100 Peaks http://100peaks.com Pick a Peak and Go Sun, 21 May 2017 02:20:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.18 It doesn’t have to be Mount Whitney – Spiral out when seeking adventure http://100peaks.com/2017/05/21/it-doesnt-have-to-be-mount-whitney-spiral-out-when-seeking-adventure/ http://100peaks.com/2017/05/21/it-doesnt-have-to-be-mount-whitney-spiral-out-when-seeking-adventure/#comments Sun, 21 May 2017 02:20:33 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6391 Mount Whitney from a different angle

Get to Mount Whitney from a different angle

“We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been.

Spiral out. Keep going..” – Tool – Lateralus

This is just something I notice every year. Spring rolls around and I see everyone talking about the Mount Whitney lottery. Are you going? Did you get your permits? Some people try to go every year and sometimes multiple times a year. For many, this is their first trip to the Sierra Nevada and their first overnight backpacking trip.

I’ve noticed people without enough experience risking their lives by attempting the summit too late in the season, with too much snow and not enough daylight, because those were the dates they could get permits from the lottery. Some consider the mountaineers route without understanding the skills and gear required to get there. People die every year, for a variety of reasons.

Some people attempt it as a day hike, which, to me, has never sounded like a great way to see one of the Sierra’s most iconic mountains.

To be clear: I love Mount Whitney. I stare at it with awe every time I’m along the 395. My memories of my two trips there resonate with me often. They were 26 years apart and have changed the core of who I am. I recommend everyone find a way to get to the summit. I just don’t think it should be everyone’s first choice.

I feel the draw to visit Mount Whitney, I really do. I will definitely go back. But I don’t think I would ever register for the lottery to go up the Mount Whitney Trail. It’s fine to exit that way, but going up it? I can’t imagine it being as amazing as other options. Before you go decide to go up the Mount Whitney Trail, I recommend the following options:

Try someplace else in the Sierra Nevada area

There are so many other places in the Sierra Nevada (and nearby) that are absolutely gorgeous and have far fewer people. Try some of these places to get a taste of the Sierra before you bite off the big chunk of Mount Whitney. I can’t begin to list them all, but below is just a few examples of amazing places to go:

Le Conte Canyon

Le Conte Canyon – Kings Canyon NP

The view from the road to Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Getting closer

Blue Canyon Basin – SEKI Wilderness

Alpenglow in Dusy Basin

Dusy Basin – Kings Canyon NP

Coming down White Mountain

Coming down White Mountain – Inyo NF

At least try a different way up Mount Whitney

Even if you want to go up Mount Whitney, there are other ways to go about it. You don’t even need to sign up for the lottery if you enter from somewhere else. You can go to recreation.gov and choose “Mt. Whitney (Trail Crest Exit)” as your exit option. Sure a quota applies, but you’ll have a greater chance of getting your permit, as far fewer people do it this way. You’ll also only have to hike the Whitney Trail on the way down. Take some time and enjoy the journey, rather than hiking both up and down what I call the Zombie Highway. Think of an interesting route to get you up the western side and out to the east. I approached once from Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon, and once from Horseshoe Meadows and Miter Basin. Both times were amazing and were filled with stretches without meeting a single person.

Sure, it might take a little more planning and a shuttle, but you’ll have an adventure of a lifetime.

Descending into Rock Creek Basin from New Army Pass

On the way to Mount Whitney: Descending into Rock Creek Basin from New Army Pass

On the way to Whitney through Deadman's Canyon in 1984

On the way to Whitney through Deadman’s Canyon in 1984

Spiral out to distant lands

Explore the map, stretch out a little bit, and try something completely new. Visit a new county, state, or even a new country. Instead of visiting a national park and hitting all the sites by car, consider backpacking into it. You’ll get all of the world class scenery without all the crowds. Scan Google Earth and look for distant peaks, lakes, and meadows and then see what it would take to get there. Exploring and dreaming is half the fun. You’ll get a great idea on how varied and beautiful this world is.

The view from Doe Mountain, AZ

The view from Doe Mountain, AZ

Coming down from Wheeler Peak, NM

Coming down from Wheeler Peak, NM

The view from the ridge to Lanilili on Maui

The view from the ridge to Lanilili on Maui

Kootenay River, Canada

Kootenay River, Canada

It doesn’t have to be Mount Whitney.

Or Baldy

Or Joshua Tree

Or Cowles

Or Cedar Creek Falls

Or Three Sisters Falls

Or Havasupai

Spiral out, open your mind, and expand your experiences. It will be worth it.

Bugling Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Bugling Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

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Dusy Basin Solo Backpacking – The Art of Missing Out http://100peaks.com/2017/04/05/dusy-basin-solo-backpacking-the-art-of-missing-out/ http://100peaks.com/2017/04/05/dusy-basin-solo-backpacking-the-art-of-missing-out/#comments Wed, 05 Apr 2017 03:07:28 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6261 Getting water near Bishop LakeI decided to go on a solo backpacking trip to Dusy Basin last September because I felt I needed it. Let’s just say it was a busy, crazy year. I wanted to disconnect for a bit.

I remembered back to two years prior, when the PD, SocalHiker, and I zoomed through Dusy Basin on the way to the first year of the Muir Taco tradition. Dusy Basin was a remarkable place. Mostly above the treeline, this basin sparkled with high lakes and a flowing river, flanked by an amphitheater of granite giants.

I planned for a solo trip: Drive up on the first day, pick up my permit, stay at a hiker’s cabin at Parcher’s Resort, head out early on the trail the next morning and make it to Dusy Basin, and improvise.

A week before the trip, a friend mentioned that her husband was exiting the South Lake trailhead the same day I would be checking into a cabin nearby. Could we caravan? Sure! We met at a coffee shop and I followed her all the way to Lone Pine, where I picked up my permit. We also picked up some beer for her likely thirsty husband and his friend.

