimate destination for the day. In the short term, all I could think about was getting a hamburger at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill.

I made good time trekking across the level meadow, admiring views of distant mountains, majestic granite domes, pretty trees and meadows, deer browsing, and the meandering river. I reached civilization, via a confusing series of trail junctions, around 10:45. Unfortunately, the grill did not begin serving lunch until 11:30, and they finally took my order close to 11:40. In the meantime, I bought some additional provisions, emptied out the bear cannister of trash and uneaten trail food, and camped out at a picnic table beside the Tioga Road. When will I learn that I simply don't eat on the trail? The hamburger wasn't anywhere near as good as it was in my head all morning. In my haste to catch the shuttle bus to the Cathedral Lake trailhead -- saving almost 1.5 miles of walking -- I left my trekking pole behind, for the second time.

I began my ascent at 12:15 p.m. and immediately began looking for a walking stick. Since it was a popular trail, they were predictably absent. I labored up the switchbacks, realizing how much I use a trekking pole to help with climbing. I finally found a short pine branch which worked for the uphill sections. I soon passed the only remaining snow I saw up close and was startled when a huge slab of it broke off and crashed down the granite it had clung to. The sky was filled with cotton puffs of white clouds.

I broke my too-small hiking stick tapping it on a log I was planning on sitting on. About 45 minutes later, I found the perfect stick leaned up against a fallen tree. Someone obviously left it behind and was no doubt wishing he hadn't. My eyes, finally done casting about the ground and fallen wood searching for a suitable stick, now looked up, above the trees, and saw the darkening skies.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1672.jpg)

The craggy summit of Cathedral Peak appears as a lone jagged spike from this portion of the Cathedral Lakes Trail, as foreboding as the thunder rumbling low and loud and the bristling lightning shooting over the not-too-distant Sierra crest. The air was deathly still. I had not yet made it to where I could camp, and I quickened my pace, bypassing scenic lower Cathedral Lake (where I also could not camp) and made a hasty scramble over the 9,600-foot-high saddle between Cathedral and Tressider Peaks.

It took 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach the upper Cathedral Lake from the Tioga Road. The lake sits in a broad basin, 9,585 feet above sea level (and more than a mile above Pate Valley, where this climb began four days ago), just north of Cathedral Pass. A bank of trees sits on a slight hill to the left, just below Tressider Peak. I make a quick line for them and pick the first two trees I can tie up between. The GPS records the time as 3:03 p.m. The thermometer on the back of my pack says it's 64 degrees.

In the still air, the mosquitoes descend upon me. I slather Deet on my hands and face to keep them at bay while I clumsily get my hammock and tarp out. The mosquitoes vanish, not because of the chemicals. I get the hammock, still in its snake skins, lashed to the trees. I clip the tarp to one side, then the other. I attach the first guy line to a stake in the ground.

What happened next can charitably be described as rising above a difficult situation. Another description is a disaster narrowly averted. It could just as easily be called a survival situation.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: SA Bill on July 29, 2008, 06:11:55 AM
Aaaack! Don't leave us hanging like that!  :nailbitting:

Can't wait for the next installment! Great pics Jeff.

Eagerly awaiting the next chapter,
   Bill
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on July 29, 2008, 06:29:55 AM
Hear ya Bill! Left hangin like a hammock in a tree! :eusa_dance:
Yosemite is quickly becoming my next to-do destination.  :icon_smile:
Title: Re: Glen Aulin to Cathedral Lakes
Post by: mule ears on July 29, 2008, 09:20:00 AM
Jeff,
as always great pictures and narration.  This might be too much information :icon_eek:
Quote
(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1668.jpg)

What happened next can charitably be described as rising above a difficult situation. Another description is a disaster narrowly averted. It could just as easily be called a survival situation.

To be continued.

Let me see, lightning or the tree falls over.... :eusa_think:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on July 29, 2008, 11:05:07 AM
Jeff,

I'm enjoying reading about your grand adventure in "Middle Earth"...very cool.  The pictures look fantastic too.  Is your G9 simply a point and shoot, or are you making adjustments?  Regardless, the images look very Tolkienesqe.  I can't wait to hear the unedited version over a couple of beers.

B
Title: Re: Glen Aulin to Cathedral Lakes
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 29, 2008, 11:12:38 AM
This might be too much information :icon_eek:

That would be knowing how many days in a row I wore those pants.  :eusa_whistle:

Quote
Let me see, lightning or the tree falls over.... :eusa_think:

No trees were hurt during the "what happens next" segment of our tale.

I'm enjoying reading about your grand adventure in "Middle Earth"...very cool.  The pictures look fantastic too.  Is your G9 simply a point and shoot, or are you making adjustments?  Regardless, the images look very Tolkienesqe.  I can't wait to hear the unedited version over a couple of beers.

There was definitely a Middle Earth vibe to the wilderness. Everything seems so big and anciently old, yet wild and raw at the same time. The G9 is a glorified point-and-shoot. Since I shoot RAW, I make few adjustments in the field, mostly messing with exposure times, ISO rating, and turning the digital neutral density filter (2 stops) on and off.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on July 29, 2008, 04:43:11 PM
Awesome report and pics so far Jeff!  Yosemite has to be one of the ultimate backpacking destinations I'd like to do before I get too old for this stuff :) 

Good to see the G9 worked out so well for the trip.  Just breaking my G9 in now... playing around with all the settings. 
Title: Re: The Tempest
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 29, 2008, 11:16:37 PM
A wall of wind and rain galloped down the broad basin from Cathedral Pass, 40 miles an hour, 50, maybe more. In an instant, the single stake holding the windward side of the tarp was flung from the ground. The tarp, attached at two points to the hammock, flapped wildly in the gale. Huge drops of icy rain smacked my campsite, and me, sideways, driven by the incredible wind. Booms of thunder echoed off the surrounding peaks; blinding lightning crackled in the sky. The temperature plunged. Then it began to hail.

Where I was not already drenched with sweat from my hike, my single layer on top and bottom was now soaked with chilly rain. I threw my pack onto a flat patch of ground under the spot where my tarp should be. It, and the hammock coil, formed a wide arc, blasted by the wind. I hurriedly attached the leeward end of the tarp to a large rock and flung it on the ground. I wedged a second rock against it. The ground was already covered in ice and water. The hail was coming down as marbles. I grabbed the loose end of the tarp and pulled it over my head and the hammock. All I could do was hold it. The rain lashed at my pants. The wind tried to rip the canopy from my hand. The thunder was deafening.

The lower portion of my pack -- including the foam pad I sleep on and the heat reflector -- was getting wet. Water was running across the ground, pooling up in the duff under my feet. The other side of the tarp loosened -- the rock slid in the muck -- and now I'm holding both ends, my arms straight out from my sides, my head forming the new A-line of the tarp. The only tension it has is from my grip. Hail is pelting my head. I cannot see, as the tarp, whipping in the wind despite my attempts to hold it tight, has blinded me. But for the frequent lightning, I would see nothing at all except the ground immediately beneath me. Portions of the hammock's sheath are exposed to the rain.

Thus I stand, like a cross, desperately clinging to the wind-battered tarp while the furious tempest blasts away. It goes on, and on, and on. I pray. I pray for the hail to stop, for the wind to ease, for the rain to let off just enough for me to secure the tarp. I am shivering. My hands are cold and wet, and I'm losing feeling in my fingers. I don't dare let go. If the tarp flies back over my head, I may not get it back. Hail is piling up around me, and pools of water are getting deeper. Hail lands in the pools, splashing cold water. My boots and socks and pants are soaked. The bottom half of my pack is soaked. I pray the plastic garbage bag protecting my sleeping bag and other clothes is holding back the moisture.

I am shivering. I cannot let go. On and on the storm rages. I must hold tight. I cannot let go. My hands are cold. My core temperature is dropping. My teeth chatter. My mind wraps itself completely around prayer. I turn off the signals from my joints and muscles telling me they can't hold on much longer. I turn off the cold. I become solemnly aware that I will be hypothermic if I cannot get into dry clothes, and soon. I begin to focus. I must focus. This is a survival situation. I must keep a level head. I must make good decisions. I must try to keep my shelter and my gear dry. I shift my head, change my body's orientation slightly and, with quick reflexes, alter my grip on the tarp. I lower the angle of the tarp to block more of the sideways rain. I can do nothing about the hail. My hiking hat, still atop my head, was wet from condensation formed at the point of contact with the tarp. My head is cold, too. There's nothing I can do about it. My hands are numb. There's nothing I can do about it.

Lord, please make this storm stop. Please let the hail end, and calm the winds. I repeat this over and over. I pray for forgiveness. I pray for my family and friends. I feel myself getting colder. The hail picks up, throwing golf ball-sized ice at the earth. I kick at the duff under me, releasing some of the pooled water. I did a channel with my heel. It begins to flow away from me. I spy a large rock just a few feet from me. I release the leeward side of the tarp and lunge for it. Picking it up, I hurriedly wrap the windward side guyline around it and place it on the ground. For now, it is holding, though not at an optimal angle. I recover the other side using both hands and replace the rocks holding it down. I pile some other nearby rocks on top of them. Both sides are somewhat secured. For the first time in over half an hour, both my hands are free. My head is still providing all the tension in the tarp.

Lord, please make this storm stop. The thermometer on my pack says it's 43 degrees. It will drop into the 30s tonight. I cannot count on the sun to warm or dry anything until the dawn. What's wet can't get any wetter. I spend the next several minutes trying to adjust the canopy to cover the hammock, which is still in its sleeves. They're not wet, so maybe the hammock is still dry. With my feet, I adjust the rocks holding the canopy, pushing them further out. The wind is not howling anymore; the hail is getting smaller and slowing. The rain is still heavy; the lightning and thunder continue their scary assault.

Lord, please make this storm stop. I am shivering. My teeth are chattering. I have to get some dry clothes on. Think. Where are your clothes. In a stroke of luck, when I packed this morning -- a chilly morning, it was -- I kept my base layer top on right up until it was time to put on my pack. I usually keep it with the base layer bottoms, camp socks, and sleeping bag in the bottom of the pack. But not today. It's stuffed in one of my camp shoes (Crocs), and they're at the very top. My wind shirt is stuffed in the other camp shoe. My down vest is wedged between my cooking stuff, my rain pants, and the tank top that serves as an alternate dayhiking top. In another stroke of luck, my wool hat is in the top pocket instead of lower down, again the result of the chilly morning. I gather these items, draping them over the sleeved hammock. I am careful to cinch the pack closed and cover the lid.

I take off my drenched hiking shirt and use the camp towel to dry off as best as I can. Then I put on the tank top, followed by the silk base layer, the down vest, and the wind shirt. I put the wool hat over my head and put my hiking hat -- though wet -- over it, since my head is still providing all of the tension for the tarp. The hail has finally stopped. The wind is not as fierce, though gusts still blast by. It has been an hour since the tempest blasted over the crest.

Lord, please make this storm stop. I keep my mind focused on the next single thing I can do to improve my situation, to prevent hypothermia. I drape my foam pad and reflector over the hammock to protect them. They're damp, but not drenched. I use the pack towel to absorb some of the water. I adjust the tarp. I find my gloves, such as they are. They're actually golfing gloves, intended to help with the cables on Half Dome, and not intended to insulate and provide warmth. They go over my wet, cold hands, which I immediately shove under my arms in an attempt to warm them up. The rain picks up. Lightning strikes nearby. The concussive force of the thunder nearly knocks me down. Though the wind shirt is water resistant, it would be better not to get any of my dry clothes wet.

Lord, please make this storm stop. I keep focusing on the one thing I can do to improve my situation, and put all my energy into doing that one thing. Then I focus on the next one thing I can do to improve my situation. I keep adjusting the tarp, even venturing outside its protection for a few seconds to re-tension it. The trees are slightly too close together to get a taut pitch. I retie the sliding tensioner to gain an extra couple of inches. It seems to be holding. Finally, my head is no longer the primary A-line. I re-rig the drip lines for the hammock. I shift the position of the foam pad and heat reflector. Every minute, I rap my gloved hands against the tarp to release water. I use my bandanna and pack towel to remove condensation. It has been raining for two hours. The temperature has fallen to 40 degrees. My legs and feet are still cold. My core temperature is rising, thanks to the down vest and wool hat, which effectively trap body heat, and a wind shirt which sheds the breeze.

Lord, please make this storm stop. The rain has slowed, and there's a slight glow in the sky. I kick at the duff to break up the remaining pools of water. I need to change pants. It's too risky. I might get the sleeping bag wet, or my spare socks, or my base layer. I talk myself out of it. My hands are cold again -- sweat has built up within the gloves. I take them off and stuff them down my vest. When my hands get too cold, I put them back on for a few minutes, then take them off and stuff them back down my vest. I am still cold, and half of me is still wet. It rains for another hour.

I realize I have not seen a flash of lightning in a while. The thunder has grown distant and muted. The sky is not as dark. I peer out from under the tarp, praying to see the sun. It is hidden, but the clouds are showing some detail. There is less rain in the air. Lord, you are making the storm stop.

Finally, at around 6:30 p.m., the rain slows to a mist, then occasional drops, then mostly drips and spatters from the tree limbs above. I venture out from the protection of my tarp. The granite boulders just beyond the trees are already drying out. I stand the foam pad on end on one of the boulders. I tie the wet bandannas, pack towel, and hiking hat to limbs to dry. I pull back the sleeves on the hammock. It's damp. That means my shelter and primary insulation pad are both wet. My sleeping bag won't stay dry. What if I put the reflector on top of the pad, instead of under it? I have nothing to lose by doing that, so I will. I finally get dry bottoms on, but I hold on dry socks. My boots repelled almost all of the water -- only the tops of my socks are still wet.

The thunder fades away. It is almost sunset. The temperature has risen to 45. The sun, shining wanly through the rain clouds, lights up Cathedral Peak like a beacon, and paints a soft orange glow on the tallest pine trees.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1673.jpg)

Seeing the glow of the sun after this storm was reassuring, and I managed to stay warm and fairly dry through the night. My sleeping pad never dried fully, and the bottom of my hammock stayed damp. The reflector, atop the pad, kept my sleeping bag from getting wet under my core. It was damp at the feet. My hiking clothes were too wet to use as insulation. It paid off that I waited until I settled in for the night to swap out socks. They were warm and dry (They were in fact stuffed down my vest for half an hour before I climbed into the hammock.).

It was a cold night, dipping into the mid-30s. It was also clear, and that meant the sun would rise bright and warm over the ridge in the morning. Everything that was still wet could dry out, and then I could move on and be better prepared in case a similar storm blew up the next day. I prayed again before going to sleep. I actually slept well that night, hardly moving in my cocoon.

Indeed, it was a glorious morning:

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1674.jpg)

The sun shone brightly the morning after the first hail storm battered me at Upper Cathedral Lake. I laid my gear out to dry in its rays while I explored the lake. Tresidder Peak was reflected in its still waters. It was an amazing reversal. Yesterday afternoon, the wind was blasting, hail was falling, thunder was crashing -- everything was moving, churning, tumbling. This morning, all is still and quiet and calm, as though the fury and violence of the storm never happened.

I made it through, and I would be much better prepared when the hail came again.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on July 29, 2008, 11:52:23 PM
Jeff, the fact you do what you do alone shows a LOT of bravery.  I have not been so brave.  (One can't help but think of and gain even greater respect for the scouts and adventurers who discovered that vast wilderness, were truly alone and unequipped compared to you.)  A hiking buddy makes all the difference in a situation like that.  First the oncoming storm may have been seen before it hit. Second, the extra set of hands makes all the difference in getting things together when caught in those circumstances and third, the moral support of another human can make all the difference or they can freak out  and cause a hellacious situation become even worse . . . but that's another story.   Good job but Homero can't believe you didn't take any pictures while this was happening! Please!

Al

Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on July 30, 2008, 06:08:49 AM
There's nothing you could do about it......amazing how humbling mother nature and her fury can be!  Great story,Jeff!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: bdhawk133 on July 30, 2008, 06:28:34 AM
Awesome story Jeff! :eusa_clap: I'm glad you came out of it ok. Now I know why you need that larger rainfly over the hammock!!  :icon_biggrin:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: SA Bill on July 30, 2008, 06:41:11 AM
WOW!
What an "adventure" you had. Glad you survived! It's scary how fast the weather can change and how that change can put you in grave danger. If you hadn't kept your wits about you, this could have turned out very bad. Praying was a good idea too!!  :eusa_pray:
   Bill
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: bdann on July 30, 2008, 09:58:16 AM
wow, what a story Jeff!  ...this is a great report...can't wait to hear more.   :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on July 30, 2008, 11:04:21 AM
Just when you thought it was the bears you had to worry about  :eusa_shifty:.  It is always amazing the force which a storm can come in with.  Glad you made it through with just some wet stuff and nothing else.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on July 30, 2008, 11:22:03 AM
I've been caught in one of those high altitude sleet/hail storms and they aren't fun at all.  Never been so cold in my life in July.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Goldilocks on July 30, 2008, 11:43:36 AM
It sounds like you had some really bad moments out there. I'm sure it was even more intense than your description.   So glad you are ok!

Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 30, 2008, 11:44:31 AM
I've been caught in one of those high altitude sleet/hail storms and they aren't fun at all.  Never been so cold in my life in July.

You always read/hear that hypothermia is a potentially fatal problem in July, and you always think, "No way, it's the middle of summer, how am I possibly going to freeze to death?"

The upper lake is at just below 9,600 feet of elevation, sitting in a broad flat expanse on the other side of a 9,600+ ridge.  It is the first place one can legally camp out of Tuolumne Meadows (The ridge is the boundary.). Had that camping restriction not been in effect, I would have found a place lower, and earlier, and probably would have been situated to ride out the storm safely. The speed with which it barreled over the Sierra Crest was awesome. I couldn't help but think, after it was all over, what if ... I had been a minute later up the ridge. Think about how many things on a trail can slow you down for one more minute, especially when you're a lumbering, ponderous hiker like me (Those of you who have hiked with me know what I'm talking about.) who stops hundreds of photo ops during a trip.

Just when you thought it was the bears you had to worry about  :eusa_shifty:.  It is always amazing the force which a storm can come in with.  Glad you made it through with just some wet stuff and nothing else.

File the bears under "coming attractions." As for the force of the storm, I shudder at what would have happened if I had followed my original plan. I would have been on the stormward side of either Tuolumne Pass or Evelyn Lake, 1,000 feet higher and three miles closer to the Sierra crest, and still several miles from camp, when the storm crashed over the crest. It's the companion thought to the "one minute later" concept.

Jeff, the fact you do what you do alone shows a LOT of bravery.  I have not been so brave.  (One can't help but think of and gain even greater respect for the scouts and adventurers who discovered that vast wilderness, were truly alone and unequipped compared to you.)  A hiking buddy makes all the difference in a situation like that.  First the oncoming storm may have been seen before it hit. Second, the extra set of hands makes all the difference in getting things together when caught in those circumstances and third, the moral support of another human can make all the difference or they can freak out  and cause a hellacious situation become even worse . . . but that's another story.   Good job but Homero can't believe you didn't take any pictures while this was happening! Please!

That bravery is going to take a serious hit later. When I was looking across at Muir Gorge, I was awed at how John Muir actually climbed down into it from the Ten Lakes Basin with cotton/flannel clothes, little more than a daypack's worth of shelter, and nothing resembling today's gear. In later years, he led a world-famous mountaineer up the gorge. After a mile, the mountaineer had to stop, exhausted from the boulder hopping and fighting the Tuolumne's current, and he turned back.

There are three times during a solo hiking trip when I tend to long for companionship: meals, camp-time after sunset, and when the weather sucks (or, in this case, blows).

WOW!
What an "adventure" you had. Glad you survived! It's scary how fast the weather can change and how that change can put you in grave danger. If you hadn't kept your wits about you, this could have turned out very bad. Praying was a good idea too!!  :eusa_pray:
   Bill

In hindsight, I was probably in more danger from the lightning than hypothermia, but the alternative ending to the story, shivering through a cold night in wet clothes with wet insulation in a wet shelter, would have been, at best, sheer misery, a long and bitter night. The "worst" end of that spectrum has already been contemplated.

Awesome story Jeff! :eusa_clap: I'm glad you came out of it ok. Now I know why you need that larger rainfly over the hammock!!  :icon_biggrin:

That would be the reason, although I adapted for the next hail storm, also filed under "coming attractions."
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on July 30, 2008, 12:20:11 PM
Awesome, Jeff!  Regardless of how scared you were, you will fondly remember this event for the rest of your life.  Events like that add a little perspective to our lives and remind us that we are all merely taking a helpless ride on the back of Mother Earth.

I can't wait for the next installment.  Bears eh? 
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 30, 2008, 12:32:08 PM
Homero can't believe you didn't take any pictures while this was happening! Please!

I took one using the camera phone while I was riding out the second hail storm (another "coming attraction," as noted above):

(http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3252/2672571498_934c84fd4d.jpg?v=0)

It's a terrible photo, but I didn't feel like risking the real camera.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on July 30, 2008, 12:56:20 PM
Think about how many things on a trail can slow you down for one more minute, especially when you're a lumbering, ponderous hiker like me (Those of you who have hiked with me know what I'm talking about.) who stops hundreds of photo ops during a trip.



Put Musey in the "lumbering, ponderous" category as well. If you're not going to stop and look around while talking to the birdie's and bunnie's and bears,  :icon_wink: then IMO you're missing out on the full experience! Oh, and thank GOD you took those photo op's! :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on July 30, 2008, 02:11:20 PM
I agree 100%.  If you don't stop and relax and enjoy the scenery, a hike can become more of a 'forced death march'.  I've done those, and they really spoil the fun.
Title: Re: Sunrise to Clouds Rest
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 31, 2008, 10:29:14 AM
The calm morning and bright sunshine belied the sound and fury of the afternoon before, when a vicious hail storm pounded the tree-studded meadow surrounding Upper Cathedral Lake. I laid my gear over a large boulder facing the sun so that everything would dry out. My hiking clothes, in particular, were still soaked from the rain, as were my boots. My sleeping bag was damp. The hammock's canopy was covered in dew. The hammock itself was damp. My sleeping pad was wet on the edges and damp in the middle. Even the windshield reflector was wet. This would take awhile. I guess I'll explore the lake.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1675.jpg)

The ground was still wet and dewy, and I had on my crocs, so I stepped carefully, trying to keep my socks as dry as possible. A series of granite slabs provided access to the lake, and the view of Tressider Peak reflecting in its mirror-still waters was inspiring. Already the bad memories of this spot were fading away like a bad dream exposed to the light. I noticed two people sitting on a rock across the water. We called out to each other, discussing the storm. They had set up camp about half an hour before it hit. There were, in fact, better campsites along that opposite shore, but I did not have the time to seek them out.

