If you're looking for backpacking trips partly off the beaten path, check some of these. We'll post your backpacking trips too, if you like. Kindly note that while we try to provide accurate representations of our backpacking trips, we must disclaim any liability for any errors or any differences in what you might find in making the backpacking trip yourself. (Feel free to let us know, though!) Mileage and elevations are estimates most often drawn from Garmin BaseCamp software. You should always plot your backpacking trip on a map before starting your hike. Hiking times are estimates (who carries a watch!) and sometimes we dawdle around. Totals are roundtrip. We usually backpack on trail about 1.5mph and XC about .5 air mph. You should regard these descriptions as supplemental information. Always check with the appropriate authority for complete listing of backpacking and camping regulations. TH = trailhead; XC = cross country; Xn = junction; number and foot mark ' following Xn = approximate altitude and not a trail number. A number and "True" = True North compass degrees as you will be plotting your backpacking trip on a map generally oriented TN instead of winging it out in the brush where your compass works on Magnetic North. A-site means possibly the most popular, not necessarily (and often not) the site that feels best to camp. We certainly don't mean to imply that any backpacking campsite representations are exhaustive; merely what we noted in whatever time we spent looking. All backpacking trips shown are "free-standing," meaning any single backpacking trip can be printed out without having to reference other backpacking trips to same area. Sorted by date; CA unless otherwise noted.
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YOSEMITE National Park Jan 20-22, 2013 3mi/1.5hrs Lookout Trail at Crane Flat
As the nation's busiest park, maybe this trip doesn't belong in a list of 'partly off the beaten path' trails. However, we spent 2 nights to ourselves on this 3-day weekend and enjoyed a panoramic view, table, patio and outhouse. No water--melt snow or carry it up.

1. Trailhead 5880' to Crane Flat Lookout 6000' 1.5mi/1hr. Very easy snowshoeing through the woods. The trail is not groomed, but traffic beats it down. We shoveled in tent pads on the southern slope below the lookout.

2. Glacier Point Rd 7200' to Bridal Veil cg (closed) 7000' and back on BV Trail. 7mi/4hrs. Crane Flat offers many trails, but we wanted to recon the Badger Pass area as well; about 65mi/2hrs driving RT. We took GP road about 3mi/1hr (groomed, hiking shoes) to the cg Xn. Traffic was very heavy, including dozens (and dozens) of backpackers presumably coming from Dewey Point. (If your intention is Dewey Point, take either one of the two trails N off GPR before you get to CG Xn.) Follow cg road (not well groomed) .5mi S (R) to BV cg Trail (not groomed) Xn on your right. Easy to see, hard to miss. Follow this trail W .25mi to Pack Trail Xn and cross it. Continue 3mi to Badger Pass Ski area (encountering a couple more incredibly well-signed Xns along the way). We came across one group of XC skiers on this part of the hike through snowy meadows and heavy timber. Probably your toughest navigation will be finding your car when you are back to the ski area.

3. CF LO to TH 1.5mi/.5hr

Yosemite snowshoeing QuickVid

At the Big Oak Flat entrance, self-sign in for your free winter wilderness permit. No quota; no reservations. Then follow Hwy 120 about 4mi to Crane Flat at the top of a mild grade. Trailheads on both sides of the road; LO trail on the N (L). You might visit NPS website http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/brochures.htm to download trail maps. Standing trees and their branches may not be scavenged for firewood. Camping allowed anywhere 1mi or more from road.

CARSON ICEBERG Wilderness Dec 10-12, 2012 Burgson Lake from Wheats Meadow Trailhead
camping at Burgson Lake and Dardanelles Creek. About 5 mi RT / 5hrs; inc 1.5 mi RT XC. Moderate gain. Some brush and scrambling.

1. Wheats Meadow Trailhead 6380' to Burgson Lake 6435'. TH NW to top of ridge at 6600' in about .9 mi, then downhill .1mi to the Xn of Sword Lake and Wheats Meadow trails 6500'. Bear W (L), continuing downhill .1mi to 6460' Dardanelles Ck. Cross over and continue (W) about .25 mi past Dardanelles Ck and then past a second (possibly dry) creek and look for a user trail on the left. 6560'. You should see a broken-off tree on the left, about 8' high with a duck at the bottom. Follow the user trail S as far as you can, (and expect to lose it in a few hundred yards.) Continue S until you've gone about .25mi from the main trail. Now (assuming you've lost the trail) follow the 6560' contour due South until you think you're about .4 mi from main trail. When you start downhill, aim for 144 True for about .15mi and you should be on the flat at 6440' at the N end of the lake with the lake in sight. (If you wind up looking out over the valley and Dardanelles Creek, you've missed the lake, probably being too far E. If you come to big cliffs on the W and/or you're in a lot of marsh and water, you are most likely W of the lake.) We found it in the dark with the aid of a gps that evidently didn't like the terrain and would only give distance. You'll find a campsite at the S end and another at the NW corner. Total distance is about 2.5 mi. It's a pretty easy hike in 2-2.5 hours for regular folks and maybe half that for tough guys.

2. Retrace your steps back to Dardanelles Creek, but don't cross over. Look for a campsite about 100 yards W (before) Dardanelles Creek and toward the bluffs on the N side of the trail. I found this spot at 2am on my first visit. We stayed this time because snow was forecast and we didn't want to scramble through it from Burgson Lk to the trail.

3. Dardanelles Ck 6460' to car 6380'. 1.2mi/1hr Retrace route.

Expect some brush and granite scrambling. Great map and compass skills exercise. Perhaps have a gps for assistance, but DO NOT expect to depend on it. Small lake, but deep enough to hold good water through the summer. If you watch the video, note that weather was sunny and clear to start; gaining on 8" of snow to finish.

From Summit RS (near Pinecrest): Hwy 108 about 20 miles E to Clark Fork Rd; Turn N (left). Cross the first bridge and bear left at the Xn. Cross the next bridge and then turn left onto NF 6n06, Fence Ck. Proceed 3.6 rough miles to parking area on the right, Wheats Meadow trailhead on left, about 6380 elevation.

(Permit not required in Dec, but they are happy to write one and you could be happy for them to know where you are. CalTrans has 3 gates on 108 and a couple more on Clark Fork. If any chance of snow, you might ask Summit for help on whether CT has plans to close any gates. You might want to check road conditions before you leave home!) MiWuk Village may be the last cell service.

Carson Iceberg 12/12 QuickVid

DINKEY LAKES Wilderness Oct 27-30, 2012 Helms Meadow, Christianson Lk from Cliff Lk TH
About 14 miles/8 hours; nearly all trail. We had intended to enter from Dinkey Lakes Trailhead until snow stopped us 1.5 mi from TH at 8600'. October snow often melts off quickly, but not this time. We retreated for car camping 2 nights on Rock Ck Rd about 6400' about a mile off Dinkey Creek Rd. Rock Ck is miserably rough and the snow would likely defeat us again. We rerouted to Cliff Lake Trailhead, paved all the way to the end at Courtright Reservoir and melted down enough for Honda Civic passage.

1. Cliff Lake Trailhead 8450' to trail camp 8200'. 1.5mi/1hr. Follow trail NNW 1.4mi to stream crossing at the NW corner of the reservoir. (This stream can get lively with rain or snow melt. After one October snow several years ago we could not cross.) Take a few steps past the crossing to a Xn. Make a right and find good sites .1mi E of the Xn; A-site then about .1mi N.

2. Trail camp 8200' to Helms Meadow 8440'. 3.7mi/2hrs. Return to creek Xn and proceed NW 1.6 mi to Nelson Lks/Helms Meadow Xn 8600', right to Helms Meadow. Go E .5mi to a very shallow pond 8560' that might be all dried up on the SE (R) side of the trail. If it has water, you might think twice before trying to wallow through the mud to get to it. Continue 1mi. to 8440' Helms Ck Tr. (The trail is very easy to lose in Helms Meadow. No worries. Helms Meadow Trail follows the meadow on the E side. Keep heading NE or even N if you like being out there taking terrific pix of Dogtooth Peak.) Turn NW (L) onto Helms Meadow Trail and go about .5mi, to a campsite on the right about 100 feet before you reach Helms Ck.

3. Helms Meadow 8440' to Christianson Lake 9400' and Crumbling Cabin spur. 4.5/3hrs. Cross Helms Creek and continue NW on trail about .2mi to Dinkey Lakes/Bullfrog Xn 8480'; easy to miss, so keep an eye out for a couple of wood signs on a tree on the N (R) side of the trail. Straight is Dinkey Lakes and Rock Lake. W (L) is Bullfrog Lake and Rock Lake. (Rock Lake is either way, though the distance is not the same.) Abandoned trail is not easy to follow. About .5mi, you'll come to a very old and decrepit cabin, which is pretty cool if you like to come across this kind of stuff. (Don't go inside!) (Keep going about 2 1/2 more miles and you'll come to Bullfrog Lake. The trail is evident here and there; is marked with blazes, though many of the trees have fallen; and a few ducks. We lost it just past the cabin on this trip due to snow; and gave up.) Retrace to 8600' Nelson/Helms Xn and proceed N (R) for 1.5 mi to 9400'. (After steep ascent, you'll note the trail has leveled off. If you come to the spur to Cliff Lake or to Bullfrog Lake, you've gone a bit too far.) Head off trail due E, following the contour over the ridge top. You should see Christianson Lake; you may see Dogtooth Peak to the N, which should be your left. Campsite at the S end, where you'll get travel-magazine view of Dogtooth Pk over the lake; and if you hunt around for it, one on the E side where you might not catch quite as much breeze on a windy day. Very little camping activity at this lake. Not every map shows a name for this lake situated .25ami due E of the S end of Cliff Lake.

Dogtooth Peak is an easy day hike from Christianson Lake. You could XC back to the trail to head N past Cliff Lake to the ridge top Find the trail heading off E to the peak; you'll make it easily enough to about 10,200'. Then XC S downhill to 9440' Bullfrog Lk, following that contour around the hill and back to Christianson. About 3.5mi easily done in 4-5 hours.

