Tag Archives: backpacking

Vogelsang: A Yosemite First

The trek to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp begins near the Tuolumne Meadows backcountry permit station. A brief part of the hike in overlaps with both the John Muir Trail and the mighty Pacific Crest Trail

The trek to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp begins near the Tuolumne Meadows backcountry permit station.

I’ve blogged about Yosemite on several occasions. I’ve recounted a time I took a friend to the park for the first time, a time I hiked up Half Dome, and a time I cross-country skied to Glacier Point. Each time I trek to Yosemite I try to experience it in a new way, through the eyes of a first time visitor or on an entirely new adventure. This weekend I explored a new part of the park and dipped my toe into the High Sierra Camp culture and tradition.

Yosemite is home to five High Sierra Camps that form a popular 51 mile loop. Lots of people hike the full loop, staying at a different camp each night. Others enjoy individual Camps on shorter trips.

Each Camp has around 12 tent cabins that can be rented, and each is equipped with cots and log stoves for warmth. Some Camps even have shower facilities and all of them serve you a hearty dinner and breakfast the following morning. Securing spots in the tent cabins is a lottery, so planning takes time and patience. Each Camp has an adjoining backpackers camp and each day a few meals-only spots are held for those that fully trek in, bringing their own sleeping bag and tent to pitch, and roughing it out under the stars.

This weekend, we took advantage of the “meals-only” opportunity at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, a 6.7 mile hike south from Tuolumne  Meadows, and it was a fun, new way to experience Yosemite…

Glen and Derek

A brief section of the hike up to Vogelsang overlaps with both the John Muir Trail and the mighty Pacific Crest Trail. In several beautiful spots, the trail crosses the Tuolumne River, as it begins its journey to Hetch Hetchy. 


Vogelsang is the highest High Sierra Camp at over 10,000 feet. Our trip up with backpacks (sans food and cookware) was a scenic workout, which we tracked  using several apps including Strava.

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Approaching the High Sierra Camp at Vogelsang felt like an accomplishment. We were exhausted yet eager to explore. It took a while for us to get our bearings of the amenities and the area that was open for us to set up camp.

camp home

As exhausted as we were when we finally arrived at Vogelsang, we took our time exploring the backpackers camp, looking for the best spot to set up our weekend residence. I credit Glen for ultimately leading us to our home base location. It was not a horrible place to relax, gaze and daydream.

Vogelsang area

There are at least a half dozen day hikes available starting from the Vogelsang Camp. During our delicious fried chicken dinner the first night of our stay, a cheerful, adventurous group of retired ladies from Incline Village (Lake Tahoe) insisted we head up to Vogelsang Lake and Vogelsang Pass during our following free day. We obliged and were treated with mega views of the high Sierra. 

View from Vogelsang Pass

About 1.5 miles and 700 feet up from Vogelsang High Sierra Camp is Vogelsang Pass, which offered sweeping views of the Lewis Creek  valley.

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The views from Vogelsang Pass out into the Cathedral Range were among the most beautiful I’ve seen in Yosemite.

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On our way down from the pass we took a pit stop at Vogelsang Lake.

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This is the spot where I jumped in. Cold and refreshing!


There are a lot of amenities at the High Sierra Camps and it’s thanks in large part to the hardworking mules that carry supplies up and down the mountains everyday. Each time we passed a line of these friendly and peaceful creatures on the trail, either going up or coming down, we stopped and expressed our gratitude.

Whether you’ve been to Yosemite once or ten times, I highly recommend working a visit to a High Sierra Camp into your next trip. It doesn’t matter if you reserve a tent cabin far in advance or snag a meals-only permit a little less far in advance, it’s a unique experience to meet fellow trekkers, share stories and socialize in such a beautiful setting.

Learn more about the High Sierra Camp lottery process or check out more photos from our trek.

Trip report: Trinity Alps

This weekend for the extended Labor Day break, Dave and I decided to venture up north to the Trinity Alps Wilderness for a backpacking trip. We had never been up there and have been looking for new areas to explore.

We made the 5 hour drive up to the Redding area (with some fun truck stop exploration along the way), had some Taco Bell for dinner (yum!) and ended up in Weaverville, CA and grabbed a room at the Motel Trinity (we are modest and underpaid). We discovered the next morning when we were driving through, that Weaverville is a very cool and very cute little gold rush town (we also love Nevada City on the way to Tahoe).

We hit the trail and ended up covering 16.5 miles round trip over the course of three days, pretty easily. We climbed about 3,500 feet, visited several waterfalls, camped by Upper Canyon Creek Lake the first night and along the Creek itself the second. We scrambled up to L Lake for a day hike and made lots of delicious food (pizza quesadillas, tortilla soup, pudding Oreo desserts).

We had a great time and I’m happy to report that I took lots of pictures! I’m glad I did, documenting a few mini-adventures that we might have otherwise forgotten about (jumping into the freezing cold water fall, draining the left over tortilla soup in a bag, finding a killer campsite along the creek).

Unfortunately, backpacking season is almost over so we might not end up doing another trip this year. I’m glad we finally made it out and I think this will just make us wanting to get out there early next year.

Hitting the trail… finally

By this time last year, I had gone on approximately 15 hikes or backpacking trips including Half Dome and Mt. Whitney.

So far this year, I’ve gone on only two. (And they were only day hikes.)

I have some serious making up to do if I’m going to hit 200 miles of hiking this year. (While I haven’t been hiking, I’ve been a running fool… with 387 miles logged in 9 months of 2010 and many more to come with marathon training.)

Well, we are finally packing our bags for the extended Labor Day weekend and are heading up to the Trinity Alps for a three day, two night backpack trip. For some reason I have this nervous anxious feeling. I am excited to go because it’ll be peaceful and relaxing and beautiful (and a mountain range we’ve never been to). But in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “what about my long run this weekend?” I’ve been disciplined and on target for all my training over the last 4 weeks but this is going to throw me off. And it comes a week before I start a week and a half of traveling. So, I’m a little afraid that this might be the beginning of training derailment.

Anyway, I’m taking my camera so even if I do fall off the training wagon I will be getting back on the picture taking wagon. Tit for tat.

When is the last time….

When is the last time you went 2 days without seeing another person? No, I don’t mean like last Sunday when you didn’t leave your apartment and barely left your couch. I mean no interaction even by phone, text or email. Not even seeing a person on TV or in a magazine.

This weekend Dave and I backpacked 31 miles around the Buena Vista loop in Yosemite and from about noon on Saturday to about noon on Monday we didn’t see a single person other than each other.

How often does that happen in life?

Buena Vista Lake

It’s ready! An ode to Mt. Whitney

We made it

Summited: 14,496 feet. Tallest peak in the contiguous United States. Amazing time. Thanks Graham and Dave for great pictures.





Whitney Houston

Tomorrow morning I’m leaving for my highly anticipated summer adventure – the hiking and summiting of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States (14,505 feet).

As of now my highest hiked peak is Mt. Dana in Yosemite (13,061 feet). Whitney doesn’t sound awful compared with Dana, which we did in a day hike, but it’s much more of an undertaking. The backpacking route to Whitney is about 22 miles and is accompanied by about 6,000 feet of elevation gain (it’s a much lower and more distant trailhead than Dana which was something like 6 miles and 3,000 feet of gain). We’ll take 3 days to do it all and rather than take a camera I’m going to take my Flip to document and video record our adventures. Hopefully I’ll be inspired to put together a fun little video montage to post on YouTube next week. Stay tuned!