Missing Yosemite…

It’s been a month since my first steps were taken in Yosemite and I miss being there everyday. During my first week back, I must have looked through all of the pictures that were taken at least 10 times during the day. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these pictures added up to one heck of a novel. The build up to Yosemite was a bit nerve racking as each day closer passed by. I had just gotten new shoes a week before and they were untested for this trip. Five days…an estimated 40 miles…feet and toes still mending from prior trips…I was scared and I wasn’t afraid to let it be known. The unknown is our biggest fear and if we let our minds wander too far in, we keep ourselves a slave to that fear.

First sighting of El Cap

Day one was an early morning! Up and out of the hotel…into the van…off to Yosemite. The drive seemed quick as I was silently anxious to be there already. I wanted to get the start over with and a few miles on my shoes. I figured then, I would feel less apprehensive. Upon driving in and seeing El Cap, all the fears I had were gone; vanished with the dawn as the sun was rising over the granite walls. I had in those first few moments discovered my heaven!

Waiting to start was excruciating. We had to get permits and we did a little shopping, which seemed to take way too long. After all the formalities were taken care of, we jumped back in the van and went to park. The lot was up against this beautiful “wall” of stone. My breath was taken away yet again and we had only been there a few hours and had yet to hike 100 feet. After some group pics, the packs were strapped on and it was time to get started! My pack was about 37ish pounds which is too heavy for me but I was managing fine. The day was filled with amazing views as we hiked up the Mist trail. The mist created by Vernal Falls produces lovely rainbows in the sun and provides a very welcomed cooling effect while hiking up. The stairs get slick so steps were carefully taken. I was the first of the group to get to the top of the falls…can’t help myself sometimes. The trek up to Nevada Falls was more of the same stairs yet very different scenery. The falls were still awesome to watch while hiking up. We ended up on a bit of a detour to camp but the views couldn’t be beat. No matter how tired I felt that day, the awe inspiring views, especially of Half Dome in the distance ended up being enough fuel to keep me going. All uncertainty in myself was gone. Camp was welcoming, minus all the mosquitoes, and I slept fantastic with sugar plum thoughts of day 2 ahead.

My inspiration…

Day 2 was by far the day I was looking forward to the most. Our trek up to the summit of Half Dome started early, but not as early as was planned. I believe we were going to try to see the sunrise from the top of Half Dome but the tiring day before had us sleeping in longer than expected. The trail is not hard but can be exhausting. By the time we got to where we could get a clear view of the summit, I was drained. But once I came around one bend in the trail, I could see it through the trees. I stopped, clapped my hands and yelled “yes”! I took a moment to snap a pic and then was off to the races. I made it up to a clearing before the trail up the grueling stairs begins. I had been so excited I didn’t realize I had left the rest of the group behind by about 5 minutes. I was amped to say the least and the 360 degree view of “everything” as far as the eye could see was phenomenal! Beautiful, inspiring, glorious…I took a breather and snapped some more pictures! My legs were shaky and we all needed a break before we tackled the stairs up. These were brutal! Once this part was done, a much needed break was necessary. Jittery legs and 400 feet of climbing left had gotten the best of me while sitting there gazing out and up at the cables. After everything, I was again, scared. There was about 15 minutes of debate inside me as to whether I was gonna go up. I wavered back and forth. My final decision was to go to the bottom of the cables, gloves on, look up, and go if it seemed “not so bad after all”. So that is what I did and our trek up began. It was intense and I was nervous…but through it all, I looked around quite a bit when we took breaks. I slipped a few times and my heart about stopped. The natural steps you encounter going up seem gigantic…the cables are slack in some places or feel as if they are touching the ground in others…it’s kind of a messy way to climb up I’m guessing. But once I got to the top, I knew the choice I made was the right one. If I hadn’t gone up, I would have regretted it the rest of my life…even if my life ended while up there or coming back down. I sat on the edge, took some pictures looking down of course. It was incredible. Half Dome was my favorite part of the trip hands down. Just so thrilling and I felt so alive being up there. I was in a state of numbness the whole way back to camp.

The view looking up the cascade

Day 3 would be a chill day! I won’t go into details about day 3 just yet but it was definitely a relaxing and fun one. It was peaceful, secluded, and the scenery was gorgeous as one would expect. I suggest getting off the touristy trails and finding some time to enjoy nature on its own. We ended up on a short hike to the Bunnell Cascades just outside of Little Yosemite Valley. If you ever camp in the area, a visit to the cascades is a definite must do. The day was spent relaxing, enjoying the water and the lovely views of the granite rock walls. We all were well rested after day 3 and day 4 was our hike back down to the Valley.

