Lily Pad Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 16-Jul-2021

The Bootleg Fire, which has now exceeded 273,000 acres (110,450 ha), continues to march east, chewing-up the forest and spewing out great volumes of smoke as it does so. Sadly, it is now eating its way into the Gearhart Wilderness, which has a plentiful supply of dead trees to act as fuel. This was another place that we’ve now apparently missed our chance to re-visit. 😥 The smoke from the Bootleg and other fires in Oregon and California is pushed mostly east by the prevailing westerlies. But winds shift, bringing this smoke to us when they do so. That, combined with that heat dome thing, has made cool, smokeless hiking a rare commodity thus far this summer.

Continue reading “Lily Pad Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 16-Jul-2021”

Frog/Cameron Loop (Red Buttes Wilderness) 05-May-2021

The winter of 2014-15 in Southern Oregon was one without meaningful snow, even at the highest elevations. The Mount Ashland Ski Area didn’t even open. We did more than a few hikes then that should have either been inaccessible until Spring or have required snowshoes. One of these was the Frog Pond/Cameron Meadows Trail #953 in the California portion of the Red Buttes Wilderness. By rights, we shouldn’t even have been able to drive to the trailhead, much less hike the whole loop in just boots. But we did, going counter-clockwise. Staying on the trail across Cameron Meadow was, despite the large rock cairns, tricky. And the portion of the trail down to the Cameron Meadows Trailhead was choked with brush.

Continue reading “Frog/Cameron Loop (Red Buttes Wilderness) 05-May-2021”

In The High Sierra ~ Mount Whitney (1982 & 1983)

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on 35mm slides. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the slides haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. The photos below are some of those old slides.


Sometime in the 1990s, we were in an Independence restaurant eating breakfast, having just come down from a climb in the High Sierra. Suddenly shouting erupted outside and I looked-up to see a man running down the sidewalk yelling and waving a piece of paper. Angst over a parking ticket? A lottery winner? As he zoomed past the restaurant and on up the street, we could hear him screaming: “Hans! Hans! We have the permit! We have the permit!” Apparently he and Hans had come all the way from Germany to climb Mount Whitney (14,494 feet (4,416 m)), the highest point and arguably the most famous – or at least the best known – peak in the continental United States. Even then, people came from all over to climb it. But the permit requirements had begun hardening in the mid-1980s and now concessionaires or rangers were around to enforce them. These two hadn’t gotten a permit in advance and were justifiably ecstatic about snagging a rare walk-up one. Considering Whitney’s current level of popularity, having that happen today would exceed the miraculous.

Continue reading “In The High Sierra ~ Mount Whitney (1982 & 1983)”

In The High Sierra ~ Mount Morrison (1974-1985)

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on 35mm slides. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the slides haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. The photos below are some of those old slides.


My first trip to California’s High Sierra was on a backpack in 1968. That started, haltingly, a granitic attraction to The Range of Light that has now endured for more than 50 years. The first “real” mountain I ever climbed was (appropriately) Mount Hood in 1972. I did a NOLS Mountain Guide course the next summer during which our attempt on Gannett Peak (Wyoming’s high point) was foiled by a blizzard. My first attempt at mountaineering in the High Sierra was on Mount Morrison (12,241 ft (3,731 m)) in 1974. That was the start of an eleven year long saga of uninformed optimism.

Continue reading “In The High Sierra ~ Mount Morrison (1974-1985)”

A First Ascent in the Sierra Nevada (September 1984)

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on 35mm slides. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the slides haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. The photos below are some of those old slides.


The LovedOne and I watched Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (2017) the other night.  It was a very balanced and entertaining account of probably the most accomplished, influential, but not necessarily easy to get along with, climber of his time.  His absolutely singular focus on climbing and mountaineering garnered him almost 1,000 first ascents of new routes and of previously unclimbed mountains.  Watching the movie chronicle Beckey’s exploits dredged-up the memory of the one (and only and unintended) first ascent of my 30-year amateur climbing career.  While Beckey’s first ascents occupy the stratosphere of mountaineering legend, ours was a much, much humbler affair.  But it still seems like a good story…

Continue reading “A First Ascent in the Sierra Nevada (September 1984)”

