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Trails that Interest Me

  I've been interested in a few specific trails and areas as my UL transitions have occured. Its a change from the climbing mentality where we were always searching for new climbs to do, now I'm searching for new trails to walk, or areas to explore. Planning a climbing trip into a new area is very different from planning an Ultra light trip into it.
 Some of these areas are mountain ranges, like the Sierra's, or the Winds, some are actual trails, or High Routes, some are named, others are just wishful thinking. They cover not only mountain terrain, but desert terrain as well. I hope I get the chance to travel some of them.


 The John Muir Trail

  I think this might be the perfect trail for a prospective UL hiker. Sure there are many people on it, and sure its well known, but the ability to travel quickly along a long mileage route in such a prestigous area really intrigues me. Considered by many to be the most best trail in all the country, it sets up perfectly for a lightweight approach. Couple that with the ability to fit the trip into a late season schedule and I think that the JMT could be experienced on a totally different level than what is typically described. I've done a fair amount of reading about this trail, and read many trip reports from folks who have done it. My thoughts are to treat this trail as a 10 day fast pack, with one re-supply at Red's. I believe that going North to South would be the best, and by finishing up on top of Mt. Whitney, well, what an amazing trail! I'll have to keep working on this!
NEW!!
Wow, well, on a somewhat spur of the moment, and with some free time looming, my 17 year old son and I put it all together and did the JMT! And Ultra Light to boot!  Here is the total trip report. Warning! It's long!

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 The Wind River Range

  The Wind River Range, or the Winds as they are called are an amazing range of mountains in Wyoming. In the 80's I did a few climbs there, and was just spellbound by the sheer size and scope of the peaks. The fishing was off the chart as well. The big drawback has always been the effort needed to get into the Winds. Its not easy or close, which now makes it perfect for an UL approach! I've read up on the Wind River Crest trail, but I've more interested in some of the other more remote and off trail areas that might provide some superb fishing for large trout. I've got a few routes mapped out on my software, but as always, time is the ingredient needed! So many trails, so little TIME! 

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 What's a High Route?

  There are a handful of trails around the country that fall into the category of "high routes". These routes are usually a trail or a route that stays at the top of the topography while covering a specific area. Examples would be the Teton Crest Trail, which goes the length of the Tetons, while staying up high. Many times these high routes are put together with a combination of trails and cross country sections in order to keep the route true to its namesake.
  I've become interested in a few of the more obscure and difficult high routes, and am looking forward to attempting a couple this next season. I will be using the off season to learn about the routes, map them, prepare a gear list and itinerary for the attempt. In addition, I'm plotting my own high route that will go through the Sawtooth Mountains here in Idaho.

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 The Teton High Route

  The Teton High Route is based on a route that Paul Petzold came up with many years ago. I read somewhere that it was called Paul Petzold's High Adventure Trail or something like that. It traces a line south to north thru the Teton high country linking the trail system with a couple of small off trail sections to produce a 65-70 mile trail of high regard. Starting in the south near Teton Pass and finishes up north off of the Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road. I am thinking that this could be a great training route for me to prepare for something longer.
  I will be learning more about this route and hope to incorporate it into this next seasons plans. The Tetons are a range I've climbed in, but have not had the joy of walking thru. With the range only 5-6 hours from my home, its very accessible, and I should take advantage of its proximity.

MARCH 2011 UPDATE!  I've been working on seeing if I can fit this hike into my summer as a final long distance high elevation training hike before I take on the SHR. I was able to use a great contact on one of the backpacker forums to get some much needed information. I'll try to schedule my summer soon, and to fit all my training into a cohesive way to peak for the Sierra's.


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 The Sierra High Route

  The Sierra High Route is a very difficult and very long route that traverses the Sierra Nevada of California. Almost 200 miles in length, with more than 100 miles of cross country it is considered the most difficult route in the lower 48. This route isn't as well known as you might think. Its very remote, very difficult, and it takes a different level of skill to complete. I learned a tremendous amount from reading Andrew Skurka's posted info on it. I also bought his mapset and databook, which give tremendously detailed info. This is probably the trail I would like to do if I had the choice this season.