Day 4 was yet another early morning. I’ve learned waking up before the sun is just how it is anymore. Packing up camp was bittersweet. I didn’t want to go and wasn’t that happy we were heading back to the Valley just yet. The hike was just backtracking what we had already done. I lived up to my name on this day as I fell about 10 feet down the trail. I hurt my left ankle, right wrist, and most of all my pride. It’s not easy to stop falling once you start when you are going downhill. While the weight of my pack caused me to keep falling, the pack ended up cushioning my fall tremendously. It was quite rocky where I fell and I probably could have injured myself far worse. I got quite emotional and mad at myself. The rest of the hike back down was a slow one for me…I was lost in thought, cautious of my ankle, and sad we were ending the hiking already. I will keep day 4 details under wraps for now but it did rain that afternoon. We had luckily gotten camp set up in time to not have to do it while it was dark and rainy.

We made it and DONE!!

Day 5 was a bit silly. Our plan was to “hike’ to Lower Yosemite Falls and from there, decide if we wanted to go all the way up. We had no clue what it was like so we prepared for the worst. It was comical to say the least when we discovered it was but a short walk to get to the Lower Falls. While a sight to see for sure, it made the end of the trip very anticlimactic. While slightly disappointed, I was physically done even though my heart and mind wanted more more more. The trip was beyond words and I learned so much about myself while out there!! The group did a wonderful job. I was proud of everyone. There were highs and lows on the trip but so is life…we were experiencing new things, new feelings, new obstacles…to think it would be a walk in the park, would have been absolutely naive. I know I can not wait to go back. I can not wait for our next adventure. I will forever cherish my time there. I know this might sound a bit dramatic but I fell in love on that trip, with not only the land but myself.

48 Hours to go!

Wow is about all I can say! The bags are packed and ready to go, all that is left now is to watch the clock slowly tick by.

We will be flying out to San Jose at O’Dark Thirty Thursday morning and will have most of the day to kill from there. We are staying at the “halfway” point to Yosemite in Merced and from what I can tell it is a pretty small town. We spent some time yesterday looking around for some things we could do during our travel day and I think we may have come up with a pretty good idea if everything goes smoothly.

First we will be stopping at the REI near the airport to pick up some of the things we cant bring on the plane (fuel, matches, etc.). From there we may stop at J. Lohr, a winery in San Jose that offers free tastings. After hitting the winery we will make the 2 hour trek to Merced. If we are still feeling adventurous and have some time to kill we may go check out the Hilmar Cheese factory, they offer free tours and tastings!

Yesterday we posted a video about what to pack for a 5 day trip, today there is a video attached that discusses what we decided to bring for food on our trip. The majority of the food was homemade and then dehydrated, on the trail you just add hot water and in a few minutes you have a delicious meal! The biggest challenges with food for a 5 day trip in Yosemite is the bear canister. It is not really practical to have 1 per person as they are heavy, bulky, and expensive. However it is not really practical to pack 5 days of food for 2 people in 1 either. We did manage to get it all in there, but we still have a couple things that will need to somehow smash their way in there once we get to CA.

I hope you enjoy the video and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

3 Days and Packing!

I cant believe the time has come to pack! Time is getting so short before the trip it worked out for me to get my stuff packed this weekend. At this point I could leave today an be ready to roll, but I have to stick it out for a few more days.

When we first started thinking about actually doing this backpacking stuff (as opposed to just talking about it). We did what I would guess most curious future backpackers do….try to figure out how you can live out of a backpack for an extended period of time. What gear, how much gear, what size pack, etc.

There is a ton of information out there, but oddly it can be very tailored to specific “styles” of backpacking. Things like Ultralight, mountaineer expeditions, etc. Finding specific examples of just the “every day” type of backpacking is a little harder to come by. Thus, The Backpacking Journal was born. A place for beginners to find the information they really need to get them started.

Here is a video that goes over exactly what I will be packing for this 5 day trip. The details of the trip that should matter (to compare for future plans) are as follows:

Yosemite California
Average Elevation 4000-8000 feet
Approximate Mileage 40
June 1st-5th
6 total people broken into 3 two man teams

As for the gear, most of it is not “the best”, we chose gear on several different points. Primarily being the usefulness of the item, then cost and weight came into factor. Generally speaking the gear we purchased was in our opinion, the best bang for the buck.

Enjoy!

There will be a video tomorrow with information about packing 5 days of of food for 2 people.

6 Days

The anticipation is building! The weather is looking like it will be prefect, all the necessary documents and permits have been printed. The packing check list has been looked over and checked twice.

