24 forum posts
Early spring 2011, after considering other options, me and my wife decided that our summer family (with three teens) trip would be in California this year and would include Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks. In 2010 we went to Costa Rica and in 2009 it was Utah. While we all dayhike many times per year my wife agreed to include backpack camping, which was to be a first experience for her... and also for us as a family.
We live in Montreal, east of Canada, and planned to fly in Los Angeles (and out of San Francisco, following a detour in Monterey), so we knew we could not prepare any food at home for our backpack trips; that was a challenge.
There is a lot of needed gear we did not own (light tents, light 30°F sleeping bags, bear canisters). I didn't find any outlet where I could rent in a city and return in another one. With some web searches, I've found LOWER GEAR, an outdoor rentals company in Arizona that ships through UPS wherever you need (with return prepaid). It worked out perfectly.
As beginners we had to learn of lot ot things and this forum was instrumental in making it a success. THANKS to all of you for your great suggestions of suitable trails and distances, comments and advices on basic issues (how many butane canisters and bear canisters, toilet paper, NPS permits, etc.) and safety concerns. Having many months in advance to get wilderness permits that fit our timeframe, not knowing if the extreme amount of snow would have melt on our trails (didn't want to camp in snow) brought worries. But it went very well (thanks also to the great weather we had!).
All of you living at few hour drives from so many beautifull areas are very lucky...!
Yosemite Valley 7h am
My wife wished to get back to you and decided to write a trip report, and to share some tips she discovered. Here it is:
MY FIRST BACKACKING TRIP EXPERIENCE
I am a woman in her late 40s who has always been interested in the outdoors and has completed a few day hikes in the Adirondack Mountains, Vermont, U.S.A. Southwest National Parks and Italian Alps. This summer, my husband and I decided to do something different and brought our 3 teenage boys (14, 15 and 17) for a few days of backpacking in Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite. This was part of a 16-day trip to California from June 27th to July 12th.
I must say that although I did love the idea of this trip and was looking forward to it, I found the preparation quite stressful as a newbie. My main concerns were about comfort and security, especially in bear countries. After lots of reading and discussions, we opted for a 2-day trip on the Wood’s Creek Trail to Paradise Valley in Kings Canyon and a few days later, another 3 days on Pohono Trail to Bridalveil Creek and Dewey Point in Yosemite.
Summary of our Trips
PARADISE VALLEY: We started early morning after a night camping at Roads End. As always, packing up the camp and waiting in line to get the permit was longer than expected, and we started hiking at around 9:30 a.m., after a few warm-up exercises directed by one of our sons. The first part of the trail was quite easy and sandy. The trail follows the Kings River that became bigger and stronger as we progressed. Soon, the 3 boys were well ahead of us and we communicated with our walkie-talkies. We told them not to wait for us and to choose good campsites and install the tents as soon as they arrived in Paradise Valley. We did not know yet if it would be Lower or Middle but we planned to advise once the first of us gets there. After a few walkie-talkie communications (“I have a bear standing 2 feet from my face!!” or “Are you at Mist Falls yet?”), we finally received a call from Jules: “I am there and it’s wonderful! I am looking for a camp site but everything seems to be taken.” He thought about moving to Middle Paradise, but then he called back to say he saw a wonderful spot near the water (#8) that he did not notice the first time. He said, “It is the best and I am setting up the tents there. I will then running back to take Mom’s backpack.” I must say that I was pretty happy to see him about an hour later coming toward us because I started to find it very difficult to progress with my big bag. We were in the section that was steep, VERY hot and dry. The last part is on big rocks and I was moving very slowly and needed lots of breaks.
Around 4:00 p.m., after a total hike of about 6 miles, we were finally all arrived at the campsite. What a pleasure to discover this wonderful place, with big trees filtering the afternoon sun, a calm and emerald green river, and ground covered with soft pine needles.
Our Camp in Lower Paradise Valley
It was a very rewarding experience! The boys had installed the camp and had already filtered 10 liters of water so we could refill and had enough to prepare dinner. But first we took the time to enjoy the freshness of the water and to relax, watching the wildlife. The night was good. The return the next day was as long for me as the first day and I felt the backpack as heavy as the first day. We had to reconsider the loads for the next trip… I am quite small and I realized I needed about twice the time than the others to cover the distance and this was not interesting for any of us.
Paradise Valley really bears an appropriate name.
In Paradise Valley
POHONO TRAIL: We started this hike after a night in a condo near Yosemite West. It was a one-hour drive to get to our starting point (Taft Point Road) after a detour to Glacier Point and when we arrived there around 10:00 a.m., the small parking was full. We had been told not to worry too much and to wait a bit because there is lots of movement during the day. Indeed, after 5 minutes of waiting, we were able to park and start hiking. This time, I was carrying only my 24 liter day-backpack and the walk was much easier for me.
