Weekend at Table Mountain in the Angeles National Forest

hammock table mountain ca

By Heather

Table Mountain might be as close as we ever get to having a vacation home. Going there is (almost) always so pleasant and relaxing. By the time you finish breakfast on Sunday and are over camping, just pack up and go – you’ll be home in a couple hours.

A few weekends ago, we went with my best friend since college, her husband and their girls.

We switched things up a little from our usual Mojave loop and stayed in the Osage loop. Wherever you land, both loops have some of the best views in the entire campground.

Weekend recap

Three new things at Table Mountain this year:

  • Rattlesnakes
  • Scorpions
  • Coyotes

Because of the snakes, we were warned to make sure the campfire was totally out. The host said if we didn’t, we might come out in the morning to find a few hanging out around the ring for warmth. Fortunately, we never saw any.

That goes for coyotes and scorpions, too, though the host did bring a scorpion by in a bucket to show us what they look like. I…do not like those things. I also was not comforted by his claim that a scorpion sting is no worse than a bee sting.

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They coyotes meant keeping a closer eye on Nabby than usual. They’re sneaky, quiet little opportunists, and Nabby is 14, going blind and hard of hearing. We never saw the coyotes, either.

Campfires were allowed, but they could be no more than 30 inches tall. Fair enough. A small campfire is better than no campfire.

my first summer in the sierra john muir

Darren and I have a morning routine when we camp. He wakes up early to enjoy the quiet and drink coffee. I stay in the tent and read for a while.

(It seemed fitting this time to finish the last 50 pages of John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra while soaking in the outdoors.)

I’ll stay in the tent until the sun chases me out. This time, though, it was our slowly deflating air mattress that brought me out earlier than I wanted. This is our second Coleman Queen Double High Quickbed. The first one sprang a leak on the second use. This replacement one waited to spring a leak until about the 10th use. Don’t be suckered by the low price. This thing is junk.

After breakfast, we like getting the errands out of the way, so we drove into town to our beloved Jensen’s for some deli sandwiches and other necessities. Another thing I love about Jensen’s, aside from their tasty sandwiches, is their ample booze selection.

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Their prices are also fairly reasonable for being an out-of-the-way mountain town:

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After that, we came back, relaxed, lazed in hammocks, drank margaritas, ate marshmallows, started campfires and had a terrific time.

Gear We Used to Hike to Half Dome

half dome subdomeBy Heather

Much of the hiking gear I own now was mostly purchased in anticipation of hiking to Half Dome and beyond that.

Here’s a roundup of the stuff that helped us get to the top!

Food

Clif bars. This was my first hiking venture eating Clif bars instead of my usual Kind bars, and I’m glad I switched. Kind bars are really tasty, but I found myself wanting a snack every hour, especially on tougher hikes. Clif bars are much more nutritionally dense, but a little bit gritty. They gave me so much more energy and I didn’t need to stop to snack as much.

Jolly Ranchers. Any flavor but grape! I had often heard that hard candies of any kind come in handy when you’re getting tired and really need to focus and push, and it’s true. Bring your favorite kind!

PowerAde Zero. I drink PowerAde primarily for the potassium to prevent cramps, but also because it’s yummy. It keeps me more motivated to drink and stay hydrated.

Clothing

Hiking, especially in high elevations, requires lots of layering. Depending on your elevation gain and start time, you may see several big temperature changes.

Workout top. My first layer was one of the tops I wear for working out at the gym, since they’re built to wick moisture and they’re really comfortable when it’s hot out.

Base Layer. The base layer I wore was an Everlast top that I found at Kmart. It was cheap, but it totally works. It keeps me warm, dries quickly and has thumbholes to keep your hands covered.

Vest. I wore my Land’s End down vest for some extra warmth for the start of the hike, since going up the Mist Trail gets a little wet and gusty. The vest kept me warm enough that I didn’t need any other layers.

Pants. I love my Danskin capris, which I found at Wal-Mart of all places. They’re cheaper there on Amazon, too!

Hiking boots. I wore the Keen Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Boot, and they were wonderful in every way. Comfortable, totally dry, great grip while going up the cables. I love them!