3. Christianson Lake 9400' to Cliff Lake Trailhead 8450'. 4.6mi/2.5hrs. Retrace your route.

Christiansen Lake video. GET PERMIT IN PRATHER. From Shaver lake, take the E (R) turn to Dinkey Lakes Rd. and follow for about 11.5 mi to McKinley Grove Rd on your right. Continue MGR for 13.8 mi (perhaps allow time along the way for a stop at McKinley Grove, giant sequoias!) to Courtright Rd. Turn N (left) and proceed 10 mi to the parking lot and trailhead at the end of the road, 8450', turn left just before the gate.

EMIGRANT Wilderness Oct 14-20, 2012 Chain Lakes from Crabtree Trailhead
Tweezer Hill; on to XC lakes to Grouse Lake. About 14mi; 10hrs. (Not the same Chain Lake as from Chiquito Lake trailhead.)

1. Crabtree Trailhead at E edge of parking lot 7200' to Tweezer Hill 7060'. 2.5mi/1hr. Cross over footbridge and in about 50 yards pass the Chewing Gum Lk Xn on the left. Continue S (straight). Go 1.2mi to the ridge top and then .2mi to Pine Valley/Camp Lake Xn 7520'. Make a sweeping turn S (R) to Pine Valley. Go 1mi mostly downhill to the Bell Meadow Xn (if you even notice), cross the creek (often dry) and continue .1 to Mud Lk Xn 7040'. You'll be on the flat on a straightaway through skinny burned trees, kind of damp, usually, and there's a post to mark it. Turn SW (R) and hike .15 to Lily Creek on your left immediately after crossing a small (usually dry) feeder. Hunt around for a place to cross Lily Creek, then .1 up to the granite just above the creek. Two campfire rings, one in the open, one in the rocks. You'll want a bulk water container to minimize trips down to water. No name on the map for this place about 7060'.5ami NE of Mud Lake. Good place to spend the night near the car but in the wilds.

2. Tweezer Hill 7060' to S Chain Lake 7650'. 4.7mi/3.5hrs Take off due S, keeping in mind (but not trying to follow) Lily Ck on the right. Don't cross unless you get buggered in the brush and wind up over it anyway. About .5 mi due S of Tweezer Hill you should be very close to Lily Creek, and an abandoned trail crossing. Look for a trail rut and sawn logs in the flat leading away SE from the creek. It's in a burn area with many fallen small trees, not too hard to find. Horse people do occasional maintenance along this trail. You're about 7040'. Once you find the trail, it's easy to stay on it. Follow it 1.5mi to Lily Pad Lk/Chain Lks Trail. You'll be in it about 2 hours at this point. Head NW around LPL and go 1.4mi to Chain Lk. Stay up on the granite and pass the way-over-used horse camp below left; keep going straight and step off the granite when you see the trail. It's pretty much a user trail, but easy to see. In .1mi come to Middle Chain on your left, which looks more like a rice paddy than a lake. The trail is well ducked to where you should cross a meadow in .2mi, but keep a close eye and don't be afraid to backtrack if you lose the trail. You may find a stack of rocks atop a big boulder on the far side of the meadow. Find that, then follow the draw uphill a couple hundred yards. Make a left onto the granite and follow ducks S a hundred yards or so to the lake. A-site at the NW edge of the lake is not legal; best water access. Water will begin to age late in the season, but stays reasonably clear. You might find an abandoned fire pit due W of the western-most edge of the lake that would be legal; and there's another on the S end.

3. Chain Lake 7650' to XC Pond 7660'. 1.5mi/1.25hrs From the S end of this most southern of Chain Lakes, follow occasional ducks XC 150 True for .3 mi to a shallow lily pad pond 7830'. Terraced granite with a few trees. Probably most people (which might be maybe 3 a year) would be headed to Cherry Ck Canyon and you'll hunt hard to find a ready campsite. There's one on the E side, closer to the N end and far enough from the pond you won't see the pond. Near a big boulder. Water will be stained later in the season; and following the light snow pack of 2011/12, there wasn't any when we got there. To find the next pond, head due N .5mi, then due E .4mi, following the 7680' contour until you are NE of the big knob. Find the pond at the base of very steep cliffworks that run NW/SE. The big knob peak will be SW about .3ami at 215 True when you arrive. There are no campsites, but plenty of flat spots on the NW side. Conceal any evidence of your stay. Water may get stained enough late in the year to clog your filter. There's another pond due N 150 yards, though water/camping not so hot.

5. Pond 7660' to Grouse Lake 7150' 2mi/3 hrs. You have two choices. One is is to follow the pond outlet NW a short distance and then NNE to Pine Valley Trail. First half is quite flat and easy. Second is steep, brushy and perfect for self-inflicted torture. So head W from the pond .8 mi at 280 True. After mounting a bit of ridge you should hit the S side of the NE Chain Lake. There are no campsites and not much flat, but another notch in your XC resume. If you walk down the ridge and around the lake, you'll encounter heavy brush at the W edge outlet. Proceed NW from the lake .2 mi and you should cross the user trail running N from the main Chain Lake. If you don't find it, proceed NNE anyway until you come out on the granite overlooking Pine Valley. You're only .5mi from Grouse Lk, but it'll seem longer. Head NW off the ridge as you weave your way down; or bolt straight N to the lake for more adventure. You're going down about 35 stories, most of it in a very short stretch of ramping. There are several legal campsites on the S side of the lake. I prefer the one about 1/3 of the way from the W end of the lake. Water is usually good all season, although access may require a bit of scouting.

6. Grouse Lake 7150' to Crabtree Trailhead 7200'. 4mi/2hrs. Find Pine Valley Trail on the N side of Grouse Lake. Depending on where you camp, probably head W on the S side until you round the lake, then N until you come to the trail. From there proceed W and you'll be back to the Mud Lake Xn in about 1.4 mi. In another .1, turn Nward to stay on Pine Valley and not to Bell Meadow. You'll be going uphill nearly all the way (450' gain) in about .9 mi to Camp Lake Tr Xn 7520', turn W (L); and continue on the trail 1.5mi back to your car.

You might get your permit at MiWuk Village; or you can pass Crabtree Rd and go another 1.5 mi to the Summit Station and get it there. I tend to get lost trying to find CTR via Dodge Ridge, so I wind up going back down 108 again from Summit. Not a big deal, but always trying to save time getting to the trailhead. Either station will leave permit out for after hours pickup if you ask.

NOTE that camping at Grouse Lake is limited to 1 night on your permit. (Same for Camp and Bear Lakes)

Emigrant Wilderness Chain Lakes route video.

Hwy 108 1 mi E of Cold Springs to Crabtree Road on the E (right). Continue CTR 6.5 mi to end of striped pavement and proceed past Aspen Meadow/Kerrick Corral. Keep going about a mile to pavement end, then another 1.5 mi on the dirt. Keep an eye out on the RH side for a badly damaged sign to Crabtree Trailhead. Turn right and proceed .5mi to the paved parking lot. With a valid wilderness permit you can camp here free one night. Tables, fire rings and potty. No water, except in Bell Ck if it's running.

YOSEMITE Wilderness Sep 30-Oct 5, 2012 Paradise Valley from Lake Eleanor Trailhead

30mi/20hrs CAUTIONARY NOTE: Frog Ck drains a lot of turf and runs very high in the early season. You may want to schedule this trip (and any other route involving Frog Ck) later in summer.

1. Trailhead 4880' to Frog Creek CG. 3mi/2hrs. Head past the gate and down the road, over the dam and through the YNP compound. The trail is what's left of an old road. The road follows the lake edge for about 1 mile past the compound, then starts a climb uphill. Continue uphill through a couple of sharp turns for about .25 mile and look for a trail on the left. It's pretty well ducked. Follow this trail about 1.25 mi to the cabin where Frog Creek enters the lake. You might get on the veranda, but most likely not inside. There are several campsites with fire rings and bear lockers. If you want to camp here, include it on your permit. It's free and very easily found in the dark.

2. to Frog Ck XC. 1.3 mi/2hrs. Do NOT attempt this user trail in the dark or with less than 2 hours of daylight. From the cabin, walk back on the trail about 100 yards. You're looking for ducks up the granite, which will now be to your left, lake to the right. Don't be afraid to spend some time looking as not finding the trail will produce an inordinate amount of distress. Proceed (steeply) uphill until you finally flatten out a bit about 1.3 air miles due E from the cabin. If you are feeling mightily intrepid, head N off the flats and work your way down to Frog Creek. This is short, but not easy. There will be water and you should be able to find a flat spot big enough for the tent. If you have a fire, of course, be sure to bury all evidence so the next person will find it as remote as you did.

3. to Paradise Valley 7400'. 8mi/6hrs (to western-most end of what some maps show as Jack Main Canyon). You could suffer your way up from Frog Ck XC to the trail, but you might find it much easier to go back to the user trail and then a few hundred yards out to the main trail. From that point, make a left and proceed perhaps a quarter mile to the crossing at Frog Ck. About .4 mi after the creek you'll come to Xn 6200'. Either way works and is about the same distance to Bee Hive. (It's called that for a reason--more user friendly in later part of season.) I usually go one way, return the other. On the S route, you'll go about 1.2 mi pretty flat to Frog Ck again. This way is brushy in spots and not persistently maintained, but passable enough. (There's a campsite on the E side of the ck just S of where the trail crosses.) From the ck, go about .2 mi uphill to Xn 6360' and bear N (L). This'll be a heavily horse-used trail. Continue 1 mi to Bee Hive about 6550'. (The Xn on the left goes to Laurel Lk, which may be the way you'll return.) Continue uphill about 1.2 mi to Xn 6960' to Lk Vernon, which actually goes straight. You want to turn uphill, N (L). (Mark trail: 1/4 mi uphill from LV Xn, set a mark for reference on your way back if you want to camp at Frog Ck XC.) From LV Xn you'll top out at about 8120' in about 3 mi. After 1 mi mostly downhill, you'll come to the W end of Paradise Valley at about 7440' with water close to your right that you probably won't see but might hear. PV runs 3 more miles to the next Xn. Water and camping sites abound with a little persistence. At that Xn you're about 16 miles from your car, and you surely want to explore this fabulous valley and the lakes within. (FTR, I didn't as I'd burned up time and miles hiking from Frog Ck back to the car and then driving down to the power lines to make a call home to see if that's where my camera was. No video this trip.)