My cabin at Parcher's Resort

My cabin at Parcher’s Resort

They were already resting at the office of Parcher’s Resort when we arrived. Upon learning that they were going to look for a campsite for the night, I told them that was a silly thought, since I had a shower and three extra bunks in my cabin. Some great company was worth the tradeoff of losing some solo time. Over a campfire outside the cabin, we shared stories of outdoor adventures, and drank some beer. We all slept great in the cabin.

We parted ways in the morning. They were on their way home, and I was on my way into the wilderness.

I drove to the trailhead, passing some mule deer along the way. I was getting excited about this.

Mule deer on the way to the trailhead

Mule deer on the way to the trailhead

I parked at the trailhead and noticed many other cars there. This was a popular way into the Sierra. It was a little late in the season, but it looked like a window of great weather. I would still need to keep an eye out for gathering clouds.

South Lake at the Bishop Pass Trailhead

South Lake at the Bishop Pass Trailhead

I headed up on the trail, leaving the crazy world behind me. Normally there would be some chatting going on between gasps of breath as my body gets used to the idea of hiking at this elevation. But, this time, it was just me. And it was great.

Bishop Pass Trail on the way to Dusy Basin

Bishop Pass Trail on the way to Dusy Basin

Bishop Pass Trail

Bishop Pass Trail

I decided to aim for Long Lake to have breakfast. I guessed it would be sunny and a glorious location to spend some time. I wasn’t wrong.

Breakfast and coffee at Long Lake

Breakfast and coffee at Long Lake

Small lake next to Long Lake

Small lake next to Long Lake

Normally I power through the hiking day, stopping only when necessary. This time, I removed my pack, fired up my stove and enjoyed some hot coffee. Every since I tried some Starbucks Via coffee on the trail, I haven’t looked back. It’s very tasty.

I look my time at Long Lake, perched on the same rocks from two years ago and enjoyed the cool morning in the sun. The stillness was complete except for the trickle of the outlet stream, the breeze through the trees, and the occasional trout coming to the surface of the lake. I was only about an hour from my car and I felt like I was in another world.

On my own timeline, I repacked and headed up the trail along the basin, passing several beautiful lakes. I explored along the edge of Long Lake, remembering some campsite information that some backpackers told me two years ago as I came through. I found some excellent options and made a mental note for my way out.

I passed some hikers here and there, but for the most part, I relished in my solitude. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing the Sierra as I do my day hikes, as a pure experience.

Hurd Peak from along Long Lake

Hurd Peak from along Long Lake

Bishop Lake with Mount Agassiz and Bishop Pass behind. I had lunch on the rocks on the edge of the lake

Bishop Lake with Mount Agassiz and Bishop Pass behind. I had lunch on the rocks on the edge of the lake

A couple of hours later, I arrived at Bishop Lake. It was time for lunch. I perched on the rocks at the edge of the lakes and ate, watching the dark trout in the shallows. I saw some people with fishing poles and some tents in the trees, but still felt pretty secluded. Refreshed, I headed up Bishop Pass. I remembered there being water sources in Upper Dusy Basin, so I did not refill my water bottles before I started ascending.

Crossing Bishop Lake outlet to climb to Bishop Pass

Crossing Bishop Lake outlet to climb to Bishop Pass

Looking down Bishop Creek Basin

Looking down Bishop Creek Basin

Sure, hiking up any pass can be challenging, but this time it was way easier. I wasn’t struggling to keep up with faster hikers and I didn’t have a cold or Morton’s Neuroma. I made it to the top in great time and was tempted to just keep on hiking. However, I saw another hiker taking a break, so I sat down and we chatted for a bit. He was waiting for the rest of his group and was enjoying the sun of the day. Done with our respective snacks, I wished him luck and started down the other side into Dusy Basin.

Precarious rock coming down in Dusy Basin

Precarious rock coming down into Dusy Basin

It was at this point, I drank the last of my water. As I descended, I noticed the basin was a lot drier than it was two years ago. Of course it was. It was two months later in the year, so water supplies were bound to be low. And the interim years were dry ones. I scolded myself for not refilling when I had the chance.

The day heated up as I continued to drop into the rocky basin. After several miles, I still hadn’t found a water source. I came to an agreement with myself that I would get water once I found a likely campsite.

Upper Dusy Basin rockscape

Upper Dusy Basin rockscape

I finally reached Lower Dusy Basin and encountered the string of lakes that I remembered fondly. I made my way to the other side of the lakes and found a nice spot. I was the only person around. I was a little tired from the day’s hike and sat in the shade for a while. I got out my water equipment and stood up to go down to the stream and refill my bottles. I was parched.

Lower Dusy Basin from my campsite

Lower Dusy Basin from my campsite

Just then, I heard some grunts from the other side of the stream. I scanned the hillside and saw a black bear with its nose high in the air, grunting as it walked along. It entered the treeline and I could see it continue through a gap in the trees. It didn’t come out the other side.

Wanting to avoid an encounter, I stood there and waited. I removed my sunglasses and continued to scan the hillside. Moving my gaze from the trees, to the hills behind it, to the path it would have taken had it kept going, I searched eagerly for the bear I did not want to surprise.

20 minutes passed and my thirst wasn’t going away anytime soon. I walked down to the stream and got my water. I never saw the bear again.

Alpenglow in Dusy Basin

Alpenglow in Dusy Basin

I got settled in and had some dinner and some more coffee. I was a nice quiet spot, with a view of the giants of upper Dusy Basin, as well as a view southwest of the giants along LeConte Canyon. Since I was solo, there wasn’t much to do.

I sat on a rock, still warm from the day, and just admired the view. There were no emails to check, no app notifications on my phone. Nothing to prevent me from looking skyward. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything that was happening in the “real” world. Rather, I felt that everyone else was missing out on this amazing sunset.

Getting comfortable, I laid my ensolite pad onto a large flat rock and relaxed into the view before me.

Sunset from the campsite in Lower Dusy Basin

Sunset from the campsite in Lower Dusy Basin

An orange and blue sky reflected off of the small lake before me. I felt the cooling evening around me and smelled the mountains. And I sat and enjoyed it, for several hours, occasionally wandering around the basin.

