What am I doing?
I’ll be spending most of August and September hiking in the Sierra Nevada, the prominent mountain range in California that contains Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park. I’m stringing together a number of known routes for my trip: the Sierra High Route by Steve Roper, the Southern Sierra High Route by Alan Dixon and Don Wilson, and the Kings Canyon High Basin Route by Andrew Skurka. Each of these routes in turn are made of previously known passageways, documented in various books of hiking and climbing routes in the Sierras and many traveled by humans long before white folks came to the area.
The nature of each of these routes is to hew closely to the high country of the mountain range and to visit the less frequently traveled places. Consequently, the routes privilege cross-country travel, and trails are used primarily when they seem to provide the only viable means of connecting one cross country area with another, without getting into technical climbing. Many of my days will be spent on class 2 or class 3 scrambling routes over passes and mountains, interspersed with lake-dotted valleys, basins, and cirques.
Where do I begin?
At Twin Lakes just west of Bridgeport, CA, on the eastern flank of the Sierra.
Where do I end?
At Road’s End, a trailhead in Kings Canyon National Park.
How many days will I be hiking?
My current plan is to spend around 50 days. Humbly I go – plans are easily derailed.
How many miles will my total trip be?
Around 470, plus or minus 10-20% (mileage is hard to calculate off of trails).
Am I hiking with others?
I’m going alone. Alone!
How will I deal with food?
I packed up boxes with food and will have them mailed to me. Three of my resupply stops are small resort areas high up in the mountains, relatively close to my route (Red’s Meadow, Parcher’s, and Lodgepole). Two of my resupply stops involve hiking out to a trailhead and hitchhiking into a town (Lone Pine and Independence). There will be five resupply stops all told.
How will I maintain a blog while in the wilderness?
Every night, I write a blog entry on my smartphone and save it. When I get internet service, typically at resupply stops, I’ll upload all the saved entries. This means a number of days will pass with no updates, and then many updates all at once.
If there is no trail, how will I know where I’m going?
Map and compass, and written descriptions of the routes I’m attempting to follow. An example, from Steve Roper’s book “The Sierra High Route”:
From the basin ascend north up grass-covered ramps and gullies alongside the cascading stream that originates near the ridge far above. After a gentle climb of some 800 feet … the hiker arrives at an extensive flat area at 10,900 feet. To the northeast, about a quarter of a mile distant, lies a broad, grassy saddle. But instead of aiming for this obvious gap, turn slightly left and proceed due north up a rocky slope that ends on the east ridge of Mount Conness.
What is the terrain like?
I’ve read that it is quite a lot of talus and scree, ie accumulated broken rock debris. Typically the terrain would be mostly snow-free in August when I begin, but the winter of 2016/2017 saw over 200% of normal snow, so there may still be quite a lot of snow lingering in the high country. I’ll be traveling with microspikes (like mini crampons) and an ice axe.
Why am I doing this?
The answer is complex. I hike to live in relationship to myself, to illuminate my senses of joy, fear, loneliness, freedom. I do it to see what it feels like to just take the next step, especially when I’m bored or frightened or resistant. Hiking puts me into the wild and also pulls from me my own inner wilderness, and that is an invigorating place to make a life, for a time. This blog is, of course, my long answer to the question of why I hike. Some things take time to feel, and time to express.
Have a question not answered here? Ask it in the comment section below!