4. to Frog Ck XC camp, 7000'. (From western-most point of Paradise Valley) 4.5mi/3hrs. You might find Laurel Lk too far; Lk Vernon's big but not too exciting for camping on a spur route. Maybe look for your mark .25mi N of the Lk Vernon Xn. Head true N from that mark for .5 mile to Frog Ck and find a flat spot--lots of 'em. It's marshy at about half way, so you might find a spring before you go all the way to the ck. You probably won't find a fire ring, so be sure to have your camp site minimized (to nothing) when you leave. You might also prefer to hit this spot on the way up, perhaps instead of on the way down.

5. to Laurel Lk, about 6510'. (From western-most point of PV) 6.25mi/3hrs. Back at Bee Hive, make a right turn, N. In a couple hundred yards you get to decide if you want to walk off the entire W side of the lake, or just the S end. Two campsites at N and two at S ends; S end busiest; bear activity at both. Gain about the same; cross Frog Ck either way. About 1.2 mi to go S; 2 mi to go N. All campsites are technically illegal as they are either too close to the trail, lake or both. At S end, cross the outlet and get up to the flat, there's a large site on your left. (Looking at the lake sign, the camp's at your back). Or follow lake trail about 100' and come to a smaller site on your right. BE ADVISED: Laurel Lake is a site of high bear activity. Expect that a bear will visit your camp at any time.

6. to Car. 4880' 6.3mi/4hrs. From the small S-end campsite of Laurel, continue a couple hundred yards to the Xn. Turn S (L). In 1.1mi you'll come to Xn 6160'. You were here on the way up. Turn R and go .4 downhill to Frog Ck, then another .2-.3 mi to come to the spot you found the trail. It is usually ducked. Follow it off through the flats and downhill back to the cabin in about 1.3mi/1hr. Then 3mi/1.5hrs to the car.

We'll note an alternate adding about 2 1/4mi if you have lots of time and energy remaining; (or if you get skunked on the way up at Frog Ck and need to find other things to do). Continue past the user trail for 2mi to 5040' Xn. (You could turn SE (L) for a visit to Gravel Pit Lake, which was more toilet paper than water when we tried it; or skip GPL spur and continue all the way to Hetch Hetchy.) Continue SW .2 mi to Miguel Meadow RS 5040'. You'll find a spring on the other side of the cabin, which may or may not be occupied. Camp around the cabin yard; or for more private site, look on the N (opposite) side of the trail for sites on the hillside. (You'd want a lot of water carry capacity.) You're now 2.5mi/1.25hrs from Frog Ck Xing; with another 4mi/2.5hrs to the car, mostly on what's left of haul road.

BEAR CAN REQUIRED. Get your PERMIT AT GROVELAND OR SONORA RS. CALL FIRST to ask about the gate across Cherry Lake Dam. Groveland will leave your permit outside in a "mail box" at the front door if you request after-hours pickup. RS does NOT RENT bear cans. There is a sometimes-manned YNP kiosk at the Cherry Dam gate where you might be able to rent/return a can. But given the travel logistics such a plan might be ill advised as there might not be any cans available; might not be room in the return barrel; or might not be a ranger to rent one. If there is a ranger, you can expect to be checked for can and permit. YNP ranger WILL NOT WRITE PERMIT for you. Perhaps by force of habit, I prefer to pick up my permit at Groveland and return through Sonora. (Note that Groveland RS is not in Groveland.) Your last chance cell service is probably the USPS office in Big Oak Flat a few miles before the town of Groveland.

From Groveland, continue on Hwy 120 E for about 8 miles to Groveland RS off the right-hand side of the road. (This 1 mi side road continues to 120.) You might stop at The Pines campground for a travel break after picking up the permit. Back on 108, continue E (R) for about 4.8 mi, looking for Cherry Lake Rd on the left. It's easy to miss. (Landmark is crossing a bridge just before.) It's also a very sharp left, so suggest no hurry to beat on-coming traffic or you might wind up in the ditch. (In 4-5 miles or so you'll go under power lines. Immediately past this point is a dirt road on the left side. Sometimes at that point you might get cell reception.) Through many ups, downs, twists and turns, over several bridges, proceed for about 24 miles to Cherry Dam and end of pavement. Cross over the dam and then continue for perhaps less than .5 mi to a switchback, and a big sign directly in front of you. Turn S (R). Continue about 4 mi to the parking lot. You'll know you're there when you see the bear lockers and gate. Expect travel time from Groveland RS in the range of 1.5 hrs.

For a change of pace on the way back, go back to the pavement and proceed past the (L) turn for Cherry Lake Rd and instead bear right onto county rd toward CL campground (which is a very nice cg). Proceed past cg turnoff for a windy 35 mile drive to Sonora. I find this route about 10 miles farther and 10" faster to 108/120 Xn.

YOSEMITE Wilderness, Sep 24-27, 2012 Upper Chain Lake from Chiquito Trailhead
Chiquito Trailhead to Gravelly Ford to Givens Lake to Chain Lakes to trailhead. 35mi/14hrs (Not the same Chain Lakes from Crabtree TH)

1. Chiquito Trailhead 7240' 4mi/2hrs to Gravelly Ford 7480'. (There is a good campsite just W off the trail perhaps 1.5mi N of trailhead, on your left.) 2.4mi 8040' Chiquito Lake and Xn to Quartz Mtn. Trailhead. Go N (R). (You could come in from Quartz Mtn Trailhead, but the last 10-12 mi of the road is so rough; and snow drifts block the road until relatively later in the season, that we find it better from Chiquito Trailhead.) Continue .5 mi passing the lake, then uphill to the ridge top 8060' where you will again see trail to Quartz Mtn. Trailhead about 100' before you come to the signed Xn for Chiquito Pass. The wooden sign is wrong for Gravelly Ford, though a correction has been scratched in. Turn W (L), through the barbed wire gate to a metal sign which correctly indicates Buck Camp. (There will also be another metal sign farther to the E (R). Proceed downhill to about 7470' and South Fork Merced. Two very nice camps about 100 yards upstream. Early-to-mid season the creek could be high in the afternoon and evening; we most often camp here and cross in the morning.

2. to Givens Lk 8840, 5.6mi/3hrs. Cross SFM and go about 1.8 mi to Givens Ck, which likely will be dry late in the season; and then .3mi to 8080' Xn. Turn W (L). Walk about .75 to 8320' Xn and turn NE (R). Continue about 2mi to 8840' and get your bearings to leave the trail. You might find ducks showing where to leave trail; and you should find more ducks, sawn logs and abandoned trail rut here and there. .5ami/115 True is the direction, and you'll more or less follow the 8440' contour; but you'll be happier if you do (and you should) come across the old trail within a few hundred yards. When you get to the lake--and you'll climb a short ridge to see it-- you can either go to the right to a campsite at the SE corner; or to the left around the lake to the other side, which we prefer.

3. to Upper Chain Lk 9300' 8mi/5hrs Retrace to trail, go 1.7mi NE to Xn 8800'. Take the NE fork, bearing to right toward Moraine Meadow. Go about 1.3mi to Xn 8710' near the E end of MM and turn S (R). In about 1/4mi you'll cross S Fork Merced. On the other side and to the right is a campsite. Continue 1.7mi from creek to Xn 8480' and turn SE (L) toward Chain Lakes. (You could turn NW (R) for a mile to Soda Spring, which is a great place to camp.) Go .4mi to Xn 8680' and continue E, straight. (You'll come back to this spot on your way out.) You'll come to Lower Chain 8950' in about .4mi. Watch closely to your right as it is easy to miss. Proceed on the trail until you've gone about .3mi to the S end of the meadow where you can once again see the lake on your right. (The lake's A-site across the meadow has been deconstructed, but if you need to camp, you'll find a spot.) Continue .2mi to 9000' and Middle Chain, a wonderfully scenic lake well worth a visit. The A-site is on the SW part of lake, follow the user trail. Wood will be scarce. Great spot for lunch, though, and if you are feeling wildly adventurous, continue along the S side bluffs where you will have to exercise considerable care and patience to wend your way to the end and around to the ravine which leads into the lake from the E. This gambit will be about .5mi otg from the A-site and an hour or more. It is much easier and faster to walk the trail around the N side, but you'll miss any view of the lake. At the S end, follow the shelf E to the ravine; and then scramble up the ravine to the flat at about 9250'. If you hit it right, there'll be a large pond on your right. Get to the N side of the pond, and you should be able to find the trail. Or just keep going E until you hit the lake in about .2am, and follow the user trail N along the lake. The A-site will be at the end of the trail, S of the creek. We prefer a more remote spot along the Northern edge. Follow user trail where you find it, or otherwise scramble over the logs and through the brush for about .3mi otg; then head NE uphill until you find the flat. Not much lake view, but an otherwise splendid site.

4. to car 7240' 7.8mi/4hrs. Retrace to trail, then 1.6mi back to Xn 8680'. Turn SW (L) into the ravine to cross S Fk Merced and continue 3mi to Xn 8040', the barbed wire gate where you were the first day. Now retrace your steps 2.9mi back to the car.

Yosemite Chain Lakes video.

WILDERNESS PERMIT: Best place is Oakhurst, then Mariposa. BUT CALL FIRST to confirm they'll be open on the day you want to get your permit. If they aren't, your next choice is North Fork, out of the way by about 10 miles if you don't go to Oakhurst first. Whatever you do, don't be persuaded by the grumpy man at NF to go to Clover. NF often isn't open on weekends. Either change plans if none of the 3 is open; or get your permit by mail. FROM OAKHURST Xn 41/49: N 3.6mi to Bass Lake Road, turn E (R). Proceed 5.9mi to Beasore Rd, on the N (L) side of the road. Go 11.7mi to summit at Cold Springs; then continue on BR another 7.7mi to Globe Rock, a unique feature on the RH side of the road. Look for NF5s041 on the left, and follow this fairly good dirt road 2.4mi to Chiquito Trailhead. Parking on right; trailhead on left.

YOSEMITE/EMIGRANT Sep 8-14, 2012 Spotted Fawn Lake from Kibbie Ridge Trailhead
to Kibbie Ck XC to Flora Lake, Bartlett Lakes, Spotted Fawn Lake, Little Bear Lake, Boundary Lake; trail to Styx Pass, Dead Frog Lake, Sasche Spring, Shingle Spring (trailhead). 23mi/16hrs (8mi XC steep, rough and brushy. The most difficult part is Flora to Little Bear. Strongly advise to make this trip later in the season when Bartlett Creek is not running; and when the granite is dry. Physically demanding, exceedingly remote route.)

