Crag USGS & Deer From Kennedy Meadows WTC Experience Trip

June 10th & 11th, 2017
Crag USGS (9,440')
Deer Mountain (9400ish)
Day 1: 14.7 miles, 4,800'
Day 2: 12.9 miles, 2,000'
[Pics] [Caltopo] [Map]

This trip was originally a two day to Kern Peak led by Garry McCoppin and Ross Doering.  That changed to Deer and Crag after the trailhead for Kern still wasn't opened a week before the trip.  And then when Garry needed a last minute replacement leader I jumped at the chance to get out from under the aftermath of moving the previous weekend.

I'd already been out this same trail just one month earlier scouting route options on Crag which was a bit of a bummer but on the other hand I already knew a really nice campsite and a pile of firewood that hasn't been used.  And as this trip was primarily intending as a Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course experience trip we had a nice diverse group.

Friday night 13 of us drove for Kennedy Meadows and spent the night at the campground.

Memorial Day Massacre 2017 - Jerky Meadows Kern Backpack

May 27th & 28th, 2017
[Pics] [Caltopo] [Map]

Historically I try and go big on Memorial Day and do a Sierra backpack with an aggressive plan.  It is after all the first "free" long weekend of the year and I'm always raring to get into the Sierra after a long season of desert trips and teaching outdoor classes.

It's also early enough where weather and other factors make things difficult more often than not.

A brief summary of the Massacres so far
2010 Walker Pass - The trip that inspired the name. Went at Chimney Creek to get a number of peaks and hike south to Walker Pass. Jen and I were the only ones that completed most of the peaks after more limited water sources than anticipated.
2011 Williamson Turnaround - Planned to be a Williamson are cleanout. Went in on a bad forecast which proceeded to get worse. Retreated from Shepherd Pass due to 100 mph winds to set up near Anvil only to have our tent ripped open by gusts. Spent the night in a bush getting snowed on. No peaks but we day hiked Olancha as a consolation prize.
2012 Golden Trout - Some weather but highly successful. Lots of miles & peaks. Started with 3 people, ended with two, and drank the worse water I've ever had the mispleasure of forcing down.
2013 Courtright In A Kilt - Spectacular weather, lots of peaks, lots of miles. All in a kilt!  (That summit shot won me an award)
2014 Skip Year - Didn't happen due to the job switch and moving back full time from Boise.
2015 Kibbie Ridge - Snowstorm hit on day one and high river crossings made the loop impossible.  Scaled the plan back and later did the loop over the 4th of July 2016
2016 Durrwood Crossing & Rincon - Scaled back to three days due to work challenges and recovery from knee surgery.  Three day loop north of Isabella involving a rotting cable crossing, one peak, and so many foxtails we had to throw out multiple pairs of socks.  And an armed man in a cave looking for murder gold.

This year I was recovered from surgery but had to stick to only three days due to a combination of work and an the fact I had to move my home the following weekend.  Also a record snow was making trailhead access difficult unless we wanted to haul in more gear and do the snow.  Eventually we settled on a 50 mile ish loop starting at Jerky Meadows, crossing the Little Kern and the bridge, following the Kern north to the crossing and grab Tower and Overlook to the east, then swing west camping at Coyote Lakes (a bucket list thing) and grab Coyote and Angora on the way out.

Aggressive.  As usual.  And also as usual things didn't go quite to plan...

Newport Harbor Pizza Paddle - May 2017

May 18th, 2017
[Pics] [Map]

Once a month a group of us get together and paddle Newport Harbor after work. We launch from the beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center and paddle over to Pizza Nova in the main harbor in a combination of kayaks and SUPs. There we dock our boats, partake in feast of pizza and beer, and then paddling back to the cars. We do this all year round and in pretty much all conditions. Light, dark, rain, and the dead of SoCal winter where you're tempted to put a sweater on with your flip flops.

You can find writeups of other pizza paddles here. For notifications on when we're doing the next one see our facebook group Pizza Paddle Associates. (Send me a message so I know you're not a spam bot!)

It's prime time for after work paddling right now since we get to launch in the light and it's warm enough even Kristen isn't wearing a jacket. And aside from a malfunctioning kayak everything went great!  

Crag Peaks (SPS & USGS) From Kennedy Meadows Campground PCT

May 13th & 14th, 2017
Crag Peak (9,480')
Crag USGS (9,440')
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

It's May and thanks to the record snow in the Sierra I'm currently stuck with conditions where it's too hot to do much in the desert but the amount of snow in the Sierra makes backpacks a challenge.  So that leaves snow climbs (which are a ton of fun but a different tempo) or heading to the lower elevation areas like Golden Trout.  And with the latter you're still looking at high stream crossings and trailheads which haven't opened yet.

