In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar
c9h13no3
Topix Regular
Posts: 386
Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:19 pm
Experience: Level 1 Hiker
Location: San Mateo, CA

In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by c9h13no3 » Wed Sep 11, 2019 11:23 pm

I recently day hiked the Rae Loop, wrote about it here. Fast & light day hikes aren't really what this forum typically does, and you've all hiked the Rae Loop I'm sure. So allow me to ruminate for a bit on the positives of the day trip I discovered. I realize none of these ideas are new to most of you, but I at least invite you to reconsider them.
FinDomeResize.png


I would argue that for the average resident of California, backpacking the Sierra is a bit inconvenient. Your time off work generally comes in 24-48 hour chunks on the weekends. You really need 2-3+ nights out on the trail for the extra weight of the overnight gear to start paying off, and most of us weekend warriors don't have many chances at that. The backpackers I met on the trail were often retired, teachers, or students, a strange leisure class. The rest of us gotta find a way to get in where we fit in.

Secondly, the lower gear requirements are great. If you're just getting into hiking or the Sierra, there's a much lower gear investment for day hiking. And there's a whole lot less to plan & keep track of. Just chuck lunch in your pack and refreshments in a cooler (that then goes in the bear box). The most ultralight sleeping & cooking setup is leaving it in your car. In fact, if your feet are tough, and you pick an area remote enough to avoid a ticket, you can day hike naked. My campsite outside of the wilderness is also leaving no trace.


RaeBasinResize.jpg


The other thing that changes when I'm cruising fast through an area is my desire to be around people. For some reason, when I'm just out for the day I don't mind them. Maybe it's because they're complimentary ("Woah, doing the whole thing in a day?"), or because I don't have to sleep next to their noise. But either way, I really enjoyed chatting with the other 8-10 hikers on the top of Glen Pass. The manure piles & errant trash didn't seem as bad either. The trail seems more like a theme park when I'm just on it for a day in a crowded area, than the church of solitude the wilderness can sometimes be.

Finally, I actually enjoyed training for this thing, because it got me out into the local parks & trails all week. I rediscovered the 1-2 hour weekday outing, and had a great time ticking peaks off the Nifty Ninety list. I discovered new places to run in my neighborhood: cross country courses teeming with wildlife and use paths connecting city parks together.

So yeah, skip the mosquitoes at dusk in July and the cold long nights in October. Consider a day hike.


WoodsCreekResize.jpg
You must be registered and logged in to view the files/photos attached to this post.


"Adventure is just bad planning." - Roald Amundsen
Also, I have a blog no one reads. Please do not click here.






User avatar
Bishop_Bob
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 41
Joined: Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:31 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by Bishop_Bob » Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:06 am

Nice! You've inspired me to make something out of the rest of the season.

User avatar
sekihiker
Founding Member
Posts: 570
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 2:47 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Fresno
Contact:

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by sekihiker » Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:04 am

We've debated this issue in the past. Here's my take on it - http://www.sierrahiker.com/WildernessExperience.html
Quoting the summation of the essay, "the wilderness experience covers a broad spectrum of activities - a night's stay at the Ahwahnee, a 12.5 hour hike of the Rae Lakes Loop, a day hike of Black Kaweah, a four day hike of the entire John Muir Trail, 800 wilderness trips documented with 50,000 photos"

User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Addict
Posts: 2827
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Silicon Valley
Contact:

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by SSSdave » Thu Sep 12, 2019 10:31 am

The vast majority of backpackers began as day hikers...fishermen, peak baggers, mountain explorers, photographers. We've just moved on to include the broader areas beyond what is possible to experience with out and back day hikes.

Actually many of us still are day hikers when that better suits purpose and efficiency. Each year I do far more day hiking than backpacking as one can readily see looking at my annual trip chronicles web pages. In any case it is true there are some backcountry trips that might be more efficiently performed as day hikes. We are coming into the fall color leaf season now and most of we leaf enthusiast whether photographers or those just enjoying experiencing the visual glory, do so with day hikes because of a few reasons. The quaking aspen groves, cottonwood, and dogwood areas are at lower elevations that can easily be reached day hiking, during October overnight trips require enduring long long night hours, and weather during fall, sometimes stormy and cold, is better endured from a car camping base.

And then there are other circumstances where starting a day from further distances into the backcountry has significant advantages.

A fisherman might rise at dawn at Onion Valley, then hike 7 miles to Kearsarge Lakes however by time they hike 2.6k over Kearsarge Pass and reach those lakes mid morning, a breeze is likely to have risen up waving waters bugs had been flitting about on during earlier still waters when fish were hungrier at day break. Likewise unless they accept hiking back with a headlamp in the dark, they won't be around for the usual late afternoon bite.

A peakbagger wanting to climb Brewer is going to see that effort as easier from East Lake versus Road's End.

