Saturday, November 18, 2017

Home-county Day Tripping: Wineries, Open Spaces and the Pacific Coast Highway


Although I tend to write about places that are several hundred miles away from where I reside, I've actually always been a fan of the “staycation”. Now that we live in a place like the Bay Area, staycations can be quite adventurous, rivaling that of more intrepid trips far from home. 

The three counties (San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara) that make up the southern reaches of the Bay Area are quite extreme in their variations of topography and climate. They can also be quite rural, especially as you get into the mountains and coastal areas. We never seem to be far from a new-to-us state park or open space that we can explore. My far more refined wife is also happy that we never seem to be far from a local winery. Lately, we’ve been taking trips that encompass both of our passions. 

Picchetti Winery, Cupertino, California:
This place is a perfect marriage between our otherwise divergent recreational interests and tastes in wine. By that I mean that there’s an abundant selection in fairly unusual varieties of reds and whites in addition to the property having access to public open space for hiking. We took the better part of a day to tour and taste this winery for that reason! 

If you’re not from the Bay Area, you might correctly tag Cupertino with everything Apple. But far before computers were invented, Cupertino was considered somewhat of a rural place outside of San Jose. The soils and temperate climate of the region were far more associated with viticulture rather than what would become the epicenter of Silicon Valley. Given that Picchetti Winery started at the end of the 19th century, it has quite a storied history of surviving the tumultuous years of the American Prohibition in the early part of the 20th century to becoming a wine-tasting fixture in an area that is otherwise exclusively tech-oriented. 

The tasting room has a vibrant, social atmosphere and may be a bit difficult to find a piece of real-estate at the bar if you’re there on a Saturday! We’ve been to several tasting rooms in the past which can feel a bit lonely- that was certainly not the case here. 

Memorable Pours:
  • Super Tuscan, 2015: It’s only natural that we settled on this blend to take home: Dee is far more of a fan of the fruitier and tea-like Sangiovese and I’ve always been partial to the robust, high tannin though also fruity flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon.  We learned that “Super Tuscan” blend variety that essentially was a “yeah, well we’re not following your stupid rules” to the Denominazione di origine controllata of Italy (how Californian!). I’ve never been to Italy but the impression I get is that Tuscany is a lot like California in climate and geography and, to a certain extent, culture. So, this is a wine best enjoyed paired with simpler, hearty fare with plenty of local herbs. 
  • Picchitti Port, 2013: Neither of us are typically in to Port-style wines. I typically like my wine experiences to be either before or during a meal and the thought of having a desert-wine seems bloating to me. Nevertheless, we decided to try both a white port and a desert port at the urging of the staff and had a great experience! He paired our pour with some decadent dark fudge which really brought out the fantastic sweetness of the Port. I’ve never been the best at describing Ports other than an over-simplified “sweet” but we look forward to pouring this wine after a meal with family or friends. We’ll just pretend that we thought of the fudge idea all by ourselves!
  • Sauvignon Blanc, 2016: Dee picked this one out; she’s a great admirer of Sauvignon Blanc which grows extremely well in California. Sipping this on a hot summer’s day is as Nor-Cal as it gets (it was in the 90s when we visited!). While Chardonnay is thought of as the best white wine made in California but the quality difference between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is very slight to me; probably something that a true connoisseur could decipher but for those of us on the casual side, imperceptible. This is not to say they taste the same, only that it is easy to get a very high quality Sauvignon Blanc for a much lower price than Chardonnay. The tropical fruit flavors that the staff gushed about were easily detected by us novices. We’ll soon be pouring this alongside an herbal or citrus chicken dish. (As much as Dee likes dry white wines, she can’t stand it’s best counterpart- seafood!)



