Problems Only Campers Understand

By Heather

Relate to any of these?

Ah, the wistful look on that last morning. no matter how miserable a time you had, it’s always hard to take down camp and go home, isn’t it?

Hiking Jackassery: Leaving Your Dog Poop Behind

By Heather

Bad dog owners piss me off.

On our way back down from Cucamonga Peak a couple weekends ago, we saw several of these:


That’s dog poop. In a bag.

Someone decided to bring their dog on a hike and responsibly pack poop backs for said dog.

Their dog pooped, they took out a bag, picked up the poop, tied the bag…and then just left it on the ground.

What is the matter with these people?! Why would you go to all that trouble, just to miss the point entirely and leave the bagged poop on the ground like so much garbage? I’d rather people just leave the dog poop behind unwrapped…it would disintegrate faster than it would all bagged up, biodegradable bag or not.

We saw the bags in multiple colors, so it was probably more than one person thoughtfully bagging up poop and then thoughtlessly dropping it where they stood.

If you do this, please stop.

If you see someone do it, ask them why they come to enjoy nature only to trash it and ruin it for everyone else. If you see a bag and have room, pick it up yourself and dispose of it properly.

Some people.

Hetch Hetchy

hetch hetchy o'shaughnessy dam yosemiteBy Heather

I should be very ashamed to admit this, but until a few years ago, I had no idea that Hetch Hetchy was in Yosemite.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I knew of Hetch Hetchy. I’m not that ignorant. But I thought it was some reservoir just outside the city. In my head, it was behind a high school right off Woodside Road in Redwood City.


I also didn’t know how beautiful it was before they dammed it up until watching Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

While I side with John Muir on the whole matter of whether it should have been dammed at all, you have to admit the O’Shaughnessy Dam is pretty impressive.

hetch hetchy valley o'shaughnessy dam

Hetch Hetchy is less than an hour’s drive from the Valley floor. On the way, we saw a ton of the damage from the Rim Fire, which was two years ago this month. The damage was massive and went on for miles.

We also saw this super adorable lodge that I am definitely going to come back to someday. I love mountain lodges.

Back to Hetch Hetchy. Getting in is free, as is parking, which is just down the hill next to the dam.

ranger shelton johnson autograph

If you have a National Park Passport, there’s a stamp available at the ranger station.

When I got my stamp, I had to hand my book over to the ranger so he could do it. It was open to the page with Ranger Shelton Johnson’s autograph.

The ranger took it, looked at the page and paused.

“Who is this? Hey…what? Hey guys! She’s got Shelton Johnson’s autograph! WOW!”

The other rangers quickly scurried over to look, then asked if I also wanted their autographs. “Uh…sure!”

I wanted to say “But he’s your coworker! Surely you see him sometimes?”

I guess he doesn’t make his way over to Hetch Hetchy much!

Hetch Hetchy is also notable because we remembered to get a picture of ourselves together. I’m trying to be better about that.

And yes, this is pretty much what I look like when I go camping: a dirty hippie in baggy clothes who likes Winnie-the-Pooh.hetch hetchy yosemite



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.


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.

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

jensen's wrightwood

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!


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.


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.


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.