2020 Season Review

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c9h13no3
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2020 Season Review

Post by c9h13no3 » Sun Nov 08, 2020 11:07 am

The first snow always feels like the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one. When it arrives, it covers up the old tired dust, gives the mountains a reprieve from their nakedness, and will eventually turn into flowers and green plants again. I still have a few day trips mentally planned in the lower elevations of the Sierra, but we'll see if the weather cooperates. So I suppose now is a good time to look back, and reflect a bit on the last year.

And what a bizarre year it was. When COVID started, I was breaking the law, indignant that someone would try to keep me within 10 miles from my home. I hid my skis under blankets in my car, rather than on the roof rack. I'd tell my wife or ski partner that we should be grateful, we were lucky to be outside, healthy, and no one was giving us a ticket. Then gradually as people stopped over reacting and the mountains opened up, jealousy set it. My friends were able to work remotely, and they moved to Truckee and Boulder, climbing the Flatirons or Mt Rose on a weekday. Never being satisfied with your current situation is what allowed humans to survive, but it's a shitty way to live.

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One of my favorite days in the mountain this season was a day hike/trail run of Mt Lyell in June. The trip just clicked. I had planned that hike for at least two seasons and all that planning paid off. I had been watching satellite images of Lyell Canyon, and Yosemite announced it was opening at the optimal time. The the snow was smooth but melted off the trail, the waterfalls were rushing, and the mosquitoes were still frozen. My partner and I had very similar pacing the whole day, no one held the other back. But more than a perfect day, with Yosemite being officially open, it felt like the official end to the outdoors embargo.

However, I failed in one big way this season: no backpacking, again. As soon as the mosquitoes stopped biting, the entire state was on fire. I lost the outdoors for a second time, and had another mourning period all over again. COVID closed everything indoors, smoke closed everything outside. I'm a mountain person and I spent Labor Day on the beach, the only oasis of clean air. Doing Yoga & HIIT videos by the air purifier is probably the most 2020 moment I've experienced. Unlike COVID though, it was easy to cancel those late August & September backpacking trips. The smoke was bad enough at home.

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So it's the end of the season, but also the beginning. I've got a few over use injuries from running too far. My feet could use a return to ski boots. I'm watching the weather, hoping for more snow. But if it doesn't come, I'm thinking about a weekend in Yosemite Valley, no day use reservations required. It all feels… normal. Nice. And looking back through my pictures of the year, I see the same things as the years before. Pictures of me and my friends & family in beautiful places, sharing time together. So despite our minor complaints about fires and viruses, the mountains still offered me the same things they do every year.


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Wandering Daisy
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Re: 2020 Season Review

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Nov 08, 2020 8:08 pm

2020 started out good with a 3-day trip at Point Reyes National Seashore. Then COVID hit. I had not reserved any permits since I always get "first come" permits in the Sierra. I had hoped to do 2-3 early season trips before going to Wyoming. My summer in Wyoming turned out quite well, although feet and ankle problems plagued me for a while. When I returned a few days after Labor Day, the smoke and closed trails added to my ineptitude of reserving permits so I just gave up and stayed in shape with urban dog-walking and gardening. I never have liked to do much past mid-October due to all the darkness.

So my goal for next year is to figure out how to reserve permits and/or leave the Sierra again for a mountain range that does not require permits. I certainly have a lot of unfinished plans in the Wind Rivers. I also have all the Sierra trip plans that I did not do this year, so do not even need to do any pre-planning. Maybe do the old planned trips in Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps. A lot depends on if first-come Sierra permits are reinstated this summer.

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Re: 2020 Season Review

Post by balzaccom » Sun Nov 08, 2020 11:01 pm

It was a strange year, that's for sure. We began with a trip, as planned, to NZ in February. But after that, just about everything either got cancelled or re-scheduled.

The big plan was to spend August in Yellowstone, with our adult kids flying in to join us at different times. That went right out the window.