1. Kibbie Ridge Trailhead 5900' to Kibbie Creek XC camp 6480': 4mi/2hrs. 1.3mi to 6560 Xn, bear SE (R) to Kibbie Lake trail; go 2.6mi to Kibbie Creek 6480'. Cross over, and look for a site about 150yds SW at 245 True. Even if most of the creek is dry, you should find good water in the pool just downstream of the crossing.

2. From Kibbie Creek XC camp to Flora Lake 6930', about 4mi mostly XC/4hrs. Head S 180 True .4ami to Lake Eleanor Trail. Follow SW (R) about .5mi steeply uphill until you top out about 7100'. Take a few steps over the top, then head into the flat on your left. Continue on the user trail if you find it, for about .5ami ENE at 55 True to the Christmas trees. Circumvent this patch of 10-year-old reprod to the S side. Follow it around .3ami until you come to a marsh. You might find it easier to bear left around the granite. Cross over the marsh outlet wherever you can. To NE you'll see the highest peak; look to the S (RH) side and aim for the saddle, the 7660' top of which will be about .5ami at 70 True. Now go .4ami 105 True to a crease at about 7320'. There is usually water here. Now head .3ami at 60 True and you should see a flat that almost looks like parking lot and road (though it definitely is not.) Then .2ami at 60 True and you are at an unnamed lake 7110' adjacent to a peak SE of the lake. Keep the lake edge 20-30 yards to your left and follow the contour around until you see Flora Lake to the NE. Get your compass bearing, then head down wherever you like into the flats. There is a campsite in the trees at the NW corner of the lake and several more along the W edge; A-site in our opinion is S of the outlet at the very E most edge.

3. From Flora Lake to Spotted Fawn Lake 7340' about 4miXC/4hrs. Start on ridge immediately E of lake and follow ducks or whims N. Find an easy spot to cross the creek, then head E up the ridge. Continue NNE on the flat until you come to the creek and/or the second pond NE of Flora. (Be sure you leave this pond heading N and not NE.) This route has 5 larger ponds, water not an issue. The going is quite rough through this area sometimes noted as Bartlett Lakes/Creek. Be patient, persistent and keep your map and compass in front of you. After about 3 hours you'll be at a large pond. Look directly N about .4ami for a 7800' dome that you can't miss and looks like Half Dome's little brother. You want to follow the creek that runs from Little Bear Lake, immediately E of this dome. When you get to Little Bear Lake, head due E to the saddle. You might find ducks; you want to head SE over the almost bluff toward Spotted Fawn Lake, which you should now see to SSE. You'll be coming back up through this short stretch of intense brush. (Yes, XC from the last large pond E to Spotted Fawn is a more direct route, but you will regret making this choice.) Once out of the brush, you'll almost think you're on a road. Cross this inviting terrain and head E about 50 yards or so, then go S. (Lots of fun granite here, so enjoy the way forward in as many tries as it might take!) At the NW corner of the lake you'll see a patch of forest. The A-site's in those trees, and another site in the granite flat to the S. (FYI, there are many sites along the S edge of the lake. Terrain on the E side makes for an arduous and long day around; lock-tight brush in the steep along the W side is all but impassable with your pack and not any fun at all even without.)

Yosemite Spotted Fawn 9/12 QuickVid

El DORADO NF Aug 27-30, 2012 Loon Lake from Desolation Wilderness Trailhead
around the lake in 3 days, 14 miles (6XC)/9hrs.

1. From Trailhead to Pleasant Boat-In site, about 3.75mi/1.5hrs nearly all trail. Quite a nice hike with the lake often in view, very easy. After you've hiked for about an hour or so and come to what appears to be remnants of a road, keep a very close eye out for the campground sign. We found it in the dark, so it isn't too terribly difficult. Follow the trail in. There are 10 widely dispersed sites with tables and campfire rings. Firewood is extremely scarce. There are a couple of outhouses, but they might not be in service. No water or garbage service; and no food lockers. Two bears came in middle of night to savage the Ursack; set your food storage discipline on high.

2. PBIS to shoreline camp. 2.75mi otg XC/3.5hrs. You'll find primitive campfire rings here and there, and you can camp pretty much anywhere that's flat enough and open enough for a tent site. (Follow all NF camping rules.) Through quite rough and often brushy terrain we hiked until stumbling on a site we liked. Find it on your map at .6ami 223 True from the PBIS.

3. Finish around the lake to shoreline camp, 7.5mi/4hrs. You might enjoy the hike out onto the peninsula on your way to the dam, which will then be about a mile otg. Cross the dam and continue for a half-mile to the trail sign on the lake side of the road. You'll find good user trail that's more fun than the road; and it will eventually take you to another backpacking camp area with flat spots only--no fire rings or services. (Pay cg has potties not far off.) We were tired enough to give up on XC lakeside after a couple of hours and go out to the road. Continue to car, then hike about a mile before heading to the lake to find a site for your 3rd night if you have one. Plot .45ami at 25 True from the Desolation Wilderness trailhead. It's brushy and a campfire probably won't be a good idea.

Loon Lake Walkabout 8/12 QuickVid

NOTE: The billboard at the trailhead will make you feel a criminal for passing without a Desolation Wilderness permit. CA campfire permit required if you intend a fire; permit is free, good for a calendar year; and available at USFS and CDF stations. No Loon Lake campground usage fee (unless you camp in it). Trailhead parking is free for backpackers. PBIS is free, FCFS, non-reservable (http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_018811.pdf). Thus, there are no fees and no specific permits required for this trip; and no quota! (During this mid-week trip in August we saw no other backpackers, one or two cars in the lot; and only two day hikers.)

From Pollock Pines, continue E on Hwy 50 about 8.5mi. Look for Ice House Road on the left. There is a turn lane and you'll cross a bridge immediately. In about 8.3mi you'll pass the road to Ice House Reservoir; do not go there. After a few miles you'll pass several Xns to Union Valley Reservoir; don't go there either. 13 miles past IHRes Xn will be the first Wentworth Spgs Xn. Don't go there. Cell service may be spotty up to this point, but likely non-existent thereafter. .8mi will be Robb's Hut parking on the left; and .4 past that will be the 2nd Wentworth Spgs Xn. Here you will turn fairly sharply to the right in order to stay on Ice House Rd. Continue 4.4mi to Campground entrance on the right. You'll be about 27mi from Hwy 50. You won't see Loon Lake at this Xn; there will be a small pond to the right of the entrance gate. Continue to the entrance station where a billboard sign says "there's nothing you can do here that does not require a fee." (If that makes you nervous, you might talk to the cg host if one is there; or call in advance to the Fresh Pond RS or visit them just past Pollock Pines.) Make a right past the entrance station and follow the signs to the wilderness parking area.

SKY LAKES Wilderness OR Aug 22-26, 2012 Blue Lake from Badger Lake Trailhead
at Fourmile Lake. 21mi/13hrs Badger Lake camp, Woodpecker Lk, Long Lake, Island Lake, Deer Lake camp, South Blue Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Mud Lake, Blue Lake, Squaw Lake camp. Oregon Cascade Mountains, below tree line. Close enough to Medford/Ashland and Klamath Falls to get heavy weekend use, but fairly light traffic on this trip. Lots of lakes in short distance, with several other access points along the E side of the wilderness. Non-permit area with campfires conditionally allowed.

1. Parking lot at Badger Lake Trailhead 5760' to Badger Lake 5900'. 2.4mi/1hr Go .6 mi on the road back (SE) along Fourmile to the trailhead near the dam. Proceed N about 1.3mi to Woodpecker Lake, then about .4mi more to what appears to be the A-site at Badger Lake. Continue another .1mi to cross the creek, pond on your right; and turn up left. Hike XC about 100 yards from the trail and about 100 feet up from the lake and you'll find a much nicer spot.

2. Badger Lake 5900' to Deer Lake 5930'. 4.5mi/3hrs. N to 6050' Long Lake. Continue 1.5mi to Xn 6040'. You could turn NE (R) for a longer hike; or SE (L) for shorter. Go straight (NNW) about .2mi to Xn 5980'. Good spot to rest and contemplate the map. It's pretty flat here and you might like to continue N for .5mi and then make a left to the N end of Island Lake. You'll probably find user trail around the lake and several places to snap your pix of the island. Historical campsites at N and S ends of lake. N end is marshy; could be buggy too earlier in the season. Either way, Deer Lake sits due W of Island, so find your way there. If you turn W (L) at Xn 5980', you'll notice you are leaving a major trail onto a minor trail. Proceed about 1mi until you start going uphill somewhat steeply; and Deer Lake will be downhill on your right, though you likely won't see it. Strike off to the flat down there at about 25 True for .1mi to the lake. You'll find a rarely used campsite; or walk around to the other side for the A-site, which would be the first you'd come to if you hike around the N end of Island Lake.

3. Deer Lake 5930' to Blue Lake 5680' and Mud Lk 5650' spur; 3.25mi/4hrs. Start off steeply uphill due W from Deer Lake to hit the trail in .1mi. Continue W 1.3mi to Pear Lake 5750', where we found no sites. Proceed .5mi to Horseshoe Lake 5760' where you'll find a (nasty) site immediately N of the trail near the outlet. (The A-site is out on the peninsula.) Proceed .4mi to Xn 5780' and make note as you will return here tomorrow. There is a horse camp off to the NE (R). Continue .2mi to Xn 5680' between Blue Lake and Meadow Lake. Turn E (R) for a .3 sortie to Mud Lake, just to say you've seen it. Return to Blue Lake Xn. (Turn R (W) continues the N'erly direction of the trail. High up from the NE corner of the lake appears to be a large site. It was occupied, so we didn't intrude.) Turn S (L), cross the outlet and then head W XC up to the flat where it appears everyone used to camp before overuse caused the site to be dismantled. Proceed XC SW up the ridge to find a good site.