One could follow the shore easily around the eastern shore to the strip of trees and boulders beneath Tressider's shoulder. The path to the western shore required crossing Tenaya Creek, which I, at that moment, lacked the footwear to accomplish. A waterfall was heard and briefly glimpsed on the mountainside, and I expect the creek created waterfalls of its own as it headed down to the lower lake. Part of me wanted to backtrack down to the lower lake -- supposedly very scenic -- but I was going to be getting a late enough start without the detour.

Though I broke camp around 7:30 a.m., I didn't get packed up and on the trail until around 9:30 a.m. Clouds were already streaming in from the east, as the monsoonal flow once again was in charge of the mountains' weather. I could expect another storm today. All the more reason to get going!

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1676.jpg)

A short climb from the Upper Cathedral Lake's southern shore is needed to reach 9,700-foot or so Cathedral Pass, a saddle between the Echo Peaks to the east and Tresidder Peak to the west. The view back towards the lake includes a stately portrait of Cathedral Peak, 10,911 feet in elevation (about 1,300 feet above the lake). I believe the round granite dome in the left background is Medlicott Dome. From here, the John Muir Trail gently climbs the southeast flank of Tresidder Peak, reaching a high point just below 10,000 feet, about 1.4 miles from the lake. From the trail are good views of the Matthes Crest, the crown-like Echo Peaks, and the aptly named Columbia Finger, which vaguely resembles an obscene gesture made by a huge granite hand.

Not far thereafter, the trail pauses at a grand viewpoint (9,850 feet), from which some of the park's eastern peaks come into view. As best as I can tell, they are (L-R): Amelia Earhart Peak (with scattered snow patches), Parsons Peak (with Fletcher Peak in front of it), Simmons Peak, Mt. Maclure, Mt. Lyell, and Mt. Florence (with Vogelsang Peak directly in front of it).

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1677.jpg)

The trail then descends 500 feet in elevation over about a mile into Long Meadow, where it becomes a highway. Several parallel tracks cut across the, well, long meadow, passing between clusters of small trees, random rocks, and rivulets of slow-moving water. At the Sunrise High Sierra Camp, the John Muir Trail continues south while the Sunrise Lakes Trail climbs over the northern arm of Sunrise Mountain. I stopped at the HSC a little before noon for water and quickly returned to the trail, beginning the brief climb. Clouds were gathering, and darkening.

The trail drops down past the three Sunrise Lakes. The upper lake, situated at 9,427 feet in elevation, sits beneath an unnamed 10,151 dome. The trail follows its southwest shore, before it reaches the outlet creek and the sounds of water falling. The middle lake (9,258 feet) is off the trail and seen only fleetingly through the trees. About a quarter-mile later, the trail curves around the western shore of the lower lake (9,166 feet), crossing over its outlet creek, before leading to a series of campsites. I wandered around the area looking for the right spot. There were several nice spots right by the lake, complete with fire rings, but not suitable for a hammock. I found a spot around 1:30 p.m. and began setting up immediately.

The site I selected had a large boulder separating me from the lake, and several trees provided another windbreak. A large log cut across the site, hopefully providing protection from rain (and hail) splashing off the granite. I tied up lower than normal to improve the canopy's ability to shed the rain, and I quickly got it taut. I coiled the foam pad and reflector around the hammock (still sheathed in its snake skins). I got my warm clothes ready. I pulled out the bear cannister, removed lunch from it, and set it (locked) on the ground. Then I walked over to the granite shoreline and ate, listening to the thunder and watching the sky grow angrier.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1678.jpg)

The breeze picked up, and the temperature began to inch downward. Another round of bad weather was coming, but at least I was prepared for it this time. At 3:15, I slipped my Driducks over my hiking pants and put on the same group of layers I wore the day before with a slight adjustment -- base layer, tank top, down vest, wind shirt -- and put my wool hat under my hiking hat. Around 3:30, the rain started to fall. Lightning arced across the sky and thunder boomed off the granite domes surrounding me. It was on. I took a seat upon the bear canister -- finally found a good use for it! -- and clutched the foam pad and reflector in my arms.

The hail came down like a flood of plastic pellets, as though someone had opened a great box and all the packing material fell out at once. Except it went on for 30 minutes. The ice piled up around me, turning the ground white. It bounced off the rocks and logs, pelting me sideways in my otherwise dry shelter. The rain was splashing, too, but my boots and rain pants were shedding it. The canopy was low enough that I hardly got wet at all, and it held against the wind. I actually got an intermittent signal on my cell phone and sent a photo of myself riding out the storm (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffblaylock/2672571498/) to my blog via Flickr.

About 5, I was surprised to hear someone calling out to me. I turned around to see someone with a poncho draped over himself and pack. He asked if there was a fire ring nearby. I said I saw a nice one in a great campsite over there, pointing toward it. He thanked me and went on, joined by another person. It was still raining heavily, but the hail was long gone. A little while later, I saw them putting up their tent, trying to keep it as dry as possible. Around 5:45, someone else called out to me. "Have you seen a couple of guys come through here?" I directed him to their campsite.

The thunder grew distant, and the lightning ceased. The rain stopped around 6:30. I could hear those guys -- now numbering four -- talking about getting a fire going. A fire sure sounded nice to me, so I ventured over to their site, introduced myself, and we went about getting a fire going. The first two I'd encountered, Joel and Scott, were brothers, one from San Diego and the other from the Chicago area. The other two were their father Cory and his brother Uncle Bob. I offered one of my esbit cubes to start the fire, but they brought lighter fluid. Finding wood was challenging -- the place was picked pretty clean -- and finding dry wood even more challenging. Yet, we soon had a roaring fire, and they were drying their gear. I thanked them for letting me crash their party. It was great to have company after enduring these two hail storms.

They had hiked up from Tenaya Lake after doing some dayhiking at Tuolumne Meadows. They were going to follow the John Muir Trail to Little Yosemite Valley and camp there the next night, then summit Half Dome the following morning. That was when I would be climbing Half Dome, since the weather and rerouting had moved it up a day. Perhaps we'd run into each other. I hung out with them until around sunset, and what a sunset it was.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1679.jpg)

They settled into a card game, and I retired to a dry hammock, warm sleeping bag, and dry clothes. I slept very well that night.

I awoke just after sunrise and got off to an early start. It was nearly 5 miles to the top of Cloud's Rest, and the clouds were already gathering. I said goodbye to Joel and Scott (The other guys had already hit the trail.) and starting hiking. As I hiked, passing boulders and trees and views of Sunrise Mountain, I debated whether I should follow the day's plan or take a play-it-safe alternative. The plan was to hike over Clouds Rest and then camp along the Half Dome Trail above the junction with the John Muir Trail. The alternative was to follow the Muir Trail to Little Yosemite Valley and camp there. The alternative meant there would be no chance I'd get caught on 9,926-foot Clouds Rest if the storms came early. I went back-and-forth as I walked, but decided to put off the decision until I reached the trail junction, 2.5 miles from the campsite.

The trail remains fairly level for those 2.5 miles, hovering around 9,000 feet in elevation. At one point, it passes a buggy, marshy lake that has no inlet or outlet. Its shore is completely lined with trees, and it seemed out of place. My pondering the lake and rehashing my internal debate over route choices was suddenly interrupted. There was a bear on the trail in front of me. It looked over its shoulder, saw me, and scampered into the dark cover of the trees. My horribly out-of-focus photo shows a snout and face, but little else. It was probably a yearling. Bear encounters are best when they do bear things, like run away when a human approaches. I was smiling over the next mile or so -- I just saw a bear!

I reached the trail junction a little before 9 a.m. Surveying the skies, I noticed the clouds had burned up. It was clear in all directions. I will go to Clouds Rest, I decided, settling the morning debate. In a little under 2 miles, the trail gains about 850 feet of elevation, gently rising up the northern slope of Clouds Rest. The route is mostly in the forest, occasionally offering some views of Tenaya Canyon and teasing the splendor which is to come. About half a mile and 400 vertical feet from the summit, I ran into a group of three hikers who'd come up from Tenaya Lake. After a rest and some chatting, we headed up the summit trail together. I dropped my pack at a high trail junction, and we made our way up the narrow spine of the mountain to its summit, from which the whole park unfurled like a giant three-dimensional topo map.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1680.jpg)

Even the haze from fires and agriculture cannot fully obscure the grandeur of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, North Dome, or even distant El Capitan (the white clifftop at the top right). The sheer faces of Half Dome are dramatic from here, and it becomes clear how steep a climb to its summit will be.

Staring back down the summit ridge, Mount Hoffman and Tuolumne Peaks look like scale models of real mountains. Wild Tenaya Canyon slices its way between the granite walls, and waterfalls can be heard in its depths. Tenaya Lake appears as a distant blue patch nestled among green, lichen-looking trees beneath a granite dome. Columbia Finger appears as a dark triangle, listing lazily to the left, while Cathedral Peak and the Echo Peaks look like little sand castles. Even some of the upper reaches of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne and its eastern extension, Lyell Canyon, can be seen along the horizon.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1681.jpg)

We stayed on the summit for about half an hour, then tightroped our way down the summit ridge. The guys headed on back to their car at Tenaya Lake, wanting to get down before any afternoon storms hit. They said the hail storm closed Tioga Pass, washed boulders onto the road, and stranded motorists for a few hours. I was also eager to reach safer elevations, so I strapped on my back and descended.

And descended. And descended. The Clouds Rest Trail loses 2,900 feet over four miles in unrelenting fashion. It begins by dropping 1,000 feet in just over a mile, slicing across the southeast slope of the peak high above the forest. At that point, the trail passes by a flat granite expanse with spectacular views of Half Dome and western Yosemite Valley. The wind was whipping over this viewpoint, but it still seemed like a great place to have an Odwalla bar -- probably the only backpacking food I'd eat in the real world -- and admire the views.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1682.jpg)

The trail begins a series of wicked switchbacks, each one drawing closer to the badly titled granite slope connecting Clouds Rest to the Quarter Domes. Twice I ventured out about 20 feet onto this slope before returning to the safety of the trail. My original goal for a campsite was across this slope. Looking at it, and having seen the topography with my own eyes from Clouds Rest, I knew it was folly. There are probably spectacular views to be had, but I just wanted firm, level ground. The descent would continue.

By around 1:30 p.m., I had reached the John Muir Trail. A tributary of Sunrise Creek runs right by the trail junction. I filled up both 2-liter and my 1-liter Platypus bottles and boiled water for lunch while I sat under a tree fighting off ants. A fair number of people walked by, mostly headed for Half Dome and the Valley. There was a group of people camping just behind me. They were going to head up the trail I just descended to watch the sunset from Clouds Rest, then climb Half Dome to watch the sunrise. I told them they were crazy, something I suspect they already knew, though they seemed to be in a bit of a haze, herbal or otherwise.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1683.jpg)

The John Muir Trail descends to a hair above 7,000 feet, where the Half Dome Trail begins its ascent to Yosemite's most famous summit. Along the way, the forest opens up and offers this astounding view of Half Dome's backside. Just 4 1/2 hours earlier, I was standing atop Clouds Rest, 1,100 feet above Half Dome's summit. Now I'm 1,800 feet beneath it, but still 3,000 feet above where most people begin their climb of Half Dome: Happy Isles. I'm also 6 miles closer. I would camp in its shadow and begin my climb to the summit before sunrise.

I started up the Half Dome Trail, mindful of gathering clouds, and soon found a broad flat area under the tall trees. I set up in a "multi-room" campsite -- sleeping area, living area with fire ring, gear storage area, entry hall -- and gathered wood for a fire. In case it rained, I piled the wood where it could easily be moved under the canopy, but the rains never came. I was relieved; some of these trees were way too tall to be hiding under when lightning was present.

The traffic on the Half Dome Trail -- mostly people headed down -- finally subsided around 7:30 p.m. By that point, I had a good fire going. This would be the only trail night where I stayed up much past sunset, probably holding on until nearly 9:30 p.m. It was a warm evening, so the fire was purely for ambiance.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1684.jpg)

I had two fires during my nine nights on the trail. The first was a group affair at lower Sunrise Lake the night before. The second was this solo fire during my eighth night on the trail, camping in the shadow of Half Dome. Sometimes, there is just nothing better than a little campfire. I sat by the fire, tending it dutifully and reflecting on the past eight days' of backpacking: prior campsites, wildflowers and waterfalls, peaks and valleys, a bear, Nature's fury, and her serenity, fear and joy, solitude and warm welcomes, conversations and silence, breezes, clouds, the sound of water, the wonder of Creation. Sometimes, there is just nothing better than a little campfire.

And for the encore: Half Dome.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on July 31, 2008, 12:13:37 PM
Quote
And for the encore: Half Dome.

You can't have an encore until you've finished the set.  Maybe finale?  Whatever it is, I look forward to it.  :eusa_clap:

(http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:rrh9jOe9ErQnPM:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/White_lighter_with_flame.JPG)
Freebird!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: homerboy2u on July 31, 2008, 12:41:16 PM
Hello Jeff!!;

  I could not help log in again, given i am on vacation as we speak, but i just read your hail storm part of the trip and had to comment that it was an ordeal  to out lived it.

 You only know what you went thru alone and humiliates the spirit when you see first hand the power of nature wheeled by God. You now know that you are stronger,wiser and calmer on an emergency situation and for that i applued you..great story so far.

 Hats off to you,saludos and now back to the underground until i can resurface once again somewhere.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on July 31, 2008, 03:03:25 PM
Jeff - In those last sets of pics, I think I can just barely make out the cable route going up the backside of Half Dome...
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on July 31, 2008, 03:34:43 PM
(http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:rrh9jOe9ErQnPM:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/White_lighter_with_flame.JPG)
Freebird!

Dude you're killing me  :rolling:

I too await the encore.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on July 31, 2008, 03:52:59 PM
Jeff - In those last sets of pics, I think I can just barely make out the cable route going up the backside of Half Dome...

Darin, you are correct. In the zoomed-in version below, you can see folks on the cables and on top:

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/pix/cablecloseup.jpg)

And, yes, you have to step over, around, and atop all those cracks and crevices you see there. From this vantage point, they look like cracks. In reality, they're as much as 18 inches high, wide, deep, and/or tall.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: badknees on July 31, 2008, 04:03:00 PM
Mr. B.,

You have penned an exceptionally enjoyable and informative journal. Despite my preference for DSLR( :icon_wink:) I have also enjoyed all of your photos. (except the bare chested Yeti). :vomit:

Thanks for taking the time to share this in such a detailed dissertation.

Mr. BK
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on July 31, 2008, 04:35:23 PM
Yep, you can definitely make out that cable route in the zoomed in version on that 'substandard' G9 shot (nudge nudge BK).   :icon_eek:

Looking forward to the installment with the climb up Half Dome.  What's the angle of that slope?  40 degrees?

Darin
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 01, 2008, 01:38:07 PM
Yep, you can definitely make out that cable route in the zoomed in version on that 'substandard' G9 shot (nudge nudge BK).   :icon_eek:

Looking forward to the installment with the climb up Half Dome.  What's the angle of that slope?  40 degrees?

Darin

The GPS data shows a 315-foot vertical rise occurring over 432 feet of horizontal space. My handy-dandy scientific calculator I dusted off from my high school days says the hypotenuse, or distance travelled along the cables, is 535 feet at an average angle of 36 degrees. The key word there is, of course, average. There is one particularly steep part that is probably around 50, and it includes a very awkward step up (if going up) or blind step down (if going down). Once atop the cables, you are still 115 vertical feet below the summit, which, mercifully, sits on one side of a saddle-shaped plane upon which one could place more than a dozen football fields.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Burn Ban on August 01, 2008, 01:54:56 PM
this is a wonderful trip and report.  thanks for sharing a glimpse of your week with us.

perhaps one day i will hike up half dome.  on the other hand, just the pictures of the cables have always tightened my pucker to the point of uncomfortable.  still, maybe.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: TexasGirl on August 01, 2008, 08:32:32 PM
"And, yes, you have to step over, around, and atop all those cracks and crevices you see there. From this vantage point, they look like cracks. In reality, they're as much as 18 inches high, wide, deep, and/or tall."

Well, that probably settles the question of Half Dome for me.  I don't even like going out on the jetties at Port A and stepping from one granite block to the next! 
Title: Re: Facing Fear on Half Dome
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 01, 2008, 09:17:02 PM
Ninety miles of hiking has come to this: the ascent of Half Dome. My ninth day on the trail began with loud voices, as the first of the day's hikers partied their way up the trail near my campsite. It was about 5 a.m. I wanted to lie in the hammock some more, but it was time to go. I prepared my daypack the night before, so I was on the trail before sunrise. As it stood, I was just 1.75 miles, but nearly 1,800 vertical feet, from the summit. I was ahead of the crowds, as planned. The crown jewel of this grand trip was underway.

The trail climbs quickly through the trees on the southern slope of the mighty dome, which revealed itself only fleetingly. The trail turns west and follows the curve of Half Dome's northeast shoulder. After a mile (and 700 feet of climbing) I arrived at a spectacular viewpoint at 6 o'clock. 

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1685.jpg)

From there, the deep gash of Tenaya was still dark, and lofty Clouds Rest stood beneath the clouds, themselves painted shades of pink, purple, and orange by the rising sun. The summit is the rounded ridge to the left, upon which it appears the clouds are resting before the new day rouses them to take flight.

I stayed at that point for about 15 minutes, watching the shadow slowly fade from the forests and granite laid about the mountain like some great Christmas tree skirt adorned with gray gifts. The clouds began to whiten while beams of the sun's light struck the higher, east-facing peaks. Alpenglow was beginning to show on my destination. I dashed higher, hoping to find a viewpoint to see it clearly. I found one.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1686.jpg)

From this vantage point, the lower dome (about 0.4 miles away) remains in shadow. To reach the saddle between it and the final pitch to the summit, the trail takes a steep, 500-plus-foot climb up a wicked series of 423 steps -- yes, I counted them -- and an exposed granite slab dotted with tiny, gnarled trees. I reached the first step at 6:20 a.m. As I climbed the 423 leading up Half Dome's shoulder, rays of sun danced across the arched face of Mount Watkins, spilling into dark Tenaya Canyon below.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1687.jpg)

The crowns of Mount Hoffman and Tuoloume Peak were already aglow from the rising sun, while the morning clouds began to disappear. The play of light and shadow upon the vast granite face of Mount Watkins and its cloak of trees evoked Tolkein's imagined Middle Earth, vast and wild, fantastic yet grounded, and real.

Just when the steps were getting tiresome, they disappeared altogether. The last step ends at a shallow, sand-filled depression with no obvious place to step next. For five minutes, I was stymied by what path I should take, believing that there were additional steps just out of view. Yet the surrounding granite was hopelessly tilted in ways that made me queasy. I scanned up the steep slope, now in bright, contrast-less sunlight, and it appeared sheer and scary. Way up, beyond some scattered stunted pines, was a jumble of boulders beside some low scrubby plants. Upon the highest boulder was a trail duck. The path is a simple one: head straight up.

Warily, I climbed up onto a granite slab, noticing the remnants of a metal pole that once stood there. Perhaps a sign, or a handhold, or the attachment of a chain -- whatever it was, it's long gone. At times on all fours, I headed up, careful not to look down, zig-zagging across the granite from "safe" place to "safe place": a crack, a slab raised above the rest, a tree, a less titled spot, until I reached the trail duck. The whole dizzying ascent, including picture-taking, catching breaths, finding my way, and summoning the courage to take it, had consumed 25 minutes. For a second, I admired how quickly I had climbed nearly 500 feet. Instead of being tired, my nine of days of backpacking had given me some stronger legs. The glow of that accomplishment vanished fast.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1688.jpg)

Out of all the hours and months and years I had planned this trip -- reading guidebooks, scanning maps, perusing photos, visiting web sites -- only one thing evoked nightmares and cold sweat. Not bears, or snakes, or lightning, or rockfalls, or snow, or stream crossings. These things were not to be feared (appreciated and approached with caution, yes), but now the object of fear stood between me and my goal. The second my eyes spied The Cables, I felt the blood drain from my body, down through the smooth granite upon which my now rubbery legs stood, and flowed deep into the earth, never to be recovered.

I approached, descending from the hump along a narrowing saddle to the base of the cables. There were three people upon them. One, a guy, had left a second, a woman, behind and was hastily rising to the top. The woman was sitting in as close to a fetal position as one can get into in and not tumble from the slope, sobbing quietly. The third, another woman, was climbing up to her. She was perhaps 75 feet up, unable to go on. She descended uneasily as her friend climbed on up. She later told me she was part of a group of 10 or so, and they were all on top. "There's no shame in not getting to the top," she said, and she started climbing the hump to a higher vantage point, from which she shouted encouragements to her friend.

There was a pile of gloves at the base of the cables, just below a sign warning of the danger of lightning. I pulled the gloves -- golfing gloves, actually -- I'd brought for this task from my little backpack and put them on over my sweating hands. I stood now, inside the cables, as they begin flush to the rock, rising slowly until they reach the first of many pairs of poles. I looked up at where I had to go.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1638.jpg)

I looked again at my Footjoy gloves. "May they grip the cables better than my driver," I muttered, and, with a forced breath, I summoned the courage to begin my ascent. The cables rose to just below hip height and the slope steepened. I was the only person going up or down. The cables were surprisingly loose; my weight upon them dropped them nearly a foot closer to the rock. My boots, which I bought specifically because of their grip on granite surfaces, struggled to maintain full contact with the heavily worn mountain. I passed the first couple of 2x4's, which lie across the route at most (but not all) of the pole pairs. I didn't want to think about what became of the missing poles.

About 45 feet up -- less than 1/10th of the way -- my left boot slid, and the cable buckled under my weight. I frantically locked my grip upon the right cable and stomped my foot back upon the rock. With a stretch, I let go of the left cable and re-took it several feet higher up. What little courage I had left fled, and I found myself alone, frightened, and exposed upon the most famous mountain in the park. No one was shouting encouragement for me, and no one would've seen if anything happened. I swallowed hard. I made it up to the next 2x4 and stopped. And I could go no further.

Nevermind that I had come all this way, and hiked 90 miles, and faced lightning and hail (twice) and a bear and snakes and rushing rivers and ice and failed gear and lost sticks and uncertain routes and tricky creek crossings and boulder hops and narrow summits and those damn stairs and that scary granite slab and had passed all those tests. Nevermind I was several days and many miles beyond my longest solo backpacking trek and had managed all the transportation connections and summoned the strength to do much of what I'd planned.

No, that one slip, and the buckling of the cable, and my own frantic effort to right my listing body, only 45 feet from where I started, not even 1/10th of the way up and nowhere near the steepest part of the route, that was enough. My mind pictured me slipping and sliding much higher up. As I looked up, the cables just disappear over the hump. Fear without end. I swallowed hard again, turned around, tucked my tail between my legs before it struck the rock, and headed for the bottom, practically holding my breath at every step until the cables touched the rock, and I was back on terra firma.

