Northern California

Family Camping at Big River Campground - Jackson Demonstration State Forest

Family Camping at Big River Campground - Jackson Demonstration State Forest

Big River Campground in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest is probably an overlooked campground and I can see why it might be. Our family tends to be spur of the moment road-trippers so we rarely make camping reservations, yet we are able to camp ALL the time. We find places like Big River Campground and which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Our Top Family Hike of 2015: Frog Lake on the PCT

Our Top Family Hike of 2015: Frog Lake on the PCT

We are look back at the end of the year and contemplate the past year.  In 2015, we ushered a new little hiker into the world and our life slowed down.  We were still able to have some great mini-adventures and my top family hiking adventure was a wonderful day hike at Frog Lake on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Frog Lake, Carson Pass, Mokulumne Wilderness, El Dorado National Forest, California Sierras, Outdoor Families, Family Hiking, Chasqui Mom

A Tale of Two Mountains: Hiram Peak VS Ellis Peak [Guest Post by Nate Rische]

On our last attempted backpacking trip for this year, our good friend and fellow blogger Nate Rische of

In The Absence of Something Substantial

 accompanied us to the Lake Tahoe.  Unfortunately, I became a victim of altitude sickness and we were not able to backpack on the Tahoe Rim Trail.  On the other hand, Nate was able to hike up to Ellis Peak, enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and mark off another peak he bagged!

I’m not Chasqui Mom. I’m not even a mom. And thankfully, because that would be awkward; I’m a guy. But while the chasqui were running up and down the Incan Empire,

my ancestors

were fierce warriors in Bohemia (the region, not the artists) known as the Chod. So you can call me Chodové Warrior. You might also remember me as

cheese-tester-guy

.

So much of Chasqui Mom is about hiking as a family, and it may seem odd for a single guy to guest post. You’re thinking about it all wrong; I may be single, but I love to spend time outdoors with my family.  Unfortunately my blood relations all live far away, so I don’t get as many opportunities to get out with them. That just means I have to get out with my

other

family. Wonderful people like the Chasqui Family.

Nate carrying my daughter on a backpacking trip - Chasqui Mom

Don’t laugh; try to take a couple of

toddler’s backpacking

, and you’ll appreciate the need to invite along a guy like me, a pack mule willing to weigh down his pack with your extra gear and throw kids on his shoulder when necessary.

I’m not a mountain climber. I mean, I’d sure like to be at some point, at least a little bit. It’s on my to-do list, and you know how that goes. Unless you already climb mountains, in which case you don’t because you’re a little bit better about those to-do lists than I am.

So when I get the opportunity, I like to get what I can.

A bit back, I went camping at Highland Lakes, way up in the Sierra Mountains in the Stanislaus National Forrest. In fact, I think my quote about the location was, “Wow, this is remote. When the Chinese invasion comes, this is where I’m coming.” While driving out there, we watched the thunderheads roil on the horizon. We arrived at the campsite with enough time to set up my tent before it started to hail. Good golly, it hailed. Then rained on and off through the afternoon, evening, night, and even into the next morning.

Those of us camping had desired to hike along the Pacific Crest trail, but illness from one of our campers had cancelled that plan. We had the day and nothing planned. When the rain cleared up in early afternoon, I looked up at Hiram Peak towering over us, and knew what I had to do.

Hiram Peak - August 2012

There was no trail, so I surveyed the mountain and made my initial ascent along the west side, approaching from the smaller of the two Highland Lakes. I had a choice to go around the south or north side for the second half of the climb. The south side looked easier, but the north side remained in view of the lakes and campground. I erred on the side of caution, and took the north route. I circled around a plateau along the north side, and started my ascent towards the peak on the east side of the mountain.

Once I hit circled around on the east, there were gorgeous views of groves and valleys stretching on the southeast side of the mountain, scenery that we couldn’t see from our camp ground. I circled around on the east/south-east, and as I climbed the shrubby undergrowth gave way to a very loose rocky terrain. The summit itself was all rocks, boulders, stones, and rubble, everything in between. There was no clear path, and as I zig-zagged up towards the summit it got steeper and steeper.

Heading up to Hiram Peak

About 150 vertical feet from the summit, I took stock of where I was and what I had left. The terrain ahead was rough, and I’d seen great views already. I still had to climb all the way back down, and I made a decision. I’d done enough, I was satisfied to turn around. Or so I thought. I went back down. I thought I was happy. It was good enough.

I was wrong. I had been so close. I could have made it, I should have finished. I didn’t. I’d taken the easy way out.

Regret.

Fast forward a bit. We were set to go backpacking on the Tahoe Rim Trail, when one of our group succumbed to altitude sickness. I’m very grateful that altitude sickness is not something with which I’ve had much trouble. Cancelling our plans to backpack, we instead decided to setup camp nearby, but the afternoon was still open, and the trailhead to Ellis Peak beckoned.

I made the initial climb up to the first ridge, and an outcropping of rocks stood away from the trail. I climbed to the top, and looked out over the Lake Tahoe valley. To my right, Ellis Peak loomed.

I followed the trail as it led up the ridgeline, turning into furious wind, threatening to blow us over. Seriously, gale-force winds blowing up from the lake along the north side of the peak. Thankfully, we crossed over to the south side for the final ascent, and the mountain shielded us from the wind thereafter.

On the north face, in the wind, it was frozen cold. In the wind shadow, it was comfortable, and the sun streamed through the pine forest.

The trail led first to Ellis Lake, which is sort of a misnomer, because a lake there is no more. Simply a very large, grassy divot tucked in a valley before the real ascent started.

According to the trail map, the peak was only ½ mile away, and several hundred vertical feet above.

I wasn't going to quit this time. Following the trail, it turned up. And up. After a good climb, we reached the “peak” of the trail. I looked over, the actual peak rose above us another 150 feet, but the trail went no higher.

I wasn't going to regret again.

I climbed those final 150 feet and looked over the peak. It was astounding; climbing up the south side of the peak it was perfectly still. But peaking over the edge and looking down the north side, the wind threatened to knock me over.

Ellis Peak View

The view was spectacular. As beautiful as any I’d ever seen before, with all of Lake Tahoe stretching out before me. I’d say it took my breath away, but that was probably just the wind.

Sometimes you think you’ve seen all you need to see, and that little bit of effort at the end isn’t worth it. You’re good enough. Maybe you’re thinking of the climb back down, or what you’re going to cook for dinner or whatever.

You’ll never regret staring out over the top of that mountain, even if it costs you a little more. Good enough isn’t, and you’ll always have unfinished business with that mountain.

At least until you do something about it. And maybe the view at the top isn’t any better than you’ve already seen. That isn’t the point; the whole idea isn’t about what you saw, but what you did. Or did not do.

My lasting memory of Hiram Peak is staring up at the top from below.  But from Ellis Peak, the whole world was at my feet.

Hiram Peak, I will see you again.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Have you ever had a "trail regret"? What did you do to overcome it?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on 

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Related Links and Posts:

  1. Book Review "The Last Days of the Incas" - Guest Post by Nate Rische
  2. In the Absence of Something Substantial by Nate Rische
  3. The Toughest Backpacking Cheese

Latinas Outdoors

In our

most recent

 backpacking adventure to

Yosemite National Park

, we had the honor of taking almost all new hikers.  In particular Dixie, a graduating high school senior and Vanessa, our newest youth leader, both from our Spanish-speaking church.  We had done a few training day hikes but this was the ladies first time backpacking.

I originally was not going to go on this trip, but in the days before leaving we decided that I would go along with our toddlers.  Dixie and Vanessa were so relieved that I was going with them  that Vanessa even said, "I'm so happy, I don't know how we were going to do it without you...".

The ladies....

Those words stayed with me over the next few days and I also recently read

Hiking Along: Backpacking: Is It Just a Male Sport?

.  I realized how important it was to Vanessa and Dixie that I went not only because I'm an "Outdoorsy" woman but the only Latina they knew that truly loves the outdoors.

Where are the Latinas?

One question that I have wondered in the last few years being outdoors, is "Where are the Latinos?".  Not even in particular, Latinas in the outdoors but Latinos in general?  I live in one of the most diverse places in the world, the San Francisco Bay Area, where you can find almost every ethnicity in the world and it's still very difficult to find Latinos more yet, Latinas outdoors.  Here are a three aspects that might hinder Latinas to venture outdoors:

  • Traditional Roles:  The Latin culture usually maintains the "traditional roles" especially in 1st and 2nd generation Latinos.  Husbands work (white and blue collar) and wives stay home with the children and with that comes many obstacles that might prevent Latinas to even entertaining the thought going outdoors.  First time mothers might be very cautious or even afraid to take their children for example camping or hiking as a family, nevertheless by themselves.  I have nothing against traditional roles, I actually chose to leave my career to be a Stay-At-Home Mother but even I had reservations about taking my child outdoors when I first became a mother.
  • Pre-Conceived Notions:  The Latin culture has many mythical creatures and undocumented "medical tips" usually given by grandmothers and mothers to daughters.  One of my favorite medical tip is "Le entro el aire" (The air hit him/her) which "causes" sickness.  My son was a couple months old when I took him to an outdoor event, and I was very worried about the wind but he proceeded to sleep for 14 hours straight for the first time in his life.  I put that one to rest in my mind and actually encourage mothers to take babies and children outside. Some are legitimate concerns, for example when I visited my grandmother in Peru she was very worried of us catching a "jungle" disease during our jungle tour/hike deep in the Amazon jungle.
  • Another pre-conceived notion are mythical creatures in the outdoors, which differ from country to country in Latin America.  My parents never tried to scare me with mythical creatures but I know a lot of my Latino friend's parents who did.  To read more about Latin mythical creatures, read Rena Payan's Overcoming My Fear of "El Cuycuy".
  • "Machismo": Dictionary.com describes "machismo" as "a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity".  Machismo is an exaggeration of traditional roles that many Latinos might live through during their lives and if the patriarch of the family (father, husband or brother) doesn't like the outdoors, the family might not enjoy or even have the chance to explore the outdoors.  Machismo is indirectly related to the idea that Traditional Roles stop Latinas from being outdoors.  Machismo can certainly come from husbands, fathers and brothers but it doesn't necessarily need to come from Latino men.  Machismo is ingrained in the Latin culture and an outdoorsy Latina might be looked down upon from other women as well as Latino men.  Discouragement to enjoy the outdoors might even come from within oneself, if all someone has heard is "those things are for men". 

In honor of these great Latinas who put these aspects aside and attended the Graduating Senior Backpacking Trip, here is a little honor on each one on them!

Dixie at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite

Dixie

, graduated high school this school year, the eldest daughter of four girls and a very strong hiker!  We nicknamed her the "Task Master", even though she was dealing with altitude sickness and nausea she somehow found the energy in her tiny body to not only hike but to keep the whole group at a good hiking pace.  After she got sick on some difficult switchbacks she just ate some trail mix and finished the hike with gusto!

Vanessa at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite

Vanessa

, our newest church youth leader and current college student survived not only one bear encounter but TWO bear encounters!  Vanessa learned to control her fear during her second bear encounter at camp on our second day backpacking.  My husband told her that there was a bear behind her and after she realized it was not a joke she carefully walked away while he loudly clapped and said "Go Away Bear!".  Not letting fear over take her in this bear encounter will be something she will never forget and can apply it to the rest of her life!

Mountain Baby in Yosemite

Sophia

, the littlest Latina (well half Latina) in the group! She continually teaches me and others that dirt does not hurt and there's nothing wrong with getting dirty.  Sophia was a little trooper on this trail that hardly sees toddlers and she had lots of dirt to play with!

Chasqui Mom - Melissa

This trip really did push me to my limits even for this so claimed "Chasqui Mom".  It was a hard hike due to the heat and somewhat difficulty of the trail but I knew I had to keep face for the ladies and motivate them to keep going.  After all was finished, I did tell them that I was deathly scared of the bears and that I did not want to finish our second day's hike.  I wasn't around the ladies when they arrived at Tiltill Valley, but another youth leader said the whole trip was worth seeing their reactions when they had their first glimpse of Tiltill Valley.  Just hearing about the ladies reactions gave me the energy to keep going.

So here's to my Latina sisters Vanessa and Dixie who encountered bears, fought off snakes in the river and trails, spent hours washing dishes, learned to filter their own water, built their own tents, watched out for animals during our bathroom adventures, and comforted each other when we wanted to vomit.  Thanks for stepping out of breaking down the barriers to enter into the wonderful world of the outdoors.  We can do it!

Related Posts:

  1. Wordless Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite
  2. Hiking Along - Backpacking: Is It Just Male Sport?
  3. Overcoming My Fear of "El Cucuy"
  4. Guest Post on Latino Outdoors: "Latinas Outdoors"
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