The trail started with a few snow patches and was nice, going uphill and downhill. After nice views at Taft Point, we soon reached Bridalveil Creek around noon, where we had planned to spend the first night. After eating lunch, we decided to continue to Dewey Point and this was an excellent decision. We got there around 3:00 p.m.
The view at Dewey Point is incredible and the sunset was unforgettable.
Dewey Point, Yosemite
We camped a few dozen meters away from Dewey Point and were absolutely alone. It was Nature at its best! The night sky was full of stars and we slept very well. The boys woke up at 5:00 a.m. the next morning to take pictures of the sunrise.
Sunrise at Dewey Point
What wonderful memories. After a short hike to see another view, we walked back to Bridalveil Creek to camp there. The place was busier and fuller, which was less interesting after our night at Dewey. The atmosphere was more like a campground. The return on the last day was quite easy and we were back in our car at around 2:00 p.m.
My Tips for Comfort and Security
Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I would like to share some tips that I discovered and helped me enjoy these trips.
1) Freezer-bag cooking: Yes, it takes preparation to put every dry meal in exact quantities in individual bags and to calculate how much hot water is needed to rehydrate it, but it is worth the trouble. We ate well, healthy and not boring at all. I have attached our favorite recipes below.
Coming by plane (from Canada), we had to buy and prepare everything we needed once we arrived in the U.S.A. But the result was worth the half-day we spent in the grocery store to find everything needed plus the other half-day we spent preparing the bags. The main advantages are that the meals are ready in a snap (just add last-minute ingredients and hot water), no dishes to carry or wash (we were eating directly from the bags) and reasonable costs, especially when traveling with three hungry teenagers! Here are other food items that I consider a must to pack: a couple blocks of parmesan cheese (for better-tasting lunches) and M&Ms . The only thing we really missed was good real coffee; we only brought instant expresso.
Non-boring Trail Mix
Hot Chicken Cranberry Couscous Salad:
Trail Brownies in a Bag
Tuna Double Cheese Taters
2) Water: I was concerned about having enough clean water. Bringing a coal filter was a very good idea: it is easy to use and the water you get has no taste. It takes a few minutes to pump one liter. We also packed some chemicals to purify water in case the pump broke down. In fact, we did use the chemical as well since we were often walking in two groups (parents and children) and wanted each group to have easy access to clean water if needed.
3) Bandanas: I found they are wonderful comfort helpers during such trips. I was always carrying one at my waist to use as a hand towel after rinsing or washing my hands. I used another one as a “pee-rag”, another one as a neck scarf (I was spraying insect repellent on it - very effective) and I kept another one in my pack as a body towel. They are lightweight, nice and colorful, resistant and they dry quickly. I wouldn’t go without them.
4) Pee-rag: This is a wonderful woman’s discovery I made. I drink a lot and so I pee a lot! I do not feel guilty anymore about using toilet paper in the woods or being annoyed by packing it back. I was concerned about the smell but what I have read on forums is absolutely true: my pee rag didn’t smell at all even after 3 days if I let it dry in the sun on my backpack. I sewed a buttonhole on one end, which helps to secure it on the bag without tying it (which would not be the best for drying completely).
5) Ultra-lightweight umbrella: This is a must for me. I carry it in the side pocket of my backpack so I do not have to worry or walk in the woods forever to find some privacy. I just find a quiet spot with bushes, open the umbrella on the ground and squat behind it to do what I have to do without stress! I realized that before, I had the tendency to refrain from drinking too much water. Not anymore!
6) Small ultralight shovel: Having to poop in the woods was a big concern for me. But I realized that with a little savoir-faire, it is no trouble and much better than using a dirty and smelly pit toilet. We used a small shovel to dig a cat hole. Then, we covered everything with soil and placed a big rock on it. And forget about these funny ideas of using rocks, cones or leaves to wipe! In this case, bringing a few sheets of toilet paper (and packing it back in a double Ziploc) is a must. And don’t forget the umbrella!
7) Purell: I was always carrying a very little bottle of Purell to wash my hands before eating or anytime they felt too dirty. One small drop of camp soap also does the job.
A Word on Bears
I was quite concerned about bears and other animals. But overall, we had the chance to see 6 bears during our trip (all in Sequoia and Kings) as well as many deer and other animals. As the rangers said, bears are not interested in you but only in your food. We followed the recommendations, never left food unattended, packed all the food and toiletry in our 2 bear canisters at night and we had no problems at all. My strongest regret is to have scared away a bear coming towards me on the trail (by throwing a branch in its direction) instead of just stepping aside and watching it while it was passing me on the trail!