Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Yosemite Blog Reports High Water in Yosemite Valley This Weekend

According to a post at Yosemite blog, the weather service is forecasting that high levels of spring runoff water in the Merced River may cause some flooding in Yosemite Valley this weekend. Before you panic, a bit of flooding in wet years is a normal thing and is part of the natural life cycle of meadows there. And, if you are a photographer, this can provide some very special photographic opportunities.

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June 3, 2010 Posted by | News, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Yosemite Blog Reports High Water in Yosemite Valley This Weekend

And so winter begins…

An unusual-for-October strong storm is to come onshore in California in the next 24 hours or so. While the snow levels are forecast to be quite high – around 9000′ – this storm could well close several passes if things pan out as forecast.

The folks at the Dweeb Report include an ominous sentence in their most recent update: “WINDS WITH THIS SYSTEM OVER THE CREST COULD REACH BETWEEN 120MPH AND 140MPH OVER THE CENTRAL SIERRA.”

Folks still are backpacking in mid-October, and I think there may be more than a few of them cowering in their tents for 36 hours or so early this week. Coupled with close to freezing temperatures at mid-level elevations, and with the potential for wet snow in large quantities at the higher elevations, this is serious business.

October 11, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on And so winter begins…

A new stove: Trangia mini

I had been a white gas stove guy from way back in the days of Svea stoves – yup, I just really dated myself! More recently I had used a series of fine little MSR stoves, but a few seasons back I was persuaded to try the little MSR canister stove. It is very small, light, quite simple, and it works very well for the most part. Since I usually can minimize the amount of time I need to run the stove – especially when I’m only cooking for myself – I’ve been able to complete fairly long trips with a single canister. Downsides are that it is still somewhat loud – which seems to be the price you pay for a hotter stove – and that the canisters are expensive, hard to manage (you can’t really know how much fuel is left after some use), and raise some concerning disposal issues.

A few years ago my ultra-light backpacking friends began showing up for trips with some stoves that I couldn’t have even imagined people using a decade ago. All of them were alcohol burning stoves and they ranged from simple, small burners from commercial sources to tiny, featherlight home-grown designs created out of soda cans. At first I was skeptical, having relied on more traditional equipment for some decades, but as I watched my friends use these stoves I began to see their value, particularly for the solo backpacker who mostly needs to simply boil a small amount of water.

I finally took the plunge last month and ordered the very inexpensive (about $20) Trangia mini stove. This consists of a small and simple aluminum wind-screen/stand and a small brass stove that is not much more than a fancy bowl into which you pour a bit of alcohol and then light the whole thing. (Yes, there are lighter stoves and lighter stand and windscreen options, but I didn’t want to begin by, for example, constructing my own stove – as some friends do!)

The “stove” fits neatly into the bottom of my tall Snow Peak solo pot and leaves plenty of room for my spoon, a lighter, a small square of cloth I use as “small towel and pot grabber,” and a tiny plastic bottle of soap. The wind screen is a bit more awkward, but I use the space efficiently by packing it with something else stuffed into it.

Fuel is simply alcohol that you can pick up at your local hardware store, though REI and probably other outdoor stores stock it as well. One can will probably last most people at least a full season. The fuel comes from agricultural sources rather than gas/oil wells, so while the actual effect on the world is small, it seems like a positive step. These stoves also save resources in one other important way. It would take many, many regular fuel canisters to power the stove for the same amount of time that one can of alcohol will last. So, one can of alcohol and one small bottle to carry what you need on the trail is all you’ll use.

The first time I tried it on the trail last week I found myself using more fuel than necessary – at first by a factor of two. Over the course of a four-day trip I got a better handle on how much fuel is needed to boil a particular amount of water, and once on the final morning I manged to bring the water for a cup of tea to a boil just as the fuel burned out. I carried 8 oz. of fuel for this trip and used about half of it – and didn’t use it all that efficiently. I think that it would be quite reasonable to use an ounce or less per day with some care. Unlike the home-brew stoves, the Trangia burner includes a screw-on lid that supposedly allows you to put out the stove before it finishes burning and then store it with the remaining alcohol available for the next use. I didn’t try this. It also includes a detachable top that has a rotating piece that lets you manually lower the flame to simmer. I would rarely have a need for this since I mostly just boil water on the trail.

The stove does take longer to bring a given amount of water to a boil – perhaps 50% or more additional time. If you travel solo (or travel with a group but cook individually) this isn’t a big issue since you’ll probably just add a few minutes to your cooking time. I quickly learned to get my water in the pot and start it boiling first and then to take care of other food preparation issues like getting out the dinner and so forth. Another advantage is that the longer cook time is essentially silent! You’d be surprised at what a difference this makes.

If you have ever had a stove “go bad” on the trail – yes, it happens – you may appreciate the retro simplicity of the alcohol stoves. There are no moving parts, no jets to clean – basically it just holds the alcohol and you light it.

My verdict after one use is that:

  • I’ll definitely use the stove for solo travel.
  • I did not find the slightly longer cooking times to be an issue.
  • I enjoyed the silent operation of the stove.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Commentary, Equipment, Gear Reviews, Technique | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

May 22 Opening for Sonora Pass?

Sierra Journal reports that the opening of Sonora Pass is scheduled for May 22. This is significant for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • The availability of the Sonora Pass route considerably reduces the time/distance that SF Bay Area folks must drive to get to the eastern Sierra.
  • This suggests that other routes like Ebbetts and Monitor Pass will also be open at that time.
  • Tioga Pass often seems to open within about a week of the opening of Sonora. If that happens this time we could guess that Tioga might open before the end of May.

I’m ready!

(Although it is not a “pass,” the Glacier Point Road opened early this week.)

May 7, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

What's Happening in the Yosemite High Country?

I always look forward to reading the Tuolumne Meadows Winter Report from the rangers who spend the off-season generally keeping an eye on this part of the high country. There is a summary at Yosemite blog right now.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What's Happening in the Yosemite High Country?

SFGate: Tracking Mountain Lions

There is a very interesting article at SFGate describing how UCSC researchers are tracking mountain lions in the Santa Cruz mountains and the surrounding areas:

Led by researchers from UC Santa Cruz, the project is the first attempt to track Bay Area mountain lions, which are being seen in greater numbers as urban areas spread into the region’s wildlands.

For the next three years, the team will track their behavior and movements in the Santa Cruz Mountains – including mating habits, favored prey, survival needs and travel routes. Researchers hope to expand the study for several more years after that to include the Diablo Range and the North Bay.

Given the close proximity of these magnificent animals to the human population of the Bay Area (not to mention the proximity to a number of university research programs) it is very surprising that no one has done this in the past.

January 11, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on SFGate: Tracking Mountain Lions

A Car Story

Since my outdoor adventures involve a significant amount of travel, and since the price of gas and environmental concerns make it more and more necessary to think about the impacts of such travel, I thought I’d write something about the car we bought last year. Yes, a Prius. Continue reading

July 29, 2008 Posted by | Commentary, Environment, Equipment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Car Story

   

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