As we continue planning for the PCT, long weekend backpacking trips are proving to be a helpful way to test our new lighter weight gear. It’s not a big deal to carry a few extra ounces or pounds for a couple days, but it’s significant if we were to carry that extra weight for 2600 miles. We’re using these long weekend trips to truly figure out what we can and cannot live without. Plus, of course, we’re exploring and having a great time on whatever length trip we take!
This four day trip was a 29 mile loop near Hetchy Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park. Becky, Chris’s sister, joined us for her second ever backpacking trip. We left after work on Wednesday with the intention of camping at the Hetch Hetchy campground. However, within several miles of the campground, an NPS gate blocked the way with a sign stating “Day Use Hours 7am-9pm. Gate locked at night”. Well, that information wasn’t on the map or in the permit! So the first night we camped next to the road.
Thursday morning we started off hiking next to Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which supplies San Francisco and several other cities with water. Throughout our trip, we explored areas that drain to Hetch Hetchy reservoir and eventually flow into San Francisco homes. Most of us living in developed countries take clean water flowing out of our shower heads and faucets for granted. Seeing the origin of all our water reminds us how much we depend on nature to survive and how important it is to protect our waterways. If you don’t already know, I challenge you to figure out where your city’s drinking water comes from.
As we continued around Hetch Hetchy reservoir, we passed Tueeulala Falls and Wapama Falls. Both were beautiful, but Rancheria Falls near our campsite took the cake.
On day 2 we had two steep uphill climbs nicely separated with flat ground through a marsh in Tiltill Valley. This was my favorite spot of the trip. The variety and vivid colors of the wildflowers were stunning.
Here are some of my favorite flowers from the trip:
One of our weight-reduction gear changes turned out to be very helpful today. The marshes were filled with tons of wildflowers…and mosquitoes. We had removed our backpack lids to save weight, but I still needed a place to store commonly-used items. The built-in hip-belt pockets on my Osprey Talon were promising, but their small size and open mesh made them less than ideal. I cut them off and replaced them with larger waterproof Mountain Laurel Designs pack pockets. This lighter weight setup was also surprisingly better than the original setup with pack lid, since everything I desired (including bug goop) was easily accessible without needing to take off my pack to get into the lid. Shoo bugs!
We ended the day descending across massive granite slabs towards Lake Vernon. We camped on the granite near the lake (fewer mosquitoes and fewer bears on that side of the lake). The lake and Falls Creek, which flows out from the lake, are each powerful in their own ways.
Day 3 was relaxing and we only hiked a few miles to Laurel Lake. Becky braved the chilly water and took a nice long swim, Anna learned some new wildflower names, Chris wandered with his camera, and we all cooked a yummy dinner and dessert.
Our pop can alcohol stove and caldera cone windscreen have worked wonderfully so far. The caldera cone is also designed to be used with a small twig fire so we tested out this setup to make brownies. The fire was easy to start and keep going. The caldera cone reduced the wind nicely and funneled the heat towards our pan. However, the cookware got covered in soot, which made packing up the next day more difficult. So ultimately, we decided that alcohol fuel is the best way to go, but it’s good to know we have a solid backup option in case something happens to our pop can stove.
After dinner, Chris set up three trekking poles into a tripod formation using a rubber band around the handles. We hoped for a nice clear night, and wow did our wish come true! The milky way was beautiful and the image below was made possible by the trekking pole tripod.
On the way home we stopped at a local creamery. Mmm ice cream is perfect after a hot backpacking trip.
More photos from this trip here.