Piccetti Winery, Freemont and Stevens Creek: As mentioned earlier, the winery is interlaced with open spaces and public hiking trails. I love that the place is literally surrounded by parks! Although the appropriately named Zinfandel trail is a great two hour walk that can be accessed from the Piccetti parking lot, I actually liked Rancho San Antonio Open Space the best. This is a state-park sized open space with extensive hikes, most of which would take all day to complete. A loop hike/run of the PG&E trail with the High Meadow Trail was 10 miles and I didn’t run into very many people past the first mile.  

Bonny Doon Vineyards: Bonny Doon Vineyards outside of Davenport, California is basically Santa Cruz, bottled and poured. They radiate with quirkiness, self-aware gusto that is well-deserved given their prominence in the region for excellent wine. Don't expect to leave with less than four to six bottles if you go to their eccentric tasting room right off of Highway 1. The owners seem to bask in their self-described prismatic radiance and I had to look up several words in a dictionary from their newsletter (D.E.W.N. : Distinctive Esoteric Wine Network). 

Memorable Pours: 

  • Le Cigare Volant, 2011: This is their flagship red blend that Bonny Doon is so well known for. Its a similar to red blends from the Rhône wines of France which makes sense when you compare the climates of Bonny Doon to that of Southwestern France. The varieties used in the blend are mostly Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah polished with Cinsault; all which seem to grow extremely well in the Bay Area regions. What this means to more casual wine drinkers like us is it is an extremely well balanced red that is neither too fruity nor earthy. I suppose that's why Dee and I gravitated towards this one. We were delighted to also find out that it qualities make it easy to pair with all sorts of robust California dishes. 
  • Picpoul, 2016: This was a bit more experimental for us as we have never encountered this variety in the past. Picpoul, like Mourvèdre and Grenache, comes predominantly from the sunny and Mediterranean climates of Southern France. It seems to have taken well here in the Central Coasts of California as we loved this unique white wine. I'm not sure if this is a Bonny Doon specific term but we certainly realized why it’s called the "lip-stinger". We both found its somewhat strong acidity to be playful but finishes with a summery taste of peaches and lemons. We took home a bottle to preserve for a warmer day in the fall.  





Davenport Beach and Route 1: The drive to or from Davenport is bound to be full of adventures. I'm always surprised how rural the coast is between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Once you get south of Pacifica, there's essentially just Half Moon Bay and a lot of open road. Farms dot the coast along with the sharp ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains. There are around two dozen open spaces and parks in the area as well which we've begun exploring. Of course, you don't have to go far from the Bonny Doon Tasting Room to get on a secluded beach! Davenport Beach is an easy but steep walk to the shore. Bounded by cliffs and very exposed, the waves and currents probably don't permit much swimming but there are abundant opportunities for beach-combing! In the fall, the waves are currents create an artistic scene. Año Nuevo State Park and Pigeon Point are other picturesque places that are worth a stop on the way North. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

New England Fall Foliage Tips that Aren't in the Guidebooks


All time favorite- Long Trail Hiking in the fall
Boy, do I ever miss living in Maine when the Fall Foliage report start coming in!  I spent my grad school years living in Northern New England and I don't think I studied a single minute between late September and late October. Without any sort of direction or guidebook, I was usually found driving my car down unmaintained logging roads and bushwhacking random summits in search of the perfect Fall Foliage experience. I might not remember everything I learned in class, but the view of a fall forest in full “bloom” is something you never forget.

Doing online research about how to see the best fall colors is like the proverbial experience of “trying to drink water from a fire hose”. Most of us seasoned leaf peepers have our own tricks and tips that we typically keep close to the LL  Bean vest. But now that I live far away, I feel like I should share at least some of my knowledge! So, here's a few of my thoughts on the subject that I didn't typically see online or in a guidebook:


Get far from a paved road: Nearly every guide about leaf-peeping that I have viewed is mostly based on what you could see from the window of a car. Most leaf peeping reports are based on observations from highways and popular drives. However, I've always found the best foliage viewing comes from the further you can get from a (paved) road.  So even if you are not to keen on hiking 10 miles into the wilderness, if you have a four-wheel drive and/or some comfort with traversing partially-maintained logging roads, you're going to have a better experience.


