Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness

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The Eastern Sierra with all its wonderful lakes and incredible trails is my favorite. At Thousands Island Lake, about half way between Agnew Meadow and Tuolumne Meadow, the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails cross. If you have time for one more ultralight backpack this year, this should be it. At 10,000 feet, when you reach Thousand Island Lake, you’ll feel like you are in another time and another world.

I suggest you either hike from Tuolumne Meadows over Donahue Pass (about 12,500 feet) past Thousand Island Lake down to Agnew (about 28 miles) near Red’s Meadow. Or you can drive to Mammoth Lakes, up to Mammoth Mountain and then down into the valley to Agnew Meadow. If you choose the Tuolumne to Agnew route, you can catch a shuttle back to your car at Tuolumne.

If you have a few days, walk from Agnew Meadow to Shadow Lake and spend the night. The next day, day hike to Ediza and Iceberg Lakes, dropping your packs at the junction that takes you to Garnet Lake. Spend the night at Garnet. The next day, head over the ridge to Thousand Island. You can day hike up to Cathedral Lake near Ritter Peak — cross country (never been on the trail) but I gather it is easy to find.

Finally, you can head back 10 miles the final day — all downhill — to Agnew Meadows.

I’ve visited Thousand Island a half dozen times. It a timeless place that you’ll never forget. And, I guarantee you will want to return again and again.

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

Stornetta Ranch Preserve Waterfall Hike

Stornetta Ranch Preserve Waterfall HikeYesterday, I took some time off my regular job and drove 35 miles south with a friend along the Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) in Northern California to a new 2,000-acre preserve. Named after the adjoining dairy land, Stornetta Ranch is on lighthouse road, about half way between Highway 1 and the Point Arena Lighthouse. An easy hike takes you along high ocean cliffs with sweeping ocean views, big waves, birds, sea arches and, best of all, a waterfall that plunges into the ocean. If you can’t be out in the wilderness, this is not a bad way to spend a part of your day. If you get this way, be sure to drive on down the road to the lighthouse to see the First Order Fresnel lens and 105-foot lighthouse tower.

That’s me at the top of the falls.

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

LifeStraw Could Save Millions of Lives, Backpacking Next

In the July 18 issue of Newsweek is an article about LifeStraw, a new $3 portable water filter created by a Danish company to protect people in Third World countries from waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera and dysentery.

The LifeStraw website notes: “Sharing a passion to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of ‘reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water’ by the year 2015, we recognize the immense sense of urgency. At any given moment, about half of the world’s poor are suffering from water-related diseases, of which over 6,000 – mainly children – die each day by consuming unsafe drinking water.”

The device is 31 cm / 12-inches long and weighs 140 grams / 4.9 ounces dry and 160 grams / 5.6 ounces web. It requires no parts or maintenance while producing up to 185 gallons of before replacement is needed.

While its humanitarian value is what is most important (an the main focus of the company), the article does note that LifeStraw is working to create a version for backpackers, which will fix one current failing: it doesn’t filter out Giardia lamblia.

It appears to be a great future choice for ultra light backpacking, hiking or camping. A note: I couldn’t find any place on the website to buy one. But you can make a donation and buy the devices for poor people in other parts of the world.

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

Sierra Crossing: Tom Stienstra’s Adventure – Part 8

Here is Tom Stientra’s final story on his 70-mile trek through Sequoia National Park, across the Sierra.

(08-12) 04:00 PDT Mineral King, Sequoia National Park — – From a notch in the rim of the Great Western Divide, you can scan east to the horizon and take in distant 14,497-foot Mount Whitney and the contiguous rows of mountain peaks on the distant Sierra Crest.

“You look way out there at Whitney and it’s hard to believe that’s where we started just a week ago,” said Michael Furniss, expedition scientist.

We then turned to the west. From the tips of our boots, the slopes of the western Sierra fell thousands of feet directly below us to Farewell Canyon and beyond to the foothills of the San Joaquin Valley. Read on.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack. Get out and go.