Checked off one of the items of my list already. Our pup Melman is staying at “grandpas” house during the trip and he needs a way to get outside while my dad is at work. All the dog doors in the store for a dog his size are several hundred dollars and we only need it for 5 days. With $20 at Home Depot and a couple power tools out of my garage we now have a nice little door for him! It may not be the prettiest, or the most energy efficient but I think it will work just fine.

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1 Week To Go!

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7 days and counting, WOW! The 6Pack has been fairly quiet this month as our focus changed from future planning and training to trip preparations, but we are still going strong. This month has been filled with last minute gear changes, food dehydrating, and a constant check on the weather patterns as we close in on the trip.

***Side Note***
On behalf of The Backpacking Journal I would like to congratulate Jessica Simms DVM “Doc”. She graduated from Vet School this month and the name Doc is no longer just a nick name, but a well deserved title for 21 years of school. I am sure the WoofPack will sleep soundly knowing that we have a professional in the mix on future trips.

It is crazy to think that all this planning is falling into place and in 7 short days we will be flying out to begin a journey of a life time. 20 years of dreaming, hundreds of hours of planning and countless miles of training will culminate into 5 short days of absolute freedom. No stress of alarm clocks, rush hour traffic, emails, text messages. The 6 of us will have an opportunity to truly escape from our hectic lives and get a dose of the world and life in which we are more suited for.

This last weekend we had a group “meeting”. Partially just an excuse to sit back and have a cold beer, but more importantly to finalize our plans for the trip. We had a walk through of the route from start to finish. Discussed bail out points along the way if our plans were to eager and fatigue gets the best of us. However, probably the most important part, we also worked out our emergency plan. Although it feels like we are pros with as much preparations that have been done for this trip, when it really comes down to it we are nothing but greenhorn rookies. Having a solid “oh-shit plan” Will not only give us a piece of mind now, but it will also allow for everyone to act a little more calm and rational should an emergency present itself along the way.

FallGal and I will be spending This weekend finishing up the food for the trip and then packing our bags. My plan is to have everything ready to go out the door by Sunday night. 4am on Thursday is gonna come quick!

SOOOOO EXCITED!!!!!!

Very nervous…

The countdown clock or ticker thingy on the front page of the blog says 23 days till Yosemite. With each counting day, the excitement builds, as well as my nervousness. I will admit it, even if nobody else will, that I am scared of not being able to make it the whole 5 days. All we have done so far are overnight trips. I will say that after the third trip I was less “beat up” than the two previous trips. Guess that is encouraging. I know a lot of preparation has been going on but to me, I am not nearly as ready as I feel I should be. My bad. Mentally I can push through it, but physically I am not quite sure. Mind doesn’t always win over matter.

I have a few last minute issues I need to address unfortunately. I wrote a review about some amazing boots I purchased and adore but have come to learn, through many miles, that they do not work the best for me. Not sure if it is par for the course, but they have torn up my feet. I’ve put about 50+ miles in them, so I’m fairly certain that I will need to find me some new footwear. I have been researching different options and will be getting me some new shoes shortly. I will be living in them until Yosemite just to break them in. Wish me luck and hopefully this will alleviate some of my nerves.

The next issue would be the sleeping pad conundrum. The rest of the group all broke down and purchased inflatables; I still have my Therma-rest. I have had no real issues as far as being more sore the next day and I do sleep quite well. My only concern is being able to not hurt as bad from sleeping on the ground by the 5th day. Haven’t had enough experience to justify the different purchase, but I might just kick myself in the end. I hope not…will be doing a lot more thinking about this.

Well…I think that about does it for my gear concerns. Everything else seems to be working quite nicely. Now…to physically psych myself up. I guess I could be blowing up how hard it might be in my mind, but I would rather error on the side of caution than be overly optimistic. One thing I can’t wait for is Half Dome!!! Bring on the edge 🙂

Trip Report: West Clear Creek, Camp Verde AZ

This is the closest we have been to a complete group on our overnights. We are missing Doc since she is still in Colorado “learning” stuff. The FallGal and myself brought our 13 year old daughter along to fill her shoes.

Day 1

The drive from the valley started at 5am on Saturday morning and we quickly found ourselves on a forest road just outside of Camp Verde. The road is very well maintained and if dry, you could easily make it in and out with just about any vehicle. The road starts fairly normal with expansive desert views of the surrounding mountains on the horizon. As you drive along there are some mines mixed in with the views and unexpectedly a simple turn in directions places you overlooking a dramatic canyon filled with huge bright green trees. Although the water is not visible through the trees, you can make out the path of the creek as it cuts though the desert with trees zigzagging the canyon. As you make it near the end of the road there is a sign for Bull Pen Ranch; to the right offers disbursed camping locations right along the creek. To the left you will find a parking lot at the base of the trail head. This weekend was pretty full with overnight “car campers” that set up shop right in the parking area.