Those interested in exploring Humphreys Basin many lakes and small basins will see much more efficiently while base camping from a central lake within that basin like Golden Trout Lake versus having to do so each day from the North Lake Trailhead.

And serious photographers have even more constraints of being at locations during narrow windows of time to the extent this person often camps close to where I expect dawn, sunrise sunset, and dusk subjects like the below I shot while camping near Anvil Camp on my last day of my recent trip into the Upper Kern Basin, my 207th backpack over 5 decades.

dawnAC1.jpg
You must be registered and logged in to view the files/photos attached to this post.

User avatar
Gazelle
Topix Regular
Posts: 320
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:01 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Donner Summit CA

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by Gazelle » Thu Sep 12, 2019 10:46 am

I day hike and backpack they both have there advantages. Backpacking you can get way more peaks in just a few days...I do this to get the more remote peaks and get most of the area all in 1 or 2 big backpack trips. This way I also get to enjoy the scenery/lakes etc and have solitude. I leave the closer (relatively) to a trailhead for day-hiking as then I don't have to carry all the crap and can go back to my home/car/restaurant for easy food/sleeping. I very much enjoy both!
Kristine
The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. Albert Einstein

User avatar
rightstar76
Topix Expert
Posts: 718
Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 3:22 pm
Experience: N/A

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by rightstar76 » Thu Sep 12, 2019 1:11 pm

It's time to make an addition to the man, the myth, the legend category. Currently there are two with that honor: Mr. Burd and Rogue. With 207 backpacking trips over 5 decades, SSSdave has now joined them. :)
Last edited by rightstar76 on Sat Sep 14, 2019 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
adornowest
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 48
Joined: Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:54 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by adornowest » Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:49 pm

Thanks for the posts. I have been interested in how someone pulls off a day hike of this proportions. I can see the many benefits of day hiking including fitting spectacular scenery into limited schedules and an inducement for getting in shape.

How much time did you spend in the Dollar to Rae zone? Even having spent two days in Rae and 60 recently, I felt pretty unsatisfied, as if I was speeding walking through the Louvre to see everything rather than having a more meaningful and deeper engagement with a few great paintings.

User avatar
c9h13no3
Topix Regular
Posts: 386
Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:19 pm
Experience: Level 1 Hiker
Location: San Mateo, CA

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by c9h13no3 » Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:15 pm

adornowest wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:49 pm
How much time did you spend in the Dollar to Rae zone? Even having spent two days in Rae and 60 recently, I felt pretty unsatisfied, as if I was speeding walking through the Louvre to see everything rather than having a more meaningful and deeper engagement with a few great paintings.
~2 hrs between Dollar & Rae. We walked and took lots of breaks, but yeah, I really wanted to spend way more time there. Honestly going in, looking at photos, I was thinking "Eh, another alpine lake basin. I've seen so many, I'll check this one off the list in a day and move on." It really surprised me about how nice it was. Quick trips do have their downsides, the main one being that they're... quick?
"Adventure is just bad planning." - Roald Amundsen
Also, I have a blog no one reads. Please do not click here.

User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Docent
Posts: 4597
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Contact:

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Sep 13, 2019 9:44 am

Well, I fall in the "old school". Day hikes fine as long as you have the "10 essentials" and are able to survive if things go wrong. Nowadays, trail runners and fast-and-light day hikers rarely carry sufficient gear to survive. I suspect the attitude is that nothing will go wrong, and if it does, someone will come along and bail you out or you will push the "help" button on your PLB. I have had to render aid to a trail runner who was temporarily disabled and stuck on top of Clouds Rest in snow, with only running shorts. Luckily my group had sufficient clothing to put on the runner while we administered first aid, and after an hour, the runner was able to self-evacuate.

I take enough gear to survive a night out if necessary. That may weigh me down so that I cannot do 30 miles. You do not have to take enough to be "comfortable", just enough to survive expected conditions. All my years of mountaineering and rock climbing, I have been "stuck" out for a night over a dozen times, survived, although in a great deal of discomfort. When I am in a group, and we end up stuck, I resent having to give another person some of my gear and risk my own safety, because they were not prepared. I think it is just responsible to be self-sufficient.

User avatar
bobby49
Topix Expert
Posts: 696
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2017 4:17 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: In defense of the day hike: Thoughts from Rae in a day

Post by bobby49 » Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:21 am

I am reminded of the U.S. Marine that was on leave, so he drove up to Highway 108 and hit a trail for a dayhike. Unfortunately, he fell off the trail, off a cliff, and down into a steep ravine. The fall broke both legs, so he could not move much. He had fallen into a creek bed, so he had raw water to drink. At night, he had a "squirrel's nest" of leaves to cover him. After a few weeks of being stuck there, his injuries healed enough that he could crawl back up out of the ravine and onto the trail, so he made it out to the trailhead alive. He was lucky that he was not at high elevation, and the weather wasn't that bad. He was also lucky that he had been through Marine survival training.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests