Dan's Outside

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

A Strange Sierra Spring

During a typical May we would be making our first drives over Tioga Pass and wondering if there might be enough snow left to keep Mammoth open until July 4th. The past two years were more typical and even drier/warmer than usual. However, this year is shaping up to be unusual. The overall precipitation for the season was (yes!) above normal – which is especially welcome after a few years of below normal precip. On top of that this has been a very cool and wet spring. During a typical May it usually feels more like early summer in the Sierra, but this year it has been more like an extended winter. The storm fronts have continued to pass through and even now in the latter part of May there is a string of cold, wet storms lined up to pass across the Sierra.

So, when will Tioga Pass Road open? I don’t have any inside information but I do know the history (average historical opening date is May 29) and I follow the current reports at the NPS and elsewhere. The road was reportedly plowed through recently, but this does not mean that it is yet ready to open. There is always a lot of additional work to take care of including clearing side roads and parking areas, patching road damage, and so forth. My hunch is that the NPS would like to get it open for Memorial Day Weekend in another week, but that this may be a challenge this year – especially if the forecast of another cold week with the possibility of snow pans out.

While the delay in “opening the high country” can frustrate some of us who want to get up there early, there are compensations. When the road does open, it is likely that we’ll see a lot of snow still in the high country – not like a few previous years when it seemed all too much like summer all too quickly. Even better, the heavy snow fall and late melt promises a long, green summer season and tons of wildflowers. (OK, and tons of mosquitoes, too – but let’s try not to think about that, OK?)

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Commentary, Sierra Nevada | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Strange Sierra Spring

Read Muir Without Killing Trees

Thanks to Yosemite Blog for pointing out a link to John Muir’s famous book, My First Summer in the Sierra in a free downloadable form. See the Yosemite Blog link for more information.

Yosemite blog also posts about the troubling irony of a naming a Sierra highway after Muir.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Read Muir Without Killing Trees

"Perfect Time to Beat the Crowd"

A Tom Stienstra piece at SFGate reminded me about a September truth: at just the time when fewer and fewer people head to the outdoors, the outdoors is becoming a more and more attractive place to be in many ways.

School is (mostly) back in session and after this Labor Day Weekend (which the news reports like to call “the unofficial end of summer”) is over most people will be back at work full time. But if you can break away now, especially during the week, there is hardly a better time to do so in much of California.

Although the start of the cool and rainy season is likely still at least six to eight weeks away, the likelihood of extreme summer heat starts to diminish. Even the Sierra sun and heat can be intense on some mid-summer days, but by mid to late September many days will be comfortable and feature warm, golden light. Here in Northern California we get some of the best coastal weather of the year – the fog is less constant and the winter storms are a long ways off.

And the people pressure starts to decrease at many places that have been extremely crowded for the last few months. As a Sierra fan – and someone whose work schedule provides some free time in September – I love the post-Labor Day period when the number of people in the mountains diminishes greatly. Heck, I can show up on a weekend and get a wilderness permit on the spot for just about any place I want to go!

September 6, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Yosemite Spring Progress Report

Several thing define the progress from winter to summer in Yosemite, both in the Valley and in the high country. Edie Howe (of The Little Red Tent) posted two indicators this evening. First, she reports that the recent warm weather may have jump-started the dogwood blossoms – it will be interesting to follow this since some had speculated that the bloom would be delayed this season. Maybe not. She also posts a web cam photo of the Tioga Pass entrance kiosk… showing that plows have made it to that point from the east.

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Yosemite Spring Progress Report

My Take on 'Sleeping Systems'

Having just read a post at the Mt. Whitney and Eastern Sierra Hiking Blog (see “On Backpacking…Sleep System“) I thought I’d add my two cents on this topic.

To my way of thinking, a backpacking “sleeping” system includes several components: sleeping bag, pad, ground sheet, shelter, clothing – and for some, a pillow.

Sleeping Bag – My current first-string sleeping bag is the Marmot Helium that I purchased a few years ago. This is a really fine sleeping bag with 800+ high-fill down, great design features, and a weight of around 2 pounds. The high-fill down decreases the weight and allows the bag to stuff smaller, taking up less space in a smaller pack. The version that I use has only a half zipper – this decreases the weight and cost a tiny bit and isn’t a significant drawback for me. The 15 degree rating is sufficient for me into the colder October season in the Sierra and is more than warm enough for typical summer conditions.

I have also used a lighter 30 degree bag, Continue reading

May 31, 2008 Posted by | Commentary, Equipment, Technique | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on My Take on 'Sleeping Systems'

   

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