Mules & Smoke: Last Day (High Sierra) 11-Sep-2020

Overnight, the wind shifted yet again and the morning dawned not nearly as smoky as it had been the day before. Not completely clear but clear enough for some views of scenery on the way out. After breakfast, we headed directly down 7.1 miles to the pick-up point at the Robinson Creek Trailhead at Twin Lakes. All the other hikers, apparently being more spry, did a detour (uphill!) to Peeler Lake. While they were tromping around in the woods, we got to sit in chairs, drink cold beer, and play catch with Jethro the Wonder Dog. Seemed like a fair trade at the end of an especially adventurous and dramatic trip. 🙂

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: Last Day (High Sierra) 11-Sep-2020”

Mules & Smoke: Day 5 (High Sierra) 10-Sep-2020

If yesterday had been a study in crisp, bright clarity with the scenery resplendent around us, today was its exact opposite. We awoke into a smoke bank as thick as anything we’d yet experienced. The winds had shifted yet again and the smoke from wildfires to the west, north, and south was being driven right up Matterhorn and Slide Canyons. So not only did we have to two passes to cross, we were going to do so without much scenery to enliven the journey. 😦 But you play the cards you’re dealt so, after a good breakfast, we started our hike to Crown Lake in the Hoover Wilderness.

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: Day 5 (High Sierra) 10-Sep-2020”

Mules & Smoke: Day 4 (High Sierra) 09-Sep-2020

On our layover day, a stiff wind from the north had pushed almost all of the smoke away from Miller Lake. The wind had abated by evening, giving us a quiet night in camp – something we all needed after the drama of the previous 24 hours. Because of the unexpected layover, the trip’s itinerary had to be changed. So today we’d proceed as planned to a camp in Matterhorn Canyon then, the next day, cross both Burro and Mule Passes in one day to a camp at Crown Lake. So, with a plan in hand, we headed north on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on a bright and clear morning toward Matterhorn Canyon. From Miller Lake, the PCT rises a bit before plunging some 1,400 feet down to a junction with the trail up Matterhorn Canyon.

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: Day 4 (High Sierra) 09-Sep-2020”

Mules & Smoke: Day 3 (High Sierra) 08-Sep-2020

At 0300 on Tuesday morning, two Yosemite Search & Rescue (YOSAR) personnel (Jake and Erika) reached our camp, after having hiked 14 miles from Virginia Lakes in the dark with headlamps. The PLB had worked exactly as advertised – notifying the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center of our plight; they then notified the closest relevant authority, Yosemite National Park. The YOSAR personnel assessed Aniela (concluding that she didn’t have a head injury), communicated (they had a sat phone) her condition to dispatch, and then waited until morning to decide what to do next. At first light, the decision was made to stabilize Aliana’s arm (we’d later learn that she’d broken her radius and ulna and dislocated her elbow) and walk her out to Tuolumne Meadows. She made it out that day and was waiting to say good-bye to the group when we reached Twin Lakes a few days later.

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: Day 3 (High Sierra) 08-Sep-2020”

Mules & Smoke: Day 2 (High Sierra) 07-Sep-2020

We went to bed at Avalanche Camp in Virginia Canyon bathed in a smoky miasma. We awoke to find that the wind had shifted in the night, clearing the air somewhat. Today was planned as a short hiking day (4.3 miles; 1,050 feet of gain) to a camp at Miller Lake – an even shorter hike than planned because we’d hiked an extra two miles the day before. After breakfast, we hiked a short way down Virginia Canyon to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We followed the PCT westward across Spiller Creek and up numerous switchbacks to Miller Lake. Once again the LovedOne and I were ahead of the pack train but the large campsite on the southwest side of the lake seemed like an obvious packer campsite, so we waited there. The pack train arrived an hour or so later and we settled in to hang out and explore around the lake for the rest of the day.

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: Day 2 (High Sierra) 07-Sep-2020”

Mules & Smoke: First Day (High Sierra) 06-Sep-2020

The day had finally arrived to start the one “big” trip that we’d managed to salvage from the (seemingly on-going) wreckage of 2020. Having been on several rafting trips, we wanted to try something new to us: hiking supported by pack stock. A friend of ours had alerted us to the Rock Creek Pack Station which runs a variety of mule-supported hiking trips along the Eastern Sierra. After some back and forth, we settled on a six-day introductory trip from Virginia Lake to Twin Lakes through the Hoover Wilderness, the northern part of Yosemite National Park, and the Yosemite Wilderness. For a variety of reasons, this trip would bring out the best and the worst of what it means to go deep into a wilderness area. It would not be, by any means, a simple walk in the park.

Continue reading “Mules & Smoke: First Day (High Sierra) 06-Sep-2020”