Gatewood Cape Poncho Tarp. Shelter that doubles as a rain poncho, supported by a trekking pole.

Backcountry backpacking is a game for the body and the mind. One must calculate weights and measures, times and distances, fitness versus physical challenges. You must factor the ever-changing weather and water conditions, especially in Southern to Central California. The stakes are high because death is a real possibility. Hypothermia, rattlesnake bites, cougar attacks, hungry bears just awakened from hibernation looking to steal your food… These are the cars on the Frogger highway that the hiker
must hop around. The game is to make all the right calculations so the adventure is enjoyable, even transcendant, despite the possible hardships of travelling on foot for days in an unfamiliar wilderness. I ask you, are there many hobbies that are so all engrossing of your entire being as long distance backpacking? It makes you feel so alive!

I’m planning a week-long adventure to two different wildernesses.  I will be spending a few days backpacking in Yosemite National Park, then I will boogie on over to the other side of the Sierras to backpack the high desert.  In case you do not instantly appreciate how different prep for these two trips are, allow me to highlight a few differing factors:

  • High sierra vs. high desert
  • Actual snow present and tons of rivers and lakes to drink from vs. water sources that are drying up as we speak
  • High temps in the 70’s vs. high temps in the 90’s

For this one trip I’m putting two different sleeping bags in the car and will switch out between trips. I’m making some variations to my wardrobe for each trip. For example I may take a cotton shirt to hike the high desert, because on a 90 degree day a sweaty t-shirt is divine.  I will also take tall thick socks for the high sierra, but short thin socks for the high desert.  I’m planning to cook dehydrated meals in Yosemite and eat no-cook food where water is scarce.  I may not take a stove at all to the high desert.  I’m still trying to decide if I will carry a bear canister in the high desert.  The 3 lbs it represents makes me shutter, but the peace of mind at night seems worth any weight at the time.  That is detail is still TBD.

Food Food Food
My food for the week. Yosemite 3 days on left. PCT 5 days on right. And a guest appearance by the dreaded and beloved bear canister.

Isn’t this weight-saver below a fun one? Toothpaste tablets that I found for sale at Ralphs grocery store!

Weight saving toothpaste tablets.
SPOT Button
SPOT Button

If I fall off a cliff, hopefully my thumb will still work so I can press the SOS/Call for rescue button on my SPOT device (picture on right).  I must say that just owning this device gives me tremendous peace of mind what with venomous snakes lying in wait under every bush I plan to squat behind when “nature calls”.

I read a book called Graphic The Valley in which the protagonist kills an attacking mountain lion by shoving his fist down its throat and suffocating it to death. I am SO going to do that if I get attacked by a mountain lion.  Please don’t tell me how unlikely that tactic is to work. My fantasy of my heroism over such a beast brings me both peace and joy.



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