I sat on a rock about 50 feet from the cables' anchors and thought about my predicament. This was to be the crown jewel of the trip. In fact, the route was set up so that it would be a final triumph, practically a life statement, and now I sat humbled by a challenge which seemed greater than I could handle. Though I had been solo for almost all of this trip, I never felt so alone as that moment. I could go no further. I closed my eyes and once again called upon my courage, and it hid when I opened them, and saw the terrible obstacle again. I took off my pack, pulled off my gloves, and put them away. Defeated, I turned and walked up the slope to the hump, and I didn't turn back until I reached its round top.

There would be no summit walk today. No grand achievement. No crown jewel. No photo from the top, standing on the summit nose with a sheer drop all around. No GPS track or waypoint from the summit. Nothing that said I climbed Half Dome. I looked at it one last time, and then headed down the fearful granite slabs to the bent-over tree which marked the end of the steps, then trudged down all 423 of them, careful not to peer away from them, lest I would see the dizzying height and angle I was at.

Once off the stairs, I felt better. The crowing achievement was the whole of this trip. I didn't do everything I came to do, but I still had done more than I'd ever pushed myself to do, and done it mostly alone. Clouds Rest, a higher peak, would be the literal and figurative high point of the trip. I explored the lower saddle, beneath the massive climb I dubbed the "hump," looking for some cool views that most visitors would miss. Virtually every hiker to pass this area sticks to the trail, which follows the ridge to the bottom of a set of stairs, either because they are eager to reach the summit or return to the trailhead.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1689.jpg)

The stairs head up the hump, following the criss-crossed cuts in the granite before reaching those little trees, which look like they're on top from this vantage point. As for the summit, here it appears as two distinct noses. The higher, and closer, one is the true summit. The other one is the famous place to stand on, as it's a sheer drop down to the Valley from there, and a very photogenic one indeed.

About an hour had passed since my slip on the cables. I had explored the side of the hump overlooking Tenaya Canyon and offering tantalizing views of the north rim of Yosemite Valley. I trekked across the granite to see if the other side offered good views of Little Yosemite Valley and the peaks south. As I crossed the trail, I saw two hikers coming up. They looked familiar.

Joel and Scott, two of the guys who let me share their campfire at Sunrise Lake, called out to me. "You summit already?" Scott asked. "How is it up there?" Joel asked.

I looked down at the ground. "I didn't make it up," I replied sheepishly. "I chickened out on the cables."

Joel grabbed my shoulder. "Come on! We're going up!" Off we went, a renewed energy flowing through my every step, bound for the summit of Half Dome.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: SA Bill on August 01, 2008, 10:31:52 PM
Boy! It just keeps getting more intense Jeff! I could actually feel your anguish about turning back. I'm waiting anxiously to find out what happens next!
  Thanks for sharing!!
     Bill
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: TexasAggieHiker on August 01, 2008, 10:55:56 PM
Great story so far.  I hope you make it up.  I know the feeling.  Several years ago a friend invited me on a drop everything last minute trip out to Yosemite.  We were going to do a day hike from the valley to the summit of Half Dome and back to the valley.  At the time I was out of shape and hadn't done any real hiking in a while.  We made it to the base of the cables.  It was later in the season and the cables and steps had been removed for the winter.  Just one cable hung down loose from the top.  Well when we got there, I was done.  I had NO energy left, and we still had to turn around and make back to the valley.  I wanted to get to the top SOOOO bad.  But it was not to be.  My body couldn't do it.  My mind was smart enough to say no when my heart wanted to be there so much.  It was a long trip back down.  But now I have more of a reason to return to Yosemite, and next time, I WILL conquer Half Dome.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on August 02, 2008, 07:49:11 AM
Go, Jeff, GO!!! This story is great....only prob is I'm on vacation and having to look for wifi hotels so I can keep up with your story.....hope it's finished by tomorrow before I enter the wilds of the Smokies!!! :eusa_pray:Great,Great,Great trip report!!! :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on August 02, 2008, 07:50:24 AM
This is the best trip report I've ever read in the "General Outdoor Stuff and Camping Equipment" section, EVER!  :rolling:
Let me reiterate. Yes, one of the best trip report's ever.  :high5:

Leave it where it is, Richard. Life's too short and who the hell cares. It's perfect where it is..... :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on August 02, 2008, 07:51:42 AM
Go, Jeff, GO!!! This story is great....only prob is I'm on vacation and having to look for wifi hotels so I can keep up with your story.....hope it's finished by tomorrow before I enter the wilds of the Smokies!!! :eusa_pray:Great,Great,Great trip report!!! :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:


You're on vacation.....AGAIN?  :icon_wink:

Hey, I want a job like yours! (I think? :eusa_eh:)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on August 02, 2008, 10:09:25 AM
Jeff - I know exactly how you must have felt when you had that slip.  Even just looking at your pictures my feet and hands get tingly.

I got so spooked that I was on my hands and knees climbing down the last few switchbacks into Clear Creek in Grand Canyon, and that descent is nothing as severe as what you attempted.  My mind was coming up with all kinds of macabre ways I would leave this world if I slipped off that crumbly narrow trail.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 02, 2008, 02:21:44 PM
This is the best trip report I've ever read in the "General Outdoor Stuff and Camping Equipment" section, EVER!  :rolling:
Let me reiterate. Yes, one of the best trip report's ever.  :high5:

Leave it where it is, Richard. Life's too short and who the hell cares. It's perfect where it is..... :eusa_clap:

Don't worry, I'll get back on-topic eventually. There will be a generous discussion of gear choices, review of performance, and a "knowing what I know now" section, all dedicated to general outdoor stuff and camping equipment.  :eusa_think:

I didn't want to file all this under "Other Stuff" where it would get lost among guns, border fences, and, well, other stuff.  :eusa_dance:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on August 02, 2008, 02:25:29 PM

I didn't want to file all this under "Other Stuff" where it would get lost among guns, border fences, and, well, other stuff.  :eusa_dance:

AMEN! :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 02, 2008, 02:27:17 PM
"And, yes, you have to step over, around, and atop all those cracks and crevices you see there. From this vantage point, they look like cracks. In reality, they're as much as 18 inches high, wide, deep, and/or tall."

Well, that probably settles the question of Half Dome for me.  I don't even like going out on the jetties at Port A and stepping from one granite block to the next! 

Then Half Dome is definitely not for you. For one thing, the fall from the jetties is short and wet, inconvenient to be sure but not likely fatal. Three people died last year in falls from the cable route. This shot, although at maximum zoom on a pitiable point-and-shoot DSLR-wannabe :icon_lol:, really shows the lay of the land between the cables:

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1699.jpg)

Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: badknees on August 02, 2008, 03:25:43 PM
Quote
pitiable point-and-shoot DSLR-wannabe

 :rolling: :rolling: :rolling: :rolling:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 02, 2008, 04:01:26 PM
According to the GPS and the awesome computational abilities of MicroSloth Expel, here are the stats for the Yosemite portion of the trip:

DateStarting Elev.Ending Elev.Net Elev.Highest Elev.Lowest Elev.Gross Elev. GainGross Elev. LossMileageHighlight
Day 07,0654,116-2,9497,2814,116+1,496-4,44511.47Dayhike: Glacier Pt to Happy Isles
Day 18,0716,844-1,2278,1236,620+1,986-3,21310.64North Dome
Day 26,8587,909+1,0518,3456,803+2,203-1,15311.92Lukens Lake
Day 37,9454,558-3,3907,9454,098+874-4,2619.47Pate Valley
Day 44,5826,431+1,8496,4494,582+3,451-1,60110.87Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
Day 56,4837,901+1,4187,9176,478+1,964-5465.11Glen Aulin
Day 67,9019,612+1,7119,6127,901+2,471-76010.52Cathedral Lake
Day 79,5969,201-3959,9459,195+1,136-1,5316.58Sunrise Lake
Day 89,1887,053-2,1359,9267,013+1,549-3,6858.67Clouds Rest
Day 97,0406,092-9488,8296,086+2,925-3,87111.09Half Dome
Day 106,0924,108-1,9846,1954,098+380-2,3635.56Hike out to Happy Isles
Day +13,9494,030+814,0483,943+273-1932.94Dayhike: Cook's Meadow
Totals, Backpack Only8,0714,108-3,9639,9454,098+18,939-22,98490.43
Total, BP + DayhikesN/AN/AN/A9,9453,943+20,708-27,622104.84
And the Bay Area portion:
DateStarting Elev.Ending Elev.Net Elev.Highest Elev.Lowest Elev.Gross Elev. GainGross Elev. LossMileage
Day BA-119337-156678-11+2,547-2,70320.71Golden Gate Nat'l Rec Area
Day BA-245153+10876945+918-8094.87Muir Woods
Total, BP + DH + BAN/AN/AN/A9,945-11+24,173-31,134130.42
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 02, 2008, 04:34:50 PM
Again, from the GPS, the campsites:
DateDegrees NorthDegrees WestElevation (ft)Location (Google map link)Comment
Day 1 (July 8)37.76887119.603916845Yosemite Creek (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.76887+W119.60391&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)Above Yosemite Creek, near tributary
Day 2 (July 9)37.89274119.652837913SE of Harden Lake (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.89274+W119.65283&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)Dry site in trees above trail
Day 3 (July 10)37.93213119.557934775E of Pate Valley (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.93213+W119.55793&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&ll=37.933519,-119.557214&spn=0.006668,0.012714&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)Small site in rocky area near pretty rapids
Day 4 (July 11)37.92964119.462626365NW of Waterwheel Falls (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.92864+W119.46156&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)At high end of slanted, rocky area near rapids
Day 5 (July 12)37.90956119.418127891Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.90956+W119.41812&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)Backpackers' camping area
Day 6 (July 13)37.84065119.413909584Upper Cathedral Lake (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.84065+W119.41390&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)Better sites located on opposite shore
Day 7 (July 14)37.80372119.453499207Lower Sunrise Lake (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.80372+W119.45349&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)Small site tucked behind boulder near lake
Day 8 (July 15)37.74604119.513917055Half Dome Trail above JMT (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.74604+W119.51391&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)Dry camp in roomy, tree-covered area
Day 9 (July 16)37.73301119.514046159Little Yosemite Valley (http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=N37.73301+W119.51404&mrt=all&ie=UTF8&ll=37.733008,-119.514041&spn=0.006686,0.012714&t=h&z=17&iwloc=addr)Backpackers' camping area

Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 02, 2008, 05:13:53 PM
Oh, and probably the most important statistic:  10 pounds of fat burned away, according to the bathroom scale which computes such things. :eusa_dance:

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/pix/firstlastmile.jpg)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: bdhawk133 on August 02, 2008, 05:17:25 PM
Days 4 and 6 look like they were doozies!!  Great report.........Now I'm anxiously awaiting the finale and the all important gear reviews!!!  :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Triumph Atop Half Dome
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 02, 2008, 05:23:43 PM
If you have not read the previous chapter in this tale (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/general-outdoor-stuff-camping-equipment/yosemite-in-july-10day-backpack-itinerary-t5413.0.html;msg61952), you might want to check it out first. It adds a lot of context to this entry ...

In another moment of great timing, I had run into Joel and Scott, two of the guys who shared their campfire with me two nights earlier, as they were making their summit bid. Where I had failed alone, we would succeed together. We headed up the 423 stairs, pausing briefly here and there, until we reached the slab route. Since I had done it earlier, I led them up to the trail duck and over the hump to the base of the cables. Joel would go first. He was the mountain climber and would be our eyes. I would go second. Scott would follow me.

There were several other people on the cables, including an obviously exhausted large man and his two associates, who were pushing him, literally, up the mountain. Joel directed us up each 10-20 foot section, telling me where to stop and warning me of anything I had to step over or around. I kept my eyes on the rock, and my hands on the cables. I maintained three points of contact with the mountain and cables, only moving one limb at a time. We climbed swiftly, our combined weight on the cables providing good tension. The only dicey parts were the two spots where one pair of cables ended and another began and the really steep section, which features a large step at an awkward angle. We were slowed by the huffing progress of the man and his crew, but he eventually got to the top, and so did we. We made it! We were on top of Half Dome! It took us 35 minutes, during which I looked at nothing but the path beneath my feet and Joel's shoes.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1690.jpg)

Already the view was incredible. This is what Clouds Rest and the Quarter Domes look like from the top of the cables. Columbia Finger, the Echo Peaks, and even Cathedral Peak are visible on the horizon to the left of Clouds Rest. On the firm ground of the gently sloping, saddle-shaped summit plateau, I found new energy and now wanted to explore it all. Joel had already headed back down to meet his father and uncle, who he escorted up, leaving Scott and me on top.

From the top of the cables, the summit proper is still about 100 vertical feet away. Scott and I initially headed across the saddle, bypassing the summit to the left, making for what is often mistakenly called the "diving board." The views from here look straight across at Glacier Point and west down Yosemite Valley to El Capitan and beyond.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1691.jpg)

The shadows from the clouds gave the panorama a mottled look, softening what would have otherwise been the harsh light of the sun washing out the granite cliffs. Unfortunately, the haze from wildfires and agriculture had returned, confirming that the monsoonal flow had indeed shifted east of the Sierra crest. I continued to walk closer to the edge while Scott waited back. "Vertigo," he said. "I don't like drop-offs." Me neither. I was trying not to think about the fact that one step too far means a fall of at least 2,000 feet.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1692.jpg)

Pictured here is the true summit, 8,836 feet above sea level and 4,742 feet above Mirror Meadow/Lake, which is situated at the mouth of Tenaya Canyon and through which Tenaya Creek flows. This photo is taken several dozen feet from the summit's so-calle "diving board." The real diving board is about 1,200 feet below the summit to the southwest and is seldom visited, for obvious reasons. The photo shows dramatic Tenaya Canyon beneath the brooding Watkins Pinnacles and Mount Watkins. The crown of Mount Hoffman is on the left edge of the frame. 

Scott took my camera and headed for the summit. It was time for my glory photo on top of Half Dome. Well, on the "diving board" anyway.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1637.jpg)

It seemed to take Scott forever to take the photo. With each passing second, I got more nervous about this perch and my presence on it. Just because the rock supporting this perch has been there for millions of years doesn't guarantee it will be there 2 minutes from now. He gave me a thumb's up, and I got the hell off of there. We traded places, and I watched him gingerly make his way out to the point. We went over to check on the other guys' progress up the cables and found Joel nearing the top. Cory and Uncle Bob were right behind him, and they were united on top. Cory later told me he brought the boys up here when they were 12. "Boy was I stupid," he added, self-reflectively.

This time we made a line for the summit, and I hopped the boulders until I was, finally, on top of Half Dome. I have no photo of this moment, because at that moment the guys were gathering on the "diving board," and Scott needed some coaxing. "I've been out there once already. That's enough," he said. I implored that it was a once-in-a-lifetime family moment, and then pushed him on his way.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1693.jpg)

We played musical cameras, and I think I took this photo at least five times, once with my camera, and at least once each with all of theirs. Behind them are the cliffs and peaks known as the Three Brothers, and over their shoulders to the left is El Capitan. Notice that huge slab of granite beneath them? Now look at the little cave to its left. I watched people climb in and out of it when I was on top. Suffice it to say, I did not do that.

I did will myself to overcome my fear of edges, albeit for only a few seconds. I walked as close to the edge as I felt comfortable, then challenged myself to take another step. Then another. Then another. Then ... okay, that's far enough.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1694.jpg)

I extended my arms straight out and took this photo, which look all 4,742 feet straight down to Mirror Meadow. That granite outcrop at the lower right of the frame? 2,200 feet away. That's one helluva next step.

We explored the summit area for about 45 minutes, and the GPS says I wandered around for over a mile. The guys were hiking out that day and couldn't linger much longer, so we posed for a final round of photos.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1695.jpg)

I had not allowed myself to think about heading down the cables. For me, the trip down is always worse. Joel took the lead, I was next, then Scott, Cory, and Uncle Bob. Several other folks lined in behind us. I started out facing frontwards, watching the rock curve away under me until I turned around and backed down the mountain. Joel was calling out to me, but I frequently had to look over my shoulder at the steady stream of people heading up. There were several awkward steps, and I slipped several times. Once, I lost both feet out from under me; only my death grip on the cables kept me upright.

The traffic caused multiple delays. Twice I was stuck between 2x4s and had to place my feet within cracks in the granite. At one point, I had to swing my body sideways to permit a larger hiker with a comically large pack to go by. As I did, my eyes lazily looked to the side, and I saw the wickedly steep slope and Liberty Cap in the distance. I thought for a second that I might faint, but Joel helpfully reminded me, "Look at the rock!" There was a lot of communication among everyone, as we tried our best to maneuver past each other safely. It took 40 minutes to descend, and I had to wait for a trio to get by me before I sprinted down the last 45 feet. "Get me off of these (expletive deleted) things!"

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1696.jpg)

The cables behind us, now we face the steep descent down the granite slabs, aiming for that bent-over tree, underneath which a hiker is reaching the 423rd and final step. From there, the staircase ends the serious exposure of the hike. With the sun high in the sky, the view of Tenaya Canyon, Clouds Rest, and the distant peaks is clear. We traded contact information, as it was clear our time together was ending.

Joel and Scott led the way down and soon were out of sight. Cory, Uncle Bob, and I hiked together all the way back to my campsite just above the John Muir Trail junction, and there we parted company. I planned on hanging out in my campsite for awhile, soaking up the heady rush of having overcome my fears, with help, and spent some time atop Yosemite's crown jewel. However, the site which was so wonderfully shaded the previous afternoon was now in the full sun. I broke camp, packed up, and hit the trail. I was bound for the backpackers' camp in Little Yosemite Valley. The trail descended rapidly through mostly forest, but occasionally, views would open up, including a vision of Half Dome which put the day in perspective.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1697.jpg)

From the top of Half Dome to Little Yosemite Valley, trails descend more than 2,600 feet -- half a mile -- in elevation in a little over 3 miles. The first 1,100 or so feet go fast, between the cables, the slab, and the stairs. The remainder is a fairly steady downward trek, mostly devoid of switchbacks, through forests with occasional views. This particular view of the backside of Half Dome added to my sense of accomplishment and triumph. Just 2 1/2 hours earlier, I was up there!

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1698.jpg)

From this vantage point, the cable route slices up at an angle to perpendicular, something which is not obvious from the base of the cables. Its steepness is apparent from the angle the people are standing at, and the two really gnarly step-ups are also plainly visible as dark gashes in the rock. These are, of course, shadows cast by the exfoliated granite. At some point in time, the rest of that rock layer crashed to earth. According to my GPS data, the cable route has an average slope of 36 degrees. The steepest part, between those gnarly steps, is closer to 50.

No matter how the math works out, the route is crazy scary, and it's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. Because I'll never do it again.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1699.jpg)

I continued walking a happy man. I did what I came to do. The crown has its jewel. "You would've been really disappointed if you hadn't made it to the top," Joel told me, and I think he's right. I would not have known what I missed, but I know I would have missed something grand and extraordinary. A triumphant trip would be missing its signature triumph.

With a big smile on my face, I continued my descent to Little Yosemite Valley, passing the haggard faces of dayhikers rising from the big Valley. Exhausted, complaining, dragging their feet, their almost empty bottled waters at their sides, they still had half a mile of elevation to go to taste the joy, and the palpable fear, of Half Dome. It was only 12:30 p.m., so they had plenty of time. Still, the worst was yet to come. I encouraged them. "It's spectacular up there. It's totally worth it." They'd usually mutter, "Thanks," if they said anything at all, and trudge on joylessly.

This would be my last night on the trail, and it was going to be a great one because I overcame my fears and experienced the top of Half Dome. I needed help. Without those guys, I would not have made the summit of Half Dome and instead be forced to explain why I hadn't accomplished something hundreds of people do every summer day. "You just needed some encouragement," Joel told me. "A little company." Scott added, "It's tough to do something like this alone."

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: SA Bill on August 02, 2008, 05:48:39 PM
Woo hoo!!
Summit bagged...pinnacle of the trip accomplished! Way to go Jeff!  :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:

It is so fortunate that you met up again with Joel and Scott to make it possible.

I cannot fathom how the NPS lets people climb that route. 3 deaths from falling???! Do you sign a release before starting up the cables? Do the cables encourage people who have no business being up there to try to make it to the top? Seems strange to me. Then again, it's in CA!  :eusa_think:

Whew....my S Rim trip should be a piece of cake compared to what you went through!!
  Thanks!
     Bill
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on August 02, 2008, 06:19:20 PM
I'd have to agree 100% that cable section is not something I would ever be able to accomplish alone.  I'd have to have some company to encourage me to continue, while I could do the same for someone else which would help keep my mind off of what I was doing.

3 people died last year on those cables?  I am surprised the NPS doesn't get over zealous and close that route.

But I guess using that logic, they should close the South Rim viewpoints of the Grand Canyon due to all the falling deaths.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: sleepy on August 02, 2008, 06:44:47 PM
I am glad you found those guys.  Congratulations for steeling your resolve and making it.   :high5:

That tongue of rock below the diving board looks ready to squirt out at any moment.   :nailbitting:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Goldilocks on August 02, 2008, 06:58:54 PM
Amazing and wonderful report, Jeff.  I am so glad you met up with your buddies and made it to the top.  I don't think I would have made it, even with encouragement.  You should indeed be proud of yourself!  :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: randell on August 02, 2008, 10:21:45 PM
I finally got time to get caught up on the trip report.  I printed out 13 pages and then read the rest just now.  Awesome story and outstanding photos, definitely a lifetime achievement.  Congratulations!  Now you've just got to decide which photo to frame above the fire place!  What a great read!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: RichardM on August 02, 2008, 10:44:36 PM
Fantastic report, Jeff! I believe that cave below the diving board is where the "Captain's Chair" is (aka the "King's Chair"?). Check this report (http://www.sierraflow.com/Half%20Dome%20072807.htm) I Googled up which has a pic or two from inside the cave. It also has some shots of the cables with just a few more people than you encountered.
Title: Re: Hiking the Final Miles
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 03, 2008, 12:05:51 AM
The backpackers' camp at Little Yosemite Valley is east of a spur trail connecting the John Muir/Half Dome Trail with the trail up the valley to Merced Lake. A two-story building hosting several composting toilets is the immediate target, and then it's a matter of wandering around and selecting a place -- not so much a site -- within the well-marked boundaries. Huge pine trees soar above the campground, keeping it shaded at all times. I headed for the back of the campground, passing campsites of folks who were probably on the Half Dome cables.