4. Blue Lake 5680' to Squaw Lake 5760' about 5mi/3hrs. Return to Xn 5780' and turn SW (R) following the direction to Cathill Way Tr. 1mi. At CWT/Blue Rock Tr Xn 6290' follow direction to Pacific Crest Trail, heading SW up the ridge. Top out in about .5mi and continue 1.1mi to Blue Rock Tr Xn 6080'. (You'll catch some splendid views of snow-capped 9344' Mt. McLaughlin 4-5ami to the SSW, but if you do camp on the E shore of Squaw, you'll snap the post card you've always wanted.) Continue due S (bear R) 1.4mi to Twin Ponds Xn 5840'. (You might see another old sign here, Island Lake 4mi/Hwy 40 9mi.) Bear SE (L) on a poorly maintained trail easy to lose. In about .5mi or so you should either see 5750' Squaw Lake or the trail where it becomes very used. Follow it about .1mi, then veer off E (L) to round the south end of Squaw Lake. You'll find what would seem to be (though surely isn't) an old roadway through the trees almost at lake edge. Follow this around until you start heading N. Follow the lake edge N for about .15mi. You're about .1mi W of Fourmile Lake. Head E and you should find a rarely used but well established site in the flat. It appears this area floods between the lakes in high water.

5. Squaw Lake 5750' to Badger Lake Trailhead 5760' (car). 2mi/1hr. Go back around to the very S-most part of Squaw Lake and then head due S. From here you should find the trail within a hundred yards; perhaps the spur that runs NE off the main trail. Either way, head S on the trail. It'll be marshy on the left side of the trail, and the wettest part is Norris Pond. In about 1.7mi you'll be at Fourmile Trailhead; follow the road around a few hundred yards to the parking lot.

Sky Lakes Wilderness 08/12 QuickVid

Find Nf-3661 off Hwy 140 roughly half-way between Klamath Falls and Medford, N of Lake of The Woods. Proceed about 5.5mi on gravel road to Fourmile Lake. Turn left to the trailhead parking lot.

WALDO LAKE walk-around. OR Aug 19, 2012 20mi/8.5hrs
This was a car camping trip with a really cool day hike around one of Oregon's largest natural lakes. Mosquitoes are world class in their prime, usually losing ferocity in the heat of late summer. The lake hosts a limited number of primitive campsites for backpacking; as well as campgrounds at the S and N ends of the lake. Road access is on the E. Wilderness virtually surrounds Waldo Lake, marked by the trail on all but the E side, where Waldo Hwy is more or less the border. The lake will be viewable from the trail about a third of the time. The construction premise of the trail intended to preserve the lake's wilderness setting for boaters by setting trail traffic back away from the lake. While most enjoyable to allow one's mind to sink into the setting, better to remain mindful of bike traffic, which can be more than infrequent.

EAST SIDE: This trip started at the pump house access road 100yds before Shadow Bay CG entrance. Park at the no-longer-used RV dump pull-through. Just before the road turns, look to the right where you will find an impassable road heading E. For easiest trail access follow this road about .5 mi to Trail 3590. Or for a bit more adventure and a chance to see the mink family, aim 30 True XC for .7mi to an unnamed mosquito hatchery, then due E to NE for .5-1mi to intersect 3590. Turn N (L). In about 3.5mi depending on where you hit 3590, you'll come to the Islet CG road. Cross and continue for .5mi to the Charlton Xn. Bear left and continue a few feet to the Haroldson Horse Camp Xn and bear L again to North Waldo CG. It's a long day, so we're going to find a XC shortcut through the cg; find the road, and make your way NNW to the boat ramp. From there, find the trail just N of the ramp, past the Lake signboard and through the small parking lot.

NORTH END: You'll soon come to Xn, perhaps two depending on where you've hit the trail. Either way, proceed W. Most of this part of the hike will be through the '96 burn, and won't be something you'd want to camp. The two somewhat parallel trails reconnect in a mile, with the more southerly trail following the lake shore and the northerly one taking you through more of the '96 burn. In .6mi W of the reconnect you'll come to Rigdon Lk Xn; pass it and proceed W another 1.6mi to Dam Camp/Wahanna Lake Tr. Cross the bridge in a few yards and proceed .1mi or so to Six Lakes Xn. Watch for this Xn very closely and make sure to bear S (L).

WEST SIDE: Continue 3.1mi to Elbow Lake/Salmon Lakes Trail Xn. Elbow Lake sits at this Xn, very often in a miasma of mosquitoes. Continue 3590 1.7mi to Green Lake Xn. Very short hike E to Green Lake and to the shore of Waldo Lake, but this area may be the buggiest spot you will ever visit on earth. Much of the W side is marshy and populated with small ponds, lakes and sundry bug hatcheries. Continue S. (At about .6mi or so you'll be about .5ami W of Rhododendron Island. The campground is closed, so though it may be possible in low water to get there from the peninsula, camping is not allowed.) From GL Xn, continue S 1.8mi to Black Creek Trail Xn. (Continue S about .3mi and look very carefully for a user trail downhill (E) to the lake if you want to check out the historical boondoggle of the headworks built around 1903 to drain water off the lake. Find the trail, as the lake is otherwise somewhat treacherously downhill.) From Black Creek Trail Xn continue 3590 S 1.9mi to High Divide Trail Xn.

SOUTH END: Continue S .6mi over the W inlet, (one of many great views of 10,358' South Sister 32.62ami at 26 True NNE) continuing E to Mt.Ray Trail Xn; cross the bridge over the E inlet, round the corner and South Waldo Shelter (not for routine use) will be on your left. Continue 1.1mi to Shadow Bay Trail Xn.

EAST SIDE: Follow the cove trail around .4mi to a trail on your right, just before the boat ramp. You could stay on the trail to extend your walk a bit along the Shoreline Trail. Or walk up to the road, turn right and follow it about .3mi E (past the cg entrance gate) to the pump house access road where you are parked. Or if you aren't quite done, cross the road and go to the N end of the parking lot where you can find a connector to the Shoreline Trail. You might feel like a jaunt out to Windy Point, about .5mi N on Shoreline Trail with a hundred yards or so at the end on user trail. People frequently camp here, though most evidence of that will be blown away. The view N to the Sister is post card spectacular. Return to the Xn with the water line directly E to the pump house, which you might hear running.

Waldo Lake Walkabout 08/12 QuickVid

Waldo Lake Hwy on N side of Hwy 58 3.2mi W of Willamette Pass; 24mi E of Oakridge. Proceed 6.7mi to Shadow Bay Rd or continue to end of road at North Waldo. (You might check with the Middle Fork RD 541-782-2283 regarding current use fees and/or parking fees.) I prefer to start at the S end, Shadow Bay. Parking (free) is quite limited. You might look for the pump house spur 1.7mi from WLH on the N (R) side of the road, just before the campground entrance. Proceed about a hundred yards to the inactive RV dump pull-through where you will be able to park without blocking this road. Or proceed to the parking area above the boat ramp and pay the steel ranger whatever fee may be asked for parking there. Backpacking may require a sign-in permit; but so far not a fee. Cell service is often available at North Waldo and selected sites along the W side and S end. No service at Shadow Bay CG.

THREE SISTERS Wilderness OR Aug 15-18, 2012 Porky Lake from Six Lakes Trailhead
about 15mi/8.5hrs Blow Lake camping, Porky Lake camping and Doris Lake camping.

1. Six Lakes TH 4960' to Blow Lake 5070' 1mi/.5hr. Take trail W through lodgepole .9mi. to Blow Lake outlet stream; don't cross, but continue another .1 to lake. Rummage around and you should find a flat spot for the tent. Blowdown has buggered the fire pit and the area seems a bit tight for a safe fire anyway. (For the A-site, turn S (L) to cross the outlet stream and proceed about .25 mi to user trail on your right.) There may be other sites around the lake, but is rather steep and the day was late after a long drive from the Bay Area.

2. Blow Lake 5070' to Porky Lake 4840' 6.5mi/4hrs. Continue W from Blow Lake about 1.3mi to Doris Lake 5300'; and another .8mi to Senoj Trail Xn 5600'. Turn W (L) and proceed 1.5mi to Vera Lk/IslandLk/Horseshoe Meadow Xn 5360', by which time the forest has turned from Lodgepole to Mountain Hemlock. Turn due S, (L) and go 1.3mi to Porky Lake Tr Xn 5160', quite near Cliff Lake. Bear W (R) 1.3mi to Porky Lk/Mink Lk/Goose Lk Xn 5030' and turn N (R). (Or you could head toward Porky Lake when you see it and walk around it looking for campsites.) (Mink Lake is now only a stone's throw and is the Papa Bear of lakes in the basin. However, in walking around it several years ago we found remarkably few places to camp.) In .3mi you'll come to a stream crossing and then Xn 4840' that you walk past about a hundred yards, then head into the firs toward the lake and the A-site will be right there.

3. Porky Lake 4840' to Doris Lake 5300' 5mi/3hrs Take off NNW from the campsite a hundred yards or so to the trail, turn NE (R) and proceed about .6mi to Goose Lake (which you probably won't see but is spitting distance W)/Vera Lake Xn 4790'. Turn N (R) to be on Goose Lake Trail heading E. Proceed 2mi past Gnat Lake, Vera Lakes and Ledge Lake all of which you will see, and Copapod Lake and Question Mark Lakes which will be uphill to your left and out of sight; to Senoj Tr/IslandLk /Horseshoe Meadow Xn 5360'. Continue E (straight) on Senoj Trail uphill through the fir and downhill into lodgepole 1.5mi back to Senoj Trail Xn 5600'. Turn NE (L) and proceed about .8mi until you see the "NO FIRES WITHIN 100' OF WATER OR TRAILS" sign on the R side of the trail. Turn L on the first user trail you see toward the lake. Don't know if this is the A-site; we thought it was rather OK.

4. Doris Lake 5300' to car 4960' 2.3mi/1hr

Three Sisters Six Lakes QuickVid

No permit. Campfires subject to FS rules and common sense. Bear can not required. Expect intense bugs until late summer. Map your way to Six Lakes Trailhead on W side of Cascade Lakes Hwy 2.2mi S of main access into Elk Lake; about 25ami W of Bend at 75 True.

CARSON ICEBERG Aug 5-9, 2012 Twin Meadows Lake from Wheats Meadow TH
12mi/13hrs. Dardanelles Creek camping, Bergson Lake camping, Wheats Meadow, Twin Meadows Lakes camping, Nasty Pond camping, Wheats Lake, Bergson Lake camping.