Sierra Crossing: Tom Stienstra’s Adventure – Part 7

The Stienstra trek continues …

(08-11) 04:00 PDT Forester Lake, Sequoia National Park —
We stood at the foot of Rattlesnake Canyon and gazed up toward the Great Western Divide and the climb that faced us: 12 miles of up with a gain of 5,130 feet.

“My body just said to me, ‘You must be kidding,’ ” said the expedition scientist and photographer, Michael Furniss.We awoke at dawn deep in the Kern Canyon …. Read more.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the Pack.

Sierra Crossing: Tom Stienstra’s Adventure – Part 6

This is a great trek across the Sierra, through the Kern Canyon, and Stienstra’s story an inspiration to backpackers.

(08-10) 04:00 PDT Rattlesnake Canyon, Sequoia National Park — The rattle sounded like shaking maracas.

But this was not a percussionist. This was a rattlesnake, about 4 feet long, coiled and poised on the side of the trail. Luckily, this one was making plenty of noise and could be avoided.

“The ones you worry about are the quiet ones,” said Michael Furniss, expedition scientist. “That’s when you hear nothing.” Then you step on them and get nailed in the calf.

The specter of rattlesnakes at the Lower Kern and in adjoining Rattlesnake Canyon had foreshadowed us all week. Now we were here and so were the rattlesnakes. … Read more here

Sierra Crossing: Tom Stienstra’s Adventure – Part 5

Tom Stientra’s incredible journey continues … a trek of a lifetime.

(08-09) 04:00 PDT Aspen Camp, Kern Canyon — – As morning broke, I stuck my head out of my “bivy” and had the surreal vision that I was camped at the base of Yosemite Valley in the early 1800s.
On each side of the valley floor, canyon walls extended skyward for 3,000 feet. Directly above, a canopy of giant aspen circled our camp. On one side of camp, a virgin meadow glowed neon green. On the other, the river flowed pure and clear, and when you closed your eyes, you could hear the ripples of water flowing over rock. The songbird calls were so sweet that it sounded like a dawn bird symphony. Read the rest of the story.

Sierra Crossing: Tom Stienstra’s Adventure – Part 4

(08-08) 04:00 PDT Jeffrey Grove, Kern Canyon — From our perch on a boulder above the river, you could see three dark silhouettes in the pool below.
“They can’t be fish,” said my brother, Rambob, “because they’re too big.”
The morning light poured down over the Great Western Divide and to the floor of the Kern Canyon. On the forest floor, filtered sunbeams bored through the gnarled limbs of ancient Jeffrey pines. In the Kern River’s gin-clear flows, bubbles sparkled at the head of the pool, where a small riffle fed into a deep hole.
Rambob flicked out a cast, let his lure settle on the bottom, and …. read on

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

Sierra Crossing: Tom Stienstra’s Adventure – Part 3

(08-07) 04:00 PDT Junction Meadow, Kern River Canyon — It was a crisp 38 degrees at dawn. I filled my water bottle at Whitney Creek, and then heard a buzz. I turned to my left and looked up, and a hummingbird was eyeing me from three feet. It hovered, facing me, as if asking, “What are you doing way out here?”
The answer is that we planned to break off the John Muir Trail today and head down into the Kern Canyon, perhaps the most remote river canyon in the Lower 48.

The adventure continues here.

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

Sierra Crossing: Tom Stienstra’s Adventure – Part 2

Outdoor writer Tom Stienstra’s 70-mile trek across the Sierra in Sequoia National Park is truly inspirational. Here is the beginning of part 2 of his series:

(08-06) 04:00 PDT Crabtree Meadow, Mount Whitney Wilderness — – Rising trout swirled on the surface of a small, pristine lake. The morning was so quiet that you could hear the fish as they nabbed hatching insects. It sounded like little popguns going off, one after another.
Just beyond the lake, a 25-acre wetland and meadow extended to a sloping ridge peppered with white fir. Beyond to the western horizon, the Major General, an imposing granite monolith, topped the Sierra Crest with a series of spiked pinnacles. It looked like a poster, yet the lake was not even named. For more click here …