UPDATES!  
  I have started to really work on the details of putting this trip together. I'm looking at it as the "big" trip of my season this year. The initial details have been worked out by buying Steve Ropers guide; "Sierra High Route", and reading it voraciously. I can't believe what an effort it took to put this info together. The details are pretty intense. The route covers an estimated 195 miles, and about half, or a bit more, are completely off trail. There are many major passes to climb and descend, and the terrain can reach difficult class 3.
  The main idea was to put together a route that covered the same area as the JMT (John Muir Trail) but when the JMT headed down out of the high country, Roper's route stayed up at treeline, or above. The route uses sections of the JMT, and other sections of lesser known trails to travel from Roads End in Kings Canyon NP, to Mono Village, just North of Yosemite and Toulumne Meadows. I have the National Geo TOPO series for California, so I've tried to map out the route using Roper's book. It's a daunting task to try and put together a route on paper with only written descriptions! I then decided to purchase Andrew Skurka's mapset of the route. He put together a mapset, along with a data book for prospective hikers. The mapset is for those who don't own the software maps, and the databook is a chart that lists each and every landmark and place in order to help with route finding and logistics planning for travel times, camp locations and such. It is a tremendous resource, and is a flat out steal at $15! This will probably be the best tool we have for the trip. To check out this info go here. My next few steps are pretty boring; with winter here, its all about basic research, reading journals or trip reports, looking at maps, getting a few gearlists together, thinking about food requirements. This route will require a re-supply, and that is something new for me.

  Time spent on the route is a big question as well. Roper initially throws out that a month is probably needed to walk this route. But with the advent of lighweight loads, and the upped mileage that comes with it, I have seen many parties do the route anywhere from 8 days to 3 weeks. I would like to be somewhere in between. My goal is to have a two week window and try to complete it in that time. In order to do that, I put together my own data book that shows a couple of options. To view it click here. My premise is that I should be able to cover 14 miles average a day for the entire 2 weeks. Many of the hikers who have completed the route say that you should allow 1/2 to 1/3 of your typical mileage. Well, I can cover 20-25 miles a day so I felt that this is a reasonable goal. I will have to prepare physically for this type of effort too. This data book is only a guide, and as the planning progresses we will see how realistic it is.

  My next issue with the route is to find a partner or partners. I am not a big solo hiker, and with the degree of difficulty of this route, it would be much more prudent to have some others along. I believe it would be more enjoyable as well. To this extent I've put out some feelers and have had a few guys express some interest. I've got a dialogue going with them, and we will work on making it come together.

MARCH 2011 UPDATE! I have been rethinking my timeline as well as my goals about this trip. I really want to hike this entire route, but there are a few other points of interest that I would feel very bad about if I skipped by them because of time constraints, purely to have done the "whole" route. There are a few peaks that I would love to bag, and few areas that I would love to be able to fish without feeling pressured to get back on the trail. I also am trying to be realistic about the time I plan on spending away from home and family. With that in mind, I've become open to the idea of keeping to a general two week timeline, give or take, and of possibly exiting the route in Toulumne Meadows. This does a couple of things; it keeps the main portion of the Sierra the focus, allows a reliable location for an exit strategy and shuttle, and it really only takes off a short portion of the route. The end of the route lends itself to a shorter trip at a later date if I feel the need to be "official" and come back to complete the route.

A final note; as a motivation to get in the best shape I can be this summer, I agreed to run in the Sawtooth Relay with some friends of mine in June. I did this race almost 10 years ago. Its an amazing and cool run.

MAY 2011 UPDATES! Well, so far so good. Training and logistics planning have been going well. Right now we are looking to be on the SHR Aug 1. After a lot of discussion we have decided to do the entire route, and to bag a few peaks that are literally on the trail as we go. Its hard to balance all the ideas, goals, and stuff that we would like to accomplish in such a short period of time.
My plan is to head for Reno on July 30th, have my brother join me and continue on to the Onion Valley trailhead. From there I will walk over the Sierra's the next day and into Kings Canyon where I will meet Royal. The following day we will start the route officially.

I have updated my data book, and my gear list and you can check them out by clicking on them or on the links on the upper left. I still have some unfinished issues, but I'm getting very close. I have been going back and forth with regards to the pack I will use, and on wether or not to use my tiny alcohol  stove, or my UL cannister stove. Its all about the weight of fuel, and the ability/desire to have hot drinks morning and night. I do love my cup of hot tea in the morning and again before bed! All these items will be resolved before long. We also have decided to bring bear cannisters. Both Royal and I will be using the Bear Vault Solo models. These are the smaller versions. We only traverse thru a couple of small sections of mandatory cannister areas, but we decided to be cautious and to use the cannisters. Theoretically one could walk thru these sections, and not carry one, but we didn't want to be put in a situation that could be hazardous to the bears!

Finally we are trying to decide on a path for our re-supply location. We can ship our food re-supply to Red's Meadows, and they will hold it here for $35, which is right on the trail, or we can ship it to the Post Office in Mammoth, where they will hold it for free. But then we will have to exit the trail, and hitch into Mammoth, spend time getting stuff done etc. We just aren't sure which is the best and most efficient way to go yet.

