King Peak Via Lightning Trail in California’s King Range

Trail to King Peak

Elk near Bear Harbor

Trail to King Peak

View from King Peak

Sandwiched between the Mendocino Coast on the South and Lost Coast to the North, King Peak, via the Lightning Trail, in California’s King Mountain Range is a worthy goal for a hike. The trail is 5.2 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1800 feet.

We camped out near the trailhead with the peak our goal for a top-of-the-world lunch.

After our return to camp, we took my friend’s SUV down a very rugged road to Bear Harbor where we spotted a group of elk walking on the road. We ended up at a small visitor center on the beach.

What to take: the usual backcountry supplies (tent, sleeping bag, pad, fire), plus a daypack (stuffed with lunch), water, hat, sunglasses, a camera, and binoculars.

The Lost Coast Trail, to the north, is a buck list backpack. Some 2 miles long, from the mouth of the Mattole River to Black Sand Beach in Shelter Cove, you can complete it in one overnight (a real butt-kicker) or a more related two night trip with overnight stays in Big Flat and Spanish Flat, wide open spaces with fresh waters, wood and great beach campsites.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Backcountry Bucket – Camp Water for Less Than an Ounce

Weight: 0.8 oz / 23g – PVC free – Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Folding Bucket – 10 L / 2.64 Gallon

I own this buck; a thing of beauty for ultralight backpacker. Unfold it, drip into the stream or river to fill with 2.64 gallons. I’ve used it for bath water and / or cooking water (of course you wouldn’t mix the two). And never dump your dirty water back in the stream. Packs down tiny.

Water Purification – The Katadyn BeFree™ Water Filtration System

Weight: 2.05 ounces. Right off, you know it’s going to be featherweight: perfect for ultralight backpacking. Katadyn Befree Water Filter With Hydrapak 0.6L Collapsible Flask

Here’s what Katadyn says about their filter: Winner of Backpacker Editors’ Choice Award, Runner’s World Gear of the Year Award, and ISPO Gold Awards! The lightweight and compact Katadyn BeFree water bottle and filter gives you the freedom to drink anytime, anywhere. With the BeFree™ Filter, you no longer have to worry about where your next drink will come from. Just fill up the flask and let the EZ-Clean Membrane™ do the work. Gently squeeze the flask for instant refreshment. Maintain the EZ-Clean Membrane™ quickly and easily for longer life and more enjoyment. Simply fill the flask with water, attach the cover and shake free the debris. Or, remove the filter from the flask and swish in any lake, river or stream. And when you’re ready to “hit the road,” the collapsible flask packs small to fit into tight spaces. Just Smash, Stash and Go! Worry less, Discover more, BeFree.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Red’s Meadow, the PCT and JMT — A Lightbackpacker Must-See

Me with hiking companions Bruce, left, and Al, right, at Rainbow Falls.

Me, center with hiking companions Bruce, left, and Al, right at Rainbow Falls.

Getting there — from Portland, Oregon to Mammoth, California — took some doing.

Keeping an eye on the weather, seeing nothing but sunshine and 65 degrees days at 8,000 feet in the Eastern Sierra, two friends and I booked a flight to Reno where we met a fourth friend and then drove three and a half hours to Mammoth, then down into wilderness.

Logistics and lateness in the season didn’t allow for a backpack, even though before and after the weather turned out to be gorgeous. Instead, we booked a cabin at Red’s Meadow Resort.

For those not familiar with the area, Red’s is a pack station that runs horses and mules to take people into the backcountry. But the resort includes a cafe and store with a nearby backpacker campground and hot, geothermal fed showers. Red’s is right on the PCT and JMT, so a favorite refueling spot for thru and section hikers.

Red’s has closed for the season, despite the beautiful weather (60’s and sunshine). But no doubt the wilderness will close down soon as winter creeps in. Maybe it’s too late to backpack there this year, but it is a definite bucket list trip for next year.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Near Death Experience Produces Extraordinary New Backpack

ME2 Packs Founder Candace Spears notes on the company website, the ME2 is the only pack on the market without shoulder straps. An unusual feature, one you might not think much about until you meet Spears.

At PCT Days this year, she revealed the reason she created this innovative pack.