To my surprise, I saw Joel, Scott, Cory, and Uncle Bob breaking camp. Theirs was one of the coolest backcountry campsites I've ever seen, complete with a table and log chairs. The boys constructed it out of stumps and logs they found in the campground so they could play cards. I was thrilled when Cory said, "It's yours." My ninth and final night in camp was going to be in a Cadillac of campsites!

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1700.jpg)

They finished loading up, and we said our goodbyes for a third, and last, time. I settled in, setting up my hammock and arraying my gear. I got water and plopped in iodine pills for the last time. I was still carrying that infernal SteriPen, which hadn't worked in days. I boiled some water and wolfed down a meal in a ziploc bag, Mountain House's almost delectable beef stroganoff, for the last time. Waxing sentimental, I began to think of every task as the "last time" as the whole experience of the trek began to sink in.

I headed over to the beach area by the Merced River to watch the people for awhile. The river rustles by a series of rapids right before reaching the beach, so the soundscape is delightful. Campers of all shapes and sizes came and went. A large Christian youth group was holding court on one end of the beach. Several folks were skipping rocks as poorly as I've ever seen anyone try. A few people were sunbathing on a huge boulder across the river. Eventually, I ventured out into the water -- <em>COLD!</em> -- and eventually went for a very quick swim. Back on the beach, and in the sun, I took up a renewed hobby of flicking ants off of me. They were brutal.

I decided to do a dayhike up Little Yosemite Valley for my last afternoon on the trail. I was going to walk for an hour and a half, then turn around. Unburdened by my pack, I was light of foot and made good progress up the nearly level trail. The mostly forested trail stayed surprisingly far away from the Merced River for most of its length. I saw some deer browsing in the occasional meadows, and there were a couple of good views of the granite mass I'd stood atop earlier in the day.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1701.jpg)

I reached a point where the trail once again swung close to the Merced and found a rock-strewn beach near some rapids, where I sat and enjoyed the sound of the water and the color of the wildflowers. At 5:15 p.m. I started back toward camp. The sun disappeared behind Half Dome by 7:30 p.m., so there wasn't much of a sunset. I spent a little time back at the beach and watched the light disappear from the water. I hoped someone would have a fire going at the communal fire rings, but the only one was operated by the Christian campers, and it was a full house.

So I climbed into the hammock for a final night. I slept lightly and was startled several times from sleep by intruders -- human intruders -- in my campsite, including a guy who set up his bivy right next to the table. I shooed him to an adjacent flat. I was also awakened by rangers who were chasing a sow and her two cubs. They had been terrorizing campers the last couple of weeks. Another group of folks tried to camp in my spot, and I scolded them from my hammock. They couldn't tell where my voice was coming from!

The sky was blue and the sun shining bright when I packed up and started my final morning of backpacking. I had about 5.5 miles to go to reach the Happy Isles trailhead, almost all of it downhill. The first couple of miles were fairly level. Then the nearly 2,000 foot descent would begin in earnest. A clearing provided a nice final view of Half Dome, which was soon eclipsed by the smaller but much closer Liberty Cap.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1702.jpg)

Liberty Cap is an impressive granite dome rising 1,000 feet or so above the Merced River in the western margins of Little Yosemite Valley. The John Muir Trail passes around its feet to the brink of Nevada Fall. I rejoined the John Muir Trail, which I would follow to its end. I reached Nevada Fall after 45 minutes of hiking, and it was largely deserted, unlike my previous visit 10 days earlier. I didn't linger long -- I was eager to get down.

The Muir Trail offers nice views as it descends, slowly at first, from Little Yosemite Valley. Half Dome resembles a giant loaf of bread (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/2008/07/liberty-cap-and-friends.php) from this angle, and Nevada Fall appears as a J-shaped flume. The hiker showers -- water falling from hanging gardens -- were still going strong.

The trail swings around a prominent outcrop and falls into shadow. Here is switchbacks down through the forest, quickly losing elevation. As I hiked along, I was in full memory mode, recalling all the grand, scary, thrilling, beautiful, and peaceful moments of the last 10 days. The flood of flashbacks was interrupted by a loud, unmistakable sound. Below the trail, perhaps 40 feet away, a mother bear was ripping into a fallen tree.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1703.jpg)

She was teaching her two cubs how to hunt for yummy grubs and termites. The cubs, one golden and one chocolate, pawed at the log. When mom hit the mother lode, they dove in, eating greedily. I shuffled my feet loudly so she would be aware of me. She looked at me disinterestedly and dove back into the buffet. The photo quality is not great because of the amount of zoom -- from the camera and the crop -- but it captures their enthusiasm for their meal.

I watched them for a couple of minutes, then continued my descent, quite pleased with my second bear encounter of the trip. I passed several other hikers, telling them quietly about the bears. They'd seen them from a lower switchback. My mind, fondly remembering this trip, focused on replaying my latest bear encounter, which brought my life total to 10 (1 in Grand Teton (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/2003/11/black-bear-1.php), 5 in (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/2006/09/black-bear-cub-up-a-tree.php) Glacier (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/2006/10/black-bear-sow-and-yearl.php), and 4 here). As I hiked along, my reminiscing was once again interrupted.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1704.jpg)

The bears crossed the trail directly in front of me. Mama looked at me again, ignored me again, and then continued across with her cubs at her feet. The chocolate cub looked straight at me; the golden one stayed in mama's shadow. They disappeared into the trees and down the steep slope. I was by now completely awed, by the bears, by this place, by the incredible timing, by the scope of what I had seen and done and achieved in the last 10 days.

The final mile was a sentimental one. The bridge across the Merced River, where Vernal Fall is framed by the boulders and the trees, was a sweet moment. I had been here 10 days earlier, trudging wearily down from Glacier Point, having skidded down the Mist Trail. My legs were tired and my head hurt. Today, there was no pain, only joy, coupled with a hint of sadness. <em>This</em> was coming to an end.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1705.jpg)

Less than a mile to go, I gazed again upon the wonderful waterfall. I knew the rest of the trail: a slight rise, then a downward arc, a pause to glimpse up at Illilouette Gorge, then a last dive to Happy Isles. I lost myself in the rush of the water and the bright sun and the majesty of the place, one last time.

Ten days of backpacking were drawing to a close. I choked up as I rounded the last big corner as my emotions overwhelmed me. Signs began to appear, warning hikers of wilderness conditions, bears, lightning -- all turned the other way, their blank back sides signifying that the trailhead was near. In a moment, the John Muir Trail sign appeared, almost larger than life, and I got even more emotional. I managed to pull myself together long enough to ask someone if we could trade photographic services. I photographed them, at the beginning of their adventure. Then the leader of the group took my picture, at the end of mine.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1706.jpg)

More than one hundred miles of hiking and backpacking in Yosemite National Park came to a close when I reached the John Muir trailhead sign at Happy Isles. Ten days after a shuttle bus dropped me off, alone, at the Porcupine Creek trailhead, I had completed the journey.

North Dome. Lightning and rain on the north rim of the Valley. The V-shaped canyon of Yosemite Creek. Lukens Lake. The delightful waterfall of Morrison Creek. The crashing descent into Pate Valley. The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. The boy scout resolutely ascending the Muir Gorge bypass. Beautiful waterfalls. The sheer joy of Glen Aulin. The first view of the Sierra Crest. The search for a new walking stick. The fury of Mother Nature at Cathedral Lake. The welcoming fire built by new friends at Sunrise Lake. The views from Clouds Rest. The fear, agony, defeat, and ultimate conquering of them all at Half Dome. Bears. Wildflowers. Vistas. Towering granite cliffs and trees. Boulders bigger than houses. I had DONE IT!

I left that walking stick, which has served me so well since I found it along the Cathedral Lakes trail, leaning against this sign, intentionally this time. I hoped it would serve another hiker well. Letting go of it was one of the hardest things I did on this trip.&nbsp;

At 10:30 a.m., I reached the Happy Isles trailhead. The shuttle bus came moments later, and I took it to Yosemite Village, where I bought a clean shirt and a sandwich. Another shuttle bus took me to Yosemite Lodge, where, unfortunately, my room was not ready. My first shower in 11 days was in their pool's locker room, which thankfully was not as gross as Camp Curry's. I spent several hours hanging out at the swimming pool, which came complete with an ice cream stand and a jaw-dropping view of upper Yosemite Falls.

Following a steak dinner at Yosemite Lodge, I walked to nearby Cook's Meadow to observe the last rays of the setting sun kiss Half Dome. It was my final night in Yosemite, and my first spent in a bed in 10 days. I had hiked over 100 miles, seen and accomplished many things, and was treated to this grand farewell from Half Dome.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1707.jpg)

I actually slept quite poorly that night. I had grown accustomed to being cradled by my hammock and sleeping bag. That bed, comfy as it was, just didn't feel right. I awoke a dozen or so times, always with the sensation that I was falling. The last time was just before sunrise. Lying there, I decided there was time to take one last walkabout before I had to leave this special place and return to civilization.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on August 03, 2008, 12:51:33 AM
Jeff, to say thank you for sharing is an inadequate understatement.  Your trip and report is a memorial that will live a long long time.  Why?  Because you did it and told it so very well and honestly.

Good job,
Al
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on August 03, 2008, 01:00:36 AM
P.S.  They say it's not the camera that counts but the photographer.   :photoflash:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Goldilocks on August 03, 2008, 05:56:39 AM
Jeff, to say thank you for sharing is an inadequate understatement.  Your trip and report is a memorial that will live a long long time.  Why?  Because you did it and told it so very well and honestly.

Good job,
Al

Amen to that.  You brought tears to my eyes.  Thank you.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on August 03, 2008, 09:14:30 AM
I think all of us that truly enjoy backpacking have gone through the same emotions as you did on that final trek down to the trailhead.

Jeff - that has to be one of the best trip reports I've read... on this site or any...  Thank you very much for sharing it here for all to enjoy!

Looking forward to more... and there will be gear reviews, too?!  I think we all know how many stars the Steripen will receive.  :eusa_shifty:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on August 03, 2008, 04:27:38 PM
 :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: lighter fluid on August 03, 2008, 05:47:29 PM
Congratulations on a successful trip Jeff. :cool-thumb:
Great report! :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: TexasGirl on August 03, 2008, 06:37:55 PM
"And, yes, you have to step over, around, and atop all those cracks and crevices you see there. From this vantage point, they look like cracks. In reality, they're as much as 18 inches high, wide, deep, and/or tall."

Well, that probably settles the question of Half Dome for me. I don't even like going out on the jetties at Port A and stepping from one granite block to the next!

Then Half Dome is definitely not for you. For one thing, the fall from the jetties is short and wet, inconvenient to be sure but not likely fatal. Three people died last year in falls from the cable route. This shot, although at maximum zoom on a pitiable point-and-shoot DSLR-wannabe , really shows the lay of the land between the cables:

OTOH it's just a bigger and different-colored version of Enchanted Rock, right?  Maybe if I got some super-hero suit that let me stick to things, I could manage....  I just don't like stepping over cracks I can't see the bottom of. 

Yeah, that's a really pitiable camera you got there.  Honestly.  ;) 
Title: Re: One Last Walk in Yosemite
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 03, 2008, 11:20:34 PM
My bus did not leave until 10 a.m. It was 6:45. There was plenty of time to wander around Yosemite Valley one last time. The early morning sun had just cleared the cliffs, bringing daylight to the trees along the valley floor. Sentinel Rock was still mostly in shadow, but the trees were shining brightly in the gold morning air, reflected by the peaceful Merced River.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1708.jpg)

My path took me to the original site of Yosemite Village, now almost completely restored to meadow conditions. The only remaining building of that sprawling, ramshackle complex is a chapel nestled in the trees. I followed the Merced River upstream, walking along its south bank, hoping to find a reflection of Yosemite Falls in its still waters. I passed a biker who said there was just such a spot ahead.

The falls remained in shadow, yet the upper and lower falls could be seen above the water and reflected in the river, which here was also still in the shadows.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1709.jpg)

I crossed Sentinel Bridge, near the spot where Ansel Adams' famous shout of Half Dome and the Merced River was taken. The native peoples who used to call Yosemite Valley their home had a tale of Half Dome's origins. Two travelers, Tissiak and her husband Tokoyee, were fighting. She threw a basket of acorns at him in a rage. Facing each other, both bitterly angry, they turned to stone. The acorn basket (Basket Dome) remains overturned by her husband (North Dome), and her stone face (Half Dome) remains stained by her tears.

On this morning, Half Dome was dimly backlit by the bright hazy sunlight. It appeared as though the sun was coming right out of its lofty nose.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1710.jpg)

My path took me across a wide meadow, across which a boardwalk minimized damage to the soil. Most of the wildflowers had already gone to seed, but a few were still blooming. As the walkway turned east, toward Yosemite Village, I spotted some deer grazing in the sun-splashed grassland, which seemed to be aglow with sunflowers. As I drew closer, I made out a spotted fawn running and jumping around them. It was hard to spot in the high grass, but I finally found a vantage point where I could observe them.

I watched the fawn for about 15 minutes. His joy and enthusiasm for this beautiful morning in this lush meadow in this grand place were highly contagious. He bounded this way and that, pausing to look around before leaping to another spot. What a way to start the day!

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1711.jpg)

A crowd had gathered, coming from cars and bikes and feet, and suddenly there was a miniature circus watching the deer. Time to go. I bid goodbye to the little deer and his guardians and continued toward the village. Once there, I got a hot breakfast sandwich from the deli and began the walk back to the lodge.

I spent a few moments at the viewpoint to Lower Yosemite Falls, where this adventure began 13 days earlier. The falls were diminished since I last saw them up close, and there were fewer people clamoring around the rocks. As luck would have it, the moment was shattered by a huge contingent of garishly dressed tourists, who swarmed the viewpoint with all the sound and fury of that hail storm that hit me at Cathedral Lake. The falls themselves seemed drowned out by their chatter.

As I hurried away, I remembered this time to take a well-timed look over my shoulder. I was greeted with a view of the falls, and I had just enough time to take a photo before the next wave of tourists crashed upon me.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1712.jpg)

Civilization had encroached upon my wilderness experience. It was already underway when I was hanging out at the pool (itself an oddity -- why is there a swimming pool here?) listening to a family complaining about things here and yon. The people in the room next to me debated what they were going to do for two hours, mostly outside my open door. Cars roared by on the road. A construction crew was grinding up asphalt at midnight (I called the front desk to complain.). The return to the unreal world we live in is always rough, but much more so here. This was still a wild and untamed place, despite the hotels and swimming pools and roads and shuttles buses and hordes of visitors.

I could go on, but I was out of time to ponder all of this. My bus would be boarding soon.

After a long day of travel via bus, train, subway, and cable car, I arrived at my hotel in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. The first thing I did was purchase a fleece jacket from one of the numerous tourist traps but got a pretty good deal ($12). I had a fantastic freshly caught swordfish steak at Scoma's, the favorite restaurant of the hotel clerk. The next day, I walked from Fisherman's Wharf to Golden Gate Park via Fort Point, the Presidio, Land's End, Ocean Beach, and other portions of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/pix/goldengate.jpg)

I hopped a bus to Haight Ashbury, an eclectic neighborhood that was once home to the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin, all of whose houses I walked by. A light-rail train took me to Nob Hill, where I went up Coit Tower for surrounding views of the foggy city. I hiked back to the Wharf via Lombard Street and again had a great seafood dinner.

The next day was my first to have mechanized transport. I rented a convertible for the day. It was foggy, drizzling, and about 52 degrees -- perfect weather for a convertible. Nonetheless, I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge with the top down (It was always sunny in my mind when I imagined it.) and headed for crowded Muir Woods. I hiked around there for a couple of hours, but the place felt more like a museum than a park with its expertly groomed trails around which everything looked purposefully placed, as opposed to naturally growing. The trees were tall, and impressive, but the place just didn't feel wild.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/pix/muirwoods.jpg)

Lunch was in Sausalito, from a restaurant overlooking the bay. Afterward, I walked along the shoreline at foggy Stinson Beach, dodging the incoming surf as I hopped boulders looking for the best views. The gulls cried and the surf crashed, yet fisherman plied their trade and kids splashed in the water. I drove up to Point Reyes, which was socked in by fog, and tried to visit the lighthouse. I couldn't see the lighthouse -- anything, for that matter -- but I could hear the commotion of barking seals, screeching birds, and pounding surf in the mist below. After catching a meal at a campus hangout in Berkeley, I returned the car to the airport and boarded an overnight plane to Dallas/Fort Worth. Riding on the tram there, I saw that the sun was rising.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1636.jpg)

Another plane brought me to Austin, and a cab brought me home, 17 days after another had taken me to the airport to begin the adventure. I had to go around back to get the spare key. I hadn't taken one with me since I didn't want to carry something I couldn't use on the trail. I opened the door and immediately slung my pack on the floor. Waiting for me was a very happy dog who missed me.

The End.

(Gear discussion and lessons learned to follow shortly)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: bdhawk133 on August 03, 2008, 11:26:20 PM
Well Done!!!  :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on August 04, 2008, 12:27:46 AM
I think Jeff short sheeted us on the photo side of things, however, all things considered . . . *

Al

*  Homero is apparently is still on vacation.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on August 04, 2008, 06:33:17 AM
I think Jeff short sheeted us on the photo side of things, however, all things considered . . . *

Al

*  Homero is apparently is still on vacation.

I think it was that pitiable camera of his :icon_wink:

Great trip Jeff, and a long time to be gone by ones self.  Maybe the most extensive trip report I have ever read, anywhere.  The tourists in the major national parks are marvelous aren't they?  Congratulations on the Half Dome summit, I know it took a lot to turn around and then turn around again and go back up :eusa_clap:

I look forward to the post trip analysis.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: BigBendHiker on August 04, 2008, 07:35:48 AM
Hi Jeff!
Great story with equally great pictures.  I felt as though I was at Yosemite as I read your account of the trip in word and pictures.  Truly a trip of a lifetime.  THANKS for sharing it with us.


BBH
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: TexasAggieHiker on August 04, 2008, 10:00:25 PM
BRAVO, BRAVO!!!!      :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on August 05, 2008, 01:48:20 PM
Bravo!  Encore!   :eusa_clap:
(http://tbn0.google.com/images?q=tbn:rrh9jOe9ErQnPM:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/White_lighter_with_flame.JPG)

I think you did a real good job of taking us through what I call the ying and yang of solo backpacking.  What I mean by that is basically this...for every time mother nature gives you a swift kick in the ass, she will also provide you with overflowing joy and awe of your surroundings. 

This leads to another topic you more directly touched on...the end of trip man-blubbering.  I've never heard anyone else speak of it, but I've also never not experienced it at the end of a challenging multi-day solo hike.  It is the final cleansing of the soul and I'm convinced that one's trip is not complete until you sob like a little girl. 
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: dkerr24 on August 05, 2008, 02:52:12 PM
hehe... he said the dreaded words....   'man blubbering'.   :icon_redface:

Nope, never guilty of that...   :icon_rolleyes:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Bluetex on August 06, 2008, 03:29:55 AM
I am speechless... thank you for that amazing trip report and beautiful pictures! :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:

What a beautiful country we live in :icon_smile:
Title: Re: The Streets of San Francisco
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 10, 2008, 01:22:54 PM
While we wait for Casa Grande's epic road-trip report, I'll provide some more detail on the Bay Area leg of the adventure, beginning with 20+ miles of walking the streets of San Francisco.

Unburdened by a pack, I set out from the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf after a wonderful night's sleep to explore the City by the Bay, starting with the Bay. It was a cool, foggy morning, and a stiff breeze was blowing in from the ocean. The city was already alive. Dozens of mostly Asian men and women were fishing from the municipal pier, which I walked out upon, surrounding myself with the Bay, the salty smells, and the gulls. Fog enshrouded the city's buildings, hiding their tops and obscuring their details, as viewed from the pier. Coit Tower appeared as a monolith, its dark windows barely visible in the gloom.

Out in the water, Alcatraz Island looked ghostly pale in the dim morning light, marking the boundary where the sea and air blended into one another. Gulls cried. Waves lapped lightly against the shore and rocks. Kayakers plied the waters, followed by swimmers, some in wet suits, some not.

Back on land, I walked past Fort Mason, which was apparently the site for a race check-in. Hundreds of runners in various layers of spandex, nylon, and fleece were warming up and jogging around. Music was pumping from an enormous juke box. Several vendors were giving away their wares. I swiped a smoothie from the Jamba Juice table, blending in so perfectly with the joggers. For the next several miles, joggers and dog-walkers were constant sites. I followed roads, paths, and parking lots past the marina to the Golden Gate Promenade, which I would take to the Golden Gate Bridge.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1714.jpg)

Within an hour of walking, I was strolling along the beach, listening to the waves and watching dogs of all flavors chase bouncing balls and each other across the sand. Chisos would have loved this beach, although she might not have charged headlong into the surf. The breeze picked up as I drew closer to the Golden Gate. The bridge was still fogged in above the road deck.

The Promenade skirts Crissy Field, a level grassy strip of land that was once a military landing strip. Several historic flights used this place, including the first around-the-world journey. The field eventually turns into a restored marsh before it succumbs to concrete and asphalt. I stopped at the Warming Hut for a breakfast pastry and some hot chocolate -- and to get out of the stiffening breeze -- before setting out again.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1715.jpg)

The bayfront walkway curves around toward the Golden Gate Bridge, following the steep contour of the peninsula. Numerous defensive batteries and arsenals were built into the cliffs to protect the bay from invasion. The centerpiece of this defensive system was Fort Point, the only fort built on the West Coast before the Civil War's end. In this photo, the fort is the brick structure flying the American Flag beneath the bridge. It was planned for demolition to make way for the bridge, but the project's chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, redesigned the southern end of the bridge so it could be preserved.

This was obviously a typical morning, based on the commander's 1861 summary report: "During the summer months the post is enveloped in fogs, and dampness and high winds constantly prevail, and consequently rheumatism and severe colds are very common." Indeed, it was cold, damp, foggy, and windy when I explored the fort, which is open to the public. A greeter in period costume invites visitors through the fort's sole entrance, a heavily armored sally port, which permitted guardians to fire upon invaders from the relative safety of the walls.

Fort Point turned out to be one of the highlights of the day. Numerous plaques and displays detail life here and tell the story of the fort and its men. Built to house 141 cannons, the fort ended up with no more than 102 at its greatest strength. As many as 500 men were stationed there, thousands of miles from the nearest conflict.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1716.jpg)

The lighthouse is the third at this site. The first was demolished to make way for the fort, and the second fell victim to erosion. This lighthouse was used from 1864 until 1934, when bridge construction blocked its light. Today it stands guard silently beneath the arched bridge support. Stairs lead to the top floor, where the wind whistles over the empty cannon mounts. It is possible to walk directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. The roar of the traffic temporarily drowns out the wind and waves.

