I made these Sierra trips, carrying only a sackful of bread with a little tea and sugar, and was thus independent and free….
~JOHN MUIR, US naturalist, 1838—1914
In the quest to have lightweight gear that still provides comfort and safety, it is sometimes important or should I say scary to revisit where one comes from. Being in the middle of my new Photoshop mega learning curve, the next step seemed so obvious, get out those old boxes of photos and negatives (some of you don’t even know what a negative is) and get scanning and upload those babies on my new i Mac (yep 27 inch screen).
A favorite memory of mine is my family’s first multi-day backpack to Blue Lake out of Bishop, CA in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1999.
Yes… this resurrection of old photos is a bit comical and was WAY before digital photography. After looking carefully at the old trip photos it was very clear that we have made major advancements in hiking gear and clothing. Since my children are not present to defend themselves this is fair game. 🙂
In the photo above, the man appears to be sporting enough gear for 5 people. He resembles a Sherpa, don’t you think? My gear (I am on the left) towers above my head and reaches down almost to my knees.
-external frame backpacks were the norm. They weighted at least 5 pounds, were very top-heavy, required gear to be hung outside of the pack making them rain magnets for important gear (I have witnessed all kinds of hanging and creative contortions), and on more than one occasion the metal frame bars have rubbed, cut, and dug into human fresh flesh.
A serene, beautiful photo don’t you think? But if you look closely you will notice both of the innocent children are clad in cotton from head to toe (including underwear)! Shocking I know. Hypothermia just waiting to set in. How many of you remember hiking in those jeans and freezing to death? and did they ever really dry?
This photo is a personal favorite because it not only is a great example of a stylish static electricity hairdo and also raises questions like…when are you going to put braces on those kids? Look closely and take note.
-full size flannel lined sleeping bags, weighing at least 5 pounds each
-yes, those are full size pillows
-the children do have long underwear on but again all cotton
– the tent at the time was no ultra-lighter, it alone weighted 7 lbs (for a 2 man tent no less) and because the 2 children filled the tent, another 7 lb. tent was hauled up into the mountains for the parents.
This pic features one of those moments of impending doom when you can feel that the weather is changing rapidly (wind whipping, temperature dropping, fog rolling in, and not an animal to be found), so like a good mom I quickly dressed my children in emergency ponchos, never mind that we didn’t have proper rain gear. Just a few minutes after this photo was snapped, snow began to fall. Unfortunately, this unplanned weather pattern shortened our trip by one night and we set up emergency shelter on the way back to the trail head.
What is amazing is that we ever went backpacking again. Thus this pivotal trip began the quest for creating safe, fun, action packed, and comfortable family backpacking adventures. My kids have hiked and climbed from one end of the Sierras to the other since this time. In 2008, we hiked the John Muir Trail in 13 days with packs weighing under 25 pounds with water and food. Since that time our pack weight has dropped at least another 5 pounds just by substituting existing gear such as: Rainbow 2 TarpTent, alcohol stove, down sweater, Aquamira water drops, Thermarest Neo-air sleeping pad, 2 lb. Granite Gear Vapor Ki backpack, Ion headlamp, UL Mont-bell 25 degree down bag, and the Berikade bear canister.
“You’ve come far pilgrim”
~From the movie Jeremiah Johnson starring Robert Redford
Featured below are 2 photo slide shows from the 2008 John Muir Trail family trip for those of you who are dreaming of doing this trail, want to revisit this awesome trip, or just want to hike virtually.