After squeezing into a parking spot we loaded up and set off to the trail. Immediately the sounds of flowing water fills the air as you walk along a very wide path with giant trees allowing little sneak peaks of the creek. Not to far into the hike the trail heads away from the creek slightly and climbs up to one of the largest “open plain” type areas I have ever seen in Arizona’s high desert. About a mile or so of amazing photo ops with the creek breaking through the thick tree cover you start dropping back into the canyon where you come face to face with the creek. This is not the crossing however, but offers a nice swimming hole. Veer off to the left and follow the trail a little further until you hit the crossing.

Crossing the creek and staying dry is not possible. Come prepared; strapped sandals, five fingers, water shoes are all good options. However, the rocks appear to be very smooth and the water is extremely clear so crossing barefoot is possible as well. With points of knee high water be sure you don’t have anything in your pockets that can get wet. The water was a perfect 60 degrees and flowing pretty good, enough to push you over if you are not being attentive to your balance. Depending on your shoe situation, changing from the 1st to the 2nd crossing is not necessary as they are very close to one another. The 3rd and 4th crossing however are very spread out and putting your hiking shoes back on is the smart choice.

In between crossings the trail brings you up and overlooks the creek from above. Exposure is pretty high in these areas and it can get very hot. The weather took an unexpected turn this weekend and was about 10 degrees hotter than what we were wanting. 90 degrees in the shade made each one of the creek crossings a welcomed opportunity to cool off. After hitting the 4th and final crossing we had two options, find a place along the creek to camp or continue up trail 17 to the top. The top would give us slightly cooler temps but little to no protection along the way, water would also be limited. We made the choice to find a spot along the creek, however we did not want to plop right down in a high traffic area, so we pressed on along the trail.

The trail heading up after the 4th crossing is steep, wet, and muddy. Trekking poles will be your friend here. About a half mile further we found a shady place to take a break while Chuck and I went scouting for access back down to the creek. Eureka! We found the most amazing place to camp…but it was going to take some work to get our way down. Following a seasonal wash down to the creek we would be faced with a 20-30 foot set of shelves that we would need to navigate all the packs and dogs down. The reward, a camping spot completely secluded from the world. There was evidence of campers in the past, but the odds of anyone coming across us was slim to none. A waterfall/rapid area filled camp with the sounds of rushing water, there was a nice little fishing hole and a great place to take a dip in the water. This was a slice of paradise just 2 hours drive from the city!

We set up camp and then found our own ways to start enjoying our home for the day. Chuck and Chick spent some time fishing while Breanna and I took a dip to cool off, FallGal and Wicked Witch started to explore the area. As the sun started getting sucked up by the canyon walls we started working on a fire, dinner, and relaxing. Surprisingly the mosquitoes were not bad, our guess was because the water was flowing so well there was no standing water. The spiders however were INSANE! I have never seen such a concentration of spiders in one area; they were everywhere. After dinner and a few laughs around the fire we decided to hit the sack. This turned out to be one of the funniest moments of the day. Breanna, being a 13 year old girl was freaking out about bugs and Wicked Witch discovered that leaving her gear under a tree would result in a coated pack of fresh bird crap. The silent canyon and the sounds of the flowing creek were drowned out by the repeated phrase “What IS that!”

Day 2

The morning came early and packing up camp was mixed in with breakfast, fishing, and filtering water. As we skip from boulder to boulder to cross the creek we said goodbye to our perfect camp paradise. and began shuffling gear back up to the trail. We were all fighting the idea of heading back to city life, but we also had a slight sense of urgency to finish the day out quickly, doing the best we could to beat the heat. As the sun pounded down on the trail we took advantage of each crossing to cool off. Along the way we passed a few others that had set up camp near the crossings, but other than that the trail was pretty quiet today.

Once we made it passed the final creek crossing it was a long hot way back to the trucks. The dogs were walking along the grassy edges of the trail to keep their paws cool and we were playing hop scotch along each little section of shade that we could find.

The Backpacking Journal gives this trip our definite seal of approval. Collectively I believe it is one of the most favorite trips so far. Make it a day trip, or a weekend adventure, this kids and dog friendly area will not disappoint.

Here are some more pictures

A quick video to show the water flow