 June 2011 UPDATES!
Its the end of June, and finally, I have almost all my questions answered! Well, a lot of my questions have been answered! Much of my gear has been decided upon, and I'm down to the real nuts and bolts of getting the trip logistics ready to go. My data book, gear list, and menu are all about 90% complete. There have been a few changes, but I feel that the overall direction has been set.
Here is what I've decided upon for gear. Here is the link to my spreadsheet with a tab for the itinerary, gear updates, and a menu chart.
A couple of the biggest items that have changed are my stove set up, my food process, resupply, and the Sierra snowpack levels. I have decided to take a cannister stove. While the initial weight is a bit more, the length of the trip and the weight of the fuel per day ratio makes it a better choice. I will only use one 7 oz can until the resupply, and then have a new can for the remainder. This gives me the ability to have enough fuel for hot meal/drink morning and evening for "almost" every day of the trip! I will be making some of my own higher calorie granola bar type of foods, and I am going to be using some Hammer products during the day for a constant drip of calories. Our resupply has changed from Reds Meadow to the Mammoth Lakes Post Office. Its free, and quicker to mail to. Our hope is that time wise it is not that difficult to transition from trail, to town, and back with our new supplies. This also allows me to buy a gas can and not ship it thru the mail.
Our biggest concern now is that we have some serious snow levels still in the Sierra. We are contemplating the use of traction devices to get over all the high passes we will be faced with. I'm looking at going full on and buying some Kahtoola style crampons for my trail shoes. They are heavy at 12oz, but with conditions the way they are it might be otherwise dangerous, or impossible to traverse some of the steeper and iced up slopes. We will have to monitor the conditions right up until the final days to decide on a course of action.
Finally, I've changed my travel schedule a bit. I will be flying to Reno, where family will drive me to  Lee Vining; our permit can be picked up here, then on to Onion Valley, where I will probably begin hiking that same day towards Kings Canyon. I need to cover 20 miles to Kings Canyon, where I will meet my hiking partner on Sunday the 31st. We leave officially onto the trail on Monday the 1st.
I am going to bring a DVR, digital voice recorder to try and journal much of my experience. I don't think I can write enough to capture what I''m hoping for, so I will experiement with this method. My pack is growing, but I still feel that I'm well within range at aprox 26 lbs trail weight for  the first 8/9 days.
 July 2011 Updates!
Wow! The time is flying by and our departure date is almost here. I am flying out on July 30, and meeting Royal at Kings Canyon on the 31st. Today I finished all my food prep. I've put together two boxes, one to mail to Royal that he will bring to the trailhead, and the second that is my re-supply for pick up at Mammoth Lakes Post Office. I'm about 1 1/2lbs over what I was shooting for with food. I'm at about 13 1/2lbs for 8 days. I was trying to get my food down to aprox 1 1/2lb per day, but I'm a bit over that. I am not worried, as I believe I'll prob be happy for the food very quickly.
Conditions in the Sierra's are a bit sketchy as the snowpack and river levels are still way high. My belief is that by the time we hit the trail we will be back into a more typical snowpack, and at the higher elevations, the snow will help in some places by covering more scree and talus that otherwise we would have to scramble thru. We will have to be more careful of the snow conditions when we attempt our passes, as the snow could be icy and present some trouble. I have decided not to take any instep crampons or other snow gear. I think that with careful timing and careful work we will be fine.
I've taken some pictures of my food packages, and you can check them out below. I will be putting my final gear list together this next week, and have a final tally of my weights and my food. I am trying a very new and very interesting method of calorie intake during the day. Instead of a more typical lunch type of meal, I will be using some energy drinks that are designed for Ultra Endurance racers. I will be using a product called Hammer Perpetuem. This is a powder drink that I will sip on all morning and afternoon, and will produce the calories that I need instead of eating "food". This has the added benefit of going straight to my muscles, and will be easier to digest and is more specific to the effort I will be puttin out. At the end of the day I will be taking a recovery drink called Ultragen. This to be taken within a 30 minute window at the end of my days exertion. This will be key in my body recovering for the day after day effort that I will be demanding on this hike. This is a big experiment for me, but I've been very satisfied with the research that I did in making this choice.
My equipment has undergone a few minor changes; I purchases an IMUSA aluminum cup/bowl for my cook kit from good ole Wally World. At $1..97 and weighing 2.4oz, this cup compares with a $50 titanium cup. I'm making a small lid out of an aluminum pie plate. I also decide to take a headnet to deal with bugs.I have a new pair of trail shoes, a pair of La Sportiva Wildcats, and I LOVE them! I will use a pair of Dirty Girl Gatiers with them.  I'll have my final gear list up soon. I did decide to bring a digital voice recorder, and I hope to journal with it and try to record my thoughts and experiences to write up after I return.
My first day on the trail I will be trying a different technique as well. I have 20 miles to walk before I reach the SHR trail start, so on Sat and Sun, I'm planning on only bringing some pre-purchased food to eat on my way instead of cooking and preparing meals. I was actually thinking about buying a large Pizza Hut pizza and just eating it for dinner and breakfast as I hike! Be the last real food I get for a week or so.

