Tag Archives: wilderness

getting to see Dewey Point….

20181110_111539          Schmuck 1 taking in the view from Dewey Point, Yosemite National Park.  

The last time we did the hike from Glacier Point Road to Dewey Point, the trail was covered in six feet of snow and the valley was socked in with clouds (as described in our forthcoming book, “The Road to Whitney”). On that cold winter’s day when WE broke the trail to Dewey in our snowshoes, we rewarded only with a hot lunch and more than few cross-country skiers trying to steal our thunder (also recounted in the book). Saturday, November 10, 2018 was an entirely different story….

We hit the McGurk Meadow trailhead on Glacier Point Road at about 8:40 am on Saturday. It was a crisp 29 degrees when the Two Schmucks and a guest hiker, Ron D., set our Dewey. The sun was shining and there was very little breeze. In other words, a perfect day for a hike in Yosemite. But, you know what they say, a miserable hike in Yosemite beats a good day at work! But, there was nothing miserable about this hike. It was great weather and even better conversation for four miles when we broke out of the trees and were rewarded with sweeping views of the valley from 3,300 feet. A thin layer of clouds lazed around the granite peaks adding to the serenity and beauty of the views. El Capitan stood sentry across the gorge and the Merced River sparkled on the valley floor as it made it way through the canyon. The three of us stood in silence, in awe of what we saw before us. After a few moments, we scrambled around the natural stone platform to see the views from different perspectives. It was like opening presents on Christmas morning as each perch offered something a little different from the one before. We felt privileged to experience the park this way, a sight we did not get to see on that wintry day so many years ago….a sight that many people do not see just by going to the gift shop in the valley. For us, the only way to really experience Yosemite is in a pair of good, trail-rated hiking boots (Remember Rule 1!).

Trail Rating: 2

We talked a lot about our trail rating system to help guide other schmucks, noobs, and the otherwise unfamiliar about the nuances of experiencing our national parks. The scale goes like this: 1 is strolling about Fresno’s River Park Mall and 10 would be grinding it out up Yosemite Falls with a full backpack and a damn bear canister. The 8-mile round trip from Glacier Point Road to Dewey Point and back is a solid 2.

From the road, the well-traveled trail descends through cool pines before breaking out into McGurk Meadow in all its golden glory. A wooden footbridge get you over a creek, which was frozen when we crossed it, and the trail skates along the meadow until a peaceful forest of tall pines and sequoias swallows you up again. You will also hit a couple of junctions that marks the trails and mileage to other attractions. But, you have never been to Dewey, go there first. Just follow the trail from the junctions and you will, almost at the last-minute, break out of the trees and into a clearing that leads to the natural Dewey Point platforms. You won’t be sorry!

Is this trail awesome for beginners? Hell yes. Why? Because there is nothing like actually getting to see Dewey Point…

 

Half Dome by the Numbers

I see things in numbers. Must be the engineer in me. It was no different when a few members of the 234th Intelligence Squadron and I hit the trail determined to hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. So here are the numbers of our Half Dome hike:

33, 319   number of steps to top of Half Dome and back (Sam counted)
9,600      elevation, in feet, gained and lost to top of Half Dome and back
16           number of miles to top of Half Dome and back
9              number of hours to top of Half Dome and back
1              numbers of time I feel it necessary, in my life, to go to top of Half Dome and  back

0410     time we left the house
10           number of minutes we left late
0700     time we hit the trail
90           number of minutes we hit the trail late
1              number of couples lost (left) in parking lot so we would no longer be late

45.24     money I spent on gas because someone forgot their wallet
28.32     money I spent on pizza and soda because someone forgot their wallet
12.18     money I spent on refreshments because someone forgot their wallet
1               number of people that, in the future, will ensure no one forgets their wallet

16           liters of water drank by three of us
3               additional liters of water one of the three should have drank to prevent passing out due to dehydration
1              amount of ‘good’ smacks it took to bring dehydrated person back to reality

400   distance in feet of the final ascent of half dome
2         number of cables the average person needs to make the final ascent and descend half dome
1          number of cables one of us needed to descend half dome (obviously not having a wallet makes it easier to descend half dome)

5 hikers spent 9 hours crossing 16 miles, reaching a summit of 8,694 feet and returning to the valley floor, resulting in 1 glorious trip.