Leaving the fort, I backtracked a bit until a foot path zig-zags up the slope to just below the roadway. I pondered crossing the bridge on foot but ruled it out; I would drive over it the next day. Passing underneath the road deck, I now had views of the open ocean. The path, now called the Coastal Trail, passes several historic batteries and offers views of the bridge and its traffic, still faded in the fog. I've been walking for about three hours as I skirt the Presidio, following the high cliffs above the Pacific. The wind is stiff.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1717.jpg)

Before long I reached Baker Beach and walk along the shore. Waves crashed into the sand and rocks, while the cries of gulls filled the air. Lonely fishermen, dressed in waders and coats, struggled against the wind and surf. It was nearly noon, yet the fog still clung to the shore, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the City by the Bay. Just another typical July morning.

I continued along the Coastal Trail toward Land's End. The trail briefly disappears into one of the wealthiest subdivisions I've ever seen, with cliffside manors of all shapes, sizes, and styles hugging the promontory. Predictably, there are no signs marking the walking trail here, so I follow it with my handy road map. The neighborhood borders a popular park, and here the trail begins anew. The trail offers several increasingly nice views across the ocean back at the fog-bound bridge. It then curves to the south, leaving the Golden Gate behind, before reaching the Sutro Bath ruins and Cliff House. Seal Rocks take the waves' pounding just offshore. From there I walked along the promenade adjoining Ocean Beach, taking it all the way to the edge of Golden Gate Park. There I caught a bus to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood.

My first stop was across the street from 2400 Fulton Street, the former home of the Jefferson Airplane. The three-story Colonial Revival home survived both the 1906 earthquake and the 1960s' legendary parties, its four white columns matched with four palm trees in front, separated by an iron fence and gate. My next stop was Amoeba Records, an immense record store in a converted bowling alley. Live music was playing, and a pretty good crowd was there to hear it. I bought a live Grateful Dead CD, natch, and listened to the music for awhile.

I reached the corner of Haight and Ashbury a little before 3 p.m. It was still cloudy and breezy, but at least had warmed up into the 60s, appropriately enough. The neighborhood is eclectic and full of energy. Houkah bars line the street, sharing the stage with garish storefronts hocking all manner of stuff. Many of the people walking the busy sidewalks were just as garish.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1718.jpg)

This plum and lavender Victorian at 710 Ashbury was home to the Grateful Dead from September 1966 to the spring of 1968. Of course, in between was the Summer of Love. A little over 40 years ago, the Dead were busted in a marijuana raid here, but charges were dropped on a technicality. LSD was criminalized by the California Assembly while they lived here, conveniently after the release of their first album. There were other fans, young and old, there too, taking pictures and imaging what it must have been like during the Summer of Love (I am, in fact, listening to a Grateful Dead show from 1973 while I write this.).

After a late lunch of grilled portobello at People's Cafe, I strolled beneath Janis Joplin's old balcony before taking my leave of the hip 'hood. A light-rail train took me to Chinatown. I strolled up Grant Street, rapidly gaining elevation toward Telegraph Hill. The sun had finally come out to play. Downtown landmarks, such as the Transamerica Building, were glittering under the bright blue sky. I visited the Beat Museum and Book Store, which is -- appropriately or ironically -- surrounded by strip clubs.

I stood in a long, hot line to ride a creaky elevator up to the top of Coit Tower, where a slow-moving cluster of people shuffled window-to-window. The 360-degree views were impressive; the whole city was laid out like a model. A huge fog bank remained in place over the Golden Gate Bridge, and Fisherman's Wharf was still wearing a faint shroud. From there, I walked up Lombard Street -- the self-proclaimed "Crookedest Street in the World" -- which was choked with cars driving down its steep string of S-curves.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1719.jpg)

Nearing the end of my daylong walking tour, I headed down Columbus Avenue when I happened upon this quintessential City by the Bay image of a cable car, its passengers clinging to its sides, with Alcatraz and the Bay as a scenic backdrop.

After taking a break at the hotel, I ventured back out, bound for touristy Pier 39. I figured it would be a happening place on a Saturday night and was not disappointed by the people-watching opportunities. It was right about sunset, although the fog continued to obscure the bridge and the western horizon. The weak setting sun painted the misty sky a faint orange. I followed the sounds of seals barking, tracing the western boardwalk of the pier, to find a pile of characters settling in for the evening.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1720.jpg)

A crowd of people, mostly families with children, were piled upon the makeshift wooden "bleachers" to watch the seals. I elbowed my way to the rail to take some photos, then got out of the way. Beyond them, the boardwalk grew empty, and I practically had the end of the busy pier to myself. The skies slowly faded from a dull orange to a milky pink, and the swells of the bay reflected the fog and few distinct clouds overhead.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1721.jpg)

Alcatraz appeared as a great ship, its watch tower as a smoke stack and upper layers and water tower as a command deck. Smaller boats surrounded it. Hazy hills stood pink behind it. I watched it until the sky turned purple, then indigo, then dark. The city's lights replaced the sun and slowly returned the color to an artificial orange. So I choose to remember the scene awash in pastel pink, a warm hue to end a chilly, windy day.

Following a wonderful dinner at Alioto's on the Wharf, I retired, very tired from more than 20 miles of walking the streets of San Francisco. This incredible journey had one more day left, and, for the first time, I would have use of a car.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: homerboy2u on August 12, 2008, 01:26:42 PM
Homero is apparently is still on vacation.

 As i,voluntarily sweep off the floor of popcorn,beer bottles,corn on the cobs and blue ribbons from this grand presentation.Being that everybody left the building because the party was over, i get to watch the movie all over again, by myself and indulge the spectacular narration and photography of your trip report, Jeff.

 Yes , i came in late for this one, but i was on vacation these past weeks and came back to a sworm of little things i needed to resolve and orders i needed to fill and somehow , i had to find time for myself to read this to the end. Well, it cost me a good week and a half to get to this point, but like a very good book one gets to read and we reach the  end of the last page, closing the book and running our hand from top to bottom of the back cover reflecting what a great story i just read, so is this encore presentation, and the only simple thing i can say to you,Jeff?......BRAVO!!!!....simply BRAVO!!!!...what a command performance you did for us.

 Muchas muchas gracias, for sharing this with us.

Now , for the what i just can not forgive you......... :icon_evil:

Homero, turns out I took exactly 1,500 photos and 10 movies. The show may get off to a slow start, but I think you will enjoy it.

  1,500 photos and 10 movies ,man!!.....and we get served only this?...C'mon brother, definetly you can do much better than that. Alone, here i sit for the full album,please. :eusa_clap: :eusa_clap:

 I hope the To be continued, on your last post will provide you with some leeway for the full presentation of your photo album.

Homero Jimenez
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 12, 2008, 09:56:06 PM
Aw, come on Homero, I gave you NINETY photos!  :eusa_angel: 
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 12, 2008, 10:02:53 PM
My last day in California got off to an unintentionally slow start. I rode a bus to the Embarcadero BART station, planning on taking the subway to the airport, where my rental car awaited. Unfortunately for me, the BART runs about once an hour on Sunday mornings, and I had just missed it. So I sat in the subway station for nearly an hour, waiting for an empty train.

Once at the airport, I rode its tram system to the rental car garage. A little while later, I was behind the wheel of a nice silver Chrysler convertible, my first drive in more than two weeks. had a little trouble finding my way across San Francisco but eventually got pointed in the right direction. Then I had trouble working the top -- my first convertible -- but I eventually got it down.

Now it was time to cross the Golden Gate Bridge in a convertible with the top down. In my mind, it was a bright, sunny day, in the 70s, and purely spectacular. In reality, it was foggy, misty, windy, and cold, probably about 55. Perfect convertible weather. I tried to take some photos as I crossed the bridge, most of which were crooked and out of focus. Once across, I pulled off at Vista Point for a classic view of the bridge.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1722.jpg)

Even on this cloudy day, the view from Vista Point is inspiring, although the man-made icon paled to the natural wonders of Yosemite. So it was time to rejoin the natural world. I kept the top down as I hit the fun-to-drive Shoreline Highway, a winding, narrow, steep ribbon of asphalt zig-zagging across the peninsula. Muir Woods was my destination. Unfortunately, it appeared to be the destination of most of San Francisco. I parked almost a mile from the entrance on what could charitably be called a shoulder. Dodging even later arrivals than me, I ambled down the road to the entrance and promptly stood in line for an opportunity to walk among the redwoods. It was already 11:30 a.m.

For all the miles in Muir's beloved Yosemite, I saw surprisingly few people. I even had the John Muir Trail to myself for four hours one Sunday morning. In Muir Woods National Monument, I felt like a chaperone for an elementary school field trip to a museum that happened to have trees in its exhibit hall. A particularly loud, unruly family of kids shouted, ran, jumped, and sang their way up the well-groomed path. The parents never even suggested they use inside voices. There was a lovely little creek with what appeared to be a tiny waterfall, but I never heard the sound of water.

When I wasn't dodging the children dashing this way and that, I craned my head upward and gazed at the wide trunks, covered in shaggy slabs of bark, shooting straight skyward, topped by the dark canopy of spokes of branches, interrupted here and there by bright, featureless patches of gray sky.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1723.jpg)

Cathedral Grove was signed as a quiet zone. No one told the kids. The paths sometimes led right up to and circled a tree. The crowds reminded me of the windows in Coit Tower, where one has to wait for the herd to move to the next window before a view opens up. I found a bench I could lie on and stare skyward. It was quiet briefly, but no communing with nature occurred. It felt as though I was looking at a painting on the high ceiling of an air conditioned -- remember, it's chilly -- museum. When Muir was alive, I suspect the place still clung to its wonder, awe, and innocense. Loved to death, its proximity to the mighty city a curse, it stood strangely sterile and decidedly unnatural.

I high-tailed it up the Fern Creek Trail, hoping to get away from the crowd. It worked for a moment, before long trains of people started coming at me from the other way. I was probably passed by more people on this trail and the connecting Ocean View (no view) and Lost Trails than on all the trails in Yosemite, save perhaps the miles between Half Dome's summit and Happy Isles. These trails provided some elevation gain, and thus more of an eye-level view of the canopy, but it wasn't a redwood canopy.

Fortunately, these trails meet the Redwood Canyon path near the visitor center, and I was shortly walking back to the convertible. I put the top down, foolishly, and backtracked toward Sausalito, where I once again struggled to find a place to park. About this time, I realized that Marin County operates a shuttle bus to Muir Woods on weekends. It departs from the ferry terminal. That would have been better than the drive, and more consistent with the trip's overall vibe, but I didn't know about it.

After a wonderful lunch of bay shrimp cocktail, lobster bisque, and a Dungeness crab salad sandwich at Scoma's Sausalito location, I was back on the Shoreline Highway, dodging the lane-hogging gawkers, bound for Stinson Beach and a final walk by the sea. The first sign I saw warned of great white sharks. It didn't stop several people from playing in the rough surf. It was nearly 5 o'clock.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1724.jpg)

On the sound end of the beach, a big jumble of dark rocks lay scattered across the dingy sand under the brooding sky. I hopped from one to another, avoiding the tide, until I stood on a small stepstone. The surf swept in around me. It fortunately retreated just long enough for me to grab the camera, perched on another rock, and leap to drier ground. Further out, six-foot waves crashed into the shallows, thundering over the cries of delighted swimmers. It was still in the 50s, and there was no sun in sight.

From there, I decided to go to Point Reyes National Seashore, and found it fogged in. The lighthouse was lost in the mist. A steep stairway, already closed for the day, descended into the nothingness. A fog horn cried unseen, and from far below arose the din of squawking birds, barking seals, and tumbling surf.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1725.jpg)

The walk back to the convertible was like a stroll through the Twilight Zone. A heavy fog obscured all but the closest cypress trees, their wind-blasted branches reaching out toward the trail to snatch away unwary hikers. The unreal scene unfolded slowly as the sky darkened, and I was grateful the trail was actually a driveway to the residence near the lighthouse, for I might have easily lost a foot-trail, and myself, in the gloom.

My drive back to civilization brought me out of the fog before the sun set, although it was obscured by clouds. A light mist fell off and on. I crossed the bridge into Richmond and followed the interstate south, bound for the Bay Bridge. I stopped in Berkeley and strolled the misty streets by the university. I found a hopping pizza joint and had dinner before crossing back into San Francisco. I dropped the convertible off at the airport and took the red-eye flight to Dallas/Fort Worth.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1636.jpg)

A beautiful sunrise greeted me back to the Lone Star State. I watched it unfold from the tram as I changed terminals. My flight to Austin was on time, my baggage came quickly, and a cab soon brought me home, where I found a very happy dog.

I'll get back on topic and discuss gear and lessons learned shortly, since this is the General Outdoor Stuff & Camping Equipment section of the board.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: homerboy2u on August 12, 2008, 10:30:37 PM
Aw, come on Homero, I gave you NINETY photos!  :eusa_angel: 

 Yes , very true but it is a place that  very likely i will not go anytime soon since there is so much to explore here in Mexico. However Yosemite is breath taking and if possible maybe you could post a link to them (your pics)...if you can,that is. :angel:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on August 13, 2008, 12:00:16 AM
OHHHELLL! Sure you didn't dream this?!SHEEEZ!What a TRIP! :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: TheWildWestGuy on August 13, 2008, 07:17:29 AM
You have a great writing style Jeff, makes me feel like I am right there with you.... TWWG
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Hoodoo on August 14, 2008, 10:19:44 AM
Incredible Jeff.  :eusa_clap: I am sure it goes without saying the photos do not give Yosemite the justice it deserves. Have you considered combining all of your memoirs into a book?
Title: Re: Yosemite Gear Discussion
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 19, 2008, 09:23:21 PM
Time to get this thread back on topic, since it was hijacked by that rambling trip report.  :icon_lol:

A lot thought and debate went into all the decisions on which gear accompanied me to Yosemite and which stayed home. Everything I carried on the plane, with two exceptions, went with me on the trail. Neither weight nor volume was truly at a premium. However, both were very high on the list, next to functionality and durability. Some choices turned out to be note perfect; others were just adequate. Several pieces of gear were receiving their first real test.

This multi-part examination of what I carried during my two weeks in Yosemite will hopefully shed some light on the gear-decision process and inform future decisions -- mine and others -- about what to bring on the next outing. This part will address "The Big Three," the components which represent the biggest weight, and often cost, of backpacking gear. The next part will address clothing. The next part will address electronica, followed by an installment covering everything else in the pack. A final part will cover lessons learned and discuss items I should have brought but didn't.

PACKS


The Odyssey holds 90 liters of gear and easily swallowed everything I took with me. I seldom needed the extension collar, except to provide an extra rain-block for the gear inside. It comfortably held all the weight I hauled.

The Odyssey was self-standing with my sleeping bag in the bottom "compartment" and the sleeping pad strapped to the back. This made it very easy to pack and unpack, although some smaller items would sometimes drop into the bottom, disappearing beneath the garbage bag which kept my sleeping bag and camp clothes dry. The bear cannister (ballast) went in next, surrounded by the hammock and canopy, camp towel, and some clothing. Everything else went on top of that. The pack's top held small items needed during the day. The waistbelt had two pockets, which held things like sunscreen, lip balm, and hand cleanser. The sternum strap has an elastic loop which fits the camera bag perfectly. I was worried the waistbelt's 1-inch buckle would break, but it held up just fine. The pack has an integrated hydration sleeve which, barely, holds a 2-liter Platypus collapsible bottle, and the hose can come out either side, where it runs under a strap on either shoulder.

It's about a pound heavier and larger than my GoLite Speed, which I desperately wanted to take. The Speed simply didn't hold everything, and my attempts to lash the Kiva to it were futile. I'm glad -- I would have been unhappy with the Speed in the field. For one thing, the Speed is never self-supporting, even when using a sleeping pad as a frame. On the plus (minus) side, the Odyssey is 20 oz lighter than it pack it replaced, a Gregory Reality, which held about 70 liters of gear at 4 lbs 11 oz / 2,125g.

The Kiva holds 10 liters of gear and packs down into its little pocket, ending up about the size of an easter egg. I used it on the plane, dayhiking from Glacier Point, exploring Glen Aulin, and climbing Half Dome. It held a water bag with hydration sipper, wind shirt, sunscreen, snacks, and, when needed, camera gear. It is not intended for heavy-duty use, so care must be taken putting it on and taking it off when it's any weight in it (like a 2-liter bag of water). I had to repair it once in the field. The straps are held by very cheap, flimsy plastic clips that slowly lose their grip and have to be adjusted. It also transfered sweat from my back directly to the contents in the bag, so expect stuff to get wet.

The Kiva replaced, for this trip, an REI Desert Rat pack, which weighs 11 ounces and holds about 16 liters of gear. Ideally, my backpack's lid would convert, easily, into a daypack. Alas, it does not, easily or otherwise. My Reality's lid converts into a makeshift daypack, but it's hard to get it back in place, so I've only used it as a daypack only once. The cost (around $9) and weight savings (around 9 ounces) compensate for its less-than-durable performance. It's hard to find any substitute piece of gear which scores $1 per ounce dropped.

SHELTER


A few months ago, I mused about whether a hammock (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/05/why-not-a-hammock.php) would make me a suitable backpacking shelter. After trying Sleepy's, I purchased a Hennessy A-sym with sewn-on mosquito netting, integrated canopy, ultra-light straps ("tree-huggers"), and special storage sleeves ("snake skins"). I was quite happy with it and do not plan to go back to sleeping on the ground.

Weight-wise, it is slightly heavier than what it replaced, a Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/shop/shopexd.asp?id=36) ($235), a Tyvek ground cloth cut to fit its footprint ($9), and 6 titanium stakes ($15), collectively weighing in at 1 lb 13.5 oz / 835g. But that's not the full story. The whole reason I began investigating a hammock-based system was my inability to sleep well lying on the ground. I have gone through six sleeping pads and still haven't found one that gave me a comfortable night's sleep. Unable to find comfort, I simply moved to lightweight.

The lightest sleeping pad I carry, a small Therm-a-Rest ProLite 3 weighs in at 15 oz (409g), and it's dreadfully uncomfortable. Spending nine nights on it seemed overly ascetic. So I actually planned to take a heavier, thicker pad, an REI Trekker 1.75 Short (http://www.rei.com/product/722786) self-inflating pad ($49), which actually weighs 5g more than my tent! The prospect of taking a heavy pad, and still not sleeping comfortably, for nine nights was not a hopeful one.

I thought the Hennessy would provide a superior sleeping experience, and I was right. I seldom had trouble getting comfortable or falling asleep in the hammock. There were challenges, such as learning how to get into the sleeping bag while keeping the insulation in place, but I had the system down by about night number five. I also learned to pitch the foot end slightly higher, so that my butt didn't slide down toward the bottom of the hammock during the night. I was afraid the sewn-in nature of the netting would be a problem, but it turned out to be a non-issue. In fact, by folding the hammock bottom over, I was able to convert it into a swinging chair, something I could never do with a sleeping pad.

While researching the hammock, I noticed many owners replaced the Hennessy canopy, and I now understand why. For ease of use, the canopy attaches to two tensioned clips on the main line of the hammock. This of course means that the tension changes when weight is applied to the hammock, negating the tautness of the canopy. This is a problem when it rains. The canopy also does not do a great job of protecting the hammock from rain blowing sideways. It is also hard to tell which part of the canopy goes with which part of the hammock (Hint: the guy lines line up together) or which side is up. So I'll be replacing it with a canopy that uses its own line and offers greater protection.

I will also replace the tree-huggers with the longer, wider version. Some trees I chose to tie up to turned out to be too big around for the ultralight huggers. The huggers prevent damage to the tree by distributing the hammock's weight over a larger area. They also make it a lot easier to pitch the shelter. I will also choose heavier-duty stakes. The ultralight stakes I took were no match for the wind.

The biggest challenge with a hammock is keeping warm when the temperatures drop below 55 degrees, which happened most nights in Yosemite. Body weight compresses the insulation in sleeping bags, reducing its warmth. Lying in a tent, one's body is in contact with the ground, and an insulating pad separates the body from the cold. In a hammock, the body is in contact with the air, all around, with only the hammock's thin body separating it from the cold. So the sleeping system had to be well thought-out and carefully chosen to match the elements.

SLEEP SYSTEM

A hammock will make the body feel as though it is 15-20 degrees cooler than it would if it were in a tent. So I took a +20-degree bag even though I did not expect the temperature to drop below 40. I also have a +35 bag that would have done the job otherwise. Taking the +20 turned out to be a great decision, as the temperatures in fact dropped into the mid-30s one night and were in the 40s most nights. Typically I placed the reflector under the pad with the foil-side turned up. I was too warm only once, because the windshield reflector trapped too much heat under me. The next night, when it was in the lower 50s, I turned the reflector the other way. The pads covered the area from my butt up to my head. I used clothes and my camp shoes to insulate my legs and feet.

I have tried several things as pillows and never been satisfied. Sleeping in a hammock obviates much of the need for a pillow because the fabric supports the shoulders, neck, and head so well. The FlexAir Plus pillow is not very comfortable when used under the head, no matter how much or little air is inside it. However, it is hands down the best under-the-knees support I've ever used. For my head, I used my hiking pants, carefully folded so I did not encounter the metal belt buckle during the night. The headrest of the sleeping bag was also under my head.

The sleeping pad and reflector together weighed 9 oz / 238g, far lighter than the 1 lb 13 oz / 840 g sleeping pad I was planning on taking if I had slept on the ground. It turns out that the hammock and sleeping pads weigh 4g more than the tent and thicker pad, so a great deal more comfort ended up costing 4g -- a seventh of an ounce -- in additional weight. That's a great trade-off in my book.

WEIGHT SUMMARY

"Big Three" base weight:  7 lbs 11 oz / 3,496g
Includes backpack, hammock body, canopy, tree huggers, snake skins, canopy stuff sack, 4 titanium stakes, sleeping bag, and sleeping bag stuff sack (a trash bag).
"Big Three" base cost (current product availability): $643

Total packs + shelter + sleep system weight: 8 lbs 7 oz / 3,820g
Includes the base weight components plus the Kiva day pack, foam pad, reflector, and pillow.

Alternative packs + shelter + sleep system weight: 11 lbs 3 oz / 5,087g
Includes Gregory Reality backpack, REI Desert Rat, Lunar Solo, Tyvek groundsheet, 6 titanium stakes, Trekker 1.75" pad, sleeping bag, and sleeping bag stuff sack (a trash bag).