Elevation makes a huge difference
Elevation: A less-experienced leaf peeper will probably point their car in the direction of any mountain range New England expecting that the colors are just going to be fantastic no matter what. Certainly the mountains can be gorgeous, but you're going to find more evergreen Spruce-Pine forests at higher elevations. Don't get me wrong, pines add the right amount of variability to the brilliant oranges, reds and yellows of oaks and hardwoods. But a mostly boreal forest in the fall looks just about the same as in winter, spring and summer! This is a broad stroke, but my favorite fall colors in New England tend to range between 1,500 and 3,000 feet  where just a few of those evergreens can create a magnificent sight alongside the real stars of the Fall show.



Use the State and Local Tourism Guides: This might be a bit of a self-defeating point given that I'm writing this from California, but the most reliable source of accurate and up to date leaf peeping reports comes from the most ultra-local of sources. Most of the more big-name websites often have broad, same-every-year reports on fall foliage. You want to know what's really going on up in New England? Start with the state tourism websites which keep a constantly updating report from people with their boots and tires on the ground. They are going to be much more sensitive to the micro-climates and subtle fluctuations in weather that lead to the best days to go out. If you know exactly where you’re going to go, try and narrow your search to regional, county and city tourism websites that typically also produce highly accurate reports on foliage.



Luck: If there's one thing that plays the largest role and leaf peeping in New England, it is sheer luck. Fall color is a combination of plant biology, meteorology, regional variations of climate and  elevation. Sometimes all these things come together and you happen to be in the right spot for the most fantastic foliage. In spite of all the planning and knowledge one can acquire about the subject, there are other times when the trip is a washout. You can use luck to your favor by broadening the area that you cover on a trip and trying to take multiple trips throughout a season.

My favorite areas?: Ah, I knew I would have to divulge them someday!


Vermont: I can't say I was ever disappointed by a well-timed trip to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Specifically, Newport, Vermont is where my fondest memories of Fall Foliage come from. Lake Willoughby and Willoughby State Forest off so come to mind as fantastic places to be. I have also considered the Route 100 drive through Central Vermont to be the automobile-equivalent of the Long Trail. One would not be disappointed driving this road any time of year. There's enough variability in elevation that it is hard to imagine not having a good fall color experience. Emerald Lake State Park, Mount Dorsett and Mount Equinox are all so dear to me from my many adventures through the state.



Maine: Sebago Lake and Long Lake near Naples Maine are close enough to Portland to draw some substantial crowds on the weekends. Nevertheless, there are some back roads and and short hikes that retain their rural character. State Route 113 from Standish to Freyburg is almost constantly rural but stays at low elevations along the Saco River  allowing for effortless for viewing. The hike up Cutler Peak near Hiram is easy enough to be done in an hour yet I've never encountered many other hikers on the trail. Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness Is typically passed over by the hoards of hikers seeking the higher summits of the Whites but serenity and solitude are in abundance near Shell Pond and the Royce Summits. The towns of Rangely and Eustis, Maine are also destinations that I would go to any time of year. What draws me in the fall is the alpine lakes and chance to hike through some very remote wildernesses abounding in autumn hues. Lastly, Moosehead Lake can be a bit difficult to time as far as the season goes, but it remains far enough away from any major center of civilization that fall color drives here are rarely crowded.