After it got dark, I settled into the tent and went to sleep.

Lower Dusy Basin reflections

Lower Dusy Basin reflections

I woke up to the dawn. I enjoyed the rising sun as I sipped coffee in the morning air. Since I didn’t pack much, I was ready to go in no time. I had plenty of water and plenty of time to make it back up Bishop Pass to find a spot to sleep on the other side.

Giants framing Dusy Basin on the way up

Giants framing Dusy Basin on the way up

Looking up to Bishop Pass from Upper Dusy Basin

Looking up to Bishop Pass from Upper Dusy Basin

I made it to the top of the pass. Just as it happened two years ago, as I ascended out of Dusy Basin, the clouds started forming over the looming ridgelines and the temperature dropped a little. This time I was more ahead of the storm a little bit, but these clouds were moving pretty fast.

I pointed a couple of Dutch trekkers toward Mount Agassiz, but warned them that a storm was on the way. They didn’t appear worried, but I did my part.

Getting water near Bishop Lake

Getting water near Bishop Lake

I picked up some water by Bishop Lake, and headed to the snow researcher’s hut. I was looking for some shade and shelter from the cooling wind.

Near the snow depth hut above Bishop Lake

Near the snow depth hut above Bishop Lake

The snow hut above Bishop Lake

The snow hut above Bishop Lake

Once again, I wanted to enjoy these moments on the trail. I leaned my back against the cool stone wall of the hut and made myself some coffee, watching a bird do acrobatics in the trees around me.

Every time I make it to the outdoors, I find a slightly different way to enjoy it. This time, it was quiet moments while drinking hot coffee with nothing except the outdoors itself to distract me.

Repacking my pack, I descended quickly, passing all of the gorgeous lakes I just saw yesterday, but it seemed like days ago.

Saddlerock Lake

Saddlerock Lake

Timberline Tarns inlet stream

Timberline Tarns inlet stream

I made it to Long Lake and picked a perfect campsite on a ledge above the water. I debated with myself for a bit. I knew the rain would be coming, should I just hike it out to the car?

I decided that I came all this way; I would stay the night, even if it rained.

Campsite at Long Lake before the rain hit

Campsite at Long Lake before the rain hit

I pitched the tent and had dinner while the sprinkles started. Once the drops really started, I secured everything and got comfortable in the tent. Listening to the wonderful sound of rain on the tent and ground around me, I fell asleep at around 8PM.

I woke up at 4AM, fully rested. The rain had endured for hours. I wasn’t sure when it stopped, but it hadn’t been for long. I looked up to the sky and saw stars. Peeking over the edge of the granite peaks around me were a new wave of clouds threatening to offer more precipitation. I made the quick decision to pack up and head out.

Shaking off my wet tent, I swiftly stuffed everything back into my pack and headed down the trail wearing a headlamp. Calling out, “Hey bear!” I made my way in the dark, with the occasional moth dive-bombing my face. Everything looked different in the dark, but this was my fourth time on this trail in recent years, so I confidently made my way back to the car,  just as the sun started to lighten the sky ahead of me and the sky darkened behind me.

As I settled into the car, changing into sandals and a fresh shirt, rain drops started falling on the windshield. I made the right call.

I drove back down into Owens Valley, reflecting on my time in Dusy Basin. When all the unnecessary parts are stripped away, time feels like a slow moving stream. I had been in the wilderness 48 hours, but it felt like a week.

The morning view from my tent

The morning view from my tent

Over the past few months, when things got hectic, I found myself thinking of my time in Dusy Basin, where I rose out of my tent to a still morning on the edge of heaven.

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Sedona – A family trip in the outdoors http://100peaks.com/2016/08/09/sedona-a-family-trip-in-the-outdoors/ http://100peaks.com/2016/08/09/sedona-a-family-trip-in-the-outdoors/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 22:23:36 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6214 Sedona from The Red Rock Visitor Center

Sedona from The Red Rock Visitor Center

Several times a year, I am tasked with one of my favorite things: planning a family trip. This time, I didn’t have to come up with the destination. I asked my wife and daughter where they wanted to go and they quickly came up with Sedona.

We hadn’t been to Sedona since the fires of 2003, when we had to cut our trip short and drive home through the night to San Diego so we could evacuate to Orange County. We felt like there was so much more to see, so we decided to give it another try.

We flew into Flagstaff and, seeing lush forests, I was once again reminded that Arizona has many different faces. It isn’t just sand and cacti. We made the drive down to Sedona and got settled in.

As a family, we are all on the same page. We don’t really like to shop. We like to hike, eat, and relax. We tend to have a hearty breakfast, pack a lunch for the trail, hike all day, and then return to town for a wonderful dinner.

Our first full day, we headed out to the Red Rock Visitor Center, getting a map of the area and forming a plan for our time here. While there, one of the ranger staff put some popcorn into the microwave for too long, causing an evacuation and a visit by the fire department. After waiting for a long time with no time for re-entry, we decided to head on out for a hike. Our destination: Chicken Point, taking the Chapel Trail. It was a wonderful day, a slight chill in the air, and the clouds were amazing, as they would be for the duration of our trip.

Hiking upward on the Chapel Trail

Hiking upward on the Chapel Trail

The view from Chicken Point

The view from Chicken Point

We spent some time hanging out on the top of Chicken Point, getting a nice view of Sedona and watching all the people come to the top from all sorts of different trails. Some pink jeeps drove by and people on ATVs made a U-turn on the red rocks. Since we got a late start, this would be our only hike of the day.

Descending Chicken Point

Descending Chicken Point

The next morning, we got another late start. Hey, we’re on vacation. We went back to the visitor center and enjoyed a nice rain shower while we got oriented and received our Junior Ranger information. We then headed out to Bell Rock, one of the many vortices in the area.

Enjoying the vortex on Bell Rock

Enjoying the vortex on Bell Rock

Once again, we took our time, enjoying the view and our temporary destination. We saw others scrambling in city shoes on the slippery rock to try to get higher. We decided we were high enough and found a nice spot to see the red rocks of Sedona.

