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Camping and hiking time reminders

Elephants Back, Carson Pass
Elephants Back, Carson PassPhoto courtesy of J. Ferris

The high country is gorgeous, and ready to be hiked, camped, and kayaked. Caples, Woods, and Silver Lake are full. Blue Lakes are both open, the Crystal Basin is wonderful, and Tahoe is perfect.

The wildflowers in the Carson Pass area, around Winnemucca, haven't started yet. It may be 3 weeks away before the show starts. Lower down though there's pretty good color: mule ears, lupine, penstemon and so on are out and and gorgeous.

Wrights Lake is still a mess. Hopefully it will open some time before autumn hits.

Summer arrived right on time, and the crowds that are beginning to flow to the mountains are ample proof that it's summer vacation time.

The campgrounds are open, excluding Wrights Lake. The campground hosts have been busy making everything ready in the developed areas up in the Crystal Basin, Lake Tahoe, and over on Highway 88.

There is plenty of room right now for early birds to grab a spot and kick back for a few days. As the summer days add up, and the 4th of July comes and goes, the campgrounds are likely to fill up a bit more, so plan ahead.

The high country is in perfect condition for some nice hikes. Yes, there are still patches of snow here and there, but in general it won't stop your hike, as long as you stay under about 9,000 feet.

Always keep in mind that the snow you might encounter on the higher trails has been melting, and the water has been flowing underneath what you see. That solid looking patch of snow is probably a not so stable snow bridge that may not hold your weight. Avoid hiking through these if possible.

Now that the hiking and camping spirits have called out to everyone, it's time for a short refresher on what to take with you, which of course, depends on the hike that you are tackling.

For a short walk/hike to well known spot not far from the trail head, perhaps somewhere like Eagle Falls, or to the waterfall on Park Creek at Sly Park, you don't need much. Take enough water to get you there and back, and a snack.

For anything else, here are some essentials. “Essentials” means stuff you always take with you when you head out into the forest, even on well known trails.

There are many definitions of hiking and camping. Walking about in your campground area is far different than heading out into the forest, and camping in the wilderness is a radically different critter that setting up in a developed campground.

For most hikes outside your campground, this list is a good reminder, short though it is.

Check the weather forecast before you leave your house. Storms in the mountains can be pretty exciting at times, sometimes not in a good way.

Take some sort of rain gear. At the very least put two large plastic trash bags in your pack. Take a hat, gloves, put on sunscreen and bug spray, and bring sunglasses.

Put a basic first aid kit or better in your pack. You need more than enough water and food for your round trip. You never know when you might end up spending the night out there.

Dress in layers. Leave your cotton clothing at home. Wear synthetics, from your underroos to your jacket. Always have a jacket of some kind, as the weather in the mountains cools down at night.

Pack a working flashlight, a small knife, and wear your watch. Take a map of the area where you are hiking, and a compass. Know the basics, at least, of how a map and compass work together.

Hike with a buddy or two. Let someone know where you are going and when you should be back, even if it's a short day hike.

Remember your camera. Make sure that the batteries for it are charged and the memory card has plenty of room on it.

Your cell phone isn't reliable in the back country. Take it, but keep in mind that it may simply not be able to connect to anything.

If you know how to use a GPS unit, bring it. It might come in handy. At the very least you could learn more about it while you hike. Pay more attention to your surroundings than the GPS unit though.

Pay close attention to the trail you are on. Do take the time to look back at where you've been. The view on the way back is different, and you definitely want to know what it looks like.

If you have children with you always have them in your sight. Always be with them around any body of water.

The whole idea is for you and yours to have a wildly successful hiking or camping experience. Taking the time to prepare for it and bringing the right gear makes it more likely that you will.

May the forest be with you.