Total weight saved: 2 lbs 13 oz / 1,267g
Cost per ounce saved: $8.84

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite Gear Discussion
Post by: mule ears on August 20, 2008, 07:04:10 AM
The Kiva holds 10 liters of gear and packs down into its little pocket, ending up about the size of an easter egg. I used it on the plane, dayhiking from Glacier Point, exploring Glen Aulin, and climbing Half Dome. It held a water bag with hydration sipper, wind shirt, sunscreen, snacks, and, when needed, camera gear. It is not intended for heavy-duty use, so care must be taken putting it on and taking it off when it's any weight in it (like a 2-liter bag of water). I had to repair it once in the field. The straps are held by very cheap, flimsy plastic clips that slowly lose their grip and have to be adjusted. It also transfered sweat from my back directly to the contents in the bag, so expect stuff to get wet.

The Kiva replaced, for this trip, an REI Desert Rat pack, which weighs 11 ounces and holds about 16 liters of gear. Ideally, my backpack's lid would convert, easily, into a daypack. Alas, it does not, easily or otherwise. My Reality's lid converts into a makeshift daypack, but it's hard to get it back in place, so I've only used it as a daypack only once. The cost (around $9) and weight savings (around 9 ounces) compensate for its less-than-durable performance. It's hard to find any substitute piece of gear which scores $1 per ounce dropped.

Jeff, excellent discussion as always.

I too have tried several daypack options including the top pocket transformed into daypack or fanny pack without much satisfaction, I finally settled on this one (http://www.integraldesigns.com/product_detail.cfm?id=770&CFID=123508&CFTOKEN=20020579&mainproducttypeid=1/) from Integral Designs which is 3.7 ounces without the waist strap and it is both either my sleeping bag or clothes stuff bag and a daypack. It holds 25 liters and is pretty good for a "bag with straps". Great for side trips away from camp and for going to fill up water bottles when it is a distance from camp or you have many to carry. Unfortunately $55.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on August 21, 2008, 06:05:00 AM
Just got the REI sale flyer yesterday and the REI Sub-Kilo +20 (http://www.rei.com/product/731678), 2 lbs 1.5 oz / 949g ($239), is on sale for $165. This is an incredible price on one of the lighter 20 degree down bags around. If you are in the market for a new bag and/or are trying to reduce pack weight this is much cheaper than the other light 20 degree sleeping bags which are in the $300-400 range. Not as light weight or level of detail as say a Western Mountaineering Ultralite bag but still very good.

Jeff they have the Steripen on sale too just in case you wanted to get another one to keep the others permanently on the shelf company :icon_wink:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: tjavery on August 21, 2008, 08:25:12 AM
Jeff - many thanks for an awesome trip report. Thanks for sharing your detailed experiences with us! Although I've yet to attempt a quest of such magnitude, I can empathize with your sense of accomplishment. How amazing that must have felt to take your final steps of the hike and reflect on what you had survived and done.

(p.s. Damn the weight, I would have taken the DSLR  :icon_lol:)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 21, 2008, 10:08:10 AM
Just got the REI sale flyer yesterday and the REI Sub-Kilo +20 (http://www.rei.com/product/731678), 2 lbs 1.5 oz / 949g ($239), is on sale for $165. This is an incredible price on one of the lighter 20 degree down bags around. If you are in the market for a new bag and/or are trying to reduce pack weight this is much cheaper than the other light 20 degree sleeping bags which are in the $300-400 range. Not as light weight or level of detail as say a Western Mountaineering Ultralite bag but still very good.

Jeff they have the Steripen on sale too just in case you wanted to get another one to keep the others permanently on the shelf company :icon_wink:

That is a good price for the bag. It's not the top of the line but the weight compares favorably to many other bags out there (many of which are also on sale at backcountry.com):


Weight is obviously not the only consideration, but it's an important one. There is no amount of lightweight gear swapping one can do if you carry a heavy bag, pack, and shelter. So I always encourage folks who are upgrading to plunk down the cash on these "Big 3" items first.

While I like the Sub-Kilo a lot, it is not without its issues. My biggest complaint with it is the zipper is a bit testy, which is true of every bag I've ever used from REI. I also dislike the cinch cords around the head and find the bag to be drafty in really cold weather. I usually solve this by placing a scarf or some fleece in the opening, but that solution may not appeal to everyone.

I pack the Sub-Kilo in a trash bag with my other base-layer camp clothes and put it in the bottom of my pack. The weight of everything else keeps it compressed, but not ridiculously so. It also helps to keep the pack upright when sitting on the ground. But I guess that's true of any sleeping bag packed in such manner.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: SHANEA on August 21, 2008, 12:40:50 PM
Great Trip Report Jeff.  I'm way behind on my BBC reading.  So, where to next?
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 21, 2008, 01:04:25 PM
Put another way, let's compare the cost per ounce reduced of the various bags compared with the cheapest, the Mountain Hardware Piute +20 at 42 oz / 1,190g for $133.


So, compared with the cheapest +20ish bag in this list, the Sub-Kilo produces a pretty good bang-for-the-buck reduction. Next up is the GoLite Adrenaline at $9/oz. Comparing them head-to-head, the Adrenaline is 4.5 ounces lighter than the Sub-Kilo and costs $85 more, which is $18.89 per ounce saved.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 21, 2008, 03:05:47 PM
Great Trip Report Jeff.  I'm way behind on my BBC reading.  So, where to next?

Next. Hmm. Two things really stand out as "next" in the grand adventure scheme of things. Very different things. A float down the Green River with explorations of The Maze in Canyonlands -- a very Ed Abbey kind of trek. The other is the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier. And then there's Alaska.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on August 21, 2008, 03:40:48 PM
Quote
And then there's Alaska.

Mmm...Alaska.

(http://www.webboi.net/blog/archives/homer_simpson_drool.jpg)
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on August 22, 2008, 06:47:28 AM
That is a good price for the bag. It's not the top of the line but the weight compares favorably to many other bags out there (many of which are also on sale at backcountry.com):

  • ALPS Mountaineering Navajo +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/ALM0040/ALPS-Mountaineering-Navajo-Sleeping-Bag-20F-Degree-Down.html), 2 lbs 11 oz / 1,219g ($147)
  • Big Agnes Zirkel SL +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/BAG0111/Big-Agnes-Zirkel-SL-Sleeping-Bag-20-Degree-Down.html), 1 lb 14 oz / 850g ($306) -- almost double the price for 99g of weight reduction
  • Exped Woodpecker +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/ODR0367/Exped-Woodpecker-Sleeping-Bag-20-Degree-Down.html), 2 lbs 6 oz / 1,100 g ($290)
  • GoLite Adrenaline +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/GOL0244/GoLite-Adrenaline-Sleeping-Bag-20-Degree-Down.html), 1 lb 13 oz / 850g ($250)
  • GoLite Venture +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/GOL0241/GoLite-Venture-Sleeping-Bag-20-Degree-Down.html), 2 lbs 1 oz / 960g ($225)
  • Kelty Luxor +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/KEL0592/Kelty-Luxor-Sleeping-Bag-20-Degree-Down.html), 5 lbs 1 oz / 2,300g ($162)
  • Marmot Massif +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/MAR1131/Marmot-Massif-Semi-Rec-Sleeping-Bag-20-Degree-Down.html), 3 lbs 8 oz / 1,588g ($142)
  • MontBell Super Stretch Hugger #2 +25 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/MTB0046/MontBell-America-Inc-UL-Super-Stretch-Hugger-2-Sleeping-Bag-25-Degree-Down.html), 1 lb 12 oz / 749g ($283) -- about 5 oz lighter than the Sub-Kilo for $120 more
  • Mountain Hardware Piute +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/MHW0649/Mountain-Hardwear-Piute-20-Sleeping-Bag-20-Degree-Down.html), 2 lbs 10 oz / 1,190g ($133)
  • The North Face Blue Kazoo +15 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/TNF3035/The-North-Face-Blue-Kazoo-Sleeping-Bag-15-Degree-Down.html), 3 lbs / 1,361g ($239)
  • Western Mountaineering UltraLight +20 down (http://www.backcountry.com/store/WES0002/Western-Mountaineering-UltraLite-Sleeping-Bag-20-Degree-Down.html), 1 lb 9 oz / ~710g ($360) -- now that's light, and just $195 more than the Sub-Kilo ($23.13 per ounce)

Weight is obviously not the only consideration, but it's an important one. There is no amount of lightweight gear swapping one can do if you carry a heavy bag, pack, and shelter. So I always encourage folks who are upgrading to plunk down the cash on these "Big 3" items first.

While I like the Sub-Kilo a lot, it is not without its issues. My biggest complaint with it is the zipper is a bit testy, which is true of every bag I've ever used from REI. I also dislike the cinch cords around the head and find the bag to be drafty in really cold weather. I usually solve this by placing a scarf or some fleece in the opening, but that solution may not appeal to everyone.

Sorry Jeff, I don't mean to get off your topic here but just two more cents worth on sleeping bags. For me weight is the number one factor along with comparable features and quality. If it was me all of the bags, listed above, heavier than the Sub Kilo would be disqualified which only leaves handfull below the 33 ounce level that are true full featured mummy bags (Big Anges has no bottom insulation, the Go-lites have sewn thru baffles, etc). (Note: these are all regular size and sale prices so for comparisons this should be taken into account) One also needs to verify the weights as most companies fudge a little on this too. Two not on the list are the Mountain Hardware Phantom 15 at 31 oz. and on sale at $276 and the Marmot Helium at 29 oz. and $360.

Four years ago when I broke down after 30 years and replaced my still good but aging (this is the kind of service a quality down bag can give you :eusa_clap:), 42 oz, 25 degree down bag I went for the lightest and the best features I could get. The Western Mountaineering Ultralite which was actually 2 oz. lighter than the advertised weight. I have been very pleased even for the money. Continuous baffles so I can move down top or bottom depending on temps. Good hood and draft collar. A zipper that never catches. I go out only in the fall through spring so the temp range is perfect for me. I have taken it down to 5 degrees and been toasty too (with the right pads). I hike a lot so the investment was worth it to me but it still cost me $23.59 and ounce in weight saved :icon_eek:. If I only went every so often I would jump on the Sub Kilo in a heart beat.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 23, 2008, 02:15:00 PM
This post examines the clothing I took with me and discusses the choices, some good and others not so hit, which led to this list of clothing and footwear.

CLOTHES WORN WHILE HIKING


This has long been my backpacking attire, and it has handled everything thrown at it. The ripstop nylon has prevented serious tears, even when bushwhacking through tangled, woody, sharp branches. The shirt in particular breathes well and dries quickly. If I remove my pack for more than 10 minutes, my back will usually be dry before I put it back on. I prefer long sleeves and long pants, even in hot weather, because it minimizes the territory for insects to land, sun to burn, and nature to stick, stab, slash, cut, poke, prod, slice, and dice.

(http://www.jeffblaylock.com/window/photos/1706.jpg)

Convertible pants are a must because, sometimes, shorts are in order, especially after a long day of hiking or when a swim or wade is called for. The zipper can also be partially opened at the front to allow venting. The Magellan pants have an integrated mesh liner which greatly adds to hiking comfort. They are water resistant but not, in any way, waterproof; they can in fact get quite wet. My only quibbles with these pants are the lack of a boot zipper at the bottom and the way the mesh creates two pockets on each side. I have to take my boots off in order to convert the pants into shorts or back again, and I sometimes have trouble fetching an item in the pockets because it and my hand end up separated by mesh.

My choice of socks has been a long evolution. I used to walk in thick hiking socks with a thin nylon liner. I have since switched to a single sock solution which relies on a padded shoe insert and tighter laces to keep my feet from sliding around too much. As my pack weights have steadily dropped, so too has the thickness of my hiking socks. I now use so-called "lightweight" varieties, typically from either Thorlo or Smart Wool. On this trip, the hiking socks were Thorlos.

Lastly, the Columbia hat is probably my oldest continuously used piece of gear. I've replaced just about everything else but continue to take this unsexy, floppy hat whenever I'm hiking in the sun. It used to shed light rain better than it does now, probably the effect of washing it dozens of times. The mesh band around the head helps to vent heat and perspiration.

Collectively, my backpacking attires weighs 1 lb 12.3 oz / 803g. There are some lighter options out there as gear makers experiment with fabrics and meet the market's demand for ounce-cutting solutions. Durability is a concern for me, especially if I am taking only one shirt to hike in for two weeks.

CLOTHES WORN IN CAMP


These collectively were the dry base layer I changed into every late afternoon or evening, once in camp (when it wasn't hailing), and my alternate afternoon clothes. This was the first time I had taken silk bottoms and the second trek with a silk top; I usually take wool. I opted for silk for two reasons. First, it is significantly lighter than the wool equivalents, reducing a total of 9.1 oz / 257g. Second, I believed silk would make a better choice given the expected weather conditions (sunny, mild to warm, and dry). They were not the best choice for the weather I actually faced. Wool or polyester would have been preferable for their superior insulating capability. In addition, the silk layers weren't terribly durable. The pants, especially, have lots of runners in them.

The socks were a slightly heavier version of the main hiking socks. As the trip progressed, they were interchanged. Historically, I have taken thicker wool socks for camp which are about 2 oz heavier. I did not need the added warmth, so substituting the lighter socks worked just fine.

The tank and running shorts served as "alternate" clothes, primarily when I was laundering the other clothes. The tanktop came in handy on afternoons and day hikes. I also used it as an added core-layer on the hailstorm days. I probably would have preferred a short-sleeved shirt which covered the shoulders. The shorts were a little, um, short, so they received little use in any place where I could be seen.

INSULATION AND RAIN GEAR


In this category, I ended up taking just enough to get by, but could have made better choices up and down the list. These choices were informed by three assumptions that did not always manifest themselves. The first was, I would get into my sleeping bag if I got cold. The second was, I could always use my hiking clothes as an added layer if I needed it. The third was, it's the dry season.

Choices were made here to maximize weight savings. The vest replaced a fleece top 2.8 oz / 80g heavier. Together with the wind shirt, it replaced a 21 oz / 595g wind-breaker fleece jacket (a savings of 13 oz / 372g). The DriDucks pants took 2.1 oz / 60g off my existing rain bottoms. The gloves were 1.3 oz / 38g lighter than my fleece gloves. A rain jacket was not packed, saving 11 oz / 312g. Collectively, the items chosen weighed 1 lb 14.4 oz / 862g less than the items they replaced or I declined to pack.

In hindsight, I needed better insulation and better rain protection. Though I will credit the MontBell down vest as having saved my life, I really could have used sleeves. When my hiking shirt was wet, I was left with only a silk base layer and the thin wind shirt covering my arms. For another 1.9 oz / ~55g of weight (and $25), I could have taken the MontBell Ultralight down jacket (http://www.backcountry.com/store/MTB0032/MontBell-America-Inc-Ultralight-Down-Jacket-Mens.html) instead.

As for rain protection, the DriDucks did the job, and even served as decent insulation for the legs, but the wind shirt did not cut it. Though water resistant, the Wisp quickly absorbed water, so it was not suitable for protecting the down vest -- which I absolutely could not afford to get wet -- in a cold, hard rain. Historically, I have also taken a small umbrella to shed rain. This would have been blown apart by the storms I faced in Yosemite, so it was just as well that it was left behind. I also had no effective rain protection for the pack. At the very least, from now on I will place any foam pads lashed to the pack inside a carefully rolled trash bag.

The Wisp was satisfactory at blocking the wind. Had I bothered to bring insulation for my arms, I would probably feel better about the Wisp's performance. In any event, I now prefer the flexibility of an ultralight wind layer separate from any insulation.

The golf gloves were intended solely for use on Half Dome's dreaded cables, for which they came in handy. As insulation, they provided temporary relief at best. My hands would get sweaty inside in short order, shifting the environment in the gloves from toasty to clammy in minutes. They were poor at protecting my hands from the rain, too.

The wool beanie is probably the only gear on this list that could get neither lighter nor better in any significant way. The DriDucks are also tough to beat, especially at that price, although I'm not sure I would want to hike in them. With exertion, I could see condensation within the DriDucks as problematic.

FOOTWEAR


I went to REI late last year looking for the best grip on granite because I would be hiking in Yosemite. The green-clad worker said, "Wait one moment." He brought with him another REI employee who spends at least two months a year in Yosemite. She immediately picked up the Vasque Catalyst XCR and said, "I wouldn't take anything else with me." I tested the shoes in Big Bend, taking them on both the Marufo Vega and high Chisos trails, and I can say now they are Rock Stars.

The only place they slid against the granite was on the well-worn side of Half Dome, an excusable lapse in performance. Otherwise, I never had an issue with losing my footing. They are not waterproof, so dunking them in a stream isn't a hot idea. But even in the height of a furious hailstorm, they did not soak through. The foot box remained tight and supportive, and there was just enough ankle support to prevent wobbly feet.

As for Crocs, well, I think they're dreadful in the real world, and I don't want to be caught dead wearing the ugly things in public. As camp/wading/shower shoes, they are among the best I've ever taken camping. Having gone without camp shoes before, and regretted it every time, I knew I wanted something for this trip, and the Crocs ended up fitting the bill. My only hangup with them, other than how damned ugly and trendy they are, was their penchant for allowing pine needles to stab my feet through their numerous swiss-cheese cut-outs. As a bonus, their grip on granite was pretty stable, too.

ACCESSORIES

Even the lightweight backpacker has to accessorize.


Somewhere in time, I lost the belt that came with the predecessors to the Magellan convertible pants -- those perished on Casa Grande -- and failed to replace it before a trip to Big Bend. I spent most of the trip struggling to keep my pants on. I don't recall where the belt came from, or how much it cost, but it did the job. I can probably find something lighter if I am motivated to do so.

Bandannas serve many purposes. A third one rode in the cook pot. Unfortunately, I lost the two intended for use primarily as sweat rags. I bought one in Tuolumne Meadows which had a stylized map of the High Sierra Camp loop on it, 1.0 oz / 28g ($5). I tried to lose that one, too, but it somehow made it home. It was certainly better than wiping my face with a bandanna that had spent a week in a pot with Esbit residue.

The sunglasses were non-polarized because it is very difficult to see the LCD screen on the back of my digital camera through polarized lenses.

WEIGHT SUMMARY

Clothes Usually Worn or Carried: 4 lbs 12.9 oz / 2,180g ($263)
Clothes Usually Packed: 2 lbs 11.9 oz / 1,245g ($389)

Total, Clothing and Footwear: 7 lbs 8.8 oz / 3,425g ($652)

Running Total, Items Worn or Carried: 4 lbs 12.9 oz / 2,180g
Running Total, Items Packed: 10 lbs 7.2 oz / 4,741g
Running Total, All Items: 15 lbs 4.1 oz / 6,921g ($1,295)

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 25, 2008, 11:00:33 PM
Guess this isn't nearly as interesting as the off-topic trip report, but I'll soldier on ....

Previous posts have addressed the so-called "Big Three" -- pack, shelter, sleeping bag -- and clothing taken during last month's trip to Yosemite. This entry will examine hydration, water treatment, and cooking gear. In general, these are great areas to reduce pack weight affordably. There are inexpensive, ultralight alternatives to most "traditional" gear supporting hydration and cooking. I was able to remove 20 ounces from my pack for a little over $60 in new gear, and I could have knocked out another 12 ounces with better choices (saving $99 in the process). That's TWO POUNDS I could have eliminated just from these two areas.

HYDRATION


Before I first discovered the wonders of drinking tubes, I rarely sipped water on the trail because I couldn't reach the hard-sided 32-oz Nalgene bottle (http://www.rei.com/product/402049), 3.8 oz / 108g ($6), in the webbed pocket of my pack. If I was hiking with someone else, he or she had to fish it out and put it back. If I was alone, I had to remove my pack just to drink. Then I got a CamelBak 100-oz UnBottle reservoir (http://www.rei.com/product/749987) with insulated sleeve and integrated drinking tube. After one trip, I was hooked on hydration on demand. The reservoir was heavy, though, weighing in at 12.4 oz / 352g ($35). Its insulation works alright, although the water in the tube gets downright hot. I've never thought insulated tubes were worth the hassle.

So for a typical trek to Big Bend, I would carry the CamelBak 100-oz UnBottle reservoir in its sleeve, a hard-sided 32-oz Nalgene bottle, and 3 Platypus 2+ water bottles. Collectively, these would carry 342 ounces of water, contributing 1 lb 4.0 oz / 568g to the pack. For my last trip to Big Bend, I substituted a 1-gallon collapsible jug for the third Platypus 2+ bottle, increasing my capacity to 400 ounces at 1 lb 6.8 oz / 645g. Yosemite has plenty of water with only a few, fairly short dry stretches. Twice I would camp away from a water source, and only the Half Dome hike was truly dry. I wanted to be able to carry at least 1.5 gallons for Half Dome, although I usually would top out at 2+ liters on me at any one time.

The first substitution was the Platypus 2+ and drinking tube for the CamelBak 100-oz UnBottle. It held 30 fewer ounces, but it shaved 8.9 oz / 253g off the load. My pack, a GoLite Odyssey, had an integrated pocket against the frameset, into which the Platypus 2+ fit perfectly. The second substitution was the collapsible Nalgene canteen for the hard-sided Nalgene bottle, a weight savings of 1.7 oz / 47g.&nbsp; These worked very well, although the snap-on strap to hold the drinking tube in place was absolutely worthless.

Had I stopped here, I would've been set. I brought the CamelBak performance bottle primarily as a means of getting water from streams, thinking it would help keep my regular bottles uncontaminated. This was a pipe dream; this extra step, and thus the container, was not necessary. As for the last container, an empty bottled water container, it served a narrow purpose a couple of times. I used it as a bidet, helpful but again not necessary. I put it into a recycling bin at Tuolumne Meadows. These extra containers wiped out half the weight savings of the substitutions.

WATER TREATMENT


Let's start with something positive. Repackaging the iodine tablets -- intended to be an emergency method of treating water -- from their bottle into a tiny plastic bag saves nearly an ounce. They also work well, although there is a half-hour waiting period. So, it's best to refill before you run out, if you're using them. And I used them a lot.

The SteriPEN is a fantastic idea. It's lightweight. It's fast (when it works). It's effective (when it works). It's simple to use. And it's so damn fragile, testy, and unreliable that I'll probably never use one again. It ended up being a carrying case for four spare AA batteries after it failed on the second day. It worked a couple more times, always in the morning, before ultimately dying. This was the second trip I've taken a SteriPEN, and it's the second trip one has failed me on the second day of the trip. I did not abuse the device, so it either is unable to handle being packed and carried with other gear, or it is defective (and I've scored two defective units in a row).

Having lived off of iodine tablets for nearly 10 days, I will probably make them my primary means of treating water from now on. The taste isn't too iodine-y, the stains in the bottles are liveable, and they are extremely lightweight.

COOKING

Well, okay, I merely heated water, but that still takes good gear.


Despite the relatively heavy per-meal fuel weight, the Esbit system weighed 8.6 oz / 244g less than its predecessor system, which relied on isobutane cartridges. I bought the Esbit in Sacramento -- it, like most other camp fuel, cannot be carried on a plane -- and took only what I would use. The remnants of tablets were used to start a campfire.