New Hampshire: Again, most hikers and casual drivers are going to be centered around the White Mountains and Mount Monadnock for their fall experiences. I never really encountered too many Leaf peepers hiking through Mount Kearsarge State Forest, spending time around Newfoundland Lake and hiking Mount Cardigan. Driving what I call the “Connecticut River Corridor” from Bethlehem to Pittsburg is considered far off the Beaten Track for most casual explorers but there are plenty of Bed-and-Breakfasts and small hotels that bring you close to creature comforts. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dayhike of Emigrant Wilderness from Kennedy Meadows

Looking like something out of the Sound of Music
After spending a day wading through heavy snow up near Sonora Pass to bag what would have otherwise been an easily hiked summit, I turned my sights to a the lower elevations. The area bounded by Stanislaus National forest is one of extreme changes in altitudes. This time of year (Fall), it is basically "drive or hike to your preferred season". So simply by driving back down 4,000 ft I went from frigid temperatures and deep snow to comfortable late summer weather.

Kennedy Meadows is a backcountry resort which draws everyone from casual weekenders to hardcore wilderness backpackers. Its the kind of welcoming atmosphere that must push PCT-thru-hikers to want to take a few zero days enjoying the good company and mild weather. I almost stayed there the whole day instead of hiking! But I did manage to get on the trail; won't be too much longer before all this becomes inaccessible in about a month. 


Here's a map of my impromptu 6 mile hike into the wilderness:



The Emigrant Wilderness area of Stanislaus National Forest is one of the more famous federally designated wildernesses of California but don't expect to encounter many people past the first few miles. Commercially lead horse and pack trips will make their way a little past the entrance but mostly its just backpackers and solitude seekers deep in the heart of it. My trip was very tame compared to what most seek in this part of the Sierras but a fantastic "sampler" of what the area has to offer.

Since I was just out for the day, it was permitted to park in the Kennedy Meadows resort. Note that if you're going for an overnight trip, you absolutely need to park in the lot closer to the highway (designated on the map) which adds about a 0.5 mile to your hike.

What I really loved about my little hike was that it required minimal effort to get to stunning views. Really, one could just go for a mile walk south of the resort area and be engulfed in the natural beauty of the Sierras. The meadows themselves are bounded by the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River which serves as a destination for fly fishers. To the South and East, the summits of Leavitt Peak, Relief Peak and Granite Dome loom like gatekeepers to this land lost in time. The area has never really been developed or, for that matter, civilized. 

The first half mile to one mile of the trail is relatively flat and serene. Once it does encounter some terrain, the trail mostly parallels the river before arriving at the junction of the two creeks which create the Stanislaus River. It is almost like a little Grand Canyon!



So, any sort of effort that is put in hiking up the trail is exponentially rewarded. 

After a few bridge crossings of the creeks, the trail comes to a fork. If you head due East (hikers left), the trail continues a fairly steady ascent before leveling out in a narrow canyon carved by Kennedy Creek. A much longer day hike (14-16 miles) would lead to Kennedy Lake which I can imagine is marvelous. The tallest peak in the area, Leavitt Peak and Relief Peak are only three miles apart on a map but a 3,000ft deep canyon separates the two summits. Had I the determination, I probably would have hiked further into this section but I was contented with my nameless overlook-

Leavitt Peak, one of the primary summits of the Sierras


From here, I doubled back to the trail junction and headed South (hikers Left) towards Relief Reservoir. Normally I'm not too keen on seeing reservoirs but this one did offer a fantastic panorama of the Granite Dome-Black Hawk Mountain Massif. I was thankful I got over my snobbery towards man-made lakes and hiked to this destination. The lake itself was a crystalline in nature and had an almost emerald hue. As long as I kept my gaze away from the small dam, it was a pretty sight. 

Unfortunately this was the furthest I could venture today. My body was aching from the trudging of Mt Sonora in deep, wet snow and I had already enjoyed two placid overlooks today; why not be content with that! I went down the way I came up and enjoyed the views in the afternoon light.

What a fantastic place and not too far from the bay area! Again, this was just a "sampler" of what the Emigrant Wilderness has to offer. I'm sure I'll be back next season for a backpacking trip!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Hiking/Mountaineering Sonora Peak, Alpine County High Point

This is an easily climbed mountain close to the PCT and the highest mountain of the Sierra Nevada North of the Sonora Pass. 
Looking at Sonora Mountain from near the Pass. This was taken on the second day of Fall!
Man does it ever feel good to have the Sierras so close to me again! Not since I was in high school have I had these beautiful mountains right in my backyard. I have wasted no time in venturing out from the Bay Area to be in this special place. 

