Unbeknownst to most people, California was the place where glaciers were “discovered” in the United States, atop Mount Shasta. And while the words “California” and “glacier” will never be synonymous, the state still has twenty glaciers (seven located on Mount Shasta, and thirteen are located in the Sierra Nevada). While each of California’s remaining glaciers offer their own individual logistical challenges, the Palisade Glacier is one of the easiest to visit from May to mid-October. In this case, easy is a relative term, as visitors to the Palisade Glacier will have to traverse ten miles of trail to the end of the glacier, and gain 4,000 feet of elevation, before returning back to the trailhead. From mid-October through May, the ascent to the Palisade Glacier becomes substantially more difficult, as it is over snow and ice, and requires proper preparation and navigation. However, for those willing to make the trek, the Palisade Glacier is a spectacular sight to behold; and is a relic from a long lost past that is disappearing in the modern age.
Chances are, if you have any sort of social media presence, you’ve seen with increasing frequency some sort of picture of people, tents, or both laid out artfully in front of tall mountains and crystal blue lakes. And, if you’ve seen these photos and there wasn’t a caption, you probably wondered where these lakes were, and if the photos were photoshopped. These lakes are the glacial lakes of the Big Pine basin, specifically located off the North Fork of Big Pine Creek; and for the most part, there is no photoshopping of the photos of these lakes – they actually do look like that way in real like, with brilliant shades of cerulean blue. The lakes popularity, however, precedes social media, as the trail up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek has long been one of the most popular destinations in the Inyo National Forest. As a matter of fact, the only thing unknown – and unspectacular about these lakes is their names. For unknown reasons, the lakes – and the waterfalls along this trail were given generic names – “First Waterfall”; “First Lake”; “Second Lake” through “Seventh Lake”. My personal suggestion for hikers or backpackers visiting the area – call them whatever you want, because they are amazing.
Backpacking! Unlike hiking, or trail running, backpacking is something that carries a bit of mystique - and a bit of fear for the casual adventurer. While there are many reasons for those - and other feelings, the main reason is that until one learns what to bring - and not to bring, the sport can seem a little daunting. In my opinion, backpacking is a great way to experience all of the unique spots around the world. I also think that, generally, once one gets a little experience in the sport it gets progressively easier and progressively more enjoyable. In this video I cover what gear I carried for a basic two-day trip up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek in the Eastern Sierra. While the gear in the video is somewhat specifically tailored for the trip, it would also be great example for other two day trips, like the one I discussed a few years ago to May Lake. Got any suggestions or comments about what you like or dislike about backpacking? Let me know in the comments below!
San Diego is a hiker’s mecca. From the trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve on the Coast, to the city’s highest point at Cowles Mountain, and through the East County trails of Iron Mountain and El Cajon Mountain, there is literally a hike for every person, and for every skill level. In addition to all of these trails, and the thousands more I didn’t mention, San Diego is also a great location for overnight camping, from backpacking to car-camping and everything in between. Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve been lucky enough to explore much of San Diego’s backcountry in a number of ways, and am thrilled to be working with Expedia.com on this article to recommend some of the best overnight wilderness hiking areas. While overnight wilderness activities have innumerable perks, the locations within the confines of San Diego allow visitors the added benefit of a little extra wilderness solitude to recover from the hustle and bustle of everyday Southern California life. The locations listed below provide a great starting point for overnight wilderness activities in the County, and hopefully provide inspiration for many nights in some of the most pristine backcountry that can be found in Southern California.
From the sand dunes of the Farewell Spit, to the volcanic terrain of Tongariro National Park, to the lush forests of Rakiura National Park and the tropical beaches of Abel Tasman, New Zealand has almost every type of backcountry terrain that a hiker could want. With so many picturesque and jaw dropping locations, it is hard to find first, a bad hike in all of New Zealand, and second, “the best” hike in all of New Zealand. However, if you are a person who likes superlatives and stunning alpine views, the best hike in all of the three islands of New Zealand (North, South, and Stewart) might just be Key Summit.
When I started backpacking, the one of the main – and critical issues was what gear would be left behind. At that time, backpacks were heavy, external frame affairs, and it was common to see even experienced backpackers with sleeping pads, metal canteens, and heavy and bulky sleeping bags lashed or strapped to various places on the backpack. This was before the rise of synthetic materials, and the ultralight movement that has come to dominate not only backpacking, but the outdoor industry as a whole. When I look back on the gear that I and many other people used to carry, I realize that it truly was the dark ages in terms of how the sport has evolved.
One of the best places to hike in Southern California is Mount San Jacinto State Park, in part because there are a number of great routes up Southern California’s second highest mountain; and in part because the park offers a number of great hiking opportunities for all skill levels. One of the more moderate hikes that doesn’t involve summiting the mountain, but provides great views and solitude is Deer Springs Trail to Strawberry Junction.