Sidewinder Canyon (Death Valley National Park) 09-Nov-2021

Sidewinder and Willow Canyons run next to each other on the west side of the Black Mountains about 30 miles (48 km) south of Furnace Creek. The hike to either starts from a minimally signed gravel pit just off of the Bad Water Road. We hiked to the waterfall (which was running!) in Willow Canyon in 2017 and had planned to hike the slot side canyons in Sidewinder that same day. On that occasion, our car was the only one in the parking lot when we left for Willow. When we got back not too much later, the lot was near to full and lines of people were heading for Sidewinder. We decided to hike it later. We didn’t appreciate at that moment just how much “later” later would prove to be. So Sidewinder became (finally) Adventure #2 for this year’s trip to Death Valley.

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Marble Canyon (Death Valley National Park) 08-Nov-2021

This last week, we went with our long-time friends, Wayne and Diane, on what might best be described as several “multi-modal” adventures in Death Valley National Park. We combined stand-alone hikes with those facilitated by a 4×4 vehicle and threw in some touristy stuff too. This was our first chance to spend time with them since our San Juan raft trip last June (a planned mule-packing trip in September succumbed to a critical medical issue and way too much wildfire smoke 😥). In all, we did six different adventures over six sun-drenched 😎 days, then drove home just in time to meet the next batch of rain and snow aimed at Southern Oregon. 🥶

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Four Guys and a Peak (May 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.


Two engineers, a physicist, and a biologist walk into a bar. And the bartender says…

Well, we’ll never know what was said (if anything) since I can never remember a joke (except for the one about the three-legged pig) or, if I do, I invariably garble the punchline. But no matter. This is about four guys – Alan, Chuck, Tom, and myself – and our experiment with the fine art of alpine style mountaineering back it what now seem like simpler times (but really weren’t).

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Big Bell Extension Mine (Death Valley NP) 23-Jan-2020

Cyty's Mill, Death Valley National Park, California

After we finished our “make-up” hikes near Las Vegas, we headed north to do some new (to us) hikes in Death Valley National Park. In 2018, we had paid a long awaited revisit to the Keane Wonder Mine. Access to the mine (one of the few in the valley that actually returned a profit) had been closed for several years for safety reasons but had reopened in 2017. Our hike of it in September was HOT but nonetheless very enjoyable. While perusing Michel Digonnet’s excellent Hiking Death Valley guide, we found a hike that started at the Keane Wonder’s trailhead but swung north, past Keane Wonder Springs and Cyty’s Mill, then climbed to the site of the Big Bell Extension Mine.

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Three Sisters Loop (Lava Beds Wilderness) 31-May-2019

These are not the Three Sisters in Oregon you are seeking. Rather these are three small cinder cones a few miles north of the visitor center in Lava Beds National Monument. The loop past these Three Sisters got added to our hikes list after it appeared in the November 2018 issue of Backpacker magazine (yes, how quaint, printed material). The trick was to find a time that was optimal re: the weather – not too hot, not too cold. Now seemed like that time, what with snow still blocking trails in the high country and thunderstorms keeping the desert cool. With The LovedOne mired in running the library’s quarterly book sale, I made the two hour drive to the monument alone. 😦

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Kearsarge Peak ~ Sierra Nevada (April 1990)

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.


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Gary Croan’s John Muir Trail (August 1956)

The other day The LovedOne brought home a small book from the “free” box at the library. It turned out to be a 5th Edition (1953) of Starr’s Guide to the John Muir Trail and the High Sierra Region (purchased from the still extant Vroman’s Books in Pasadena, California). The guide’s paper dust jacket was still in good condition, so it was somewhat of a rare find (at least for us trail guide geeks). Even rarer were the notes I found inside: Log of the John Muir Trail Hike by Gary Croan (August 1956). These detailed the backpack Gary’s Scout troop did along the Muir Trail that summer from Yosemite Valley to Florence Lake. Also included were his personal gear list and a brochure for Dri-Lite Foods, one of the pioneers in freeze dried foods.[1] His troop appears to have been based in the Los Angeles area, which meant they got to Yosemite Valley on [now old] Highway 99 since Interstate-5 didn’t exist in 1956. I’ve found brief notes in old guidebooks before, but this is the first set I’ve found detailing a backpack on an iconic trail in the days before permits and crowds and freeways. That he described the same backpack I did in August of 1972, sans scouts and going as far as Piute Creek, is a remarkable coincidence.  I am not, however, reproducing Gary’s notes here as some nostalgic paean to the “good old days” – as hindsight tends to accentuate the “good” and edit out the “bad” – but merely as a look at a young person’s outdoor experience in a now bygone era.[2]

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Elk Lake (Red Buttes Wilderness) 14-Oct-2018

Elk Lake Red Buttes Wilderness California

Elk Lake (sometimes called Moraine Lake) is one of six little lakes clustered at the southeast end of California’s Red Buttes Wilderness. Such high-elevation lakes are rare in the Siskiyou Mountains because this range was largely unaffected by lake basin-forming Pleistocene glaciation. [1] Lily Pad is the easiest to access, with Towhead and Echo not far behind. However, Hello, Goodbye, and Elk take some effort to visit. I wanted to see what it would take to reach Elk and also see what impact the 2017 Abney Fire had had on Cook and Green Pass and the stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) running west from there. The LovedOne demurred on yet another hike likely to involve bushwhacking and boulder flogging, opting instead to design a quilt.

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Goosenest (Klamath National Forest) 07-Oct-2018

Goosenest Mount Shasta Northern California

Tricky drive; short hike; spectacular views. Goosenest (8,280 feet) is an extinct (hopefully) shield volcano with a cinder cone on top, resembling a goose’s nest (actually it looks more like an albatross nest, but those aren’t that common in Northern California). It sits just north of Mount Shasta and affords amazing views of the north side of that peak and a 360º view across much of Northern California. The hike to these views is short (3.3 miles total – if you circle the crater) on a well-graded, well-maintained trail plus an obvious use trail. It even has an official trailhead with a sign and an information board. The trick is finding that trailhead, as we would discover as we followed conflicting (and sometimes incorrect) driving directions to (eventually) reach it.

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Lake Genevieve (Desolation Wilderness) 01-Oct-2018

Lake Genevieve Desolation Wilderness Lake Tahoe California

For our last Fall color hike on this trip, we picked the Meeks Creek drainage near Lake Tahoe, California based on a suggestion in only one guidebook.  Well, it didn’t have too much in the way of color but it was a nice hike on a good day to a pretty lake. Plus we logged an unexpected geocache on the way back!  We stayed in South Lake Tahoe and were forcefully reminded (again) of what a traffic snarl it can be (particularly if they’re paving the road during rush hour).

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Leavitt Meadow (Hoover Wilderness) 30-Sep-2018

Leavitt Meadow West Walker River Hoover Wilderness California

After a night in Bridgeport, California, we continued north in search of more Fall color.  The guidebook suggested Leavitt Meadow, just north of Bridgeport, as a likely color spot, so we went there. This is another popular hiking and fishing location, so there were several vehicles already in the lot when we pulled-in. After a little orienteering, we found the West Walker Trail Trailhead at the north end of the now closed-for-the-season Leavitt Meadows Campground, along with a spiffy new bridge over the West Walker River. Judging from the dents in its superstructure and the scour around its abutments, the old bridge (decommissioned but still standing) had been set just a little too close to the river’s surface. 

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