Though the Sierras are comparatively narrower range to say, the Rockies or the Cascades, they remain quite remote by 21st century standards. Between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, only four highways actually cross the range and they are only open for about 4-5 months a year. South of Yosemite, no paved roads cross the mountain range for 140 miles. As a wonderful consequence, they remain in pristine condition for exploration. 


I've needed to reorient myself to the region. I've decided to focus my recent expeditions to the area around Sonora Pass, crossed by Highway 108 and the second highest pass in California. The PCT crosses at the pass, not to mention probably a hundred other trail-heads and tall summits that can be easily hiked within a day or weekend. My first destination was Sonora Peak. 





Sonora Peak is normally quite easy to bag. Its not more than a few miles from the highway and the parking area is easily accessed. The Pacific Crest Trail comes within a mile of the summit and the scrambling route may trigger the nerves of a less experienced hiker but is not too hairy. 

Of course, hiking/climbing it in September is a different matter! About 8-12 inches of snow fell on the higher elevations on the first day of fall creating a much more wintry scene-
Looking towards slopes of Leavitt Peak (not visible) 

Looking south towards the many high summits of Yosemite National Park
I've forgotten the unpredictability of the Sierras in the fall. Some days its hotter than July, others its about as cold as December. I can't say I was the best prepared for what I encountered but thankfully I had brought at least a partial armory of winter gear. Forgot the snowshoes and spikes though!

Though the snow was fairly deep in some sections, the Pacific Crest Trail was stomped fairly well. I encountered numerous hunters during my trek- should have brought blaze orange! Fortunately there were no bad encounters. No wildlife either!

The PCT has a comparatively gentle ascent for about 1.6 miles until the "turn-off" for the scrambling route. Essentially it makes a very recognizable hairpin turn just under a prominent arête. The standard ascent of the summit starts here.
Nicely packed trail, probably mostly hunters this time of year

After the first scrambling section, the summit becomes (mostly) visible)

Atop the Arete 
The route I took generally hugged the western edge of the arete and there were only a few tricky sections. Most of the trickiness was simply vegetation and deep, wet snow. I didn't slip much in spite of this but I would recommend bringing snowshoes and microspikes or crampons this time of year. In short time I had circled the arete and most of the summit was in view.

Its simple class II scrambling from here. Its a bit exposed in some sections but I really couldn't imagine slipping too far unless it was a profoundly icy day. The going got a little slower as I crossed the 10,000 foot mark and felt the effects of the thin air. There just wasn't enough time for this sea-level bay area guy to acclimate. I slogged on. 

Just bellow the true summit, the terrain flattens out to a small snowfield that is probably permanent except in very dry years. The views get exceptionally clear once here and on top of the summit block!
Looking North by Northwest towards Stanislaus Peak

Looking south towards Mt Leavitt, one of the more prominent summits of the area and just  a hundred feet higher that the summit I was standing on

Western view towards the Little Walker Caldera and the Sweetwater Range; two geologically unique places in California. The Little Walker Caldera probably doesn't look like much from here but its explosive history is evident throughout this part of the state

Sonora Peak summit, showings its obvious volcanic origins 

East fork of the Carson River valley and White Mountain

Sonora Pass
Though I got pretty soaked with wet snow and eventually mud, the effort was well worth the payoff. I'm not really sure what I was originally expecting but I was able to summit in spite of my less-than-stellar preparation. All in all, the hike was roughly 6 miles and I was back at the trailhead before 3 (started at 9). So, even in winter conditions its still a bit of a gentle giant. Can't wait to return to hike the other side, Mt Leavitt, next season!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hiking the Remote Sweetwater Range and Mt Patterson

The Sweetwater Range, on the very eastern border of California, is a solitude seeker's dream. 
The Sweetwaters, viewed from the Sierras
There was something powerfully nostalgic about traveling to the Sierras for the first time in nearly 7 years. Coming up over Sonora Pass was like seeing an old friend. I guess it was a bit odd that I just kept going past and landed in the Sweetwater Range. I thought I was a bit crazy to pass up such a familiar place but for some reason I was feeling like being in the desert that weekend. 