We then decided to go on a little drive up to the town of Jerome, an old mining town in the hills. I had an ulterior motive, because, as a longtime fan of Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, as well as Caduceus Cellars, I knew that Maynard James Keenan called this place home.

Enjoying Maynard's wine at Caduceus Cellars in Jerome

Enjoying Maynard’s wine at Caduceus Cellars in Jerome

Less than an hour outside Sedona, Jerome is a quaint town, built into the hillside with views into the distance. We tasted some wine, visited his store, and enjoyed the Jerome museum. We headed back down the mountain amid scattered showers and had dinner in Sedona.

The next morning, we got up and headed down south toward the M Diamond Ranch, where we had reservations for some horseback trail riding. The staff and horses were gentle and the views were great.

Horseback riding at M Diamond Ranch in Sedona

Horseback riding at M Diamond Ranch in Sedona

We learned that we could easily have ridden for two hours or longer and enjoyed the other animals they kept on the ranch. The sky was stunning all day.

Some friends on the ranch

Some friends on the ranch

Hanging with horses under a giant sky

Hanging with horses under a giant sky

On the way back to the highway, we stopped at the V-Bar-V Heritage site, where we went on a short hike to see the largest and best-preserved petroglyph site in the area. It was a pleasant hike along Wet Beaver Creek. The location of the site on private property is a reason why it is so well-preserved.

A pleasant trail at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

A pleasant trail at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

Petroglyphs at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

Petroglyphs at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

Detail Petroglyphs at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

Detail Petroglyphs at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

We then drove to both Montezuma Well and Montezuma Castle, both Native American sites that show the ingenuity of Sinagua people in surviving in a harsh desert environment.

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well

Hiking along Montezuma Well

Hiking along Montezuma Well

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle

It was getting late, so we called it day.

The next morning, we decided to drive up to Oak Creek and find a place to hang out by water. We drove along the highway and pulled out at a day use area and followed some use trails down to Oak Creek. Within minutes, Soph had her shoes off and was at home among the rocks and water. It was so much different than the red and green valley below.

At home along Oak Creek

At home along Oak Creek

After a while, the rain started, so we decided to go out for lunch. Next to the tiny Oak Creek Visitor Center, we found a lunch spot, the Indian Gardens Cafe and Market, that was perfect. After finding the eating in Sedona to be hit and miss, we thoroughly enjoyed their food, which we found to be right in line with our style at Burger Bench. Energized with coffee and food, we headed out again, and decided to make Doe Mountain our final hike of our trip.

The view from Doe Mountain

The view from Doe Mountain

After climbing up a short but steep hike to the top of this butte, we traversed to the far side and were presented with yet another gorgeous view of Sedona. Knowing this would be our last hike of the trip, we lingered again, enjoying the vibe. I had to do some business, ordering beer kegs for the upcoming weekend for the restaurant, but thoroughly enjoyed this place. Hardly anyone was up there, and we had it to ourselves for quite a while.

As the day got older, we had to get up and head down.

Heading down and home

Heading down and home

Even with the rain, Sedona was a hiker’s paradise. Although there were many places we didn’t get to see, we felt like we got our time’s worth.

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Laguna Meadow – A late winter family outing http://100peaks.com/2016/07/22/laguna-meadow-a-late-winter-family-outing/ http://100peaks.com/2016/07/22/laguna-meadow-a-late-winter-family-outing/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 01:27:38 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6194  

Heading through the forest to Laguna Meadow

Heading through the forest to Laguna Meadow

Back in February, it was a gorgeous winter day. There was a chill in the air, but spring was on its way. I carved a day out on the calendar away from Burger Bench. I wanted to take my family on a gentle hike so we could enjoy our time together without gasping our way up to a rocky peak. I chose Laguna Meadow, because I hadn’t been there since the early 2000s, and I remembered it being beautiful. I found some old pictures from back then:

Me at Water of the Woods, Laguna MeadowMe at Water of the Woods, Laguna Meadow

Me at Water of the Woods, Laguna Meadow

Water of the Woods, Laguna Meadow

Water of the Woods, Laguna Meadow

Funny how lush and green it was back then. I remember that we were using Afoot and Afield in San Diego as a guide and were aiming for Cuyamaca Reservoir and changed our destination at the last minute, opting instead for Laguna Meadow.

This time, I was prepared, having memorized the route and trailhead information. We stopped at the Mount Laguna visitor center and enjoyed their displays before driving to the trailhead by the Laguna Campground.

A nice shady forest

A nice shady forest

There was a nice cool bite to the air, but the skies were a crystal blue. The trail was easy to follow through the trees, and then the meadow opened up.

The trail to Laguna Meadow

The trail to Laguna Meadow

It’s hard to explain the feeling of coming upon a meadow. One minute, you’re on a shady trail and the next you feel you’ve found something special. The Kumeyaay thought this area was special, too, since there are several mortero sites that we discovered along the trail.

In Laguna Meadow

In Laguna Meadow

We hiked along the Big Laguna Trail, past Little Laguna, which was completely dry. We enjoyed our time, seeing the ground squirrels frolic in the grass and the red tailed hawks soar high above us. We stopped for snacks here and there, spending a long time at Big Laguna. This was our first time out for an extended period as a family after opening up Burger Bench, and we needed it.

Enjoying a view of Big Laguna

Enjoying a view of Big Laguna

We watched the equestrians enjoy the meadow and chatted with hikers as they passed. The breeze was gentle and the scent of the grasses and trees was great.

Big Laguna Meadow

Big Laguna Meadow

When we stripped away all of the complexity that had been upon us for the past few months, we were simply a family, spending quality time together.

