I went backpacking with my son last weekend in the high Sierra of Yosemite. It was magical. Two people together 1:1 on the trail for three days. It is the best way to connect and share with another person. We got into topics that you rarely have time to explore with another; the stuff that matters. And it was spectacular. The place is empty in the fall. No advance permits required. We saw 1 person a day. It was a true life memory. If you want to connect with someone else, consider an outdoor adventure. Normal social signals are gone, no media disruptions, just people talking and sharing. And you might catch a beautiful rainbow or golden trout along the way.
It's great you can share these experiences with your son. I love riding on the road for long hours with my Dad so we can connect.
I love riding for long hours 1 on 1 with other people so we can just chat. We usually end up talking about things that truly interest us, where we want to be, where we are in life. The kinds of things you don't talk about at a dinner party or at work. It is amazing to share outdoor experiences away from notifications and screens (well except the garmin ;)).
Tod, it’s so interesting you post about this because so few people do what you did. Backpacking in freezing temperatures with the threat of a winter storm, deep in mountains with no people around. Sounds like heaven to me.
Those 1:1 high Sierra experiences are truly special. I don’t think I can convey how much I love that experience you describe, especially in the fall in the Sierra. It’s like a true therapy: completely disconnecting from the buzz of society, off the grid, and with minimal outside human contact.
I grew up exploring the Sierra with my family, friends and community. Literally thousands of miles of backpacking and hiking up there in my lifetime. But we never explored in the fall. Summer was time for exploration because we could go on 12 day trips without worrying about missing days in school.
As a young adult, I quickly fell in love with the Sierra in the fall. In recent years winters have been starting pretty late up there. It’s fairly common for minimal or no snow fall until mid November. There’s this sweet spot from September to November where it’s cold, sunny, and desolate with beautiful fall foliage. So that’s when I’m up there most now.
Here’s a pic of me last year, in mid November when my buddy Alex and I climbed Mt. Dana. No one but us on that mountain or any other mountain in its vicinity.
It's funny you mention the Sierras. Last night I got engrossed reading about one of my ultrarunning heroes, a European, who came with a group of friends to do the John Muir trail. They could have chosen a trail anywhere in the world, but they chose the John Muir trail because it's so wild and isolated for 223 miles.
Francois managed to complete it in just under three days, a record, but the real story was how it connected him to his friends. Here's his interview.
One of my sons and his wife are dying to do at least a portion of it with me. Sounds like a must.
I agree with Kevin about launching points that get you into the high Sierra quickly. The highest trailhead I know of is at the end of Rock Creek Rd, the Mosquito Flats trailhead. This is 10K ft and you get immediate access to Little Lakes Valley which is spectacular. With just a one mile hike, you can get to Ruby Lake which is stunning. Or, you can hike further to many other options. Another great access point is the backside of Mammoth at Agnew Meadow trailhead. You can quickly get to the John Muir trail, Shadow Lake, Lake Ediza, etc, all favorites of Ansel Adams and John Muir. The third one I suggest is the South Lake trail head out of Bishop. This gives access to Bishop Pass and the wonderful Dusey Basin area. All three of these are spectacular.
If you do the John Muir Trail, PLEASE take time to enjoy it. A bunch of people race through their hiking trips with pride of going as fast as possible. I know that is a thing but it seems like they are missing the full experience. If you don't rush, there is so much beauty, pools to swim in, streams to fish, side routes to explore. When we did the JMT, we took our time (2.5 weeks) and loved every minute. Most others were grinding against a clock and somewhat miserable. Instead of enjoying the setting, they were worried about making their distance goal. I understand people like your friend who are setting records but do not see why others blow past all the goodness. This photo is an example. We were hiking to the base of Whitney and found this amazing water on top of a bluff. We swam, talked and just enjoyed the scenery.