Friday, June 16, 2017

Photo Friday: The Sierra with Children

Not your typical family portrait.
My guest post last week at CoachDaddy has inspired me to do some more photo posts from trips long gone by. This one is from 2009, and was the first time we took our boys on a significant piece of off-trail hiking. They were 10 and 11. The route was challenging, starting with a truly nasty climb from the trailhead to the first camp, and we splurged on a packer to haul our stuff that far (this is also a good way to allow for some heavy food the first night!).  The route was from Pine Creek (near Bishop, CA), over French Creek Pass, then off trail to Miriam Lake, and farther off trail to the Bear Lakes and Italy Pass, where we picked up the trail again back down Pine Creek Canyon.

The initial climb is long, hot, and not so pretty, as you climb above the mining operations in the bottom of the canyon. I was glad to have only a daypack, enabling me to make a faster climb, though the higher we got the better the views.
By lunch time we had climbed out of the canyon, into the John Muir Wilderness, and reached our camp at the Upper Pine Lakes.
Day Two was a climb up and over Pine Creek Pass, which was beautiful and stark and very windy, making in no place our boys wanted to linger. Down the other side in French Creek Canyon, however, we encountered meadows of wildflowers.
Those of you with copies of "A is for Alpine" will recognize this from the back cover.
We made the kids happy by dropping all the way down into the trees for camp--the last forested camp of our trip. While I rested in the afternoon, the boys played in the creek. At one point they returned, Eldest Son soaking wet, to announce that he had fallen head first over "the waterfall of no return." Happily, it was only a waterfall for stick boats, and the bleeding was superficial. I mopped it up and sent him to put on dry clothes.
Typical camp scene. Mom and Dad carry the chairs, and the little people steal them.
Day Three we headed up the side of the canyon for Miriam Lake. The weather began to deteriorate, too, with clouds and wind moving in. This made for unhappy children, stressed by weather and not getting their choice of campsite. Dinner had to adjust for this, giving the kids what they wanted, not what we expected to feed them. Shelf-stable bacon saves the day!

Next morning we left the lake and all trails to climb out of that basin and over a 12,400' pass, with the weather threatening most of the way. Unhappy kids gradually got over it, though, as they mastered the terrain, met a ptarmigan with chicks, and ate snacks.
Still a ways to go. I think the pass was over to the left.
As is so often the case, the boys got happy about the time I got unhappy, with the scrambling descent from the unnamed pass toward the Bear Lakes.
Funny how the little people were better at that stuff than I was!
We eventually made it to a beautiful camp by Bear Paw lake, surrounded by granite walls. Eldest Son had issues that night with altitude sickness--possibly because in his snits the day before and that morning, he had failed to drink enough water. It was a reminder that we had to be prepared to fix things for the little people, because they can't fix themselves.
That night was cold--into the teens--so no one was anxious to get up in the morning. Eventually the sun hit, and we were happy to see a visitor in camp.
A bold marmot, looking for treats.
Our fifth day was another amazing scramble through little-traveled country, past lakes that few people visit, before climbing into the barren lands of the high alpine. As always, water was a kid magnet.

An alpine lunch. Crackers, cheese, summer sausage, and lemonade. The boys managed their own candy bags, doling out just the right amount each day.
Father and sons, crossing the moonscape toward Italy Pass.
For those into gear, the boys' packs are the Deuter Fox 30. Rain/wind jackets were from LandsEnd, and a great bargain.
 One section with a snowfield that made us glad to have trekking poles, though it wasn't too steep. It was still pretty icy after the cold night.

We reached Italy Pass in the mid-afternoon, and contemplated the descent. We'd be looking for a camp above tree line, as this was the renowned Granite Park, a significant part of what we'd come to see.
Hanging out in our final camp.
 What we came for: sunrise on the peaks surrounding Granite Park.
If you look very closely, you'll see the figure of a photographer in black--my husband.
I have to end with the classic "puzzle" photo--I am always amazed that we manage to get all the gear back in the car. In this case, we'd been away from home all summer, so there wasn't just our backpacking gear along. We got there, though, and found our way back to civilization for burgers and ice cream, an important part of taking kids hiking.

Hope you enjoyed this historical post!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


  1. Love this!
    You know, I see so many pictures of you in a hat, I get really surprised when I see you without one. I have no idea if I'd recognise you if we actually met. Then again, I might not look like my pics any more either!

    1. Well, as of now I still have the long braid/s, and the hair is still sort of red. Not so much around the face--that's gone, uh, blonde. Yeah, that's it. It's gone blonde :D

  2. My goodness was that an adventure! Gorgeous photos and memories to last a lifetime.

    1. We've done at least one roughly week-long backpack trip with the boys each year since they were 7 & 8 (before that we did some shorter trips, and some others that involved pack animals). As they are now 18 & 19, that's a lot of trips, a lot of great photos, and a lot of wonderful memories.

  3. Glad you've posted more! What an adventure. I love the post you wrote for my site.

    1. Thanks! Writing that inspired me to look back at some of our old tricks.

      I have also recently done a sort of overview on backpacking with kids on a forum I help moderate, the BPBasecamp. Lots more about gear and so forth there.


We want to hear from you! Tell us your reactions, or whatever's on your mind.