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The Thrill of Discovery http://100peaks.com/2016/04/18/the-thrill-of-discovery/ http://100peaks.com/2016/04/18/the-thrill-of-discovery/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 15:38:25 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6182 Lately, my blog posts have been few and far between. As many of you know, I have been a little busy with a hamburger restaurant in Escondido.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been taking some time out and enjoying the outdoors. Just not as much as I’d like. In my spare time, I’ve been doing my usual daydreaming about interesting places. I scour the maps, zoom in and out of Google Earth, searching for an interesting place. Could I camp there? Is there too much bushwhacking? Is it as flat enough for a tent as it looks?

Recently, my friend and I had reservations to stay overnight in a cabin at William Heise County Park. Unfortunately, he wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trek down to San Diego. I decided to go anyway and have a nice quiet time in one of my favorite areas of San Diego and visit two places that were on my list to explore.

I have done it before, visiting someplace off the trails; just an interesting feature that looked promising on the map. One time I went to Cemetery Hill and enjoyed the best sunset I had ever seen.

A lovely campsite in the wild

A lovely campsite in the wild

Another time, I went on a short overnight trip with a friend, returning to Sunshine Mountain, squeezing our tents into small areas between the chapparal. The stars were glorious and we saw plenty of wildlife.

A tent or two can fit almost anywhere

A tent or two can fit almost anywhere

This time, I first went off-trail, bushwhacking from time to time, but made it to a secluded spot with rolling grass. Our reasonably wet winter and spring had been kind to our backcountry. While many of our seasonal ponds and streams were still just damp, the grasslands were in excellent shape.

I pitched my tent and relaxed, enjoying the solitude and the views. I may have even dozed off for a bit. I heard nothing but the healthy afternoon breeze rattling the tent from time to time.

I found no signs of humans at this campsite

I found no signs of humans at this campsite

Once the sun started going down, I headed to the cabin at William Heise. I was instantly struck by the clamor of my neighbors. Playing loud music caused them all to shout at each other as I carried my gear inside and it wasn’t really quiet until about 11PM.

It was a really nice cabin and I slept well, but my heart was out in the grasslands from earlier in the day.

I lazily woke up, sleeping in for the first time since I could remember. After cooking breakfast on my backpacking stove, I headed out, eager to explore a new area, in hopes for the solitude that I knew I needed.

I found my entry point along a dirt road and headed in and up. I climbed some steep slopes, said hello to some grazing cows, and started following the twin tracks of a ranch road. The whole area was beautiful. I could camp almost anywhere, just as long as I was far enough back off of the road.

I searched for morteros, finding none. I sat on a rock in the shade and enjoyed the quiet, my eyes following the path of a low-flying red-tailed hawk as it searched for a squirrel to catch.

It was as beautiful as I thought it would be

It was as beautiful as I thought it would be

“I will come back here,” I thought. I wanted to see the stars from here and listen to nothing except the breeze.

Overall, I was filled with an elation, a sense of discovery. My curiosity caused me to seek out these places. I had scanned the maps for a way in and it paid off. Here I was, again sitting in an amazing place, all to myself.

I usually don’t write about my failed attempts to access a peak or meadow, or how the place I had in mind didn’t turn out to be a place worth visiting, but there are plenty. What was nice about this trip was that I was two for two. Both places were as amazing in person as they were in my head and on the map.

And for 24 hours, I didn’t speak to a soul, except for the ranger at William Heise County Park.

And that was exactly what I needed.

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The outdoors, escapism, and selling hamburgers http://100peaks.com/2016/01/27/the-outdoors-and-escapism/ http://100peaks.com/2016/01/27/the-outdoors-and-escapism/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 04:53:08 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6172 Good morning, Cleveland National Forest

Good morning, Cleveland National Forest

As I pass the one month mark since Burger Bench has opened, my urge to have an outdoor adventure has increased incredibly.

The restaurant has been very successful, beyond what we could have hoped for. Our customers have been friendly and generous in their reviews. As can be expected, my entire days are filled with the restaurant as we learn our processes and work out the kinks. On some of the days, I both entered and exited the restaurant without seeing the sun, except through the skylights and windows of our restaurant’s dining room.

I am still managing the bits of remaining construction, the daily ordering of food, beer, and supplies, process improvement, employees, vendor relations, costing, and the vast array of small emergencies and decisions that emerge throughout every day.

I knew it would be like this. There was even an article written about how hard it would be, but it still doesn’t make it any easier.

As I browse social media and nearly form tears from the beautiful outdoor pictures I see, and in the few minutes I have before I fall asleep at night, I think about what the outdoors means to me. Some people describe a sort of magical effect that nature has on people. I understand that, but for me, it is something clearly defined.

It is escapism at its finest. The definition of escapism is “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”

People do many things for the purpose of escaping. We watch TV, listen to music, see movies, read, go to concerts, hang out with friends, do yoga, pilates, sports, surfing, drugs, drink, buy things, go fishing, skiing, skydiving, hunting, dine out, write, knit, gamble, crossword, sudoku, meditate, cycling, among other things. We do all sorts of things to place a pause on the increasingly complex world we live in.

I choose to hike. Whether it’s a short hike in the canyon with my dog or a multi-day backpacking trip outside of cell coverage, I hike to escape. It is a specific mechanism to remove the daily distractions and pressure by causing me to forget the endless tasks that I yet have to do. It’s sort of a temporary ritual of minimalism; a head-clearing.

During hiking, my existence on this planet is stripped down to keeping my feet moving at the right pace for the slope while being aware of my thirst, hunger, fatigue, and balance. All this in a state of allowing myself to be open to amazement. I want to marvel at the natural world, at the tracks in the dirt, the hawk feather in the grass, the view of a green valley below, the scented breeze, and the startling color gradient in the sky.

As I do this, I relax and remember to feel myself breathing.

Sure, there’s a little magic in the experience, but at the heart, it’s escapism. And it’s OK. It’s here for a reason. Escapism exists because our ancestors lived a simpler life. They perceived longer days and a razor focus on survival. Now, every second of every day is typically assigned to something specific. We need that regular taste of simplicity.

So, as my life as a restaurant owner continues, I can wax philosophical about my reasons for hiking, but as I begin to delegate some of my responsibilities, my eyes are on the prize. A short hike in the morning. An actual day off here and there. A backpacking trip.

