Bob Loveless is the guru of knife making, and he says that is you want a quality knife you don’t put wood handles on it. I finally tried his go-to handle, micarta. Micarta is resin with different kinds of material embedded in it, such as denim, canvas, linen or others. This is green linen, and it came out nice. The knife is a kit from knifekits.com. Read more
When my oldest kids got old enough we started going backpacking. I started a myth with them that I had put 2 pops in the outlet of various, or all, of the lakes in Washington. As we hiked up the trail I would say to them that “those pops sure will be good!” When we got to the destination lake, I’d tell them “I think those pops are over that way. You guys look over there near the shoreline of the lake, and I’ll go over the other way.” Read more
We were able to spend 6 nights in the Sierra Nevada with the MountainSmith Mountain Shelter 2.
It was summer, windy at night, temps in the low 30s, and some cloudiness. The elevation of our trip was 8000-11,000′. This shelter is a tarp held up by two hiking poles and 13 stakes. I set it up 5 times, and it became easier each time. It weighs 1 lb 15 oz and costs around $100. It packs up very compactly, and sleeps 2 comfortably. Its a really good option for a light and cheap shelter, and I’d recommend it. It doesn’t have a floor, and you would need to get a ground cloth, which might add 6 oz to the total weight. Read more
If you want to get your whole family into backpacking, you can do what we did with our kids, Jim and Ciera. When Jim was 6 and Ciera 11 we took them on their first overnight backpack, a 2 mile hike to Baker Lake near Ketchum. They carried their own packs, and we didn’t carry Jim once. His pack contained not much more than his lunch and a raincoat. I was carrying quite a load, including his sleeping bag. In those days we had traditional external frame backpacks, and a heavy tent. Read more
We had a great backpack in the Sawtooghts of Idaho, one we called the Sawtooth Slowpoke. We hiked 42 miles, with sufficient elevation gain and loss to count as a 50 mile hike for Boy Scout purposes. The backpack was from Petit Lake at the south of the range, to Sawtooth lake at the north of the range, which we hiked in 8 days, with one layover day. Read more
We got over Mather Pass when the rain hit. We didn’t feel like hiking in the rain, so we set up our tents in the first trees we found. It rained for about an hour, then the sun came out. Jim and Ian left camp for a hike, and I sat in my chair and did a status report on our trip so far, about 11 days into the John Muir Trail.
Cooking when winter camping is different from cooking when backpacking. My favorite setup is to make a bench seat, and sit on a foam pad, with another foam pad under the feet for insulation. Then cut a bench conveniently right in front of the chef on which to put the stove. Lay a thin plywood panel on the kitchen area, on which to place the stove. That way it won’t melt into the snow. With the stove in easy reach, you can heat water, melt snow, and cook a meal. Read more
Jim and I did the John Muir Trail in 2016, and we found that our gear was great, but we but had few pleasant surprises. We discovered a few things that we remarked gave us particular joy, and we made a list of them. I doubt I’ll ever backpack again without these 6 items. Read more
Jim and I hiked the JMT in 2016, with Luke and Ian Willnerd. This is a video of some of our pictures and videos, a sort of highlight video. Jim put this together.
This would be called a section hike today, because we hiked on a section of the famous John Muir Trail. We called it a Sierra hike in those days, because we tried to avoid the JMT, and enjoy lakes and valleys not on the JMT. When you hike the JMT you rarely have the energy to get into these areas, and just have to focus on doing the JMT mileage. We fished, climbed peaks, goofed off, and explored. We cooked bread and fish over open fires. Below: view of Langley from the Cottonwood Lakes. I swear this tree is still there in 2016, 45 years later.
Electronic and photography gear is always changing, but it seemed like Jim and I had a pretty good mix of electronics and photography gear when we did the John Muir Trail last summer (2016). Read more
I had the chance to try out a Sea to Summit Escapist tent system. The tarp plus the inner bug tent weighs 2 lb 2 oz, and sleeps two. If using only the tarp, it is 17.6 oz, plus the weight of the ground cloth you chose. Below is Dave Litster with the bug tent holding two sleeping pads easily. Read more
We took the MSR Thru Hiker tent on a trip in the Sierra Nevada in August. It got down to frost a few nights. There was no rain, no wind, low humidity. One person used the tent, and loved it. Read more
My go-to knife for backpacking of late has been a lockback folder which our scout troop gave me. It is etched with the words “Bob – Thank you for your Service to Troop 100.” What a nice gesture, and it turned out to be a fantastic little knife which is a pleasure to carry. Its perfectly adequate for any task on a backpack. Based on my experience with the BSA knife, I wanted to try my hand at making a folding knife, so I bought a folding knife kit from knifekits.com. The model was the “Sheriff.” Read more
JMT 2016: First Section (7 days), Cottonwood to Rae Lakes
Day -1: We drove to Tuollumne Meadows and camped in the backpackers campground. This was our first night sleeping at 10,000′, and even though we didn’t do anything physical, we hoped just spending the night at that elevation would help acclimate us. It was pretty uneventful, camping wise.
JMT 2016: Second Section (7 days), Rae Lakes to Muir Trail Ranch
Day 9: I was reminded all night that I would prefer to sleep in my long underwear, but the night before I had washed ALL my clothes. I was in my sleeping bag nekkid. My clothes were draped over every branch of all the trees around out camp, so it looked like the Beverly Hillbillies were camped here. They had not dried much overnight, and were still quite damp. I put on my damp clothes, and had some oatmeal and coffee before we hit the trail. We took one last look at the Rae Lakes and peak called Painted Lady. Read more
JMT 2016: 3rd (4 days), Muir Trail Ranch to Reds Resort
Day 15: Our camp was in a backpacker pigsty about .25 miles from Muir Trail Ranch (MTR). It was a pigsty because behind every tree was a cluster of toilet paper and poop. Absolutely gross. We had breakfast, and headed over to the MTR entrance. MTR has a fence around it, and a gate that said “Open at 8, closed at 5” or something like that. We were on time, so we walked in. There were several log buildings there which were a shed for managing hiker buckets, an office, a dining hall, and a residence and some employee dorms. There was also a grassy area with a table and a shade tarp, and benches on one side with buckets filled with donated food from hikers. Read more
Day 20: Clean and happy, we had breakfast at the cafe at Reds Mountain Resort. It was wonderful, and we carboloaded for a few more days of strenuous hiking. We took a short bus ride to Agnew Meadow, and started hiking there at 9:45, saving a few miles of uneventful trail around Devils Postpile.
In 1971 my younger brother Mike and I planned a 28 day trip on the JMT, with 12 people. Some people might be interested in our trip as a view into backpacking practices, philosophy, and technology in those days. Current travelers on the JMT have seriously lighter loads than we could accomplish in the 1970s, and they cover many more miles per day than we did, but one thing different about our trip was that we climbed 17 Sierra peaks, did a lot of fishing, and had layover days.
1st week: Tuolumne Meadows to Reds Meadow Resort:
By late afternoon, we had all regrouped and departed from the trailhead near the Tuolumne Meadows campground. We were filled with anticipation of the adventure that lay ahead and yet also trepidation as to whether we (and our equipment) were up to the challenge. There were no cell phones, and many times during the trip we would be as many as 24 hours away from assistance. Read more