1. Wheats Meadow Trailhead 6380' to Dardanelles Creek 6460'. 1.2mi/1hr. TH NW to top of ridge at 6600' in about .9 mi, then downhill .1mi to the Xn of Sword Lake and Wheats Meadow trails 6500'. Bear W (L), continuing downhill .1mi to 6460' Dardanelles Ck. Cross over and continue (W) .1mi; look N (R) to find a camping site about 50 yards from the trail at the base of the rocks. This is an easy camp to find in the dark, which is great when you leave after work.

2. Dardanelles Creek 6460' to Burgson Lake 6435'. .75mi/1hr. Continue (W) about .25 mi past Dardanelles Ck and then past a second (possibly dry) creek and look for a user trail on the left. 6560'. You should see a broken-off tree on the left, about 8' high with a duck at the bottom. Follow the user trail S as far as you can, (and expect to lose it in a few hundred yards.) Continue S until you've gone about .25mi from the main trail. Now (assuming you've lost the trail) follow the 6560' contour due South until you think you're about .4 mi from main trail. When you start downhill, aim for 144 True for about .15mi and you should be on the flat at 6440' at the N end of the lake with the lake in sight. (If you wind up looking out over the valley and Dardanelles Creek, you've missed the lake, probably being too far E. If you come to big cliffs on the W and/or you're in a lot of marsh and water, you are most likely W of the lake.) You'll find a campsite at the S end and another at the NW corner.

(On this trip I didn't know there was a user trail to Burgson Lake. I started off following Dardanelles Creek around the knob, a route that fizzled immediately. I then traversed to the W side around the knob and then SW to Burgson Lake, which did work but was the finest torture; not lessened by learning later that I'd missed the user trail by only a couple hundred feet in my efforts to get around the knob. Go this way only if you seek a place people just don't go. Once S of the knob and onto the granite, it's very easy.)

3. Burgson Lake 6435' to Twin Meadows Lakes 6760'. 3.1mi/3.5hrs. I wouldn't reccommend this route to Wheats Meadow, having tried it. (Go back to Wheats Meadow Trail, then W for an easier route to the same place.) From the NW corner of the lake, follow the riparian area into the cliffs and up the drainage crease toward Wheats Lake. Be sure everything is battoned down as you're going to encounter a lot of brush. Continue steeply uphill to the ridge top 6720'. Whether you hit Wheats Lake or not (I didn't) make sure you descend due W of Wheats Lake if not slightly NNW. When you get to the flats, head NW until you come to the trail. If you don't see the trail, just head N when you get to the meadow, staying W of Wheats Meadow Ck. (Follow a cow trail to find a good place to cross.) You should be about .75ami NW of Burgson Lake now. Proceed N on the trail until you come to a Xn that offers only a W option, and continue N, straight. You should see a collapsed structure ahead; go to it and proceed N. (100yds NW is the well, but it won't help you unless you have a rope and bucket and desire to fall to your tortured death.) N of the detritus will be a major Xn. Continue N 1mi. Where to leave the trail is tricky because there's no sign or evidence of trail. Pace out a mile and keep an eye to where a probably dry stream crosses the trail; you've also gone uphill a bit, around a huge tree over the trail, and then just starting downhill. To your right, due N, will be a flat that looks like it should be trail. You are looking for SSW from Twin Meadows Lake 1ami at 24 True. Head NNE into the trees, probably following cow trails but in any case staying in the drainage crease until you come to Twin Meadows in .4ami 6760'. I don't think it matters which way you go around the meadow, but don't try straight over. It's not dry. (When you don't see cow poop, that tells you something.) From the SW corner of the meadow it's about .7ami at 30 True to the N Twin Meadows Lake, where you'll most enjoy camping. This is very easy hiking. You'll find a fire ring at the SW corner of the lake where's there's plenty of flat for the tent. I thought the area not very safe for fire (perhaps overly influenced by the forest fire to the NE) and chose a fireplace W in the granite. (Please bury any evidence.)

4. Twin Meadows Lake 6760' to Nasty Pond 6920'. .3ami/1.25hrs 105 True. The route intended from here was XC to Sword Lake, but forest fire foiled that plan. (Freddy will always tell you to leave the entire area immediately, so always best to stay away and inconspicuous.) With several more days to go in a small patch of wilderness, options were limited. I decided to wing it to a speck on the map that would be out of the fire's reach, though it was under the flight path of aircraft involved in suppressing the fire. In the context of a small wilderness where you can expect to be the only visitor, NP offers almost everything you'd want. No one goes there, so plenty of firewood and privacy. Wend your way on course through the brush, up the ridge, down the ridge and to the pond. You'll find very minimal evidence of human activity (sawn log, duck) and plenty of flat space SW of the pond where fire is safe. (Please bury any evidence.) I walked around it and found no fire rings. Water was OK. (I call it Nasty Pond largely from pouting that I couldn't go where I wanted; and during the night so much smoke drifted S from the forest fire the air turned awful.

5. Nasty Pond 6920' to Burgson Lake 6435'. 4mi/4hrs. Thought my lost backup compass might be at TML so went back there and retrieved it. (Otherwise, a SSE shot to Burgson might make more sense.) Retrace route from TML to the collapsed structure at Wheats meadow and head ESE up the hill to Wheats Lake 6710'. I found no campsites nor any desire to stay there, but was happy to notch it off the list. From the SE corner of the lake, head 133 True past a small pond in 100 yards. Stay on top of the ridge for .25mi and then take a bearing due E. The descent is steep, brushy and likely to strain your patience weaving through the cliffs, but only .2ami. If you hit it right, you should be on the S end of the marsh and then the lake.

6. Burgson Lake 6435' to Wheats Meadow Trailhead 6380'. 2.5mi/2hrs. If you found the user trail on the way in, you already know what to do. If not, find your way .1mi NW from the N end of the lake, then due N to Wheats Meadow Trail; or follow the user trail if you come across it. Take WMT E to Dardanelles Creek, then to Sword Lake Xn. Bear SW (R) back to the car.

Expect some brush and granite scrambling. Great map and compass skills exercise. Perhaps have a gps for assistance, but DO NOT expect to depend on it. Range land; expect to hear cowbells. Maybe come across cowboy Rex, a nice guy fun to chat up the area.

From Summit RS (near Pinecrest): Hwy 108 about 20 miles E to Clark Fork Rd; Turn N (left). Cross the first bridge and bear left at the Xn. Cross the next bridge and then turn left onto NF 6n06, Fence Ck. Proceed 3.6 rough miles to parking area on the right, Wheats Meadow trailhead on left, about 6380 elevation.

Permit required; get it at MiWuk or Summit, either of which will leave it out for late pickup. MiWuk Village may be the last cell service.

EMIGRANT Wilderness Jul 25-31, 2012 Wire Lakes from Crabtree Trailhead
25mi/20hrs Camp Lake camping, Leopold Lake camping, Salt Lick Meadow camping, Wire Lake camping, Jewell Lake, Gem Lake, Piute Lake camping, Tweezer Hill camping.

1. Crabtree Trailhead at E edge of parking lot 7200' to Camp Lake 7600'. 2.5mi/1hr. Cross over footbridge and in about 50 yards pass the Chewing Gum Lk Xn on the left. Continue S (straight). Go 1.2mi to the ridge top and then .2mi to Pine Valley/Camp Lake Xn 7520'. Proceed E (straight) 1.1mi to Camp Lake. Find a good campsite at the W end by following along the edge of the granite SE through bushes a bit until you find the user trail to the site. Or continue another .2mi to find user trails up the ridge to several sites. Wood is scarce and water is a haul, but camping is good. You may stay only one night at Camp Lake on your trip.

2. Camp Lake 7600' to Leopold Lake 8860' 6mi/7hrs Go E .2mi to Bear Lake Xn; continue E (straight) .4mi down the canyon to Lily Creek 7350' (rarely much, but nearly always some water). (Standing at the creek, there's a site about 5 o'clock behind you about 100'. Much larger and more private site is across the creek a few yards and E about 100' or so through the brush.) Contine E 1.7mi to an unnamed pond 7880' N (L) of trail. You might see a user trail on your right. Continue E another .2mi and watch for a user trail on the right uphill if you want to find a campsite. Go 1.1mi E to Piute Creek crossing 7560'. Water up, lunch and rest. From W side of Piute Creek, walk due N into the meadow. To NNE look for the crease up the hill running ENE with maybe a dribble of water. Your target is .22ami at 24 True from the creek crossing site. Work your way to it, and start up. Enjoy 1.2ami of splendid granite walking up to 8880' and an unnamed pond (shown as marsh on some maps). Stay on course at 60 True .5mi to Leopold Lake 8860'. Few campsites; one of the best is on the W side about mid-way. Keep looking, it's near a 6-foot high, roundish rock at the foot of a spit that reaches out into the lake.

3. Leopold Lake 8860' to Salt Lick Meadow 8520'. 2.5mi/2hrs. Head NNE for .7mi until you are in the crease between two hills. Go E between them and follow the 8800' contour N around the N hill .4mi otg until you come to the crease heading NE down the hill from Toejam Lake, which you won't see. Keep an eye out for the user trail that makes going down the crease a lot easier. About .5mi otg you'll be in Salt Lick Meadow. There's usually water, though if it's pooled, have patience and investigate the stream way for a clear source. Proceed upstream .4ami, where you should be on 1/2 acre patch of granite stream bed. About 100 yards NW you'll find one of the largest pools; and a campsite. You'll be about .1mi S of the trail. This is only 1.85ami from Leopold camp, but we were tired and liked the spot.

4. Salt Lick Meadow 8520' to Wire Lake 8760'. 3.5mi/2.5hrs Follow the creek NNE until you can cross, then E until you intersect the trail. Continue E on trail 1.3 to the middle of Spring Meadow 8640'. You probably want to stay on the trail until it has crossed the creek, then walk through the meadow SSW following the granite line. .5am from the trail, which will be the end of the marsh with the last pool on your right, start heading due S. Get on the 8760' contour between two knobs, the larger and taller to the SE, and continue following it S until you come to the Middle Wire Lake, a long skinny lake running W-E. You probably want the W end unless you have energy to burn. From that point, head SE .2mi to South Wire Lake. The A-site sits on the SW corner; a couple sites are on the E side. You can walk around the lake in an hour or so.