My next step is to sacrifice some sleep and get some outdoors time. From there, it can only get better.

Sometimes, this is enough

Sometimes, this is enough

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New 100 Peaks T-shirts available http://100peaks.com/2015/11/17/new-100-peaks-t-shirts-available/ http://100peaks.com/2015/11/17/new-100-peaks-t-shirts-available/#respond Tue, 17 Nov 2015 23:59:15 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6119 I Like 2 Hike t-shirt

I Like 2 Hike t-shirt

Hello happy readers, I’ve designed another t-shirt over at Adayak.com that’s now for sale.

Show off your propensity for strapping on some boots and carrying several pounds of water over great distances by proudly wearing one of these beauties.

All 100 Peaks’ styles can be found at Adayak.com

If you are interested in different colors or sizes, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Thank you for reading.

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100 peaks in 100 hours – Two of San Diego’s best endurance athletes attempt the impossible http://100peaks.com/2015/11/04/100-peaks-in-100-hours-two-of-san-diegos-best-endurance-athletes-attempt-the-impossible/ http://100peaks.com/2015/11/04/100-peaks-in-100-hours-two-of-san-diegos-best-endurance-athletes-attempt-the-impossible/#comments Wed, 04 Nov 2015 19:52:16 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6096 100 peaks in 100 hours, is it possible?

100 peaks in 100 hours, is it possible?

“Can you clarify what you mean by non-stop?”

We sat in a coffee shop, respective laptops open before us. I felt old and slow, sitting next to Nick Hollon’s lanky frame, which bristled with energy and focus.

He had emailed me, wanting to obtain some insight on tackling San Diego’s 100 peaks. He hadn’t realized that I had recently attended one of the Gut Check Fitness workouts which he had trained. I had returned from 3 years in Santa Barbara with a shaved head and a beard, looking nothing like my videos and previous selfies. It had been a great workout. I knew who he was, though. News of his exploits had gotten out, as we shared the same friends, mostly from Gut Check Fitness.

The most impressive of Nickademus Hollon’s exploits, to me, is his finishing the Barkley Marathons in 2013. Go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait. This race has bettered one the toughest people I know. Since it’s beginnings in 1986, there have only been 16 finishers. Nick is one of them. He also completed the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2009. At age 19. You can Google that one, too.

What information could I possibly give him on hiking 100 peaks in San Diego? After all, I started this blog in 2009 and still haven’t completed all 100 of them. I’ve only done 71 to date.

Nick Hollon on Morena Butte

Nick Hollon on Morena Butte

“How fast does a dedicated person typically complete the list?” he asked.

“Retired people can get them done in a year, but it varies widely. I’m still not done with all 100.” I answered.

“How about non-stop?” He asked.

This is about the time when I asked him to clarify what he meant by non-stop.

He grinned.

Nick Hollon somewhere between Spain and France

Nick Hollon somewhere between Spain and France

It turns out, he was making the entirety of San Diego County a giant endurance race. He wanted to summit all of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club’s 100 Peaks List. Without stopping. Sure, he’d be supported, so he could do point-to-points. He’d be able to catch a few winks slumped in the back seat of a car that drove from one trailhead to another. But pretty much non-stop.

This is when I realized why he reached out to me. He knew how long I had stared at maps of San Diego County and dreamed. He knew how many hours I’d spent on the road in the early darkness, aiming for remote peaks few people visit. He knew how many miles I’d hiked, both on well-defined trails, as well as zig-zagging up desert hillsides, dodging cacti along the way. How do you scale that lengthy exploration into a non-stop ultra-marathon? I thought about it for a few seconds.

“Two weeks,” was my initial response. In my mind were the countless miles of cross-country desert peaks and driving on dirt roads around the county. Sure, some time could be shaved off for some of the drive-up peaks, like Boucher Hill and Palomar Mountain, but, glancing back to the map before us, what we called “The Villager Group” would take a large chunk of time, just by itself.

Villager-Peak-from-Rabbit-Peak

Villager Peak from Rabbit Peak

To be thorough, we started sifting through the peaks, and realized a lot of them could be grouped together in 24-hour increments. We went through every peak and thought about loops vs point-to-point. Having organized car support would be crucial, as well as communication while on the trail. Knowing his level of athleticism and drive, I shaved his time down to 7 days. One week, to drive and run all over the county and connect the dots of all the peaks.

“You’re awesome, Nick, a machine, but seriously, there are a lot of challenging desert miles with route-finding required. I don’t even know if 7 days is possible. But if anyone could do it, it’s you.”

And that’s how we left it. A list of 100 peaks, broken up into 7 days of running.

We corresponded online for a while, until I saw his post on the Team Inov 8 blog. He wanted to do 100 peaks in 100 hours. I did the math. In just over 4 days, they wanted to do what I thought would be pretty challenging in 7 days.

He has paired up with Mike Trevino, another tremendous endurance athlete, who finished second in the Race Across America in 2004. They’ve added up some numbers. It would be 408 miles and 180,000′ feet of elevation gain. And loss.

Mike Trevino above the clouds

Mike Trevino above the clouds

Nick said it himself in his blog post about the 100 in 100, “Even on flat ground, that would be an accomplishment.” I completely agree.

I think about Leor Pantilat’s Supported John Muir Trail Fastest Known Time in 2014, in which he did 223 miles in just under 80 hours. Sure, the elevation was higher, but that was all on trail. The John Muir trail is very well-defined, but the route to Rosa Benchmark or Mile High in Anza-Borrego won’t be so easy. Leor averaged under 3 miles an hour, and came up with a record. Mike and Nick would have to average 4 miles an hour over cross-country desert routes.

If anyone could do 100 peaks in 100 hours, it would be Nick and Mike. In the post I mention above, Nick and Mike reference “roughly” 100 hours, which gives them some wiggle room, and they won’t be counting drive time. But still.

What we called the Villager Group would likely take most of a day. And that’s just 5 out of 100 peaks. Then there’s the San Ysidro Mountains, which contain 10 of the peaks, but the terrain is completely unforgiving.