Insoles. I have plantar fasciitis that flares up from time to time. A friend suggested that I toss the insoles that come with hiking shoes and get nice new ones to help prevent plantars from bothering me on the trail. I found Sofsoles at Sports Authority (their foot measuring thing told me I have a neutral arch, which was a surprise – I would have guessed high). They’re noticeably better and more comfortable than the Keen insoles!

Hiking socks. I wore my trusty Thorlos. They’re really thick, comfortable and great at preventing blisters. The money they cost is well worth it. Between the shoes, insoles and hiking socks, my feet were just a little sore when we got back to the village. You really don’t want to cheap out when it comes to your feet.

Water bottles. My water bottles were four 1L collapsible water bottles. They have their pros and cons. The pro is that they save space; the con is that they’re difficult to dry out. But I still love mine and plan to keep using them until they become disgusting.

Water filter. We never ran out of water, so I didn’t have an occasion to put the water filter to use. Maybe there will be an opportunity on Mt. Whitney!

Hiking poles. My hiking poles were my trusty Cascade Mountain Tech poles. I’m really, really happy with them. They’ve gone with me on many hikes at this point and have never been a letdown.

GlovesI used rubberized fishing gloves for the cables. They’re cheap and effective and you can’t go wrong with them.

Survival

Aside from the usual survival things you need (first-aid kit, emergency blanket, etc.), I’ll highlight two that are important on this hike:

Whistle. It sure came in handy when we had to scare off that coyote that was following us. Yikes! I already loved this whistle, though, because it also has a compass and a thermometer. Handy.

Poncho. I didn’t have to use mine, but it’s a good idea to bring a poncho for the Mist Trail section of the hike. We didn’t get soaked, but it may have been because the falls weren’t at full strength.

A Week at Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite National Park

yosemite falls housekeeping camp

View of “our bridge” in Housekeeping Camp and Yosemite Falls. Our campsite was down the way a bit on the left.

By Heather

I’ve written about my love for Housekeeping Camp before. We stayed there again the week we were in Yosemite to hike Half Dome.

A note: I’ve updated the original post with details about laundry, rails/ladders for the bunk beds in the cabin and more.

When we arrived this time, we were put in cabin #102 – right next to the very, very  busy and noisy road. Five days was a long time to live with something like that, so we went back to registration and asked if it was possible to be placed in another unit.

After several minutes, the woman behind the counter said, “You’re in a river unit, no extra charge.”

I knew I heard river unit, but my mind wouldn’t allow me to believe she had actually said river unit. The river unit is the holy grail of Housekeeping campsites! River view units line the tranquil Merced River. You’re closer to the beaches, the cute little bridge that runs by camp and it’s just prettier and nicer and in every way totally wonderful.

Well, not only did we have a river unit just five feet from the river, we had a river unit with a view of Yosemite Falls!

Check it:
It was wildlife central there, too. This squirrel eating a pizza crust is hilarious:

We did not give that to him, by the way.

Every morning, I woke up thinking “I can’t believe this is our campsite.” Every day, we kicked back and drank coffee or booze or water or all three and watched deer graze, ducks quack and green rafts float by.

housekeeping camp yosemite

As mentioned about, though, all was not great. You’re probably wondering what I could possibly have to complain about with a campsite like this and the peace it must have filled me with.

It did fill me with peace until around dusk, when the BS started.

“Elmer! ELMERRRRR!”

Every single night, it started and continued until quiet hours began at 10 p.m. The calls echoed all over the campground.

“Elmer!” “ELMER!” “ELLLLMMEEERRRRRR!”

Some people, like our neighbor’s children, would scream it at the top of their lungs and in unison. They were fond of doing it after a long period of silence, so you’d be nice and relaxed when it started again.

The Elmer story is based on the story of a young boy going missing one night. You can read more about it here, starting with the post by Darren (no relation to FYC Darren!).

It doesn’t really matter to me what the story behind the call is at this point. It happened decades ago and people are abusing it by using it well past desk and screaming it. It’s obnoxious and I wish Housekeeping would do something to discourage it. It was part of my feedback for them in the survey I filled out. We can’t be the only people who were totally annoyed by this…right?

