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For those of you here who are familiar with places to backpack in California... you'd think living here I'd know this, but I seem to be striking out.
I'm itching to go backpacking, but it'll be at 4 or 5 months before conditions are suitable in the Sierra. I'm thinking about where else I could go backpacking that (1) wouldn't involve deep snow, and (2) would be warm enough that there'd still be open water in creeks & lakes.
While the idea of backpacking in full winter gear intrigues me, the fact of the matter is I probably won't get to it. I occasionally camp in the winter, but so far only in places where I can have a campfire in the long cold evenings, and have a vehicle to carry the firewood & big piles of clothes & gear. Plus I don't really want to carry an 80 lbs pack so I can bring the required multiple sets of clothing to stay warm in the snow, shovel, heavy winter tent, yadda, yadda, yadda (even my "light" summer pack is in the upper 30's pounds w/food & water).
So I've thought about:
1. Trinity Alps (snow, just like the Sierra, and access roads likely closed)
2. Lost Coast (should have synthetic bag, not down like I have now, because it's so damp) ... and limited trails anyway
3. Yolla Bolly wilderness (very little written about this area but I assume there's snow, and apparently access roads would be closed)
4. Big Sur / Ventana Wilderness (everything I've read about this indicates only the main trails close to the roads are clear ... everything else is reportedly largely overgrown requiring bushwhacking thru chaparral Articles on the ventanawild site indicate you basically need to plan on getting slathered in poison oak, so you need to figure out how to take off your hiking clothes without touching them, can't touch your shoes, need to bathe in Tecnu, etc). Beautiful area, but backpacking there sounds more like a punishment than a pleasure.
5. Joshua Tree, Death Valley, etc (~9 hour drive from SF, plus apparently limited trails with water access, so good for day hikes only)
6. Lassen area (lotsa snow) and pushing it distance-wise for a weekend trip
7. Hetch Hetchy area (road closed due to landslide this winter)
I must be overlooking something here. Any thoughts? :)
I'm looking for areas within reach of San Francisco for 1-3 night trips (meaning no more more than ~4 hours drive each way, tops, though I've been known to stretch that to 5-6+ hrs going to the east side in the summer when its accessible).