The eastern Sierras and the various mountain ranges on the California-Nevada border go largely underappreciated for residents and travelers of California. I find this a bit odd as the attractions of the area are phenomenal- Mono Lake, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and the White Mountains are stand alone destinations. However, it is a little counter-intuitive to be passing up the likes of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to get there. However, if solitude, sweeping views and uninterrupted wilderness are things you appreciate, you will have no trouble leaving those familiar places for something new.

Here's a map of the area I explored;


I was feeling a little daring now that I have a true 4 wheel drive vehicle with comparatively high clearance to my old sedan. There are parts of the Sweetwater Range that are strictly accessible to serious 4-wheel drive vehicles but you can get to most trailheads by good 2-wheel drive vehicles. Having said that, I don't think I would have driven up this way in my old sedan!

As you can see from the map above, there isn't a shortage of free drive-in campsites with fantastic views of the Sierras. I ran into a few 4x4 folks who were very courteous and willing to share their more extensive knowledge to help orient me to the area. 

The trailhead I used was right on the shore of Lobdell lake (which is a reservoir). There's some fishing and campsites at the lake. Although its not natural, it is a fairly peaceful place to camp or begin hiking!

Things can be a bit confusing here. The 4x4 road circles around the west shore of the small lake and it is possible to shave off about a mile of walking to drive to the second trailhead (which actually has a sign). I was told this would be a bit dicey in my car, so I parked near the southern shore. 

Note, there is no formal trailhead here and I essentially followed closely along the eastern shore of the lake, crossed the small creek feeding into it and walked up the 4x4 trail to the first major fork in the road. From here, there is a sign letting you know you're about to travel into an alpine wilderness and to leave no trace. This is the only sign with a map and directions I spotted on the trip. Directions are fairly straightforward but just be aware of this.


From a hiker's perspective, the road/trail is in excellent shape. I ran into a crew of 4-wheel drivers doing some train maintenance to keep it that way; God bless them! I ran into about a dozen folks that day in various 4-wheel drive vehicles and all of them were very pleasant to me. I found them to be some of the kindest people I've ever met on a wilderness hike!

The road steadily ascends the mountain with very little elevation loss or flat sections. Water sources are fairly numerous and dependable up until about 10,000 ft. I didn't have any problems crossing the East Fork of Desert Creek although earlier in the summer this could be a bit rough. 


As the trail rises above treeline, the brilliant volcanic colors of the mountains become more evident. This part of Eastern California has no shortage of volcanic features which are most obvious near Mammoth Lake and in the Devils Postpile National Monument. The Sweetwater Mountains themselves are the obvious remnant of the explosive Little Walker Caldera. It's ancient rim is not as obvious as that of more southerly calderas in Mono County but the view from the Sweetwater Range is illuminating. 

Thankfully the area is long extinct from its more violent geological past leaving behind mountains of orange, violet and red ribbons. Surely these are some of the most colorful mountains in the state!



At about 11,100 ft, the trail comes crests on a fairly level plateau that looks like Mars. Devoid of the lush vegetation below, only scrubby, flowering plants seem to flourish this desolate environment. They are easily mistaken for rocks but the environment is sensitive to trampling and off-road driving. Hikers and drivers should not veer off trail.

At the summit, I was greeted with fantastic views of Nevada and California. Snow lingered even into August after a very snowy winter. I was told that the road did not clear of snow until late July this year! I lucked out.