“I was nearly killed — I actually died and I was brought back — in a river accident,” she said. Her neck and back are now fused with titanium, making it impossible for her to carry weight that presses down on her spine, neck and shoulders. The ME2 allows her to continue her beloved days in the outdoors with her husband.

I was attracted because a good friend of mine with arthritis in his neck and back can no longer carry a traditional backpack, so we can no longer backpack together.

Spears’ invention might have changed all that. Did I mention the pack is only 2 pounds, 4 ounces, definitely in the light backpacking category. I tried it on. As someone who hates a lot of weight on my shoulders — especially on long hikes — the ME2 is a wonder.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

10th Annual PCT Days: Food for Thought

PCT Days Trail FoodI just returned from the 10th Annual PCT Days in Cascade Locks, Oregon, about 40 miles each of Portland where hundreds of locals and PCT thru-hikers gathered to sample the wares, play games and enjoy the weather (sunny compared with last year’s spritzing rain).

Many years ago, I gave up food produced commercially for wilderness travel (pouches of ingredients that require hot water and a few stirs). Mostly, they were tasteless and expensive. Like many ultralight backpackers, I make up my own combinations of my favorite foods.

At PCT Days I sampled several types of trail food –mostly new to market — and purchased a some for future trips. A few that caught my eye:

Backpacker’s Bistro – the bags are lightweight and feed two people for $12. I sampled the bean with bacon and found it pretty tasty so I purchased Spaghetti Bolognese for a future trip. What caught my eye were the ingredients: handmade pasta, grass-fed beef, bacon, red wine, garlic, diced tomatoes and a few more goodies. Here is something eye-catching from the website: “2008 winner of the French Culinary Institute’s Top Chef award, Melissa Lynn Lieser combined her passions for backpacking and food when she founded Backpacker’s Bistro in 2016 with a simple philosophy: we believe that the most satisfying and healthy meals begin with whole, real foods. We believe in finding quality products from sustainable sources, locally if possible.”  To learn more:

Vasque Sturdiwheat Pancake Mix – the package says it makes a half dozen small pancakes. They appear to have healthy ingredients. A six-ounce package of buckwheat pancakes costs just $2. They also offer almond pecan, banana and apple cinnamon. Although I’m not likely to carry a frying pan on a backpack, I might consider using the Sea-to-Summit collapsible cookware and take the pancake mix with me. To learn more:

Trail Butter – the label claims: “all natural energy nut butter” and notes it is “low sugar,” which will be happy news for those trying to avoid sugar-rich foods. Trail Butter, the love child of Jeff and Brad Boggess, two outdoor enthusiasts who have traveled the world biking and skiing, comes in handy 4.5 hand-size pouches and in jars. I bought two pouches for the PCT days discounted price of $5 each: Mountaineer Maple with real maple syrup and the Ozark Original chunky variety. Both were mouth-watering.  To learn more:

Huppybar – an energy bar created by river guide Lyndsay Hupp. she boasts her bars, which are very tasty (I had the espresso chocolate), are non-GMO and free of soy, dairy, gluten or refined sugars — good news for health conscience outdoors people. You can buy online and at some Whole Foods and other health-oriented retailers. Here is a list of where to find them:
Be Light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Sea to Summit X-Set 11 Ultralight Camp Pot and Cups

At REI’s Portland Store — in my never-ending search for the newest and lightest backpacking equipment — I discovered the Sea to Summit collapsible pot and  cups. The set is just 11 ounces. I didn’t weigh the pot alone, but I’ll guess 5 ounces (142g) — a weight easily qualifying it to fit in any ultralight backpacking pack.

Sea to Summit X-Set 11 Sea to Summit X-Set 11 OpenBesides the weight, I was very impressed with its packability. From the Sea to Summit website:

“The innovative X-Kettle collapses to 1 3/8” (35mm) and has a 1-liter safe boiling capacity. A wide base absorbs maximum heat from the stove while protecting the silicone walls. Two glass-reinforced Nylon 66 handles support the upper rim and improve control when pouring. The two X-Mugs nest perfectly inside the Kettle to create an exceptionally compact cook system.”

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.