Backpacking

Backpacking in Northern Michigan // Jordan Valley Pathway // From the Archives

 

There’s nothing quite like walking out into the woods with everything you need for the night on your back. All of your food. The tent and sleeping bag you’ll sleep in. An extra layer of clothing. A baseball hat snapped onto the back of your pack. And then you walk. Through forest with tall trees. Over a wooden boardwalk elevated over swampy terrain. Along a cold and clear river. Through berry bushes taller than you are. Your feet get tired, but the sun is warm and you chat with each other about anything and everything. Then for some stretches it’s ok to be silent. To get into a rhythm. My short legs make me a pretty slow backpacker, so I just try to go with the flow. But trips like this provide me with little jewels in my memory. These are little glowing days that stand out compared to the rest of my year. It wasn’t because it was easy. No. It was definitely not a breeze. My body was pretty exhausted after this trip on the Jordan Valley Pathway, but a couple of days in the woods makes your mind slow down. After a trip like this I seem to be able to refocus on the things that are truly important. I can’t wait to plan our next outdoor adventure - I’m already brainstorming ideas for this Summer…

 

YOSEMITE: PART II : TUOLUMNE MEADOWS

The other day I just needed a mental break - a chance to look at something relaxing, and calming and awesome.  So I decided I would start working on some photos from my second Yosemite trip with Mike which I had failed to pay attention to for so long.  I made tea, put some bluegrass on pandora, and away I went.  As a soundtrack to this blog post, I highly recommend you click on this link here, before scrolling down.  Click on the link, let the song start playing, and then start reading this post.  Trust me on this one.

So to begin, this Yosemite trip was far more successful than our first one.  It might not be quite as eventful and intensely seared into our brains as the last one was, but this trip was a different kind of amazing.  We decided to head north of Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows (don't ask me how you are supposed to pronounce this).

 
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Gorgeous open spaces, mountains, and trees.  We both think about these types of places often when we are feeling trapped indoors... these places with so much undiscovered.  Places with nothing and everything at the same time.

 
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Since we have only had weekends - so far - to explore this amazing wilderness, we have had to do short loops.  We were hiking to Young Lakes via Dog Lake Trail.

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Mike snapped this picture, and I think he was getting impatient by how long I was stopping to stare at this view.  I think this was one of my favorite points on the loop.  We had just finished a long gradual climb and to be rewarded with something this incredible was perfect.
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Towards dusk we reached Young Lake where we camped for the night - at the proper, respectable, distance from the water I might add.  We ate dinner and watched as the sun sank lower and lower in the sky, slowly illuminating the trees on the other side of the lake.  It was amazing, and almost surprising how much the light changed the look of the landscape at this time of day.
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We kind of like each other.

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I don't usually experiment with longer exposures without a tripod - but now I think I should try it more often.  And I have to admit, I LOVE the neon pink I am able to get by doing this.  Normally I am not a pink-kind-of-gal, so I guess it just has to be a pink mountain to get me interested.  We haven't been backpacking with tripods, so I always feel like I am not a "real" photographer somehow.  I mean Ansel Adams dragged ridiculous set ups all over the Sierras, and I don't feel like carrying one measly tripod?  But ultimately, due to that very lack of stabilizing gear, I have found myself getting more creative when dusk comes around and I am not ready to put my camera down.  I love these images.

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There is nothing quite like reading Joseph Campbell discuss ancient mythology when you are curled up in a tent, with the wind whipping around you, and darkness approaching, and the closest place resembling modern civilization is a day's walk away.

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The first glimpse of daylight was incredible.
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I am doing a quick jump back in time so you can see the difference between the light in late afternoon:

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And the light in the morning:

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Yup, I could eat breakfast here everyday.
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I would have loved to spend more time at the lake during the day, but we had to get back on the trail... and it was mostly downhill for the second half of the loop :)

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Nice dirty toes at the end of the hike.  Ok, I guess I like pink mountains and pink nail polish.

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We drove by Tenaya Lake on the way out of Yosemite.  We stopped to have a snack and take a couple shots... it's too stunning not to.

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And of course we HAD to stop and get burgers at the Iron Door Saloon.  It is our kind of place, and it is the oldest alcohol-selling establishment in the state of California.

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Until next time,

With love,

Turtle & Moose.

YOSEMITE: PART I

A few weeks ago, Mike and I quickly planned a trip out of town to Yosemite when we realized we both had a weekend off together.  Neither of us had ever been, so we successfully checked off an item on our California bucket list.  It really was a whirlwind trip... nowhere near long enough.  Friday night we left the bay area after work (Mike ate a falafel hut sandwich faster than I thought humanly possible).  We made it to Jamestown, CA, closing in on midnight, and stayed at this pretty darn nasty hotel which I had google searched that morning.  We paid $80 for this room that did not even have toilet paper.  Thank god we were backpacking and came prepared.  We had been warned about trying to visit Yosemite in the summer, especially last minute, so this incredibly overpriced hotel was just the first example of why those warnings are true.

Here is a glimpse of the hotel's hallway.  Definitely has an old California gold rush kinda feel.

 
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The next morning we woke up early and after grabbing some gas and gas station coffee, we headed to Yosemite Valley.

 
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Our drive into the valley was absolutely ridiculously mind blowing.  Beautiful.  Massive sheer rock faces rising up on either side of us.  It really is the kind of thing that you have to experience for yourself.  But a million people do experience it, or at least a miniscule part of it, in the summer (4 million people visited the park last year).  We also read a statistic on one of our Yosemite maps that because the wilderness area is so large, 99% of visitors only see 2% of the park.  Here are people interacting with nature.

 
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I really can't criticize... I know I have most likely been seen doing this too.  Anyway... because of the massive number of people in the valley itself, parking was a challenge.  We ended up parking on the side of the road next to an overnight campground... crossing our fingers that we didn't get a ticket.  The shuttle buses in the valley were also totally packed at the stop near our car, so we ended up adding 2 miles onto our hike by walking through the valley to the trailhead.  Oh well.  We were just dying to get started.

 
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We decided to hike the Yosemite Falls Trail/Upper Yosemite Falls trail.  I should have known not to blindly take the recommendation of Mike's older brother who completed Ironman Canada last summer.  Oh, and his last experience backpacking this trail was with their middle brother, a fantastic triathlete who has competed at worlds in Australia and has been known to gleefully subject himself to push ups with a full pack on.  The first four miles were straight uphill.  Literally hiking up to the top of the massive cliffs lining the valley.

 
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I don't consider myself to be a wimp.  I played competitive soccer for 10 years, I have backpacked in 90 degree heat in Madagascar, camped for a month in Iceland, and been diving with sharks.  But this shit was hard.

 
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Ok, there were some nice views.

 
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I have to admit it really was worth it (maybe it took me a few weeks after the fact to realize it, but hey...).

 
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It was also pretty fabulous after we made it to the top and truly entered the backcountry... no more people.

 
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Camp for the night.

 
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And the mini bar I packed.

 
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Enjoying said mini bar.

 
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Can't take me anywhere.

 
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Despite a few challenges, we will be back... there is already talk of a potential fall/winter trip.   And disregard any warnings you may hear, you really should experience Yosemite, even if the only time you can go is in the summer.  We both love that feeling of being "out there" too much not to go back.  The silence.  The way the air smells.  And even I will admit the excercise backpacking provides feels pretty great.  I am kind of hoping we take a slightly more horizontal trail next time though.

 
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With love, Turtle & Moose.