A windscreen is a must when using a fuel-tab stove. The one I carried with me had holes punched into the bottom to provide air to the fire. I cut slits into the ends and removed a small square-shaped section to fit the pot. It must be coiled and stored carefully. If it creases, it will not be possible to restore its original shape. Aluminum foil could also be used, but it is actually heavier and testier.

The spoon was a rockstar. I repackaged my Mountain House meals into zip-loc freezer bags, and the spoon reached the bottom without getting my hand gooey. It is slightly heavier than some other utensils I have, but its reach exceeds its burden.

Everything, including the Esbit tablets and a bandanna, packed into the pot, which was probably the first lightweight gear I ever purchased. The newer versions lack the integrated rubber handles, which fold around the pot for storage. I have long since abandoned cups, mugs, and other similar containers, as I don't use them in the field.

WEIGHT SUMMARY

Water Containers and Treatment: 1 lb 3.2 oz / 545g ($148)
Cooking Gear: 6.9 oz / 197g ($99)

Total Weight Saved: 1 lb, 4.6 oz / 580g ($3.03 per ounce!)
Versus the CamelBak UnBottle, hard-sided Nalgene bottle, and iso-butane stove system.

Weight that Could Have Been Saved: 12.1 oz / 342g (items cost $99)
That's the SteriPEN, performance bottle, and empty bottled water bottle.

Running Total, Items Worn or Carried: 4 lbs 12.9 oz / 2,180g
Running Total, Items Packed: 12 lbs 1.4 oz / 5,483g
Running Total, All Items: 16 lbs 14.3 oz / 7,663g ($1,542)

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on August 25, 2008, 11:25:47 PM

Some posts don't require responses.  There is no debate.  You are da man!  I just want to know if you were able to stand up your socks at night by the 5th day?

Al
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on August 26, 2008, 06:52:54 AM
Quote
Guess this isn't nearly as interesting as the off-topic trip report, but I'll soldier on ....
OK Jeff, I'll play

Having lived off of iodine tablets for nearly 10 days, I will probably make them my primary means of treating water from now on. The taste isn't too iodine-y, the stains in the bottles are liveable, and they are extremely lightweight.

I know we have covered this all on the board before but I would again encourage you to try Aquamira (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/aquamira_mcnett.html) or one of the other chlorine dioxide treatments. Faster (15 minutes) and no after taste or discoloring and better/wider number of water bugs if is effective against (Crypto for one). Not quite as light or cheap as your 0.2 oz. you carried but so much lighter than all the other pumps, pens, etc.

I look forward to further post trip analysis, thanks.

Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: bdann on August 26, 2008, 10:11:49 AM

I know we have covered this all on the board before but I would again encourage you to try Aquamira (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/aquamira_mcnett.html) or one of the other chlorine dioxide treatments. Faster (15 minutes) and no after taste or discoloring and better/wider number of water bugs if is effective against (Crypto for one). Not quite as light or cheap as your 0.2 oz. you carried but so much lighter than all the other pumps, pens, etc.

I'll second that, I've been using these - http://www.rei.com/product/736898 (http://www.rei.com/product/736898).  No taste, no stains. 
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 26, 2008, 12:19:00 PM
Some posts don't require responses.&nbsp; There is no debate.&nbsp; You are da man!&nbsp; I just want to know if you were able to stand up your socks at night by the 5th day?

Al

Thanks Al -- didn't mean my comment to be taken that way. It's simply not as interesting when there's no photos, no real story, no drama of discovery. Also a lot less fun to write. It feels more a roll call (In other words, it's like the Phantom Menace as compared to Empire Strikes Back).

Anyway, as to the socks, I was able to launder them using a two-cycle process that took out most of the funk and made them acceptable for the duration. Take two Large ziploc big bags (http://www.amazon.com/Ziploc-Pack-Heavy-Duty-65676/dp/B001AH7BSG/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1219769149&sr=8-1) and put in about a half gallon of water in each. Put a few drops of your favorite backcountry soap in the first one and slosh it around. Insert a few clothing items and knead. You will notice the water will immediately turn gross. This is the wash cycle. Wring the clothes out to leave as much as the gross water behind, then dunk 'em in the other bag. Knead. This is the rinse cycle. Wring them out really good and find a spot to dry. Wash things which touch your face first, then hands, then upper body, then feet, then lower body, as the water gets progressively grosser as you go along. Discard the gray water gracefully.

I know we have covered this all on the board before but I would again encourage you to try Aquamira (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/aquamira_mcnett.html) or one of the other chlorine dioxide treatments. Faster (15 minutes) and no after taste or discoloring and better/wider number of water bugs if is effective against (Crypto for one). Not quite as light or cheap as your 0.2 oz. you carried but so much lighter than all the other pumps, pens, etc.

I'm going to look more closely at the non-device treatment option. Getting to drink the water faster is a big plus, and not turning the insides of my reservoirs a tobacco-brown color is also a nice feature. I'll check it out.

For the nit-pickers out there, I noticed my weight total includes the Esbit fuel, which should fall under Consumables, not Items Packed. I will correct in the next exciting installment.  :eusa_dance:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: trtlrock on August 26, 2008, 06:50:21 PM
I know we have covered this all on the board before but I would again encourage you to try Aquamira (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/aquamira_mcnett.html) or one of the other chlorine dioxide treatments. Faster (15 minutes) and no after taste or discoloring and better/wider number of water bugs if is effective against (Crypto for one). Not quite as light or cheap as your 0.2 oz. you carried but so much lighter than all the other pumps, pens, etc

I would strongly recommend this solution as well.  However, on our last BiBe trip one of the small squeeze bottles developed a crack & got very leaky.  We had backups in a cache, and didn't end up needing to treat any water on that particular trip, so I guess we dodged a bullet.  Even with this one failure I still wouldn't change from the Aquamira system...

I've enjoyed reading all the installments Jeff -- quite a trip!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on August 26, 2008, 10:46:36 PM
Jeff, thanks for taking the time to put this all down in text. The information that you have spread before us is invaluable..I have been gleaning great info off of all your hard work. Thanks! :cool-thumb: Aquick semi related question for you pertaining to the water treatment issue. I have a Grand Canyon trip along a section of trail where my only source of water will be the silt-laden Colorado river..I know you have taken water from the muddy Rio grande and was wanting to get your take on purification. Would you decant the water overnight and then just use something like the iodine or aquamira or go ahead and filter the water off the top? I have a MSR miniworks with the ceramic field cleanable cartridge. Cheers!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on August 27, 2008, 07:47:41 AM
I have a Grand Canyon trip along a section of trail where my only source of water will be the silt-laden Colorado river. Would you decant the water overnight and then just use something like the iodine or aquamira or go ahead and filter the water off the top? I have a MSR miniworks with the ceramic field cleanable cartridge. Cheers!

Russco,
if it is really muddy you will want to let it settle (over night is best). You can speed up the settling using alum as described here (http://www.gcpba.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=83&Itemid=51) and then filter it with a pump or use aquamira or iodine.  If it is not too bad you can prefilter it with bandana's or paper coffee filters and then treat.  I used to use a Sweet Water filter with a field cleanable cartridge but still used a prefilter as it would clog like crazy if I didn't.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 27, 2008, 09:24:48 AM
Jeff, thanks for taking the time to put this all down in text. The information that you have spread before us is invaluable..I have been gleaning great info off of all your hard work. Thanks! :cool-thumb: Aquick semi related question for you pertaining to the water treatment issue. I have a Grand Canyon trip along a section of trail where my only source of water will be the silt-laden Colorado river..I know you have taken water from the muddy Rio grande and was wanting to get your take on purification. Would you decant the water overnight and then just use something like the iodine or aquamira or go ahead and filter the water off the top? I have a MSR miniworks with the ceramic field cleanable cartridge. Cheers!

ME's right on. A coffee filter helps as a pre-filter, but the water will still be silty. Letting it settle out will help. Whether you use your pump or not, I would capture the water in gallon-sized ziplocs and let it settle for at least an hour or two, preferably out of the sun. Actually, any time I use a pump, I put the water in a ziploc bag first. It prevents the always-awkward acrobat-act of pumping water out of a stream while balancing yourself, your water bottle, and anything else you have on never-level rocks.

As for the Rio, I took it from a fast-moving (for it, anyway) stretch and found little gunk suspended in it.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on August 27, 2008, 01:19:45 PM
If the water is pre-filtered and treated, why don't you just drink it?  :eusa_think:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on August 27, 2008, 02:24:46 PM
If the water is pre-filtered and treated, why don't you just drink it?  :eusa_think:

Right on.

I think the question here is, how to deal with sediment suspended in the water. The Colorado in the Grand Canyon has lots of it, and chemical treatments don't remove any of it. A pump would remove it, but clogging is a distinct possibility.  A pre-filter, like a coffee filter, will extend the life of a pump by removing some of the sediment before it reaches the element inside. Absent a pump, letting the water sit still for a few hours or overnight will permit much of the sediment to fall out of solution, clearing the water. Gravity would filter the water, but it still would need to be treated. If you're using a pump but have no prefilter, then letting water sit overnight so sediment falls out of solution would prolong the period before it clogs. I hope this CLEARED things up. :eusa_clap:



Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Ay Chihuahua! on August 27, 2008, 05:16:18 PM
I hear ya, but I thought we were talking about chemical treatment...nothing to clog.  If that's not what we're talking about, then my apologies. 

It does, however, sound like y'all are taking issue with drinking a little treated and cleaned sediment.  If that's the case, then perhaps something like a tampon might be what you need.  :icon_wink:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on August 27, 2008, 05:42:13 PM
May be a playtex for me cuz I am only going to drink sand if I have to/ :icon_rolleyes: I appreciate the info as I haven't been able to acquire any from anyone who has actually filtered decanted muddy water before. Thanks! And Uh allow me to apologize for straying off topic! :icon_smile:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on September 04, 2008, 10:40:43 PM
This installment of gear discussion will focus on the gadgets I took with me to Yosemite. Although I've carried heavier electronic gear, I had never carried as many battery-powered devices on a backpacking trek before. Unfortunately, they used various kinds of batteries -- AA, AAA, and proprietary -- so I had to bring along a herd of extra batteries and chargers.

CAMERA GEAR


Back in March, I wondered whether (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/03/gear-dilemma-photography.php) my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT and its associated gear was the right choice to take to Yosemite. It had been my camera of choice for several backpacking treks and had performed well. Collectively, this outfit -- including a 20mm lens (effectively 32mm) and a 28-200mm zoom (45-320mm) -- weighs 6 lbs 6.5 oz, about 20 ounces less than my pack, shelter, and sleeping bag combined.

I took the Powershot G9 to Big Bend in April as a test run for Yosemite. It was in every way better than I hoped it would be in terms of performance and weight. I was able to attach the smaller camera case to my sternum strap; the SLR case rode with my hipbelt, preventing my pack from ever being quite snug enough around the hips. The smaller tripod could ride in my pants pocket. There was no need to carry the second lens. The G9 outfit weighs in at 1 lb 9.5 oz / 717g, a whopping reduction of 4 lbs 13 oz, or about $8.50 per ounce reduced.

The G9 shoots in RAW mode, uses a 12 megapixel sensor, has a 35-180mm zoom, and employs image stabilization in the lens. The result was sharper photos than I could take with the Digital Rebel, and for a lot less weight and hassle.

ELECTRONIC DEVICES


The Garmin GPS Map 60CSx has been a mixed back. Had it to do over again, I would have purchased a smaller, cheaper unit. The "Map" in its name refers to its capacity as a mapping GPS. Maps for different parts of the country come on microSD chips (about the size of my pinky nail) which contain various levels of topographic detail. Unfortunately, these cost extra, about $100 a pop. Also unfortunate was the fact that I did not have the foresight to order the one for California in advance. The REI in Austin does not carry it, and the one in Sacramento was sold out. Had I not uploaded a few dozen waypoints into it beforehand, the GPS would have displayed a continually blank screen, interrupted only by the dotted path it recorded of my footfalls. In other words, owing to operator error, it was not a mapping GPS unit.

This offense is of course not on the GPS unit's conscience, and thus forgivable under the circumstances (Not so sure about that woeful REI in Sacramento). However, I can't forgive its failure to accurately record time stamps on my track logs. When I got home, I was horrified to discover that every step I took in Yosemite occurred at 6 p.m. on December 30, 1989. So much for geotagging the 1,500 photos I took. I have not looked into whether this was operator error, a misunderstanding of the unit's settings, or its own failure. I'll blame the unit until I'm proven stupid.

So, aside from superior reception of the satellite signals, the unit did nothing that my old, non-mapping GPS was able to do, and that unit was at least $200 less and a couple ounces lighter. The larger screen was appreciated, and I only lost reception heading out of Glen Aulin and during my dayhike in Little Yosemite Valley. Its clip attached to my shirt pocket, so it stayed right where I could see it.

The voice recorder was an experiment. I've taken little notebooks on every trip with mixed results. Some trips, I go into pretty good detail, while others barely note that I was even there. I spoke into the recorder on most days, usually 5-7 minutes at a time, and ended up with a pretty good vocal record of the trip. Of course, I haven't listed to it since I got home, but I plan to use the recordings to add some details to the trip report eventually. The WS-110's small size, light weight, and ease of use (and cheap price on Amazon) made it a good choice. It rode in the camera bag's accessory pocket.

The SteriPEN's miserable performance was discussed in an earlier installment. I list it here only because it was an electronic gadget, at least when it worked. It could otherwise be listed as a heavy, plastic carrying case for four spare AA batteries.

There are more minimalist lights out there than the Petzl Tikka Plus, but I like it the best. It's comfortable, reliable, durable, and easy to operate. Pressing down on an obvious rubber button cycles through three brightness settings and a strobe light. Rarely, the AAA batteries get out of alignment, causing it to fail. This is easily fixed, except in pitch darkness, but that's been the only issue I've ever had with it. The Photon Micro-Light was carried as a backup light, and it's only real use was on the Half Dome hike, before the sun came up. It also has only one button, but many more functions, so I never remember how to operate it. The instruction card weighs as much as the light.

The cell phone was my means of letting the world know I was still alive. It was lighter than my Blackberry, used other technologies than GSM, took (bad) photos, and had longer battery life than the Blackberry. I was able to send a photo during a hail storm (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffblaylock/2672571498/). It also doubled as a clock in the middle of the night.

The final piece of electronica was an iPod Shuffle, which is about the size of a postage stamp. I brought it primarily for the travel days on planes, trains, and buses. It was the first time I'd ever taken a music player on a hiking/backpacking trek. I listened to it for an hour in camp at Glen Aulin and again in Little Yosemite Valley. A little music isn't a bad thing, especially after several days out. At barely over an ounce, it is easily taken, and I probably will from now on.


BATTERIES AND CHARGERS


Yup, lots of batteries. The Promaster XtraPower is capable of charging five of the camera batteries in the field before it needs to be recharged. I would have sent its AC plug ahead to San Francisco but ended up not shipping a "bounce box," so I had to carry it. That turned out fortuitous, as the XtraPower came up 1 charge short. I had hoped it would also recharge the iPod via the mini USB charger, but it did not. I suspect the iPod must have a powered charger, like a computer, before it will accept a charging.

The cell phone held a charge all the way back to Yosemite Valley, through 10 days of a few calls, some pics, a couple dozen text messages, and about as many clock checks. It needed to be recharged at Yosemite Lodge and probably would not have been functioning on the trip to San Francisco.

I ended up replacing the batteries in the GPS twice, getting about 3 1/2 days for each pair. I did not need to replace the AAA batteries in either the light or the voice recorder. The AA batteries in the SteriPEN came home nearly fully charged. I used all three Canon batteries. Those batteries are 44g each, so the XtraPower turned out to be a wash, weightwise (slightly heavier, when the power cord is added), but less expensive than buying 4 more batteries at $40-50 or so apiece. On shorter trips, I would simply go with another battery, but I ended up needing seven batteries' worth of power while hiking in Yosemite, and an eighth after getting off the trail, so it was a good idea to bring it.

The other batteries were included within the weights of their respective devices.

WEIGHT SUMMARY

Camera Gear: 1 lb 9.5 oz / 717g ($738)
Electronic Devices (excluding SteriPEN): 1 lb 13.8 oz / 478g ($582)
Chargers and Spare Batteries: 15.4 oz / 437g ($126)

Running Total, Items Worn or Carried: 6 lbs 10.6 oz / 3,022g
Running Total, Items Packed: 13 lbs 13.3 oz / 6,273g
Running Total, All Items: 20 lbs 7/9 oz / 9,295g ($2,988)

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on September 04, 2008, 11:29:48 PM
Jeff, an incredible wealth of information.  We are in your debt. 

Did you bring a compass and paper maps in addition to the GPS?

Al
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: mule ears on September 05, 2008, 07:01:35 AM
Quote
I plan to use the recordings to add some details to the trip report
:icon_eek:

Jeff,
have you had any problems with the lithium batteries in the Tikka Plus? Because it doesn't have "regulated" circuits it can do weird things. I have had it cut out on me on winter trips with new batteries I think because of this. I changed to a Princeton Tec Quad because it has regulation and have not had any problems yet. Like you I carry a photon like as a back up.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on September 05, 2008, 08:34:23 AM
Jeff, an incredible wealth of information.&nbsp; We are in your debt.&nbsp;

Did you bring a compass and paper maps in addition to the GPS?

Al

I brought paper maps, which were made with the National Geographic TOPO! program, around 1:64,000 (so about 40% the resolution of a USGS quad), and I had a micro-compass, one of those REI compass/thermometer combos (http://www.rei.com/product/408183). If I were doing off-trail hiking, I would have taken a more substantial compass as a backup.

have you had any problems with the lithium batteries in the Tikka Plus? Because it doesn't have "regulated" circuits it can do weird things. I have had it cut out on me on winter trips with new batteries I think because of this. I changed to a Princeton Tec Quad because it has regulation and have not had any problems yet. Like you I carry a photon like as a back up.

I've not had any issues with it using lithium batteries. I know they sometimes cause electrical spikes which can affect devices' performance, at least when the batteries are brand new, and many "battery charge remaining" meters can't gauge lithium batteries accurately.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on September 09, 2008, 05:53:21 PM
Previous installments have discussed the "big three" (pack, shelter, sleeping bag), clothing, cooking and hydration, and electronics I took during July's 10-day backpacking trek in Yosemite. This installment covers just about everything else not previously discussed except food, which will be addressed in the next installment.

PERSONAL CARE AND EMERGENCY SUPPLIES


The first aid kit contained the following: prescriptions, antihistimine tablets, anti-diarrhea tablets, acetaminophen, hydrocortisone cream, antibiotic cream, moleskin, 2 antiseptic towlettes, 4 blister pads, 8 bandages (6 regular, 2 knuckle), 4 wound closure strips, emery board, antacid tablets, tweezers, nail clippers, scissors, and flossers.  A roll of latex stretch bandage was packed separately. The first aid kit always rode in the backpack's lid or, if I was dayhiking, in the daypack. It is an item I always want to get to quickly.

The emergency supplies ditty bag held the latex elastic bandage roll, Potable Agua tablets in a jeweler's ziploc bag, extra boot laces, and Photon Micro-Light. It rode inside one of my Crocs at the top of the pack's main compartment. The gear repair kit contained the following: needle, nylon thread, straight pins, 2 buttons, 3 safety pins, 1 blanket pin, 4 cable ties, glue stick, cord lock, 1" buckle, netting patch, and two nylon patches. It also contained a small roll of duct tape, which was used to add padding to the second trekking pole of the trip.

I always carry a few carabiners, as it's often useful to attach some things with them. One always attaches to the thermometer/compass fob discussed below. A second was used to keep my canteen suspended inside the hammock, and it doubled as a "lock" for the two zippers on the daypack. The third clipped to the unnecessary water bottle.

The trowel and toilet paper are self explanatory. For years I have kept my duct tape wrapped around the trowel's handle. The trowel rides in the rear pocket of the pack. The toilet paper rides near the top of the main compartment. I chuckle whenever I see ultralight zealots who have skimped on toilet paper. It is so lightweight, I never see a reason to bring too little, although I will never bring an entire roll and try to do without the cardboard roll in the center.

The pack towel is a luxury item which gave me a place to flop myself down when I was in sandy areas. It did not keep ants off of me, unfortunately, but at least made them easier to see. The towel was useful in removing condensation from my hammock's canopy.

The large ziploc bags were used to do backcountry laundry. One was the wash cycle, the other the rinse cycle. They could also be used as emergency water carriers, and, I suppose, emergency galoshes. The extra plastic bags held trash, toilet paper, and other items as needed.

The hand sanitizer rode in the pack's hipbelt pocket so it could be reached easily. I used it frequently and replaced it at Tuolumne Meadows. The soap should have been repackaged (and unscented, for that matter) because it does not take much to get the job done. It was used for laundry and backcountry bathing. It rode in the bear cannister. Body Glide is an essential piece of gear that I won't hike more than 3 miles without. If you've never tried it, you should. The deodorant is unnecessary -- I stunk anyway -- but it makes me feel a little civilized, so I use it. The sunscreen also rides in the hipbelt pocket. I used very little of it since I was in long sleeves and a hat. If I put it on at all, it was for the backs of my hands, ears, and nose. The lip balm also rides in the hipbelt pocket. I used it frequently. The toothpaste and toothbrush rode in the bear cannister and were used for obvious purposes.

The mosquito net turned out to be unnecessary -- I wore it once for about 10 minutes -- but will probably go with me anywhere because it is ridiculously light. The DEET spray was wisely stored in its own ziploc bag as it leaked, getting its gooey, oily essence all over itself. Yuck. I used it twice.

NAVIGATION AND PAPER


I made the maps using the National Geographic TOPO! program for Mac. I debated taking Tom Harrison's wonderful map of the area but decided on these instead. For one thing, it is easier to read the grid on a smaller map. The current map rode in my pocket, and the rest were in a gallon ziploc in the pack's rear pocket. I carried the map of San Francisco because I did not ship anything on to my hotel. It turned out to be a lucky break as I needed it to navigate my way into the city.

Before I left, I condensed all my reservations and confirmation numbers onto a small wallet card and laminated it. I also laminated a small ID card with my name, hometown, allergies, health insurance information, wilderness permit information, and emergency contacts. This was always kept on my person. I had to carry the Amtrak tickets because the kiosk in Sacramento wouldn't let me print just the ones I needed to get to Yosemite.

The backpacking wallet baggie contained my driver's license, two credit cards, my health insurance card, $10 in cash, and a nickel, all in a ziploc sandwich bag. The nickel served an essential function:  it alone opened the bear cannister. The REI thermometer/compass keychain fob hangs from the back of my pack. It is my emergency navigation tool but is more useful as a rough thermometer.

