Humphreys Basin and French Canyon via Piute Pass

Who: Phil and me
What: Backpacking
When: 9/2/17-9/5/17
Where: John Muir Wilderness, native land of the Monache
Mileage: 28 miles (21 on trail + 7 xc)
Elevation gain/loss: +5,300ft/-5,300ft
More photos: here
CalTopo: here

This crazy spring we’re having has me holed up writing trip reports instead of backpacking—it’s snowing in much of the Sierra this Memorial Day weekend—what even! But here we are. So, I took Phil, an avid cycle trekker, dj, and overall incredibly capable friend of mine, on his first ever backpacking trip in the John Muir Wilderness! Over Labor Day weekend in 2017, we set out from North Lake to explore Humphrey’s Basin and a pass on the Sierra High Route. We were impressed by the snowfields that still managed to linger and hinder our progress even in the first week of September of this high snow year—perhaps a sign for what’s in store for us again in 2019. Phil ripped his homemade shorts. We had a great time.

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Merced River Canyon in Yosemite via the Mist Trail from Happy Isles

Who: Just me!
What: Backpacking
When: 5/13/19-5/14/19
Where: Yosemite National Park
Mileage: 25 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +5,350ft/-5,350ft
More photos: here
CalTopo: here

I had a good 9 days between the last day of instruction and when my final exams were scheduled, so even with a few days for review sessions and extra office hours, I still had plenty of time to head off to the woods to shake the winter off and train for more involved trips later in the summer. Typically, I head up to the Trinity Alps (1, 2) during this time, but with the big winter we’ve had here in 2019, there aren’t many great options up there around this time, so instead I headed to Yosemite. I usually try to avoid Yosemite Valley, especially in the spring, since it’s so full of people, but wow, this trip has shifted my perspective. Dare I say that I may even have become an early-season valley enthusiast? Indeed, I have, though the conditions definitely made me change my plans and I ended up splitting my trip into two pieces. This is the second part, you can read about the first part over here.

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South Rim of Yosemite Valley via the Pohono Trail from Tunnel View to Taft Point

Who: Just me!
What: Backpacking
When: 5/12/19-5/13/19
Where: Yosemite National Park
Mileage: 10 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +4,900ft/-1,650ft
More photos: here

I had a good 9 days between the last day of instruction and when my final exams were scheduled, so even with a few days for review sessions and extra office hours, I still had plenty of time to head off to the woods to shake the winter off and train for more involved trips later in the summer. Typically, I head up to the Trinity Alps (1, 2) during this time, but with the big winter we’ve had here in 2019, there aren’t many great options up there around this time, so instead I headed to Yosemite. I usually try to avoid Yosemite Valley, especially in the spring, since it’s so full of people, but wow, this trip has shifted my perspective. Dare I say that I may even have become an early-season valley enthusiast? Indeed, I have, though the conditions definitely made me change my plans and provided copious amounts of both adventure and solitude—being the only person at Taft Point in the middle of the day when the waterfalls are raging? Yes, please! 

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Carrizo Plain + Antelope Valley Superblooms + Benton Hot Springs

Who: Partly just me, but later with Dayna, Miranda, Betty, and Tim
What: Road trip! with my new trailer (!!)
When: 3/25/19-3/31/19
Where: All over California
More photos: here

Climate change has given California incredibly wet winters in two out of the last three years, resulting in outrageous superblooms in our grasslands and deserts. For spring break this year, I hopped in my new trailer and drove a giant circle around the Sierra Nevada, stopping for flowers, the Alabama Hills, and hot springs. There were plenty of mis-adventures mostly related to me not knowing what I was doing with the trailer, especilaly in the first 24 hours, but all in all it was an amazing trip.

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Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Who: Just me!
What: Backpacking
When: 1/1/18-1/4/18
Where: Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Mileage: 35 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +5,200ft/-4,900ft
More photos: here

I kicked off 2018 with my first ever backpacking trip in another country! I used airline miles to snag a flight to New Zealand, which is an absolutely spectacular, unreal place to visit if you like to be outside. Fiordland National Park on the South Island is quite possibly the most stunning area in the country. There are a handful of “tracks” (trails) that New Zealand has fully developed in its Great Walks program. These have perfectly maintained trails, outhouses here and there, and even huts you can book to sleep in. Quite a change from my usual Sierra program, but it was incredible.

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Cathedral Lakes to Yosemite Valley via Clouds Rest

Who: Me, Miles, Dominic, and Max
What: Backpacking
When: 6/9/18-6/12/18
Where: Yosemite NP
Mileage: 34 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +4,000ft/-8,650ft
More photos: here
CalTopo: here

In 2018 I vowed to introduce as many friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends as possible to backpacking, with the hope of spreading the gospel of Leave No Trace and helping it propagate. This trip was the second trip of the summer with relative newbies who I’d met through DSA, and we took a classic route in Yosemite from Tuolomne to the Valley via Cathedral Lakes and Clouds Rest. We also visited my favorite campsite on Echo Creek, where we saw a pair of bears! I am still learning how to gauge how much people who aren’t used to backpacking can do comfortably, and this trip was a learning experience for me in that vein.

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A brief comparison of Garmin Inreach monthly plans

A few days after a solo trip to the Trinity Alps five years ago, when I first began to go backpacking solo a lot, I came home to a package from REI on my stoop. I was confused—had I drunkenly gear-shopped? I couldn’t remember placing an order. I opened the package to find an ACR ResQLink personal locator beacon, along with a note from my parents that read “We hope you never have to use this, but just in case. For when you are the most alone.” Aww, so sweet. They had done their research and decided to go with the ACR since it was the most reliable, connected to government satellites, and didn’t require a subscription to be maintained. I’ve dutifully renewed its registration every two years, tested it every season, changed its batteries, and carried it on countless trips since then.

The technology has come a long way since then, though, and I’ve been eyeing the Garmin Inreach Mini. The ability to two-way text with both first responders and loved ones plus its tiny size have me intrigued. With REI member coupon and dividend season around the corner, I decided to run some numbers to see if it might be reasonable to upgrade. I earn my dollars teaching mathematics at a local college, so I decided to merge my talents (?) and go about this in a bit more of a structured way. The plan pricing for the Garmin products has eight different options just for the personal plans, all with different features, so a little analysis is in order. After doing this, I thought, why not share? So here we are. If you’re too lazy to Read Words Wow Gross, just skip to the end where I’ve included a handy flowchart to help you decide between the four most likely options.

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