Its the same way down but the late afternoon light continued to create an ethereal sight that made if feel like I was on a different route. 

Mt Patterson is the highest mountain of the range but hardly the only place to see. Wheeler Peak looks like it is worth the trek as well. The sisters- South, Middle and Eastern are an off-trail trek that is rarely done but I'm sure it is quite the adventure as well. Even though I was a bit sad to not have spent more time in the Sierras, I was so happy to have stumbled upon this gem! 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hiking Boundary Peak, Highpoint of Nevada


If there's one thing that could be said about Nevada, it is a mountainous state! Even a visit to Las Vegas can't shroud the looming desert peaks that surround the fabulous city. I love Las Vegas as much as anyone but what has always drawn me to the Silver State are is many mountains.


I've been traveling up and down Nevada since essentially I became an adult. I celebrated my 22nd birthday in Great Basin National Park and returned the next winter to summit Wheeler Peak- Nevada's tallest summit wholly within the state. Boundary Peak is technically Nevada's highest point although it should be said that this "peak" is more of an arm of a higher summit in California. Of course, the summit itself is glorious in its own right.


(The absurd pasttime of peak-bagging and highpointing requires one to accept that state boundaries were often drawn without respect to topography. This means that many states have a high point that is not a true summit- Connecticut and Maryland are both mountainous states without a high point that is a true summit)

At the Nevada Highpoint with Mt Montgomery and the White Mountains just over the California border 
For me, this was high point #38 and a fantastic adventure. 

Part of the difficulty of ascending Boundary Peak is that it is quite isolated from nearly any major center of population. Reno and Las Vegas are almost exactly equidistant by driving. Cities in Calfiornia are more like 8 hours away. The road to the parking area can be passable by a skilled w-wheel driver but I was happy to have my all-wheel drive. The road is not rough by Nevada standards but might be a bit intimidating if you're not used to it. Here are excellent directions to the trailhead.

The parking area is well marked and has a map. As most of the trail is in wilderness, there are no other signs to mark the way for the entire trip. Having a topographic map and compass is essential.


As you can see from the map, there are two fairly established routes. Both could be best described as herd paths- easy to find in the daylight but ambiguous in some sections. I preferred the more straightforward ascent of the obvious Northeast-facing bowl. 

The first few miles parallel trail creek. It was a wet year so there was no shortage of water sources but I would be hesitant to bank on this after a dry winter in the late summer. A few sections were difficult to navigate but generally speaking you stay to the south of the creek. Just before the fork between the two cols, there is a fantastic forest of ancient bristlecone pines and limber pines that is worth a brief detour-



I never actually found the turn off herd path for the route up to Trail Creek Saddle. Instead I charged up the bowl to the Arête of the summit. As it turns out, it wasn't too bad of a trail. In the way of scree-scrambles, it was neither too miserable nor hard to follow. If you're not used to scree, be prepared for slow going.

At the col, there were stunning views. Sure I had at least an hour before I would be on the summit but I was already getting the views I was hoping for. The summit is tantalizingly close but be mindful that it is about another 45-minutes to 1 hour of fairly exposed Class II and III scrambling- 




Eventually I made it to the summit and wow, was it ever worth the struggle! I could see for perhaps 50-75 miles. The Eastern Sierras were still glistening with snow, even in August. Miles below was the vast Owens Valley as well as the nameless valleys of the Great Basin and Range. It had been at least 4 years since I last breathed air this thin but I was so thankful to be back. 

I ran into a botanist at the summit who was the only person I saw the entire day. He was also a peakbagger and he illuminated the already fascinating science behind high alpine desert forests. I was thankful.


What a great summit- fine in its own right, even if I was there because of it's highpoint status. I would have liked to have bagged Montgomery Peak while I was there but that would have been another 2-3 hour scramble even though it is less than a half a mile from Boundary Peak. Of course, the summits of Mt Dubious and White Mountain Peak are others I intend to visit in the future as I further explore the area.