Other than that, though, we had the most incredible week. Yosemite gets better and better every time we go.

Two—TWO—Canopy Reviews in One!

By Darren

If you’re camping in the desert, a good, reliable canopy is a must.

Obviously, canopies come in handy for any camping situation and in locales in which temperatures remain below triple digits. But when you’re in the California desert, and the sun finally clears whatever formations have provided you and your fellow campers with merciful morning shade, you’re going to want a canopy to hide under.

While a canopy isn’t going to keep you cool necessarily, it will provide more than enough shade to keep you from feeling like a bug on a sidewalk being roasted alive on the wrong end of a sadistic child’s magnifying glass.

We knew this about desert camping from the get go. But because Heather and I didn’t make it out to the desert more than once a year—and always with the canopy-owning Steve—and because there were so many other camping items we wanted to load up on first, a canopy of our very own had always been delegated to the “Some Day” list.

But with our recently visiting more locations throughout Joshua Tree National Park and our visits becoming more frequent, we finally broke down and bought a canopy.

Well, two, actually. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Coleman 11 foot x 11 foot instant screened canopy

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Coleman 11 foot x 11 foot instant screened canopy.

We picked up the Coleman 11 foot x 11 foot instant screened canopy from Target for $114.99. It’s pretty much everything the product description says it is:

  • Quick set-up
  • Two-doors
  • Easy to pack
  • Lightweight (22.5 pounds)

The first time we used the canopy was at Indian Cove Campground earlier this year. Since Heather arrived at the campsite a day ahead of me and put up the canopy by herself, I can’t really say anything about what it was like setting it up. So I’ve taken the liberty of interviewing Heather about that to get her take:

DARREN: Heather, would you say it was easy or hard to set up our Coleman 11 foot x 11 foot instant screened canopy?

HEATHER: Easy!

There you have it!

Here’s what it looks like in action with our non-Fuck Yeah Camping pals Kim and Kent:

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Perfect for a picnic table, wife, corgi and cooler full of beer.

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Kim demonstrating that there’s plenty of clearance under the canopy.

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Fuck Yeah tested, Kent approved.

I was there when the canopy came down, and that was equally easy; it was folded in on itself and packed in the bag it came in under five minutes.

Now, here’s the bad news, and let me say up front that this is totally on me.

A month later, I took the canopy with me during a solo trip to Joshua Tree National Park, and I broke the canopy. Like Lennie with a mouse in his pocket, my dumb brute strength got the better of me, and I snapped off one of the poles while putting the canopy up. A screw holding the joints together snapped, the screw itself sheared off along the edge, its remaining bit lodged forever within the screw hole.

Is that what you call that? The “screw hole”? Doesn’t feel right…

Knowing full well that I’d never survive the trip without a canopy, I had to find a replacement. Unfortunately, I was deep within the park, the nearest oasis of civilization a 30-minute drive away.

Funny story there. After driving the 30 minutes to a Wal-Mart in the town of Joshua Tree, I discovered I had left my wallet back at the campsite. That didn’t matter so much as the Wal-Mart was completely sold out of canopies. I discovered a Big 5 Sporting Goods farther up the 62, but first I had to drive 30 minutes back to camp to pick up my wallet, then drive another 30 minutes back into Joshua Tree to pick up a new canopy.

Which brings me to the:

Golden Bear 10 foot x 10 foot screen canopy

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Golden Bear 10 foot x 10 foot screen canopy.

This store-brand canopy was the only one in stock, so I picked it up for $99.99 (and drove another 30 minutes back to camp). It saved the day, but I returned it back to the store after the camping trip was over.

For starters, the setup was difficult. It required pulling the poles out into locking slots, but the poles didn’t slide out smoothly and took way too much force to extend fully. All told, I’m guessing it took me well over 10 minutes to get the canopy set up.

Also, while setting it up, one of the stake rings ripped off at the seam.

Another strike against ol’ Golden Bear is that it only contains one zippered door. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this made it difficult to place around the campsite picnic table. Rather than being able to unzip the back half and scoot the canopy into place, I had to tilt the front toward me and waddle the canopy into place, being careful not to get the rear mesh screen caught on supplies stored on the table or on the branches of some nearby bushes.

