Tarptent Double Rainbow

Interview with Tarptent, From the Archives

For the hardy few willing to hike miles on end, sleep on the ground and cook over a sputtering stove, backpacking opens up wilderness places and experiences inaccessible to the average day hiker.

But it requires skills of self-sufficiency, a sense of adventure and – increasingly evident as the miles add up and the mountain looms – a heavy backpack.

That was the problem faced by Henry Shires, now of Nevada City, when planning a 2,650-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Canada in 1999.

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Flashback: Winter Camping in Tahoe

Back in the winter of 2009-10, I was lucky enough to tag along with a Tahoe Rim Trail Association snow camping trip in the Mount Rose area above Lake Tahoe. Snow camping isn’t something that appeals to a lot of people, but the opportunity to do something different in Tahoe’s backcountry was exciting to me, and to have instruction the first time out made it an easy sell.

Snow camping Tahoe

After snowshoeing in to camp, the instructors showed us how to tamp down a level spot for our tents, which we left to sinter (letting the crystals of snow refreeze to each other, making a more stable platform), while taking a sunset hike.

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One foot in front of the other (From the Archives)


They trickle through Donner Summit each summer thin, weathered and determined. Some reach where Old Highway 40’s ribbon of asphalt breaks the 2,650-mile trail momentarily, stride across the road and continue walking, their faces and feet pointed toward Canada.

Others drop into the cafe at Donner Ski Ranch and gorge themselves on hamburgers, ice cream or soda that cant be carried on their long hike. Still others venture to Poohs Corner to sample the legendary hospitality of a Donner Lake resident who has welcomed long distance hikers into his home for years.

And then, by August, the last of the pack is gone, following a dusty thread of trail up the spine of the Sierra Nevada, hoping that before the snow flies they’ll plant their feet in Canada and, for the first time in five months, walk away from a trail that has become their home.

Roughly 87 days and 1,156 miles since setting off from the Mexican border, Dominique Ghijselinck and Valerie De Clerck, collectively known as the Belgian Waffles, sat down for a break on Donner Summit Thursday.

“We like-long distance hiking, and we met a guy from Oregon who said ‘you might consider the Pacific Crest Trail,'” Ghijselinck said. “Somehow it got stuck in our heads.”

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A trip up California’s Northern Coast

It’s been easy to take every bit of time off and focus it on the Sierra – not just because I live here – but because it demands so much attention and holds so much of my affection. But recently, Lynn and I decided to take a trip into another spectacular part of our state, and into an area the awakened childhood memories and ineffable nostalgia in me – the northern coast.

After my sister’s incredible wedding at my parents’ beautiful Point Reyes property, The Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore, we pointed the flying green toaster north, with a week of winding Highway 1, 101 and dirt roads spooling out in front of us.

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Ruby Mountains Magic – A Hidden Gem of a Mountain Range.

Rumors and murmurs of a mountain range in eastern Nevada percolate in the Tahoe area, with stories of amazing backcountry skiing, and a stunning range that blends the best of the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains.

I’d heard stories for years, and had the remote range on my short list for years. but it took a media trip with Tahoe Quarterly to finally put it all together. Here’s a quick video from our hikes up to Island Lake and a scramble up Liberty Peak:

You can see the Tahoe Quarterly story here.

From the Archives: Hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail

This is a series of articles, photos and videos I produced for the Sierra Sun back in 2007 as part of a 2-week thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Still my longest backpacking trip to date, I was part of a ~15 person group as part of a lead counter-clockwise thru-hike organized by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. The associated later recognized this series with an award.


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Vicarious adventures on the internet

After making it all winter without catching a cold, I came down with a bug this week to match the snowy June weather. Unable to get outside for adventures myself, I’ve been scouring the internet for vicarious thrills through the adventures of others on the internet, be it travel video, Sierra Nevada climbing video, or backcountry skiing video.

I suppose that’s the benefit of an at-times exhibitionist Facebook-Twitter-Youtube-Vimeo generation that shares everything: Sometimes someone shares something good. Here are a few of my favorite ways to get your outdoor fix when your stuck at home:

1) The Smiley’s project: Climbing North America’s 50 classics

Fifty Classic Climbs of North America from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

A husband and wife living out of a Dodge Sprinter camper van, climbing and camping. Who isn’t jealous? See the rest here.

2) The Love Letter

This one’s gotten around so you may have seen it, and sure, the ending is a little on the nose, but the footage is gorgeous.

3) Yosemite Nature Notes

These have also been around, but they’re beautiful and interesting 5-minute vacations into one of my favorite places on earth. See the rest of them here.

4) 23 Feet

23 Feet Trailer from Allie Bombach on Vimeo.

This one’s a trailer for a movie, but it got me to spend an hour or two organizing my car camping go bags so I can spend as much of my time dirtbagging and boondocking this summer as possible.

5) Sierra Descents

Skiing Whitney’s North Face from Andy Lewicky on Vimeo.

From backcountry skiing Mt. Whitney, the lower 48’s highest peak, to wearing a helmet cam on the cables of Half Dome, Sierra Descents has some cool videos, not to mention his gear reviews and trip reports.

Seeing as it’s still snowing and I’m still coughing, who’s got more recommendations for great adventure youtube videos?