                                

I've finally put together my final gear list! Here it is. I'm pretty happy with my final choices, and very happy with my final weights. I feel like I've reached a positive compromise in many areas. I'll have some pics of my gear selections soon.

Stay tuned as my final tasks get handled, and our trip unfolds!

 AUGUST 2011 UPDATE: I'm BACK!

Our trip took a dramatic turn after we completed the southern section. We were faced with snow, more snow, and conditions that led us to abort the route and bail over to the JMT and follow it to Reds Meadows, where we exited the Sierra's and left to head back home. We had a great time, and had an amazing experience. But this year, conditions just didn't work out with our timetable. I've got a full on trip report in the works, and I will be posting pictures as well in the upcoming days. Stay tuned...



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 Sawtooth High Route

  I've spent over 30 years hiking, fishing, and climbing throughout the Sawtooths. I've spent a lot of time off trail exploring lake basins, and bagging peaks that looked interesting on the maps. As the trails became more familiar, I began to link different areas together without using the trails. It started out as an innocent way to lengthen my trips, and to fish lakes that otherwise didn't really have any access. This last summer as I read about the different high routes that interested me, I wondered what a Sawtooth high route would look like? I took out my TOPO mapping software and began to play with it. i wanted something that stayed up in the most beautiful country of the range, but I didn't want a "follow the trail" link up. It seems to me that about 80% of all hikers hike along the same 20% of the trails! I wanted the route to include some of the more remote areas that would challenge hikers to use all of their skills if they were to be successful on the route.

  As I worked out my route, I pulled on all of my previous years of experience, and began to work out a line. I realized that I had at one time or another hiked about 60% of the intended route already. But there was still a substantial portion that was unknown to me, or I had only looked at it from a distance, or from a atop a nearby peak. I wanted the route to include as many features as possible, without making a contrived route just to go by some well known landmark. I also felt that the trail system in place should be taken advantage of. A combination of all of these features, I hoped would showcase this great range that I get to call my backyard! This route would push the hiker to negotiate all aspects of the range. Lower elevation forests, off trail meadows, loose scree, large talus, and beautiful trails as it travels the length of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

  The Sawtooth range runs basically North to South, but there is a jog down in the South end as you head into the Atlanta area. My hope was tho follow this main range from a Northern beginning, to a Southern terminus near one of the Atlanta trail heads, taking into account this jog, and hopefully incorporating it into the route itself.

MARCH 2011 UPDATE!  I've finally come up with a route, and I believe it will be difficult, but very doable. I hope to start hiking it in some sections as soon as possible this season. As soon as the snow leaves, I want to begin getting in some miles. This will do two things for me. One, it will help me to get in shape for the SHR, and two it will help me get in as many miles off trail as possible. One of the most important things this season is for me to be in the best shape I can be in before I try the SHR. This should be a great way to get there!

The Start:
The trail begins at an obscure trailhead off of Blind Summit along Hwy 21 on the way to Stanley.

......  more to come later! :)


                                                                            
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 North Fork of the Owyhee River Canyon

  I spend a lot of time wandering around the desert of Southern Idaho. The Owyhee Mountains and desert is a truly remarkable place. Incredibley remote, spectacular with its canyonlands, its steppes, and its lack of people, its been called the "Big Quiet" by many. I've been fortunate to ride thousands of miles on its lonely trails, and float, paddle and oar down many of its wild river canyons. I never tire of going out into the desert.

  One of my goals is to walk down the North Fork of the Owyhee Canyon. This 15-20 mile section is hard to access, and should be a real adventure. Timing is everything. Early in the season the water levels are too high to make travel possible, the main summer season brings out the snakes, and winter has no safe access. There is a small window of opportunity that comes with the colder weather, when the snakes go to ground, the hunting season is finished, the roads haven't been rained or snowed out to impassable mud, and the normal visitors have gone home.

More on this to come...


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 Petroglyphs


So what were "they" thinking? Stay tuned...

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