There is a trailhead at Kennedy Meadows I've been wanting to try for a while.  It's where the PCT heads north from from the Kennedy Meadows Campground which is accessible year round.  (The campground itself was shut down a few years ago but reopened by the General Store in Kennedy Meadows and just asks for donations.)  Even more importantly for this time of year the trail has a footbridge to get you across the South Fork of the Kern so you're not limited to one side or the other.

The goal of the weekend was to do a quick two day to go climb Crag peak and possibly look at some other nearby bumps.  Crag is one of those funny peaks where the Crag marked on the USGS map isn't the one that the Sierra Club Sierra Peaks Section has on their list and for good reason.  The northern bump is only a slight bit lower but significantly more interesting than it's governmentally recognized neighbor.

Hiking Cameras: Olympus TG4 vs Sony TX30 Hiking Camera vs Apple iPhone 7+


I'm outdoors a fair amount and I really like to take pictures.  More for the joy of taking them and to help me remember better over time what I've done but nonetheless I like them to look halfway decent even when I take them in slightly challenging conditions.

Scodie Mountain Loop From Walker Pass Campground

April 30th, 2017
Scodie Mountain (7,294')
9.8 miles, 2900' gain
[Pics] [Map]

This was another Sierra Club I provisional for an Orange County Wilderness Travel Course staffer and this time it was Dennis Loya aka Bear from Modjeska Group.  Since it was just a day hike this one didn't count for students needing an experience trip but it was a good chance to get out and hike a pretty area that's only a few hours from LA.  Plus they got to hang out with us!

Newport Harbor Pizza Paddle - April 2017

April 27th, 2017
[Pics] [Map]

Once a month a group of us get together and paddle Newport Harbor after work. We launch from the beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center and paddle over to Pizza Nova in the main harbor in a combination of kayaks and SUPs. There we dock our boats, partake in feast of pizza and beer, and then paddling back to the cars. We do this all year round and in pretty much all conditions. Light, dark, rain, and the dead of SoCal winter where you're tempted to put a sweater on with your flip flops.

You can find writeups of other pizza paddles here. For notifications on when we're doing the next one see our facebook group Pizza Paddle Associates. (Send me a message so I know you're not a spam bot!)

We're back to launching in the daylight which is always nice especially when the occasional man down happens along the way...

Panamint City & Sentinel Peak via Surprise Canyon

April 14th &  15th, 2017
Sentinel Peak (9,634')
[Pics] [Map] [CalTopo]

Panamint City is an old mining ghost town on the western edge of Death Valley accessible only by a fairly rough 7.5 mile hike and fairly well preserved as these things go.  In addition to several mines to explore there are a number of cabins that are maintained by visitors and year round water sources make it an attractive location for a backpack.

It's also possible to do two Desert Peak Section peaks from there which is why I'd come back in 2012 for a three day.  After making the long uninteresting slog down the ridge and back to Porter I always said I wanted to come back but that I'd only do Sentinel.

And as it happened fellow WTC staffer Gracia Plascencia was leading it this year as a combination Sierra Club I provisional and WTC Experience trip over Easter weekend.

Sespe & Willett Hot Springs

April 8th & 9th, 2017
Sespe Hot Springs
16.4 miles, 2000' in
18.2 miles, 2600' out (with a side trip to Willett Hot Springs)
[Pics] [Map] [CalTopo]

After last weekend's snow climb of Mount Silliman I was tempted to head back to the Sierra again and maybe do Alta or something similar.  However a big storm was predicted to hit (unusually big for April) and Jen and I ended up looking local.

Sespe Hot Springs is located in Los Padres and only a few hours from OC.  Just drive up to Ojai and then drive a bit further along the 33.  Of the three trailheads listed by the forest service Piedra Blanca was was 16 miles each direction and followed the Sespe River which sounded like a nice way to spend 2 days.

Mount Silliman In The Snow

April 1st to 3rd, 2017
Mount Silliman (11,188')
[Pics] [Map]

Mount Silliman is one of those peaks that gets done quite a lot by WTC staff.  I did it in 2011 as a two day and again in 2016 as a very nice and relaxed three day but I'd never been out that way in the winter.

It has the advantage of a reasonable approach (we did about 6 miles and 2k gain to camp the first day) and spectacular views from the top.  This trip came about after I happened to see a picture of the area on Facebook right before an open weekend.