The view to The Thimble and Ysidro from White Benchmark

The view to The Thimble and Ysidro from White Benchmark

Whatever the outcome to their endeavor, I will no doubt be impressed at what they will accomplish.

What is also pretty cool is that their attempt at 100 peaks in 100 hours is designed to raise awareness for an organization called Nutrition Science Initiative, which, according to their site, “is to reduce the individual, social, and economic costs of obesity, diabetes, and their related diseases by improving the quality of science in nutrition and obesity research.” I can get behind this.

They are still working out some of the details, such as logistics and how to donate. For now, the best place to get information is their 100 in 100 website.

Raising awareness of the San Diego’s 100 peak list, going after a crazy feat of human endurance, as well as getting exposure and support for scientific research? I’m hooked. I’ll help any way I can.

I wish them the best.

Nick on a ridgeline, doing what he does

Nick on a ridgeline, doing what he does

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100 Peaks makes the Union Tribune http://100peaks.com/2015/10/14/100-peaks-makes-the-union-tribune/ http://100peaks.com/2015/10/14/100-peaks-makes-the-union-tribune/#comments Wed, 14 Oct 2015 04:43:15 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6081 Me, strolling on a bridge - Photo by Rick Nocon

Me, strolling on a bridge – Photo by Rick Nocon

For those that already haven’t seen it in my other social media streams, I was featured in a nice article in the San Diego Union Tribune. It was a fun interview with Doug Williams, and had a great time shooting with the photographer at Penasquitos Canyon.

After he took his last picture, I didn’t waste any time and took a two-hour hike in the canyon.

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/oct/13/restaurateur-hiking-trekking-outdoors/

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Granite Springs Trail Camp – Cuyamaca moon http://100peaks.com/2015/09/27/granite-springs-trail-camp-cuyamaca-moon/ http://100peaks.com/2015/09/27/granite-springs-trail-camp-cuyamaca-moon/#comments Sun, 27 Sep 2015 01:57:03 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6126 Oakzanita Peak Panorama

Oakzanita Peak Panorama

Summer had just come to an end, but it sure didn’t feel like it. It was sweltering in the lowlands and in the past I’d headed to the hills to get some relief. Since my daughter had a day off on Monday, we decided to go backpacking. We had already backpacked to Arroyo Seco in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, but had been curious about Granite Springs Trail Camp, which was a bit longer in mileage and more strenuous in elevation gain. Sophia was stronger than ever, so we packed our backpacks gave it a shot.

It was also the night that the blood moon would rise from the east. Being in the Cuyamacas would grant us a great view of the show, which was a total eclipse of a super full moon. The redness of the eclipse moon gives it the ‘blood’ name and the closeness of the moon to the earth gives it ‘super’ status and guarantees a brighter and larger moon.

I checked the weather and my app indicated that it would be 81F in Descanso, which is how I tend to gauge Cuyamaca’s temperature. However, once we got to the Green Valley trailhead, it was a solid 92F. It was already about 3PM, so I stalled a little bit, chatting with the friendly rangers and walking around the day use area. I was hoping the weather would cool down a little bit, but I also wanted to make sure that we made it to Granite Springs before dark.

At the Green Valley trailhead

At the Green Valley trailhead

We hit the trail and were immediately blasted with heat from the yellow dusty trail. We took our time, enjoying the shade where we could. It was a little steeper than I thought it would be, and Sophia was feeling the weight of her backpack. She had chosen to carry more on this trip, as she was acutely aware of the fact that I tend to cram my backpack so full of things for two people, that we often camp without a stove. This was the case this time, too. She was also carrying Sparky, the mascot for her classroom.

Heading toward the Harvey Moore Trail

Heading toward the Harvey Moore Trail

The trail climbed and climbed before East Mesa came into view. It was still pretty far off, so we took frequent water breaks where we could find shade. We could start to see the familiar peaks of Cuyamaca in the distance. We stopped for a longer snack break on a log. As we scanned the emerging grasslands, an enormous turkey vulture silently soared above us to check us out.

Stonewall Peak and Juaquapin Creek from the Harvey Moore Trail

Stonewall Peak and Juaquapin Creek from the Harvey Moore Trail

Oakzanita Peak from the Trail

Oakzanita Peak from the Trail

Time for a snack in the shade, almost to East Mesa

Time for a snack in the shade, almost to East Mesa

We finally made it to East Mesa and were treated with a view of rolling grasslands. We saw what we assumed were ravens, as well as some red tailed hawks looking for their afternoon meals. The trail guided us around a large hill and headed directly into the grasslands. We enjoyed watching all of the stink beetles, sensing our presence and sticking their rear ends high into the air. Occasionally, we’d see a flash of movement and spy a horned lizard sitting still in the grass, hoping we wouldn’t see it.

Almost to the grasslands of the East Mesa

Almost to the grasslands of the East Mesa

Entering the East Mesa

Entering the East Mesa

In the East Mesa, with Stonewall, Middle and Cuyamaca Peaks behind

In the East Mesa, with Stonewall, Middle and Cuyamaca Peaks behind

Horned Lizard number one

Horned Lizard number one

Horned Lizard number two

Horned Lizard number two

Once the East Mesa Highpoint came into view, we knew we were close to Granite Springs. The shadows were getting long and the heat wasn’t quite as oppressive as before. Sophia was tiring out, so I grabbed her backpack and carried it over one shoulder for the rest of the way. I noticed some cowboy boot prints on the trail and wondered where they came from.

East Mesa highpoint, almost to Granite Springs Trail Camp

East Mesa highpoint, almost to Granite Springs

Just before making it to camp, we came upon the owner of the boots. He was hiking with his horse and looking for water. I let him know I wasn’t sure if there was any water around, since we brought our own. He saw some in the spring at Granite Springs, but wasn’t happy with the quality. He was going to keep looking around and camp just outside the park, in Cleveland National Forest.

We made it to camp and dropped our packs. We were delighted to see permanent pit toilets. We toured the campsites, settling on number one after noticing that number two didn’t have logs to sit on and number three appeared to have a large colony of fire ants in it.

In the failing light, we set up our tents and had our dinner. Once the sun went down, we walked to the eastern edge of the campsite and watched the moon rise over the Lagunas. I set up my GoPro and we chatted away, watching the stars and enjoying a mild night out. We had the campsite to ourselves and it was very quiet. Occasionally, we’d see headlights of a car driving across the canyon on Deer Park Road.

Watching the blood moon rise from Granite Springs Trail Camp

Watching the blood moon rise from Granite Springs Trail Camp

We hung out in our tent, playing cards and enjoying each other’s uninterrupted company. Before long, she was ready to sleep and I retrieved my camera and brought it back in, not knowing how the time lapse would turn out. It was like daylight, once the eclipse was over. No headlamps or flightlights were needed to walk around the campsite at night. As I woke up throughout the night, I had to check my phone to make sure that the light I saw wasn’t the sun rising. It was just the full super moon illuminating the countryside.

We woke up to what sounded like one dog barking. Then more joined it. Before we knew it, it sounded like over 100 turkeys clucking through the trees. It wasn’t quite light yet, so we enjoyed the warmth of our bags until the sun was about to shine.

Sunrise at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Sunrise at Granite Springs

Soph with her GoPro

Soph with her GoPro

Our campsite #1 at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Our campsite #1 at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Enjoying our morning at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Enjoying our morning at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Soph at home in the outdoors

Soph at home in the outdoors

We had some breakfast and packed our bags, enjoying the early fall morning sunlight. It was aiming to be another warm day, so we had to get going. I presented the situation to Sophia. She originally had her eyes on summiting Oakzanita Peak, but, in light of the warm and challenging day before, I wanted to confirm that’s what she still wanted. Today was going to be longer than the day before, but without as much gain.

“Let’s do Oakzanita Peak,” she said. “I want to do it.”

We had plenty of water and daylight, so we headed out of Granite Springs and followed East Mesa Fire Road southwest. Before long, we encountered the cowboy’s camp. His beautiful white horse was tethered under a tree while his tack, stove, and other supplies were laid out on a fallen log. The Pine Valley Creek drainage dropped off behind him. It was a great site, just over the border in Cleveland National Forest, outside of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We chatted a bit and then were on our way.

East Mesa Fire Road

Morning alongEast Mesa Fire Road from Granite Springs

East Mesa Fire Road rolled along as we chatted about what we saw and whatever came to mind. It’s this type of trail time with my daughter that I cherish. We scan for wildlife. We inspect insects. We talk about everything under the sun. We get into a rhythm; the hiking takes no effort. Our minds flutter from thought to thought, unencumbered by distractions. We’ve had many heart-to-hearts this way, and I hope the words we share continue to evolve as my daughter matures.

After passing where I left the road to summit Sugg Peak, we made it to the Oakzanita Peak Trail, which skirts along a meadow and leads up to the manzanita-covered base of the mountain.

Heading up the Oakzanita Peak Trail

Heading up the Oakzanita Peak Trail

We stopped at the intersection of the Oakzanita Peak Trail and the Upper Descanso Creek Trail. I again gave Sophia a way out. Summiting Oakzanita Peak would add 1.2 miles and ~240′ of gain and loss to the day. Sitting under the shade of a large sumac bush, with a mouth full of her snack, she firmly pointed the way up the mountain. OK, then. We hydrated and headed up the mountain. Unencumbered by our larger packs, we practically sprinted up the mountain. She was excited to be adding another peak to her list of peaks.

Almost to the top of Oakzanita Peak

Almost to the top of Oakzanita Peak

She has learned to navigate rocky trails. She’ll hike for hours without complaining. She has developed the patient mindset for hiking. She’s never bored, as she’s developed strategies to keep her entertained. She’s always noticing something interesting along the trail and pointing it out to me, a skill I’ve passed on to her. She knows to stop and drink water frequently and when to eat when she’s hungry.

We reached the top and had an excellent view of Cuyamaca Peak and Japacha Peak, Middle Peak, Stonewall Peak, Sugg Peak, and East Mesa High Point. We could see where we camped at Arroyo Seco and the face of El Cajon Mountain. She was glowing with her sense of accomplishment. She took our her GoPro (an older hand-me-down) and took dozens of pictures. The pride on her face was evident as she scanned the distance we had covered in the last two days. I am sure it was evident on my face, too.

Japacha, Cuyamaca, Middle, North, and Stonewall Peaks from Oakzanita Peak

Japacha, Cuyamaca, Middle, North, and Stonewall Peaks from Oakzanita Peak

East Mesa and the East Mesa High Point from Oakzanita Peak

East Mesa and the East Mesa High Point from Oakzanita Peak

Soph, enjoying the view from the top of Oakzanita Peak

Soph, enjoying the view from the top of Oakzanita Peak

After a leisurely amount of time spent on top, we made it back down to our packs and found that she had rested her backpack on the nozzle of her bladder, emptying all of her water onto the shady dry soil. This is a mistake many of us have made, sometimes even in the backs of our cars. I had plenty of water, so it wasn’t a dangerous mistake. I am glad she learned it.

We started making our way down to Descanso Creek, which seemed to take forever, and then met up with the East Mesa Fire Road again. I could tell she was tired and hot, as was I, but we still had a ways to go on the East Side Trail before we would find our car at Green Valley. She grew quiet and all of my jests fell flat. The last 10 minutes were challenging for her, but I encouraged her to dig deep. We’ve all felt that last mile on the way back to the car and have learned how to deal with that discomfort, and she learned this day.

We made it back to the car, started talking about lunch and our next hiking adventure, so all was well.

In two days, we hiked 11 miles with a decent amount of gain in the heat. We had a great time watching the moon and sharing time with each other.

I learned that my daughter is a very strong person. And so did she.

Soph at Oakzanita Peak

Soph at Oakzanita Peak

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