 

We Suffered So You Don’t Have To (How to Start Backpacking)

You’re an average Joe (or Jo) and you want to go backpacking. Good for you. But how to start, that is the question. You find plenty of information for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or heading off cross-country on a 50 mile, 5 day excursion. But what about an overnighter? What about leaving early on Saturday and returning Sunday evening? You want to know what trail mix is best not how to prepare a gourmet meal at 10,000 feet. You want to know how much water might be needed, not how to purify urine. You want to know how to start backpacking, maybe going 10 to 15 miles round trip, how to ensure you won’t die your first night out and how to keep backpacking from busting your wallet, just in-case you determine that the struggle isn’t worth the victory.

Us schmucks had the same questions and issues. Fortunately for you, we found the answers to all your questions and we found those answers by plunging into backpacking head-first (literally). We know the right way and the wrong way because we did things the wrong way. We know the right equipment and the wrong equipment because we purchased the wrong equipment.

So take a few minutes to check out the list below as well as their links and all your questions will be answered. Remember, WE SUFFERED, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO!

What you need to start backpacking:

1. Destination – Where do you want to go?

2. Shoes – the most important thing to consider

3. Equipment – backpack, sleeping bag, tent, etc.

4. Water – too heavy to carry, too important to be without

5. Food – Easier the better

6. Your own Schmuck – Misery loves company

Haul or Not to Haul (Marketing the Bear Canister)

In my humble opinion, the bear canister is the most useless thing in your backpacking arsenal. I understand the reasoning behind the bear canister; I’m just not sure if I believe there’s a need for the bear canister. After all, it is rare to run into a bear and if you do, I think you and the bear will have a lot more on your minds besides the bears craving for your toothpaste.

With that being said, I would still be willing to haul a bear canister if the cost/benefit ratio was in the favor of hauling the canister; but it’s not.

The benefit side of the ratio includes the extremely rare chance of a bear stumbling into your camp site and then wanting to eat or taste items that smell appealing to you. Not to mention, if these two occurrences were to meet and you had a canister, the only benefit would be to the bear and I’m guessing if you asked the bear, he would not see the benefit. In other words, benefit side = low.

Whereas the cost side of the ratio is high and only affects you, not the bear. I mean you have to haul the heavy, unpackable, unattachable, unwieldy canister up the mountain. And just because you’re in bear country, doesn’t mean you’re heading towards a bear. After all, a bear’s territory is acres or square miles. The chances of me heading towards a bear are just as good as me heading away from a bear.

However, as stated earlier, I would be willing to haul the canister if the cost/benefit ratio were tipped in the benefit’s favor. Perhaps in order to tip the equation, the park rangers would consider marketing the bear canister for other purposes, such as:

  1. A stool to sit upon around the campfire
  2. A floatation device in the event I fall into a raging river or lake
  3. A portable bathroom (after all, we are supposed to pack out our waste)
  4. A water heater. It is black and plastic and would get quite toasty in the sun
  5. Fuel for the fire. It’s larger than any log I’ve stumbled upon
  6. A rather large fishing bob (but you will need high test line)
  7. A footrest

Rules, Laws, Ideas, Truisms and Vito’s Maxim

Following is a compilation of the rules and laws of backpacking, current at this time, which we’ve learned the hard way. Heed the following or suffer as two schmucks . . .

Rules and Laws

  1. It’s All In the Shoes
  2. Lighter is Better
  3. Fundamental Law of Backpacking – What goes Down, Must go Up
  4. (Time + Agony) Going Down ≥ (Time + Agony) Going Up
  5. Cotton is bad, Nylon is good

One Good Idea – Know the weather of your destination

One Truism – When one suffers all suffers

Vito’s Maxim – The feeling of joy that comes with the completion of an adventure is directly proportional to the adversities that must be overcome during said adventure