OTHER ITEMS CARRIED OR WORN


I take non-polarized, UV-coated sunglasses. I find that GPS screens and camera LCDs are hard to read with polarized lenses. I sat on them twice, but was able to salvage them. The Swiss army knife is the basic model -- 2 knife blades, scissors, nail file, screwdriver, tweezers, and toothpick.

The trekking pole, ah, there's an adventure. I always just use one, as I like to have a free hand for photography, wiping my face with a bandanna, or holding on to things as I go past them. I took one with me, but left it at the Yosemite Lodge food court minutes before my bus left for my Glacier Point dayhike. I bought a cheap pole there -- just a glorified broomstick with a leather wrist-string and the park's name burned into it. The damn thing gave me blisters on my hands, so I took the hopelessly stained shirt I wore on the plane (I was going to throw it away.) and duct taped to the handle. I used this pole all the way to Tuolumne Meadows, where I left it at the Tuolumne Grill's picnic area. I found a downed branch on the trail to Cathedral Lake, which I broke about a mile later. Finally, I found another downed branch leaning against a fallen tree, where someone obviously forgot it earlier in the day, and I used it to the end. I leaned it against the John Muir trail mileage sign at Happy Isles, where it no doubt served someone else well.

So I don't know how much the trekking poles I ultimately carried weighed. I'll call the broom-handle stick 12 oz / 340g for mathematical purposes. The branches were definitely heavier.

BALLAST


Bear cannisters are a reality in the Sierras, so there's no question it needed to be carried. Nonetheless, it affected choice of packs, packing styles, and resupply decisions. The Model 812 holds six person-days of food. One can be rented at Yosemite for $5 a day. I bought one because I wanted to make sure my food and smellables actually fit in it (They did.). I was surprised to find a second use for the gear in the field. It makes a decent sitting stool when one is cowering under a tarp during a hail storm, or the ground is too wet to sit on at the campfire. It's not terribly comfortable, but it beats squatting like a baseball catcher.

The cannister opens easily with a nickel. It contains a supposedly smell-containing plastic bag into which I placed everything. At night, I would place it 25-50 feet away from my hammock, usually in some shrubbery. It was never disturbed during the night.

WEIGHT SUMMARY

Personal Care and Emergency Supplies: 2 lb 4.8 oz / 1,043g (~$100)
Food Storage: 2 lb 12.0 oz / 1,247g ($66)
Everything Else: 1 lb 5.9 oz / 622g (~$70)

Running Total, Items Worn or Carried: 7 lbs 10.8 oz / 3,482g
Running Total, Items Packed: 19 lbs 3.7 oz / 8,725g
Running Total, All Items: 26 lbs 14.6 oz / 12,207g ($3,224)

This covers all of the items I took with me to Yosemite, except for food. Water weight has also been ignored so far. The only consumable I incorporated into the analysis so far has been stove fuel. So my pack was just under 20 pounds without food or water, and I wore or carried just over 7.5 pounds more. Food will be covered in the next installment. The final installment will explore ways of cutting the weight further for an identical itinerary, offset with some gear choices to meet the conditions better, to produce a more ideal packing list.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on September 10, 2008, 09:52:28 PM
Previous installments have discussed the gear I took with me to Yosemite in July. This entry looks at the consumables, specifically food choices.

There are three causes for what I call "late-train weight-gain" in the pack. The first is not planning far enough out in advance and having to pack on the fly. The second is making impulsive decisions right at the end. The third is packing too much food. The first two didn't get me this time, but I missed the boat on the third. I continue to err on the side of (way) too much food, as if I will eat it merely because I packed it.

FOOD STRATEGY

I started out with a plan for food, an improvement over previous efforts where I pretty much packed food at the last minute. I would eat one hot meal each day, in mid- to late afternoon, about a couple of miles short of my campsite. This ensured I would not have strong food odors in my campsite (and hopefully no one else's campsite). For the hot meals, I repackaged Mountain House two-person entrees into quart ziploc freezer bags, keeping the dessicant packet. Since I would resupply on the 6th day, I only needed to take five such meals. That was the easy part.

When analyzing food for a backpacking trip, I look at the ratio of calories per gram of gross weight (including packaging). The higher the ratio, the greater nutrient density for the weight. Granted, the "nutrients" here are pure fuel for the body, not a well-balanced diet which captures the proportion of carbs, protein, and fat for long periods of time. In the backcountry, it's simply about consuming enough calories to keep the body from wasting away. For a trip longer than two weeks, more long-term nutrition issues need to be considered.

The magic number for me is 4 calories per gram. Unfortunately, it's a hard number to hit, especially for things like trail bars and dried fruits. All five Mountain House entrees I took with me exceeded 4 cal/g when repackaged. Mixed nuts also score very high at nearly 6 cal/g. My choice of sweets, Barnum's animal crackers, also scores very high at 4.5 cal/g. Dried fruits typically reach these levels only if sugar has been added. The most nutrient-dense, edible Granola-based foods score around 3.5 cal/g, which is acceptable given their convenience and historical part of the backpacker's food pyramid.

So the plan called for the following:


The plan provided a minimum of 1,633 calories a day, up to 2,433 calories with an Odwalla bar in the morning, some nuts during the day, and the higher calorie entr?e in the afternoon. Suffice it to say, I did not follow the plan.

ACTUAL CONSUMPTION

For breakfast, I ate a package of two cherry pop-tarts for four days, exhausting them. I rarely ate banana chips, either at breakfast or at any other time, and ended up throwing most of them away at my resupply point. I had an Odwalla bar -- by far the best tasting trail bar I've had to date -- or a package of two Kashi pumpkin-spice granola bars for breakfast most other days.

The morning snack rarely occurred, as I was seldom hungry during the early portion of a day's hiking. The morning is all about mileage before it gets hot (or stormy), so I often just kept going. I recall having some mixed nuts on a couple of mornings and a pumpkin-spice granola bar on one day. I ended up throwing out most of the granola bars at Tuolumne Meadows.

I ended up carrying an extra Mountain House meal for the front half of the trip because I did not eat a big meal on the second day out. Rain and lightning had swept in from the east, and I spent my afternoon dodging it or sitting under my canopy waiting for it to pass. Once I reached camp, I crawled into my hammock and napped. I ate all five I took, and purchased two Backpackers Pantry meals at the Tuolumne Meadows store to cover the remaining afternoons on the trail. At Tuolumne, I ate at my hot meal at the grill.

The animal crackers were worth their weight in gold, and I often ate them in camp in the late afternoon or evening. Because of the high heat and lack of chilled storage, I did not take my favored gorp mix, which includes liberal amounts of chocolate and peanut butter nuggets. These would have melted into a gooey mess, so the animal crackers sufficed as my "treat."

Aside from some animal crackers, I almost never ate before going to bed. I usually got into the hammock just after sunset, so the opportunity to eat rarely presented itself.

At Tuolumne Meadows, I threw away half of the nuts, all but four of the pumpkin-spice granola bars, and most of the banana chips. At trail's end, I threw away about a quarter of the nuts and two of the pumpkin-spice bars. At Tuolumne Meadows, the only addition I made to what I was carrying was two freeze-dried meals. I intended to be out of food by then but in fact still had several days of it left.

I began the trip with 6 lbs 10.5 oz / 3,019g of food. My best estimate for the weight of the food I discarded is 1 lb 6.4 oz / 635g. My best estimate for the weight of food I carried to Tuolumne Meadows, my resupply point, but consumed later is 1 lb 8.7 oz / 700g. In other words, I overpacked, or under-ate, nearly 3 pounds of food!

WATER

For the most part, I would fill up a 2-liter Platypus reservoir for backpacking and consume as much water as I could while resting. The most water I carried at any one time was just short of 5 liters, which I hauled about a mile from Sunrise Creek to my dry campsite off the Half Dome Trail.

It always amuses me to watch people struggling with their hand-held pumps, perching themselves precariously on rocks while trying to keep a water bottle upright on one hand and an intake hose submerged on the other. Long ago, I learned to get water out of the stream with either a ziploc bag or a water container dedicated for the pupose, and then treat it. I had a water bottle dedicated to retrieving water from its source, then I poured it into a Platypus reservoir for treating. The bottle was extra weight, granted, but was easier than using a ziploc. When the SteriPEN worked, I treated water in my hard-sided one-liter bottle. When it didn't, I used the iodine tablets in the 2-liter bags (and, in at least one case, my 1-liter canteen).

For weight-calculating puposes, I assume I am carrying 2 liters of water, which weighs 4 lbs, 6.5 oz / 2,000g.

TRAILHEAD WEIGHT

(A) Items Always Worn or Carried: 7 lbs 10.1 oz / 3,461g
(B) Items Packed (excluding Consumables): 20 lbs 0.8 oz / 9,095g
(C) Consumables: 11 lbs 5.4 oz / 5,143g

Full Skin-Out Base Weight (A+B): 27 lbs 10.9 oz / 12,556g
Total Initial Pack Weight (B+C): 31 lbs 6.2 oz / 14,238g
Total Skin-Out Weight (A+B+C): 39 lbs 0.3 oz / 17,699g

Not counting the cost of food, the full replacement cost of everything I carried -- or a close equivalent -- is $3,263. However, almost half of that replacement cost is related to the camera gear ($837 -- 26% of total), GPS unit ($400 -- 12% of total), and other electronics ($221 -- 7%). The "Big Three" -- pack, shelter, sleeping bag -- account for $628 (19% of total), while clothing represents another $632 (19% of total). All other gear adds up to $545 (17%).

The final installment of this analysis will explore ways I could have reduced this weight and/or made better gear decisions based on the conditions I faced. The latter will be judged both in terms of the experience and the "savings" achieved by eliminating excess weight.

To be continued.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: russco on September 10, 2008, 10:50:52 PM
Thanks for yet another great installment of Backpacking101! First a question...did you like your Backpackers Pantry brand of dehy you bought and what kind were they?(I've never found one I liked) Secondly on the water filter issue again...a tip - the bottom of the MSR miniworks is threaded to fit a wide mouth nalgene bottle or a water bladder..negating the need to juggle holding your bottle and keeping the suction line in the source...works great! Cheers!
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: Al on September 10, 2008, 11:03:36 PM
Jeff, thanks for the incredible analysis of trail foods and I'm actually glad you brought too much food.  Tends to make the wilderness experience more enjoyable than the alternative.  There is something good to be said about the security of having plenty of food.

We've always used a simple rule of thumb on food . . . bring twice as much as you think you will need, if nothing else using light weight emergency-type food, and build a buffer into your hiking goals in case you want to extend it.  Looks like you didn't have to "eat" into your buffer on this trip.  Buffers aren't always necessary but when they are it can make a memorable experience better or at least safer.

Thanks again,
Al
Title: Re: Yosemite Consolidated Gear List
Post by: jeffblaylock on September 11, 2008, 04:52:47 PM
Here is the complete gear list. (http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=p7O_T5qNj2DNZuZANt_XICw&hl=en)

It might be interesting to compare it to the gear I took out to Big Bend (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/04/packing-list-for-big-ben.php) for the South Rim on a Whim, two-night trip. The lists are unfortunately not formatted the same, but the summary below will help with the discussion.

(A) ITEMS ALWAYS WORN OR CARRIED

Yosemite 10-day trip: 3,461g / 122.1 oz or 7 lbs 10.1 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 3,328g / 117.4 oz or 7 lbs 5.4 oz

My clothing and add-ons are pretty much standard for each trip. The biggest difference was the trekking pole, as my "usual" pole was lighter than anything else I used in Yosemite.

(B) ITEMS MOSTLY OR ALWAYS PACKED

Yosemite 10-day trip: 9,095g / 320.8 oz or 20 lbs 0.8 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 7,147g / 252.1 oz or 15 lbs 12.1 oz

Though I was able to save significant weight with lighter gear choices, the Yosemite packed items were still heavier, thanks in no small part to the ballast bear canister, which weighs 1,247g / 2 lbs 12.0 oz. As the Big Bend trip was not solo, I did not bring along cooking gear, and I did not bring any water treatment gear as there was no water to treat. I also did not take camp shoes, a decision I almost always regret. About the only thing I took to Big Bend which had no equivalent in Yosemite was a camp chair (301g / 10.6 oz). My packs and sleeping bag were the same. The shelter and sleeping pad set-up for Big Bend was 1,306g versus 1,232g for Yosemite. Packed clothing was 1,358g for Big Bend versus 924g for Yosemite, where most of the weight loss was achieved through substituting lighter gear and foregoing insulated sleeves. The Yosemite pack included an additional 635g / 1 lb 6.4 oz of electronics, chargers, and extra batteries.

(C) CONSUMABLES

Yosemite 10-day trip: 5,143g / 181.4 oz or 11 lbs 5.4 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 13,801g / 486.8 oz or 30 lbs 6.8 oz

Here's where any backpacking trek in Big Bend blows the low pack weight concept. At the trailhead, I carried 2000g / 4 lbs 6.5 oz of water in Yosemite, where water was fairly abundant and accessible, versus 12,425g / 27 lbs 6.3 oz of water at the Basin trailhead. That's nearly 23 pounds of additional water carried in Big Bend, which dwarfs the added 1,643g / 3 lbs 10 oz of food I carried for the first 5+ days in Yosemite.

FULL SKIN-OUT BASE WEIGHT (A+B)

Yosemite 10-day trip: 12,556g / 442.9 oz or 27 lbs 10.9 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 10,475 / 369.5 oz or 23 lbs 1.5 oz

TOTAL INITIAL PACK WEIGHT (B+C)

Yosemite 10-day trip: 14,238g / 502.2 oz or 31 lbs 6.2 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 20,948g / 738.9 oz or 46 lbs 2.9 oz

TOTAL SKIN-OUT WEIGHT AT TRAILHEAD (A+B+C)

Yosemite 10-day trip: 17,699g / 624.3 oz or 39 lbs 0.3 oz
Big Bend 3-day trip: 24,276g / 856.3 oz or 53 lbs 8.3 oz

Amazing how all the thought (and money) that goes into choosing lighter gear is absolutely blown away by water weight.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: jeffblaylock on September 12, 2008, 06:20:49 PM
Previous installments have discussed the gear I took to Yosemite for July's 10-day backpacking trek. My pack weighed 20 lbs 0.8 oz / 9,095g before adding 11 lbs 5.4 oz / 5,143g of food, water, and fuel. I carried or wore another 7 lbs 10.1 oz / 3,461, though it's debatable as to whether I was wearing my camera gear or it was part of my pack.  Either way, my total skin-out weight before consumables was 27 lbs 10.9 oz / 12,556g. This figure reflected nearly 7.5 pounds of reductions in weight by substituting lighter and more versatile gear for existing items.

This final installment looks at those substitutions, while highlighting some pitfalls, and explores ways of reducing pack weight further without losing sigificant functionality. Finally, I'll discuss some additional items which, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have brought.

WEIGHT REDUCTION BEFORE YOSEMITE

I was able to reduce weight by substituting:

These substitutions for my usual backpacking gear netted weight savings of 11 lbs 5.8 oz / 5,154g at a total replacement cost of $1,455 or just at $8 per ounce reduced. Had I not replaced any gear prior to the trip, my total skin-out weight before food and water would have been 39 lbs 0.7 oz / 17,710g. With food and water, it would have been a backbreaking 50 lbs 1.7 oz / 22,729g! So, it was money well spent.

For someone just starting down the lighweight path, gear substitution should focus on bang for the buck. The biggest single-item reductions come from The Big Three -- pack, shelter, sleeping bag -- but the most cost-effective reductions can arise from judicious substitutions of lower-weight gear.

Let's say the budget for new gear for this trip was $200. Among the Big 3, the best I could do would be to swap out the pack, saving 19.3 oz. For $197, I could swap out my hydration system, daypack, stove system, drinking bottle, and insulation layer (MontBell vest for a fleece top), saving 31.5 oz for the same amount of money. Doing the analysis is key to understanding how far a given budget will go. The best pieces of gear to have are a postal scale which measures to the gram and a spreadsheet. Weigh all gear, put together a packing list, and then research other options.

The choices I made were not necessarily the best. Hindsight revealed that I needed more insulation, more complete rain gear, a bigger canopy, and more durable base layers than silk. These changes will add weight, of course, but this can easily be offset by additional savings, some of which cost nothing at all.

OPPORTUNITIES TO TRIM WEIGHT

As I mentioned in the last installment, one of the biggest contributors to "late-train weight gain" is a poor food plan. Working from a logical schedule and thoughtful analysis, I brought what I thought would be enough food for 5 1/2 days, only to discover it could have lasted 10. More realistic planning could have chopped more than 2 lbs off my pack weight without spending a dime. It could also have led me to a lighter bear cannister, potentially shaving another 11 oz, although that cannister would have been more expensive than the (heavier) one I took with me.

Using solely a chemical-based water treatment system would have eliminated the 6.5 oz of weight from the SteriPEN.  Reducing unneeded water containers would have still given me 5 liters total capacity while eliminating another 5.5 oz.

The decision not to pack a resupply box for either my final night in Yosemite (at the Lodge) or for San Francisco required me to carry 8.3 oz of chargers and other items not needed on the trails in Yosemite. It turned out fortuitous that I had them on the way to San Francisco, but I did not need them on the trail itself. Had I had a vehicle, I would not have carried these items.

These options (not including a lighter bear cannister) would reduce pack weight by approximately 3 lbs 7.6 oz / 1,576g, or about 11% of my trailhead pack weight, and would have cost me only the shipping charge for a small bounce box.

Beyond these, I would mostly be nipping at the margins, provided I wanted to keep the same or better functionality out of my gear. There are probably lighter-weight hiking clothes out there -- a polyester long-sleeve base layer is ligher than my hiking shirt -- but I doubt they have the same durability as what I wear now.

Repackaging some personal items would produce some savings. In particular, I could have put some of the soap into a small, corked vial and saved probably 1.5 oz. Some additional food repackaging could result in marginal weight savings, although I already squeezed 5.0 ounces out of packaging already.

One of the luxury items was a 39x24 inch pack towel, which weighs 4.4 oz / 126g. MSR makes a line of ultralight towels which would be superior in terms of weight. The extra-large version is 50x27 and weighs 3.6 oz ($30 -- $37.50/oz saved) and the large is 36x20 and weighs 2.1 oz ($20 -- $8.70/oz saved). For a 25% reduction in surface area, the large achieves decent savings.

Camp shoes are another luxury, but it's hard to find lightweight shoes with a closed toe. I suppose I could go with flip-flops, but these don't help much when I stumble into a log or stub my toe on a rock (or encounter a cactus or scorpion). Other luxuries, such as toothpaste and deodorant, could be eliminated, saving about 3.5 oz.

So I find myself near the end of economical weight reduction. I have lighter bags, packs, and other gear, which I can use depending on terrain and expected weather. For a trip like the one I recently returned from, the options for further practical, economical weight reduction are limited. My best bet is making better choices in terms of what I pack, which is something that fortunately costs nothing but thoughtfulness.

WEIGHT WHICH SHOULD BE ADDED

Hammock improvements. Almost everyone who buys a Hennessy hammock replaces the canopy, and I will be no exception. It needs better coverage and a separate main line to provide superior rain protection. This will add to 5 oz of weight. I also want to get larger tree-huggers than the 1x42 inch ones I have. This is another 3 oz or so.

Clothing improvements. The MontBell vest, while fantastic, does not insulate the arms, so I will probably upgrade to the matching jacket for another 2 oz (and $130). I found that my silk base layers provided neither enough insulation nor durability, so I will probably either return to wool (9 oz) or poly (8 oz).

Rain gear. I should have taken the Driducks top (5.6 oz) that I already have. This would have provided some additional insulation but more importantly would have ensured my down vest did not get wet. I also need to invest in a good, lightweight pack cover. Some on the market today hover around 4 oz.

Water treatment. While iodine is an acceptable water treatment option, I'd rather have a chlorine-based chemical solution if I'm not going to use a pump, filter, or SteriPEN (and I won't be using one of those again). This would add an ounce or two of weight.

These additions come to a little under 2 lbs, which is well within the "free" weight cutting potential I have from my current setup and packing strategy.

This concludes my analysis of the backpacking gear I took to Yosemite. I hope it was helpful to others considering reducing weight from their own pack or pondering a similar hiking trek, either to the Sierras or elsewhere.

The complete gear review series:
Part 1: The Big Three (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/analysis-of-yosemite-backpacking-gear-part-1.php)
Part 2: Clothing (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/analysis-of-yosemite-backpacking-gear-part-2.php)
Part 3: Hydration and Cooking (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/analysis-of-yosemite-backpacking-gear-part-3.php)
Part 4: Camera Gear and Electronics (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/09/analysis-of-yosemite-backpacking-gear-part-4.php)
Part 5: Everything Else (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/09/analysis-of-yosemite-backpacking-gear-part-5.php)
Part 6: Food (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/09/analysis-of-yosemite-backpacking-gear-part-6.php)
Part 7: Further Weight Adjustments (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/09/analysis-of-yosemite-backpacking-gear-conclusion.php)

The complete trip report:
Part 1: Glacier Point Dayhike (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/07/yosemite---prelude.php)
Part 2: Porcupine and Yosemite Creeks (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/07/yosemite---porcupine-and-yosemite-creeks.php)
Part 3: Entering the Grand Canyon (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/07/yosemite---entering-the-grand-canyon.php)
Part 4: Walking Among the Waterfalls (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/07/yosemite---walking-among-the-waterfalls.php)
Part 5: Glen Aulin to Cathedral Lakes (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/07/yosemite---glen-aulin-to-cathedral-lakes.php)
Part 6: The Tempest (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/07/yosemite---high-lakes-and-hail-storms.php)
Part 7: Sunrise to Clouds Rest (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/07/yosemite---sunrise-to-clouds-rest.php)
Part 8: Facing Fear on Half Dome (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/yosemite---facing-fear-on-half-dome.php)
Part 9: Triumph Atop Half Dome (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/yosemite---triumph-atop-half-dome.php)
Part 10: The Final Miles (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/yosemite---the-final-miles.php)
Part 11: From Woods to Wharves (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/yosemite---from-woods-to-wharves.php)
Part 12: The Streets of San Francisco (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/bay-area---the-streets-of-san-francisco.php)
Part 13: Muir Woods and Foggy Shores (http://www.jeffblaylock.com/southrim/2008/08/bay-area---muir-woods-and-foggy-shores.php)

The end.
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: chisos_muse on September 12, 2008, 07:51:20 PM


The end.


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


 
:icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_cry: :icon_lol: :icon_lol:
Title: Re: Yosemite in July - 10-day Backpack Itinerary
Post by: trtlrock on September 13, 2008, 03:05:11 PM
What a great trip, and the report makes a great read & is a treasure-trove of reference info.  Your incredible efforts are appreciated!

 :eusa_clap: