Tag: california

Hiking Big Ben Loop, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell State Park: Big Ben Loop #winehike

The redwoods are always my favorite place to escape in inclement weather. There’s nothing quite like hiking under the protection of dense branches towering way above, being tickled by little bits of rain, and listening to roaring creeks.

The Big Ben Loop at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a series of trails at the Fall Creek Unit. It’s part of Henry Cowell State Park, but more remote.

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Intro to Snowcamping with the Sierra Club

The San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club holds an introductory snowcamping course every year. Members and non-members go out in the backcountry to get some hands-on experience with seasoned snowcamping veterans.

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The course was… an interesting experience. I’m not sure if I would do it again. It’s definitely a great learning experience if you’re looking to transition from three-season backpacking to backpacking and camping year-round. However, the course could be infinitely more organized.

The course is taught in groups of thirty people, with about a 50:50 ratio of instructors or assistant leaders to students. Students spend one day in the classroom and two trips in the backcountry. The classroom day is meant to give you a brief overview on what to expect, how to prepare, and what you need. Then you go out on two trips to practice your skills: map and compass, snow shelters, digging, etc.

The Sierra Club Snowcamping version of backpacking is incredibly different from what I’m used to. I’m all about traveling long distances, eating fast dinners, crawling into my bag when darkness falls, and sleeping until the sun rises. I consider backpacking a nice “reset button” when everything gets thrown out of whack and I need to slow down on life. Not on this trip. The group had a five course (yes, five) meal that began around 5pm that was supposed to last well into the night.

Though everyone was great, friendly, nice and knowledgeable, the amount of anecdotal information everyone had to share was overwhelming and time-consuming. All the assistant leaders had something to say about everything; everyone had an opinion on what was right and what wasn’t. Oftentimes, the more seasoned folks repeated stories over and over again. It lead to a lot of sitting around and listening.

All in all, the instruction and knowledge were great. I got a good refresher in map and compass and route-finding. And I built an igloo-snowcave hybrid with a gear closet. I’d say the latter alone was worth it all.

If you’re interested in taking this course, please visit the Sierra Snowcamping website here. The 2014 season is almost over, but you can start prepping for 2015!

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: Tin House from HQ

Hike: Tin House from Park HQ
Where: Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park (park map here)
Level: Moderate
Duration: 4 hours
Length: 8~ miles
Gear: REI Sahara Convertible Pants – Women’s Petite, Arc’teryx Delta LT, Icebreaker Bodyfit Oasis Crew, Ahnu Women’s Montara Waterproof Boot, Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles
Cost of Parking: $10 in park, or free on the side of HW1

I’ve been meaning to do this hike for a while, but never manage to make it out to Big Sur. The one time I did this past summer, I accidentally went to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (I mean, come on, the names are so identical) and ended climbing up the Big Sur River instead. Made it down to the right park this past Christmas, but then drove past the trailhead.

But that’s okay! Because it made this hike even better. I parked at the big turnout down the road from McWay Falls about 500 feet and walked up Highway 1 into park headquarters. For Christmas Day, it was pretty packed full of people already leaving. (It was 10am when I got there.)

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Desolation Wilderness: Pyramid Peak via Rocky Canyon

Hike: Pyramid Peak via Rocky Canyon
Where: Desolation Wilderness
Trailhead: US 50 after Twin Bridges, but before Strawberry. Look for a mile marker that says 50 and a giant tombstone looking thing that says 43. The trail is directly across HW50 from this point.
Level: Strenuous
Duration: Too long
Length: 6.6 miles out and back
Fitbit Steps: Approximately 29,000
Gear: CamelBak Women’s Aventura 100oz Hydration Pack, UNIQLO Heat-Tech leggings, REI Sahara Convertible Pants – Girls’, Icebreaker Women’s Oasis Crewe, Sierra Designs Women’s Tov Down Jacket, Outdoor Research Women’s Valhalla Hoody (review here), Ahnu Women’s Montara Waterproof Boot, Outdoor Research Women’s Longhouse Glove, Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles (100cm)
Cost of Parking: Free along the side of HW50.

Pyramid Peak via Rocky Canyon… oh boy. This one is a tough one with approximately 4,083′ of elevation gain. The boyfriend and I huffed and puffed  our way up and down this one. The altitude, elevation change, and a wicked hangover (Just me. Whoops. Not a good idea to go peak bagging after a party bus team event.) were not my friends.

This hike was done mid-November with some snow on the trail, a little bit more snow on the peak, and freezing cold winds on the peak. This hike gives you a little bit of everything: little creek crossings, redwood forest, scrambling up talus. Unfortunately, can’t comment much on the view from the top. The day started off with a cloudless sky, but a giant cloud quickly descended upon us. It looks like it was gorgeous, what bit we could see, but with an 80% chance of snow, so we scrambled down pretty quickly.

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