Kings Canyon NP: Upper Paradise Valley via Woods Creek Trail

My girlfriend Hannah and buddy Logan came along with me on this spectacular High Sierra weekend trip.

New Gear Tested:

We were very happy with most of our new gear. The GigaPower Auto Stove could not have performed any better. It is a joy to use and weighs next to nothing. The BearVault Solo was a little tight for the two of us but we made it work by only bringing two of the cooking pouches and emptying the contents into ziplock bags. Most people’s problem with the container have to do with it being difficult to open but it really isn’t that bad. A credit card can be used to make opening easier by slipping it in between the lid and container where it locks. I do wish that the bear canister was lighter but it is what it is. The Mountain House flavors we chose this time may be my new favorites. The lasagna and beef stew both tasted great and had great consistencies. Beef stew will definitely replace beef stroganoff in my rotation and I may do away with spaghetti and just do the lasagna instead. Hannah really seemed to like her chicken and white bean chili but I don’t think it was as good as the lasagna or beef stew.
Preliminarily the Gregory  Baltoro 65 pack seems to be a great fit for me. While it isn’t the lightest pack to start with it had room for all of my gear and still managed to keep the weight on my hips without feeling like I was going to topple over. I did get a little tenderness around my hips but it’s apparently pretty common for people with no hip meat and who are just starting out. It may also have been my belt. I have yet to rule that out. I’ll have to work on packing my bag and adjusting my straps a bit to see if that helps. I’m sure that my body will harden to the rigors of backpacking as time progresses. I’ll report back after I use it again. The MSR Ground Hog Stakes on the other hand don’t require a whole lot of testing to understand that they are a solid buy. They are lightweight, anodized aluminum stakes that beat the hell out of using the crappy easily bent steel stakes that come with most tents. I will without a doubt continue to buy these. The reflective nylon cord loops tied to each stake are a nice touch.
I loved wearing the Patagonia sweater in the morning around camp. I think it’ll be a favorite or a long time to come. The fit is nice and loose like I prefer but not too loose as to feel baggy. I’m also still on the fence about the SmartWool hiking socks. I’m not sure I prefer them over REI Merino Wool Hiking Socks. I need to put more miles on them to reach a clear verdict. I can say though with certainty that the ExOfficio boxer briefs are the most comfortable pair of athletic underwear I have ever worn. They might pill a little after washes but it doesn’t affect the longevity or comfort of the product in my experience. I still have and wear the first pair I bought four years ago. While they obviously don’t look like new they don’t have any holes and the elastic isn’t any worse for the wear. I have worn this brand through all of my travels and will continue to do so for LIFE. They really are that comfortable.

TRIP: Duration 9h 54m 1s, Distance  9.7 mi (way up)
During the trip my desire to do the full Rae Loop (42 mi.) increased exponentially. This hike has gorgeous vista after vista and seemingly endless roaring cascades to enjoy. This hike is not for the faint of heart but could be done by someone in moderately good shape. Most of the elevation gain happens at once along a set of granite switchbacks. It was these switchbacks that really kicked my ass. One of the biggest lessons learned is that I will have to invest in a good set of insoles if I intend to do more sierra treks. The granite did my feet absolutely no favors. I was in horrendous pain for much of the hike back. I suspect it has something to do with not having enough arch support. While the hike is loaded with eye-candy, the main attraction is without a doubt Mist Falls. The roaring sixty foot waterfall gets its namesake from the fact that it mists the entire area at the bottom of the fall when there is a slight breeze. It was an amazingly rejuvenating stop to sit and eat lunch at.
The camp sites at Upper Paradise were well manicured for being backcountry sites and we may have lucked out and been some of the last folks to be able to have used the fire rings. The backcountry ranger that camped next to us told us that the fire restrictions would likely be raised to stage three soon. We did have a minor bear interaction (Duh, we are traipsing through their habitat) but the ranger promptly took care of it by charging the bear while yelling. We didn’t see the bear again after that. Other than nearly being bit by a Northern Pacific Rattle snake we startled on the way back, the trip was very relaxing and went as planned.

If you decide to do this trip in June/July like I did I would suggest some kind of mosquito protection. A long sleeve shirt may be enough. We were practically eaten alive by mosquitos during our trip. I would also suggest going slowly and making a serious effort to be aware of your position to the wildlife around you. We came across six Mule Deer, one Black Bear, two Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes, two Sierra Mountain King Snakes, a California King Snake, and a California Striped Racer during our trip.

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