Backpacking companion Wild Bill and I thought a November backpack would reward us with total solitude. Instead, we were greeted by 15 college students and a four hunters at the trailhead next to Highway 20 near Clearlake, California. We let them go ahead, then headed toward our overnight destination seven miles ahead in Wilson Valley. We dreaded spending the night with this small army of backpackers. When we came to a river about 2.5 miles down the trail, we waded across — losing the hunters — who apparently didn’t want to get wet. On the far bank we discovered an oak-savanah plateau with widely scattered campsites. One site — about 100 yards past the turn off to Wilson Valley — sat on the edge at the 25-foot high cliffs over looking the river and valley. Rather than hike another five miles to join the crowd in Wilson Valley, set up camp, day-hiked and then Â toasted this quiet paradise with some chardonnay we brought along. Â This is one of many backpacks where we discovered wilderness and total solitude less than 3 miles from the trailhead.Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.