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Boulder, CO

A guide to the wilderness of the West.




Derek Bartz

The week of the 4th of July we headed out to Reno to visit Michele's sister (Andi) and take a little tour of California.  After only a week on the road I think we succeeded.  

Our first stop was Humbodlt State Park to see the massive old growth Redwoods that reside there.  It was my first visit to the Redwoods and I can't wait to go back.  The dense forests and the dramatic size of the Coastal Redwoods is impressive to say the least.

Rockefeller Grove

Next we headed to the Lost Coast, a place I've had on my list for some time.  Every description of the place will tell you it's "a land so rugged that the engineers had to divert Highway 1 inland"; and I'm so glad they did.  The Lost Coast gives a glimpse at what the California Coast once was, and it is one of the rare sections of Pacific shoreline in the contiguous US that doesn't have a road paralleling the ocean.  We chose to access the area from Sinkyone Wilderness State Park at Needle Rock  A windy, narrow, unpaved road leads into the remote park, there are no signs along the highway that point the way.  Even though the famous Redwoods of Humboldt State Park are only 20-30 miles away as the crow flies, the crowds don't venture this far off the beaten path.  

Taking the Lost Coast trail south from the visitor center we hiked 12 miles to Little Jackass Creek and back spending two night around Bear Harbor and a night on the beach at Little Jackass Creek.   

Foggy forests in the mornings and sunny skies in the afternoon, July was a great time to visit

Heading up onto the bluffs out of Bear Harbor

Blue bird day at Wheeler Beach

Secluded cove at the mouth of Little Jackass Creek

Foggy both times we were up at this viewpoint...oh well, next time.

Roosevelt Elk

Alder's lined the banks of Jackass Creek near the outlet to the ocean

Sunset from Bear Harbor on our third and final night

Leaving the beaches and ridge lines with cool ocean breezed was difficult, but made much easier by the fact we were heading to YOSEMITE next!  

After a longer than expected drive (about 10 hours), we made it to Yosemite and got a permit to spend the night on top of the Valley near North Dome.  This place is no secret and the trail is busy with day hikers during mid-day, but it's lack of water keeps backpackers away leaving this slice of heaven all to ourselves for the night.  Watching the sunrise/sunset over Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Mt Watkins, El Capitan, and the Cathedral Range in solitude was inspiring to say the least.

After following Porcupine Creek for a couple miles, the landscape dramatically opens up revealing the infamous granitscape that is Yosemite Valley

Half Dome & North Dome

Our campsites front porch

North Dome was just a short jaunt from camp; Taft Point and The Nose in the distance...NBD

Oh, hey there Half Dome

Left to Right: Clouds Rest, Cathedral Range, Halft Dome, Clark Range, and Mt Star King

Incredible sunset in an unreal place

Last light over the Cathedral Range

Best campsite in the Valley?

Lastly we needed to get up into the High Sierra.  The far less visited Northeast portion of Yosemite National Park is the perfect place for that, so we headed up to Young Lakes for a short overnight trip.  After setting up camp and waiting out the first round of thunderstorms for the day, I took off for a run up Mt Conness.  I quickly lost the cairned use trail marking the route, but cross country travel is so easy in the High Sierra I had no problem finding my own way.  As I was ascending the loose sand/scree slopes of White Mountain to reach the saddle between Conness more weather was rolling in so I ended up settling for the summit of White.  Just a few hundred feet lower than Conness the views were equally impressive spanning all the way to Mt Banner and the Ritter Range directly to the south, and the Cathedral Range and Half Dome to the southeast.  Back at camp we were treated to some spectacular sunset lighting on the granite-scape surrounding Lower Young Lake.  The next morning I awoke early to scramble up Ragged Peak.  Young Lake was glassy and I captured some amazing reflections of the mountain on the lake.  Overall, this area provided easy access to the high country and I'll definitely return.

Crossing an open meadow on the way to Young Lakes

Unusual lakes below the southwest slopes of White Mountain

Mt Conness' famous West Ridge as seen from the ridge on White Mountain

The steep sand and scree filled slopes of White Mountain.  Kind of brutal going up, but super fast on the way down.

White Mountain and Upper Young Lake

Soaking in the Range of Light

Ragged Peak reflected on Lower Young Lake

Another phenomenal trip to California in the books.  Oh, and I have to mention the incredible Lake Tenaya in Yosemite.  I've passed by it numerous times thinking it was just a big lake along side the road up to Tuolumne Meadows, but aupon closer examination it turns out to be one of the best swims of my life.  Warm water, granite slabs, crystal clear, sandy bottom, and domes in the distance; what more could you ask for.  Yes there are people (the road parallels the lake for a bit), but no one else was swimming and I could have cared less. We hung out here after North Dome and Young Lakes; a must for a passerby on a warm summer day.

High Sierra Heaven!