Upper Bidwell Park – Chico, CA

I had a job out of town on Friday, so I took the opportunity to check out a hiking area in Chico, which also happens to be the home of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (more on that later!)  I consulted with a few of my Sacramento friends who had previously lived in Chico about where I should go to hike and they told me, hands down, Upper Bidwell Park.  The land for Bidwell Park was donated by John and Annie Bidwell in 1905 for recreational use.  It turns out that Annie, being a strong supporter of prohibition, mandated that there be no alcohol allowed on the premises and no public picnics on Sundays.  Although the alcohol mandate still applies today, I highly doubt that people aren’t allowed to picnic on Sundays judging from the amount of people that were enjoying themselves there on Friday.

Upper Bidwell Park Trailhead Map

Upper Bidwell Park Trailhead Map

I started out parking near Horseshoe Lake, which wasn’t much of a lake, but more like a giant mud puddle.  However, people were kayaking around in it, so I’m guessing it has some depth.  From Parking Area B, I hopped on the North Rim Trail.

North Rim Trail

North Rim Trail

I decided I wanted to practice carrying a little more weight, so I strapped on my day pack with all of my overnight stuff in it, and headed up the trail.  It was a gorgeous day (around 75 degrees!) and plenty of people were taking advantage of the trails.  I quickly hiked toward the junction to Middle Trail which would take me by Monkeyface, a rock formation that apparently looks like a monkey’s face, but I couldn’t see its resemblance.  Regardless, I continued down Middle Trail and to the top of Monkeyface.  I encountered a grandmother and her grandchildren having lunch at the top – cute!  From there I caught the remaining loop section of the North Rim Trail, and followed it right back around to the Parking Area.

View from atop Monkeyface

View from atop Monkeyface

Lone early wildflower

Lone early wildflower

All in all I hiked about 3 miles in 1 hour carrying my 20 lb pack and I felt great!  Aside from the hiking, I was able to enjoy a few beers at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company before heading out of town!  I’ll leave you with this mouth watering picture.  Until next time – cheers!

Left to Right: Double-headed Ruthless Rye, Ovila Quad, Fungoo, French Saison

Left to Right: Double-headed Ruthless Rye, Ovila Quad, Fungoo, French Saison

Gear, gear, gear

So now that I’ve decided to finally get out there, I need gear.  I went to the library and checked out what seems like a gazillion books on trails and beginning backpacking advice.

Backpacking Books

A little out of control, am I right?

The problem with borrowing these types of books from the library is that they’re mostly outdated.  Some of the trail books are fine as not too much has changed with those (and I can verify the information with what’s online) but the updates in recent years to the gear, especially with the ultralight movement, have been phenomenal.  I’ve been scanning these books for general information, but mostly end up relying on resources from the web.  I’ve found some great blogs and review sites like Calipidder.com and BackpackGearTest.org which have helped me narrow down some things.

The other morning I was hanging out in bed checking my email and of course I had an email from REI for another clearance sale.  Normally I’ll browse what’s on sale and not end up buying anything; however, this time I noticed a backpack on sale.  I did a quick search for some reviews on this particular backpack and most everyone had good things to say about it.  So I bought it.  And it arrived in the mail today. Behold!

Osprey Kestral 68

Osprey Kestrel 68

My very first backpack, exciting right?!  Now my only problem is that I have no idea how to size it, so I think I’ll head down to REI in the next couple of days and ask them to help with fitting it to me properly.  Doing so also gives me an excuse to browse all the other things I’ll be needing to buy over the next couple of months.  Well that does it for now, I’m off to read some more.  Plus it’s Sacramento Beer Week and will definitely be out drinking some amazing craft beer later.  Toodles!

Backpacking… finally!

I’ve finally started what I’ve been saying I would do for years: some serious backpacking.  The first time I went backpacking was with a boy scout leader who happened to be working with my girl scout troop at the time (his daughter was in our troop.)  I don’t even remember where we went, but I do remember having a blast.  Although I’ve done a lot of camping and hiking over the years, what really sparked my interest in backpacking again was a trip a took a year and a half ago in the Eastern Sierras.  We roughed it with a bunch of high school students, most of which were on their first camping trip for a science class.  The night we stayed at Brown’s Owens River Campground was the night I knew I needed to seriously re-evaluate why I hadn’t backpacked in so long.  There I was freezing my ass off, after having camped on a tarp in my supposed 20 degree sleeping bag after a low overnight temperature of 28 degrees, wrapped in every piece of clothing I brought and covered in ice thinking, “This is f-ing awesome!”  We were surrounded by a crest of mountains in the gorgeous Owens Valley learning about the history of the area and soaking in one of dozens of natural hot springs.  Over the next few days, after touring Mammoth, Lee Vining, Mono Lake, and the infamous Yosemite Valley, I knew I needed to explore further.

Over the next couple of summers I was lucky enough to have access to my sister-in-law who was living and working in the Yosemite Valley.  I ended up taking my mom Lynn, my husband Drew, and my good friend Kelly for their initial visits to Yosemite.  I got a lot of exposure to the hikes from within the valley and was constantly reminded of the John Muir Trail while hiking Vernal/Nevada Falls; the signs of milage unknowingly luring me to my decision to get serious about hiking the JMT.

I thought I’d be one step closer to hiking at least part of the JMT when Kelly suggested she wanted to hike Half Dome for her 30th birthday.  I started the process of obtaining permits, reserving housing (thank you sister-in-law again), and planning the trip that would be the highlight of our year.  And then tragedy struck.  My dad fell and ended up in the ICU where several days later died due to traumatic brain injuries.  Unbenouced to me around that same time our friend Chris, who was supposed to hike with us, had a tragedy of his own: his mom passed away after a recent surgery.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a great time to be trekking around Half Dome while we needed to be with our families.

After a rough 7 months, I decided it was time.  Time for a fresh approach to life.  Time to appreciate all that you have and that our days are numbered.  Here’s where my story begins: a time of reflection, exploration, and new experiences.