5. Wire Lake 8760' to Piute Lake 7880' 3.2mi/2.5hrs From the E side of Wire Lake at about the mid-point, look up E for the crease over the ridge 8820' in .1mi. Continue SE .1mi; which is to say find your way down the granite a bit, and then head SSE 165 True .4mi. You might find a user trail. At the main trail 8440' turn W (R). Come to Jewelry Lake 8400' in .4mi; then .6mi 8230' Gem Lake Xn (GL's right there). Continue W (straight) past the N side of Gem Lake. .7mi you'll be down the ridge to West Fork Cherry Creek 7870'. (If the water's wadable but you don't want to take off your shoes, go downstream about .1mi or so and you might be able to cross shoes-on without getting wet.) Continue .5mi to Piute Lake 7880', and then .2 more until you are past it. Look for a patch of granite on your left; best site just S of that. There are many sites around the lake (many not legal) as this lake is very heavily used.

6. Piute Lake 7880' to Tweezer Hill 7060'. 5.5mi/3.5hrs Back on trail head W 1.5mi to Piute Meadow/Groundhog Meadow Xn 7560'. You should see the post on your right. If you miss this Xn, you'll know when you get to Piute Creek. Turn S (L) and proceed .4mi to Groundhog Meadow/Pine Valley Trail Xn 7480'. Water won't be here unless things are rather wet. Turn W (R) and in .2mi will be Piute Creek again. Make sure you continue due W and don't siphon off on signless Studhorse Meadow spur. Continue W 1.6mi to Grouse Lake 7160'; W 1.8mi to Mud Lake Xn 7040'. The post will be on the S (L) in the flat of a dampish burn area. Hike .15mi to Lily Creek on your left immediately after crossing a small (usually dry) feeder. Hunt around for a place to cross Lily Creek, then .1 up to the granite just above the creek. Two campfire rings, one in the open, one in the rocks. You'll want a bulk water container to minimize trips down to water. No name on the map for this place about 7060'.5ami NE of Mud Lake. Good place to spend the night near the car but in the wilds.

7. Tweezer Hill 7060' to Crabtree Trailhead 7200'. 2.5mi/1hr Retrace .25 to Pine Valley Xn and turn W (R). In another .1, turn N to stay on Pine Valley and not to Bell Meadow. You'll be going uphill nearly all the way (450' gain) in about .9 mi to Camp Lake Tr Xn 7520', turn W (L); and continue on the trail 1.5mi back to your car.

You might get your permit at MiWuk Village; or you can pass Crabtree Rd and go another 1.5 mi to the Summit Station and get it there. I tend to get lost trying to find CTR via Dodge Ridge, so I wind up going back down 108 again from Summit. Not a big deal, but always trying to save time getting to the trailhead. Either station will leave permit out for after hours pickup if you ask.

NOTE that camping at Camp Lake is limited to 1 night on your permit.

Hwy 108 1 mi E of Cold Springs to Crabtree Road on the E (right). Continue CTR 6.5 mi to end of striped pavement and proceed past Aspen Meadow/Kerrick Corral. Keep going about a mile to pavement end, then another 1.5 mi on the dirt. Keep an eye out on the RH side for a badly damaged sign to Crabtree Trailhead. Turn right and proceed .5mi to the paved parking lot. With a valid wilderness permit you can camp here free one night. Tables, fire rings and potty. No water, except in Bell Ck if it's running.

GOLDEN TROUT/SEQUOIA-KINGS CANYON Wilderness July 8-15, 2012 Miter Basin
No fires anywhere on this route; bear cans required. Review regs at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/inyo and CALL 760-876-6200 BEFORE YOU GO!! Trailhead quotas are often maxed out and you may want to get your permit well in advance by mail. 30mi/18hrs. Cottonwood Lakes camping, Long Lake, High Lake, New Army Pass, Upper Soldier Lake camping, Miter Basin camping, Lower Soldier Lake, New Army Pass, High Lake, Upper South Fork Lake camping, Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead.

1. Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead 10,000' to Cottonwood Lake 4 11,060'. 5.5mi/3.5hrs. You'll have no trouble following this busy trail up to 11,000' Xn to John Muir Lake on the N, (R). Continue W (straight) .4mi to next Xn, then W .6mi and you're between Cottonwood Lakes 3 & 4. Find a flat spot.

2. Cottonwood Lake 4 11,060' to Upper Soldier Lake 11,200' 8mi/6.5hrs Intending to surmount Old Army Pass we took off NW to CL5. There, looking up at where we would be going, we turned tail for New Army Pass. This added a few miles as a more direct route would not include CLs. But you might think seeing the lakes worthwhile; and you might feel differently about OAP. 1.5mi RT put us back to where we started that morning. Continue SE along CL4 to the S end, then XC .3mi at 195 True to thread the needle between CL2 and the ridge to the W; until you intersect the main trail 11,080'. (You could omit the XC by staying on trail, but this site is about getting off the beaten path when you can!) Turn W (R) and go .5mi to Long Lake 11,160'. Continue 1mi past High Lake, where you'll be about 11,500' when you see it. Continue the .8mi pull to New Army Pass 12,160'. You might then take a .6 XC to Old Army Pass 11,960' and maybe skip a few yards down the trail just to see if you were chicken or prudent in deciding not to take on the rockfall just below the pass. Perhaps you would consider changing your return route to redirect through OAP. Either way, you want the Xn .25mi W at the NAP/Mt. Langley (13,980') Xn 11,860'. Turn NE (R) and hike uphill .6mi to 12,400'. Now head NNW 345 True for .5mi to an obvious crease running down W. Follow it a bit and you'll likely find a user trail the rest of the way to Upper Soldier Lake about .5mi SW. We liked the flat spot on the N side between the lake and the cliffs.

3. Upper Soldier Lake 11,200' to Miter Basin 11,240'. 2mi XC/1hr. Head off WNW around the cliff doing your best to hold the 11,240' contour. Round the nose of this ridge and then aim N for the valley, probably shown on your map as Rock Creek. You'll know when it's time to get in the valley. As you near the N end, you'll see where Rock Creek splashes down the granite and onto the flat. Head for that area. Hike up about 100' along the E side of the creek, and find several good sites around 100' E in the shadow of The Miter, 12,621' which will be .5am at 23 True. You're in a pocket of trees, sheltered from wind and sun; in the locus of fabulous day hiking. On arrival we day hiked around the foot of The Miter to Iridescent Lake 11,920', and followed the outlet back down to Rock Ck. Next day we traipsed up to Sky Blue Lake 11,550' where campers were torturing themselves in the barren granite; and N to the next wind-blasted lake at 12,100'; anticipating Crabtree Pass 12,600', but allowed ourselves to feel satisfied by returning to camp. Third day we checked out 11,640' Primrose Lake and on up to about 12,000' before deciding a hot lunch in camp would be more rewarding than any further thoughts of ascending 13,460' Mt. Pickering.

4. Miter Basin 11,240' to Upper South Fork Lake 11,080' 8m/5hrs. Follow Rock Creek S 1mi (probably about 20"-25") to 11,040' contour. Follow this contour .65mi SSW at 195 True and Lower Soldier Lake should be E. You should be on the saddle of the ridge, above a crease to the lake .1ami SE at 118 True, dropping 250'. At the lake, follow the W edge S .15mi to the trail. From the S end of the lake, continue SW .2mi to the Xn 10,800'. Turn S (L) and proceed .6mi to Xn 10,960'. Bear SE (L) 1.9mi to Mt. Langley Xn 11,860'. Continue past the Xn .6mi to New Army Pass 12,160'. (An older section of the trail branches off to Army Pass.) Grind your way down .8mi to where the (possibly dry) stream to High Lake crosses the trail 11,560'. Continue .2mi to 11,460' where the trail makes a sharp turn S (R). Follow .2mi to a sharp turn E (L), where you are on the flat 11,330'. And finally, .1mi to the sharp turn N at 11,320'. At this point, head XC through the scrub and rubble .5mi at 98 True. (You could stay on the trail, but where's the fun in that.) You're now at 11,080 on the NW edge of Upper South Fork Lake; 100 yards N of the inlet stream (where the water will likely be better than the lake) and .1mi S of the trail from Long Lake. You might make a 2.5mi day hike to Cirque Lake 11,110' enjoying a splendid XC granite hike to the cirque, which is particularly steep on the NW. Find trail on the NE for .6mi to Middle South Fork Lake 11,000'. The more direct route home follows the talus field NW; you might extend the route a bit following the easier dirt walk S of the talus.

5. Upper South Fork Lake 11,080' to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead 10,000'. 6mi/2.5hrs. Head .1mi N to NE until you come to the trail and turn E (L). Continue .7mi to Cottonwood Lake 4 Xn 11,040' and continue E .3mi to Xn 11,050. Continue E .2mi to South Fork Lakes Xn 10,960' and proceed through it, E for 1mi to Xn 10,480'. Turn E (R) and continue a few tenths until you are heading S on your direct way back to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead 10,000'.

From downtown Lone Pine 3760', take Whitney Portal Road W 3mi to Horseshoe Meadow Road Xn 4560' on the S (L). Continue HMR 9mi to the first pigtail at 6480'. Be exceedingly watchful for rock debris on the road. Hang onto your lunch as you wend through 5.2mi of pigtails stretching up to 8680'; then 4mi to Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead Xn 9640'. Turn N (R) and proceed to parking lot.

Mt. SHASTA Wilderness June 26-29, 2012 Shasta summit 14,163' 15mi/21hrs
Bunny Flat, Horse Camp, 50-50 Flat, 9880' camping, Helen Lake, Red Banks, Misery Hill, Summit

Avalanche Gulch route is hardly a trip off the beaten path, but campsite is a bit.

