2020 in Review

2020 is over (thank god), and it’s time to look back on another year of hiking.

This was my ninth year of hiking since I began keeping track, writing about my adventures, etc. It’s had its ups and downs, but with all of that, I still got to enjoy 678.5 miles on the trail.

Here are some of the highlights:

  1. I released my 4th book (Hike the Parks: Sequoia and Kings Canyon). This distilled version of a Labor of Love I began in 2016 came out through Mountaineers Books, and it covers one of my favorite places on the planet – the Sequoia Front Country.
  2. I completed the manuscript for my 5th book, which will cover Yosemite National Park. I also completed the field work for this book this year, and I got to hike over 150 miles in the crown jewel of the American National Park system.
  3. I began working myself back into Afoot and Afield field-work hiking shape, losing 11 lbs over the last month and beginning to up my mileage while ramping up activity on stationary bike. Overall, I hope to get down to my 2012 hiking weight (only 25 lbs to go!) so that I can reach the goals I’m setting for 2021.

My Goals for 2021

In 2012, I set out to hike 1,000 miles. I’ve set out to do the same every year since then, although I’ve only reached that number in 4 of the last 9 years. However, I’m currently sitting at 8,917.2 miles since January 2012, and I will need to hike 1,113.8 miles to reach 10,000 miles hiked in 10 years.

So. . . . that’s my primary goal for this 2021.

I also hope to hike Rabbit Peak, complete a “marathon” day hike (26.2 miles or greater), spend at least a week backpacking in the Sierra, revisit a bunch of old favorites in San Diego County, and spend more and more time with my little boy out on the trail or out camping.

Favorite Hikes of 2020

Snow Creek Trail

A gorgeous, but strenuous hike out of Tenaya Canyon in Yosemite National Park. January is a great time for this trail, as the cold conditions make the south-facing exposure much more comfortable, and snow is present at the higher elevations. An instant favorite.

Whale Peak

An overnight camping trip with friends to the summit of one of Anza-Borrego’s best hiking destinations. It was sad to see all the dead pinyons, but given that this would be the last time I saw friends for a long time, it turned out to be memorable in the moment and even more significant in retrospect.

Cuyamaca Spring Walkabout

It was a great rainfall year, especially with the April storms. But wildflowers had to wait as the California State Park system took its sweet time to reopen. The day after those parks reopened, I went to my favorite area of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park for a lengthy wildflower walkabout. The abundant flowers, verdant colors, and cool spring air did not disappoint.

Cooks Meadow

In mid-June, Yosemite re-opened after a three month closure. I was one of the first people in the park thanks to an overnight permit that I secured in order to continue field work for a new book. I rolled into Yosemite Valley to stay in the backpacker’s camp, which this year was placed at Upper Pines – perhaps one of the busiest campgrounds in California. I rolled right into Upper Pines in the midst of a thunderstorm. As the storm passed, I had the pleasure of strolling around Cooks Meadow without another soul in sight. Surely, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Pohono Trail

I completed two separate segments of the Pohono Trail to pair with another segment that I finished in 2019 to cover the full route. I hit the trail the day after a thunderstorm, and the air was cool, crisp, and fresh. The views from Pohono are stellar, and I got to take in most of the route in absolute solitude.

North Rim Route

On the north side of Yosemite Valley, the North Rim Route runs the length of the valley rim from North Dome to Tamarack Flat. I completed the one-way route with an overnight stop at Eagle Peak. While I’m sorta partial to the Pohono Trail on the south side of the valley, the views from the North Rim Route were unforgettable. Sunrise from Eagle Peak was stellar.

Mt. Dana

Somehow, whenever I write a book, I always save something difficult for last. In this case, that something was Mt. Dana – the second highest point in Yosemite. The trailhead for Mt. Dana starts just below 10,000 feet, and the summit tops out at 13k. The 5 mile route gains 3,000 feet, making this a real quad burner. But what better way to cap off the experience of spending nearly two years exploring Yosemite National Park.

Cascade Canyon and Lake Solitude

In July, my family visited Montana for two weeks in a riverside cabin. I was lucky enough to have a day to spend in Grand Teton National Park, and I picked Cascade Canyon and Lake Solitude. This beautiful route samples some of the best of Grand Teton, including towering peaks, glacial canyons, and a beautiful alpine lake. I even lucked out getting a walk-up campsite in the park, which was quite a stroke of luck when the park was busier than it’s ever been.

Granite Mountain

In late October, I got together with some friends to climb Granite Mountain in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This ass-kicking summit ascent also came with persistent rainbows thanks to a weak storm that rolled through that day. We didn’t get much in the way of summit views, but the camaraderie and beautiful terrain was more than enough for me.

Stubbe Spring/Inspiration Peak

My final “big” hike of the year was at Joshua Tree. I planned to stay there for the weekend, but a lingering foot issue caused me to cut the trip short. I did get in a nice 14 mile walkabout, mostly cross-country, along the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains near Keys View. It was a stellar loop, especially with the great views across the Coachella Valley.

Here’s to a good 2021.

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