So we did a few short (2-3 day) backpacking trips in the Sierra--Caples Creek, Snag Lake in Lassen, Highland Creek in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Then we squeezed in a quick few nights in the backcountry of Yosemite after it re-opened, and did another trail crew trip for a couple of days in August with a good friend. And a longer car camping trip to the Ruby Mountains in Nevada was our big adventure. At least so we thought at the time.
But then we wrapped things up with an aborted trip out of Thomas Edison through the Creek Fire, complete with first getting trapped there, and then being told to evacuate ASAP. What fun. After that, we car camped a few days up in Mendocino in October.

Next year? It all depends on COVID. We've tried to keep that Yellowstone dream alive for next year, but with the kids living far away, that may be impossible. And I have some invitations in Europe in the fall---but only if it is truly safe to travel (and Europe allows me in!)

So this year was adapting to changing realities...and next year may very well be the same. sigh.
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Re: 2020 Season Review

Post by c9h13no3 » Mon Nov 09, 2020 9:40 am

balzaccom wrote:
Sun Nov 08, 2020 11:01 pm
The big plan was to spend August in Yellowstone, with our adult kids flying in to join us at different times. That went right out the window.
Yeah, the wife and I had a trip to Norway scheduled in late April. We were able to get all our plane tickets refunded though, so nothing really lost there.
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Re: 2020 Season Review

Post by balzaccom » Mon Nov 09, 2020 2:12 pm

That was true with our reservations in Yellowstone, minus a $10 charge from recreation.gov. Cheap.
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brandoge
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Re: 2020 Season Review

Post by brandoge » Mon Nov 09, 2020 3:56 pm

I'm fairly new to backpacking (just handful of trips before this year), and 2020 was a year of growth for me. I love to ski and when the resorts closed in March from COVID it was incentive for me to plan trips so I could get outside. For the first time this year I did research on different areas and routes, planned my trips and reserved permits, and lead my small group of friends. This forum has been a wealth of knowledge for helping me learn more about the wilderness.

I've learned a lot from mistakes this season, and hoping to continue building this passion over the coming years! Already have some plans in the works for next year \:D/

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Re: 2020 Season Review

Post by bobby49 » Mon Nov 09, 2020 4:42 pm

They say that we should all learn from our mistakes. I've been learning a lot this year.

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Re: 2020 Season Review

Post by c9h13no3 » Tue Nov 10, 2020 11:08 pm

I know a lot of people said that 2020 was way more crowded than previous years. I have 2 thoughts on this:

1) The backcountry was a little worse, but not nearly so bad as I've heard. I ran into a few folks off trail (Little Slide Canyon, Mt Ritter, Ridge Lake near Granite Dome), but the backcountry is pretty big and those are popular off trail spots. The one place that truly seemed overcrowded was the 4 Lakes Loop in the Trinity Alps. If you're willing to hunt a bit, or walk far there's still plenty of places for solitude out there.

2) The forest service came off as really inept. It seems obvious to me that COVID would increase outdoor recreation, but they weren't ready. Between people saying they called 80+ times for a permit and overflowing trash dumpsters, the NPS is so much better at handling people than the Forest Service. And I don't blame new & disrespectful people, they're always part of the equation. LNT education helps, but if you really want to keep a place pristine, it needs to be managed. A pit toilet may distract from the natural setting, but it's worth it to avoid TP lying around everywhere.
Last edited by c9h13no3 on Tue Nov 10, 2020 11:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2020 Season Review

Post by balzaccom » Tue Nov 10, 2020 11:13 pm

Bear in mind that in most cases in the West, the USFS couldn't staff up properly this summer because they didn't know when, or even if, they would open at all. They couldn't hire summer staff, couldn't open their offices to visitor traffic, and couldn't do much of the trail and maintenance work because it couldn't be done until the US Government agreed with the local authorities about what could open when.

i know I am part of a team of volunteers who do trail work in the National Forests, and we simply couldn't get out this summer because of these issues---nobody knew what things were going to be open, or how to manage them if they did open with no staff hired.

The NPS has a much larger budget to deal with some of this stuff.
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