1. Bunny Flat 6950' to 9880' (above 50-50 Flat). 3mi/4.5hrs. Follow the trail rut or your map route about 1.8mi N to Horse Camp 7840'. (Or bypass Horse Camp taking your XC turn about .2mi from BF heading N from where Avy Gulch crosses the trail.) Horse Camp is not for routine use, but may be unlocked and open for a visit. The outhouse may provide relief, about 100' E, saving your wag bag for later. There may be water about 15' E. If not, there may be water in the spring about .2mi N alongside the W side of the trail at about 7850'. From the cabin, hike NE at the edge of the trees about .25mi. Then anywhere NE that looks good will work. You want to be on the trail in .9ami at 9400' on a compass shot of 66 True, right in the middle of AG. Thousands of folks then continue .5ami at 7 True to Helen Lake 10,000'; and hundreds opt for 50-50 Flat at .1ami SE. If you wonder what all that traffic means to snow potability, you might like to split the difference. On the trail at 9400', chug uphill E .1mi or so and then N until you are about even between 50-50 and the horizontal black line that's the ridge holding HL in place; and holding a thumb out in front of you covers two or three tents down on 50-50. You'll be about 9880', about .3ami due S of HL and due N of 50-50. You might find a flat spot; be prepared to shovel one, which also helps build a wind break should you need it. We left BF at 1am and arrived 9880' at 5:30am. Our schedule would let us acclimate for about 42 hours.

2. Summit 14,163' 9miRT/14hrs. Snow gets slushy during the day and freezes up for best walking after midnight or so. We were antsy and left at 11pm. (Starlight wasn't quite bright enough and we headlamped all the way to Misery Hill.) Helen Lake took an hour. (You hope not to see any lake, btw, or there will be way too little snow.) Aim for the E side, heading N. Once you get on the steep, you may need to angle slightly NW to get around the rock spit, but then follow NE. If you can't see the ridges to your side, check your compass to make sure you are going uphill in the correct direction. After a couple hours you should be near The Heart. You probably want midway between it and the rocks E. Above TH there are several chutes to Red Banks; probably your best choice is far E in a notch W of Thumb Rock. You're at 12,820' and about to appreciate how toasty warm it was on the way up. Maybe rest a bit, chink some ice out of your water bottle and get stabilized for the short scamper W over the top of Red Banks to Misery Hill 13,750'. (Because you think you are going to be at the top and when you see you are still an hour away, you feel even more miserable.) My first ascent had all 5 of us crawling on hands and knees up MH as ferocious winds would have scraped us off the mountain were it not for the trusty ice axe. On top, you've got flat to the first whiff of sulphur. Keep the 14er to your left, and aim left of the peak, but cozy up to it. You could go straight up, but that might be one reason I thought I'd never do it again. As you gain a bit of A, the main sulphur field will be down to your left. Scurry up the spine and over a bit, then follow it to the signin book and bag your summit! (Return trip note: Most people careen down from Red Banks on their hiney. If you plan to follow the crowd, you might take an old pair of cutoff jeans to avoid trashing your $125 pants. Also be sure to remove your crampons and secure them well. If it needs to be said, this maneuver requires use of an ice axe. You might be to HL in minutes instead of hours.

3. 9880' to Bunny Flat 6950' takes about 2 hours. When you're off the steep, you might follow the gulch down to the trail for a bit of route modification.

!! Go here before you go there !!:


Check as well for good hiking conditions and change plans if necessary. You'll feel cheated if you summit and can't see anything. You want snow at least from about 8,200'; or you'll wear out (and/or get clobbered) in the scree. Post holing and plowing might also be more torture than you can endure. (If you need snowshoes, you probably won't summit.) The two times I could not summit had foot-deep fresh snow from the start, sapping us by 8,100' (and white-out hurricane winds one time for extra measure). If you find yourself pretty much alone, everyone else got a weather report that you didn't. Of course, it's pretty awesome camping anywhere on the mountain, especially when you own it.

This was Attempt #5 and Summit #3. After my first success on my first try I vowed happiness at doing it and the thought of never doing it again. It's an intoxicating experience. After the hangover, you'll surely want to do it again.

From I-5 Mt. Shasta (city) exit, proceed E on West Lake St. Cross the RR tracks to East Lake and continue NE to Washington Drive/Everett Memorial Hwy. Turn N (L) to EMH and you're on your way to Bunny Flat in about 20" on good road.

CASTLE ROCK State Park Jun 15-16, 2012 6mi/3hrs
Not really off the beaten path, but lots of folks are not familiar with this site so close to the edge of town. Great place to go when you are jonesing or need a tuneup or test run. 25 FCFS sites; might fill up on busy weekends. Tables, water, outhouses and fire rings; seasonal fire regulation. Wood may be for sale at the site when fires are allowed. No wood scrounging. Inclement weather emergency shelter.

1. Parking lot 3000' to Trail Camp 2400' 3mi/1.5hrs Start off on the Saratoga Gap Trail and follow it past the Castle Rock spur Xn to the creek. Cross the footbridge. Turn SW (L) along the creek to Castle Rock Falls overlook. Follow the trail along the contour until you come to the Interconnector Xn (W end). Not much declivity along this part of the trail, but you'll want to be nimble enough to scramble over a bit of rock. Follow SG to Ridge Trail Xn and bear left; continue to the footbridge in 100' and cross it to scramble up the rocks a bit more to the Service Road. Turn N (L) and in 100 yards you're at the site. You might walk about to see where you like best.

2. Trail Camp to Parking Lot 3mi/1.5hrs Head back on the Service Road to the trail you came in on; cross the bridge and continue to Ridge Trail Xn where you go straight and uphill. Continue to Russell Point for the mandatory view snapshot. Then follow RT to the Interconnector Trail Xn (E end) and continue RT to the Interpretive Center Xn. Go straight if you want to visit the IC; turn S (R) if not. Either way wind up at Goat Rock. Head down a long stretch of stairs followed by a few more bits of scrambling on your way back to the creek. Cross the bridge and continue to the parking lot.

Parking lot gate gets locked at sundown; no legal parking outside overnight. Camping fee includes parking for one car; pay for a second car at about half the rate. If the kiosk is not open, pay the steel ranger. The real ranger will come in to check on you.

Drive S on Skyline Blvd 2.5mi past Hwy 9 Xn. Park is well signed and on the W.

OHLONE TRAIL Wilderness Apr 17-19, 2012 20.6mi/12hrs
You mightn't think it a tourist destination, but if you live in the Bay Area and need a close place to get under the stars, Ohlone Trail can work out. We prefer to start at Del Valle and go up the ridge rather than endure the knee stress of down.

1. Del Valle 750' to Stewarts Camp 3160' 6.6mi/4hrs. Start at Lichen Bark and hike 1mi to Vallecitos Trail Xn where you might sign in. Continue 1mi steeply uphill to Stromer Spring Xn. If you need water already, or you camp at Boyd, then you'll want to go W (straight) here about .1mi to the spring. Otherwise turn S (L) and continue uphill .3mi to Boyd Camp. The best site may be E of the trail, just S of the potty. Keep grinding uphill, down and back up 2.75mi to Pear Orchard Xn, bear S (L). Continue .5mi to Johnny's Pond and take the W (R) trail off Ohlone Trail. In .25mi turn S (L) and continue .5mi to Murietta Falls. It will be on your right down the granite, and gets pretty steep and easy to lose your grip. It can be a dribble, if that. However, you can't do this route and not go there. Perhaps if the creek is dry (which crosses Ohlone Trail above) then you might take a rain check. Don't expect a sign. Continue .6mi to Stewarts Camp. Water and outhouse; no table or bench.

2. Stewarts Camp to Eagles Aerie 1650' 9.5mi/6hrs. Continue .6mi to Ohlone Trail and turn S (R). Continue 2.8mi to Maggie's Half Acre Xn. Decide whether to sidestep to MHA camp/water/potty; or plod up Rose Peak. Either way continues about .8mi to the same spot on Ohlone Trail, but unless you feel mighty frisky you probably won't do both. If you prefer MHA, you'll see it easily enough when you get there in .6mi, then .25mi more to rejoin Ohlone Trail. Or instead of MHA, continue .4mi to Rose Peak Xn. Keep a close eye for it on the right as you top out on the road. Scramble up through the oaks .1mi to a whopping view from this 3817' vantage. You may or may not come across Rose Peak trail on your way down the W side, but continue .1mi to rejoin Ohlone Trail. Then in .2mi you'll come to Portugese Point Xn; PP dead-ends. Continue .4mi to pass Doe Canyon Horse Camp Xn; then 1.5mi to Valpe Xn. Turn S (L) and go .25mi to Mid Road Xn. Take MR 1.25mi to pass Billy Goat Xn. Continue W 1.8mi to the gate, and then .2mi down the hill to Eagles Aerie (look for it to the SW before you come all the way down the hill.) If you come to the water spigot, EA's just around the wire and up the hill. We like this spot best. (Sky View boasts the best view, but can be breezy; is quite a hike from water and a savage distance to the outhouse.) You'll find a T-bench. Sometimes the site has a picnic table.

3. Eagles Aerie to Sunol HQ 390' 4.5mi/2hrs. Follow the trail through the rest of the backpacking site and down to the gate in about .5mi. We prefer to follow Backpack Road .6mi to Camp Ohlone Road and turn W (R). Follow it 1mi; past the aptly named W Tree (on the right) to the very presumptively named Little Yosemite Valley (on the left). It offers nice views, just not particularly evocative of its namesake. Continue another mile to cross the bridge, then the gate and parking lot.

If that isn't quite enough for you, Ohlone Trail continues 9mi over Mission Peak and down to the Stanford staging lot. For another night out, you might hole up at Eagle Spring on the E flank of Mission Peak on Eagle Trail. Tables and potty. The well water tastes like machine oil even after filtering.

East Bay Regional Parks has taken the impulse out of Ohlone Trail by no longer issuing permits at the kiosks. You need an each-time group camping permit and an each-person 12-month SF Water District pass (great map); and of course it costs more through the reservation system. (Who wants to get shot in Oakland, so bite the bullet and pay over the phone 888-327-2757 or www.EBParksOnline.com.) We always make it one way; leaving one car in Sunol and one at Del Valle. Rangers are very accommodating regarding entry/parking when you show your permit. No fires. Camping in designated sites only, where there will be water (which you should treat) and outhouse. We prefer April/May when flowers bloom profusely and with water usually available at several points along Ohlone Trail. Even Spring can be hot; you may find Summer unbearable. It is, however, always cold at night! Much of Ohlone Trail is dirt road, which allows you to stay out of the poison oak and possibly the reach of ticks. Xns are marked, but may be vandalized and could be confusing; refer to your SFWD permit/map frequently.

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