Surprisingly, having one less square foot than the Coleman canopy made a difference too. With the Coleman canopy, there was plenty of room for the picnic table, a cooler, two folding chairs and a corgi. I could get most of that under the Golden Bear canopy, but items like the cooler looked like they were about to burst out the sides.

Finally, back to those poles. As hard as they were to pull out, they were even more difficult to retract. Steve joined me toward the end of the trip, and he’s like having your own personal Chewbacca. Tall and with a 24-foot arm span, Steve can literally pick up anything and crush it without breaking a sweat. But even Steve couldn’t get one of the poles to budge; after 10 minutes of wrestling with it, we tossed the canopy back in its bag. I took it back to the store with the one un-collapsed pole sticking out of the bag like an antenna.

So to sum up, the Golden Bear worked in a pinch, but I wouldn’t invest in it long-term. I’m guessing you won’t even have that option much longer—as of this writing, Big 5 has the canopy discounted to $69.99 on their website, so they’re probably phasing it out.

As for the Coleman canopy, it’s still under warranty, so we’ll be returning it to Coleman for a replacement.

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Tips

    • Do not kid yourself into thinking, “Meh, I’m sure I’ll be fine without a canopy in the desert.” You will soon come to terms with just how cruel and unforgiving the desert sun can be, and how quickly a cool morning can turn into a blazing inferno.

And don’t think you’ll improvise and wait it out in your tent. Even in warm-ish weather, the temperature within your tent will go from “Summer Breeze Makes Me Feel Fine” to “Arizona Sweat Lodge of Death.”

  • A lot of canopies come without screened sides. You want the screened sides. Bugs are just as much a problem in the desert as they are anywhere else, so you’ll be grateful for the barrier. Also, should you find yourself in weather, the rain will roll down the sides if it isn’t falling too heavily.
  • It isn’t mandatory, but two zippered entrances makes maneuvering the canopy around and over things much easier.
  • As I noted above, go big or you’re going to feel cramped once you’re huddled inside the canopy with all your gear.

Hiking the Four-Mile Trail to Glacier Point

By Heather

When you’re in one of the world’s premier hiking destinations, you’d be insane not to take advantage of it!

We arrived in Yosemite on Sunday afternoon. Our hike to Half Dome was that Thursday, so I used Monday morning to tackle the Four-Mile Trail. The trail starts on the valley floor and switchbacks all the way up to Glacier Point.

This hike can be done one way in either direction: hike up to Glacier Point, take a bus back down; or take a bus up to Glacier Point and hike back down. The bus is $25 for an adult.

As always, I got my start early. I felt a little spoiled to be able to roll out of bed and just start the hike. No driving for once!

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Moon over Cathedral Peak.

The trail’s name is a misnomer. When it was first built, it was indeed four miles. Today, it’s closer to 4.8, thanks to some re-routing over the years.

yosemite falls four-mile trail

The trail is a mixture of pavement, rocks and dirt. It’s very shady and really easy to trip, so pay attention to your steps. As you climb, you’ll enjoy ever-changing views of Yosemite Falls and you’ll be able to hear them roaring.

My favorite moment on the trail was coming around a bend to see this stunning sight:

half dome sunrise

Unfortunately, my hike on this trail was full of goofs that kept me from reaching the finish line.

The walk from Housekeeping to the trailhead didn’t seem very daunting, but it added about two miles one-way to the hike. I should have driven to the trailhead.

I’ve also been experimenting with tying my laces to prevent my toes from banging the front of my boots on downhills. But I tied them so poorly that the tops were digging into the skin above my ankles and the front of my foot ached from tying my laces too tight. (Fortunately, I was able to iron out the issues for the Half Dome hike).

By the time I reached the point where there’s 1.5 miles left to go before reaching Glacier Point, I was frustrated and feeling like I should have been farther along than that. On top of that, I began to feel paranoid that I would destroy my feet before Half Dome with the way my shoes were tied. The pain was past the point of no return. The only solution was getting the shoes off and resting.

So, I called it a hike a turned back. It was still a decent trek despite the early turnaround and I still managed to notch about 11 miles or so. Plus, I got to hike in Yosemite.

Oh well…next time!