Monday, July 6, 2009

Mineral King Loop #2

Atop Sawtooth Pass

For the second year in a row, we've done a 2 1/2 day backpacking trip in Mineral King over the 4th of July weekend. This area of Sequoia National Park is accessible by a narrow, windy, dead-end road that takes you to what we refer to as "Backpacker's Paradise."

Mineral King Valley

Last year, we did the southern 30 mile loop of Franklin Pass, Soda Creek, Lost Canyon and returning over Sawtooth Pass (trip report and photos). This year, we hiked the northern loop including Timber Gap, Black Rock Pass, Little Five Lakes, and repeating the section with Lost Canyon and Sawtooth Pass.

Mineral King Loops

As usual, it's intoxicating to get away and reflect, cut loose from all responsibility and soak in the magnificence of the Sierra. Our photos, of course, do no justice.

Relaxing at Camp

Lauren Crosses the Snowfield

But our trip wasn't without challenge as well. This year, our loop was similar in mileage, although a bit more rugged, with significantly more elevation gain and loss. Lauren's new insulin also took some getting used to, which slowed our progress down when her blood sugars were too low to hike. Hiking can take a lot of effort, but we love it, and love experiencing these spectacular wild places.

Sean with Ray-Way Pack

We met a few interesting folks, one of them being Sean, while on our way into the Little Five Lakes Basin. When we passed, I said "Nice pack," and we stopped to chat about sewing gear. He's showing off the Ray-Way pack that he sewed with additional zipper and ice axe loops of his own design.

Our Camp by Columbine Lake

Our lightweight packs and gear that we sewed for the A.T. are still going strong. Even though we carry a shelter, the weather was mild so we didn't use it either night — but we don't regret carrying it since it's only one pound. This time we also carried an ice axe, which wasn't entirely necessary, but it was nice to have for a couple of the snowfields.

Adam and Jasmine Take in the Alpenglow

Although our weekend was exciting, it might not compare to our friends Matt & Kim who stayed here in town to deliver their healthy baby, Noah. Congratulations guys! Can't wait to meet him.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

4th of July Trip


We're headed out in less than an hour for some fresh air, adventure and refreshment in the Sierra. Looks like the weather is going to be 70s high /30s low. Alrght!

Here's a interactive map from NOAA where you can click on the exact spot you'll be for a local forecast;

Saturday, June 20, 2009



Lauren and I watched this movie online last week. Jaw-dropping footage of our planet, with slow-panning aerial shots that depict the landscape and inhabitants of earth in a unique and beautiful way.

The movie is 1.5 hours, and available over here on YouTube. Make sure you watch it full screen in HD.

If the alarmist tone turns you off... you can always watch it with some other music on. We live in an amazing place!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Springer Fever

Yeah, it's that time of year. Exactly two years ago we set out on the Approach Trail to the Appalachian Trail from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia. I wouldn't exactly say that I'd want to be out there hiking this year (I love what we're up to right now!), but remembering those first few weeks on the trail sure is enticing.

April 30th is, and I imagine will always be, a special date.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GPSies for the JMT

GPSies: JMT Route

I can't say that I enjoy hiking with a GPS, but the technology sure is fascinating. GPSies is a slick little web site for you to post and swap your travel routes.

If you follow this link to the John Muir Trail , you can see where Lauren and I will be hiking this summer, and even explore some photos that other people have taken in the area. You can also search through their growing database of hikes in your desired area, which come complete with an elevation profile and time estimate.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Ben, Lauren, Nicole and Comet

This weekend we headed to Lake Morena for our second Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off. The sendoff event for the current class of PCT hikers is basically a great excuse to get together with friends and enjoy some crisp mountain air and walk a few miles of the trail. As always, it was great to catch up with Comet & Nicole and Clearwater.

Walt, Lauren, Ben and Pat

Our highlight was when our A.T. trail angels Walt and Pat (Waynesboro, VA) appeared on the trail during a morning stroll, having kept it a secret from us that they drove across the country in the PCT XPRS to attend the kickoff.

Gear Contest

Besides catching up with friends, we enjoyed the home made gear contest, Squatch's fourth movie Walked, Shooter's rough cut of Tell it on the Mountain and a few trail seminars. I also managed to grab a pretty good sunburn under the clear dessert sky.

Good luck, class of 2009.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another Route to Katahdin

Google Maps GA to ME

I like the new-ish feature on Google Maps that calculates walking routes and times between landmarks. Should take 18 days and 10 hours to walk from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. Could have used this and shaved about a thousand miles from our trip.

Walking directions to Mt Katahdin

There you go. Now we know.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Adventure Travel with Children

Aiken/Widom Family

In preparation for our 2009 John Muir Trail hike, my research daydreaming led to the travel log of the Aiken/Widom Family, who completed the JMT together in 2007. (photo gallery)

Actually, the JMT was just the final leg of their year off adventure, which included world travel with their 10 and 12 year old children to Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.

Alex and Jennifer have been taking ambitious trips with their children for many years, and have generously posted some essays from their experience:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The $800 Million Ride

Phil and Blake

Today I picked my Uncle Phil and cousin Blake up from LAX and was able to spend a few hours with them as they prepared for their cross country bike tour. After driving them to their hotel, we unpacked their bikes and then headed to the Omelette Parlor for some brunch and story swapping.

Beginning Tuesday, they will dip their tires in the Pacific at Newport Beach and spend the next 32 days making their way across the country, ending north of Boston, MA. In their words, they'll be learning from past trip experience and won't be pushing too hard, especially early on. They expect to cover over 120 miles per day, maybe averaging a pace of 15 MPH.

Phil called it his “$800,000,000 ride,” explaining that if he had a terminal disease with a short life expectancy, he wouldn't blink an eye about spending a ridiculous fortune just to make it happen.

Priorities. I love it.

If you're interested in following their trip, you can get (hopefully) daily updates over at

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Deep Creek with the Family

Wading Across Chilly Deep Creek

On Friday we took a hike down to Deep Creek. Crossing the chilly creek took a bit of courage, but everyone made it easily.

Soaking in the Big Tub

We had the big hot tub to ourselves for a few relaxing hours, and enjoyed a perfect day.

Deep Creek from the North Bank

The Southern California landscape of dessert scrub, Joshua Trees and massive boulders were fun to explore with family used to the green grass yards on the east coast.

Hike to Deep Creek

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Biker Band

Heard about these guys on NPR today.

The band Blind Pilot literally rode a pair of bicycles to success. The folk-pop outfit, formed by singer-guitarist Israel Nebeker and drummer Ryan Dobrowski, has taken two bike tours, playing its music all along the West Coast. The first of these two tours was supposed to run from Vancouver all the way down to the Mexican border. Unfortunately, the trip was cut short when the band's bikes were stolen outside San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

2009 is Matt's Year

Just got a call from Matt a.k.a Hiking Matt, who is finally making his dream of an Appalachian Trail thru-hike a reality in 2009.

Matt A

He's at Neels Gap in Georgia, after having set out from Springer Mountain Georgia on April 1st. Matt said that hiking this year might not be the most 'responsible' thing, due to his fledgling seasonings business, but he couldn't live with putting it off another year. Said something about life being too short to make excuses or worry about finances.

Amen, Matt. And safe journey to you!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Almost Like Taking a Leak in the Woods

For all those who competed in the 2007 Pee-A-Tree competition on the Appalachian Trail, here is the perfect urinal for your home.

You're welcome, Hey Man Crew.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wakeup Accountability

I am publicly posting my wakeup times, so I can embarrass myself into getting up every day at 6:30a. It seems that no matter when I go to bed I've been rolling out of bed around 7:30a, and I really want to make better use of my mornings. You can watch the drama here as it unfolds.

(You can track your own nerdy data and statistics by requesting an account over at Daytum).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How's Your Commute?

I sure don't mind mine, which consists of walking across the living room, but this one seems pretty exciting...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Look Outside

I'm grinning ear-to-ear... right now, it's “snailing” outside!

What's that you ask?

Why snow-hailing, of course! In Los Angeles, California.

Deep Creek


Had a quick getaway to the Deep Creek Hot Springs over the weekend with my friend Mylon. I've been wanting to go for a while, since I heard it was one of the SoCal highlights along the PCT.

We forded the swollen Deep Creek, to gain access to the warm pools, perfect for hours of soaking. The ominous weather held off to just a few sprinkles of rain, although we would have welcomed snow.

Mylon and I didn't quite know what to expect, since we heard it's a popular nudist spot. My friend Josh put it this way, “Usually the nudist types who frequent hot springs are not the people you'd like to see with their clothes off.” But the 10 people we encountered had their clothes on, so no stories to tell.

If you're thinking about going, don't. It's really lame.
Okay, it's not, but don't tell too many people about it.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sleddog Sightings

Today I received a call from a friend who currently lives in Bellingham, WA, who asked to remain anonymous. All I can say is that we met him on the A.T. and his name rhymes with "Nearwater."

My friend could not believe his eyes, but was calling to report that he has now twice seen Sleddog, the trail legend of 2007, on the streets in Bellingham.

Since Sleddog has the ability to attach himself and take advantage of anyone who directs attention his way, my friend has not yet spoken to him. From distant observation, Sleddog appears to be in a transient situation, living on meals from the mission and relying on Bellingham's programs to help homeless.

It would be fascinating to hear what he's been up to.

John Muir Trail in the Works for 2009

JMT Map Set

Lauren and I are planning our big adventure for 2009. With her limited vacation time, it's kinda tough to see family and plan an extended adventure in the same year. So we're planning the trip now, and we'll have to play it by ear for the holidays. Jobs…

We're looking at a 2 week, southbound trip of the 212 mile John Muir Trail, from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. I think we'll actually complete it in about 12 days.

Right now, we have the Tom Harrison maps spread out on the floor to get a birds eye view of the trail.

More details here, as the plans unfold!

- - - - - -

Lauren and I are exploring our options for getting to the trailhead in Yosemite Valley. If you live in L.A. / SoCal and you might be up for a road trip in late summer, we'd be willing to pay for all of your gas to and from Yosemite. Please contact me directly for more details (thompson dot ben at gmail).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trail Life

Trail Life by Ray Jardine

I've been enjoying Ray Jardine's re-worked edition of Beyond Backing, now called Trail Life. Lauren picked it up for me as my Christmas gift, and I've been taking my time soaking it in as nighttime reading before bed.

The main difference in the format is that it now includes hundreds of color photos of Ray and Jenny's adventures. Also different, is that Ray presents most ideas in a "This worked for us, it might not work for you..." tone, which may ruffle a few less feathers. Personally, I didn't mind the how-to tone of the previous format, but this one works as well, and may be less off-putting to the doubters.

I'm only partway done, but am looking forward to reading a section near the end where Jenny writes about their experiences from her perspective, which I don't believe she's previously done.

Great job on the new book Ray and Jenny.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mexico Trip

A Bus Load Arrives

From December 26-30, Lauren and I spent time helping out in a small Mexican village. Our group of eighteen traveled about four hours south of the border on the Baja peninsula, to the town of Vicente Guerrero to spend time at the Welcome Home preschool.

Children Come Running

Without the preschool, parents work in the field and a young child either sits nearby all day, or an older sibling has to stay home from their schooling to take care of their younger sibling.

Lauren, Lena and Sonya

Before meeting the children, our team tackled a bunch of projects: Replacing 5 toilets, fixing a sink, replacing 5 termite infested window frames, sanitizing crates of small toys and children's furniture, cutting a hole in a wall so we could hang a door and close off another, replacing linoleum tiles, organizing the donation pantry, building bunk beds, painting a sign, fixing drywall ceiling and collecting donations.

Two Vibrant Girls on the Playhorse

By far, the best part of the trip was spending time with the kids. We were able to ride along with them on the bus to see where they lived, eat with them in the dining room and play with them on the playground.

Breakfast for the Children

The children and school staff were grateful for our help and encouragement. On the last morning, we were treated to a small concert (below):

More photos from the trip can be seen at our flickr site.