Latest from Backcountry Nomad

Oh Shit! I Have to Descend 1000ft of Loose Rock!

Red Canyon, Utah
Red Canyon, Utah

I fell in love with mountains and became a hiker in Utah’s Western bite of the Rocky Mountains. That summer, in a dry desert area North of Salt Lake City. Fueled with inexperience and a taste for adventure I wound up in several off-trail scrambles there which taught me a foundation about how to descend loose rock and dirt. This Spring I had to use these skills again in an ‘Oh Shit!’ moment near Castle Peak where the trail forward simply ran off a cliff and turning around meant descending icy snow in hiking boots. As a result, my group chose to descend 1000 ft of loose dirt/rock, many doing so for the first time.


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Best of the Bay: Overnight Backpacking within Two Hours


When I envision camping I picture undisturbed wilderness and sounds of trees blowing in the breeze among singing birds. Backpacking provides this ability to see nature off the beaten path, experience nature’s pristineness and escape the summer crowds and noise of car camping sites. However, not every backpacking trip needs to be a multi-day ordeal. No matter where you are in the SF Bay Area there is an accessible and beautiful location near you. Read on for my regional favorites and a complete catalogue of all backpacking sites within two hours of the SF Bay Area.


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Trail Report: Mt. Shasta via West Face


On Saturday, May 9th, 2015 at 11am all six members of my group summited Mt. Shasta at 14,179ft via the West Face. The altitude sickness most of us experienced over the last few hundred feet made it an incredible mental hurtle. All of us had a base of hiking, backpacking and rock climbing experience, but this was our first mountaineering trip. Below you can find our planning materials and trip report to assist you on your climb.


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Oh Shit! An Elk Gored my Tent!


Sometimes we go to nature, sometimes nature comes to us. This week I bring you a guest post by Mariel Reed about her recent adventure in Northern California.

“The Lost Coast”– a wild, and sometimes dangerous, 50+ mile stretch of California coastline– lives up to its name. The landscape feels like a land before time. In just 24 hours, two friends and I (Mariel) faced a stubborn mountain lion, intense winds and rain, and rowdy Roosevelt Elk. The beauty and wilderness of the Lost Coast took our breath away (and, um, our tent). But we escaped with our lives, and our thirst for adventure intact. Here’s the full story– and why you should go.


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Oh Shit! I’m Canoeing in Four Foot Waves!

Photo under CC by Morten F

I had my first ‘Oh Shit!’ moment in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota. Despite a prior night’s storm our morning started out relatively calm paddling in my two person canoe. However, as the day went on and the lakes became larger the wind would overpower our human-powering steering. Repeatedly it diverted us away from our prospective camp sites, separated our group and forcing us towards rocks. Several times we had to communicate across islands to regroup, strategize our next campsite attempt and push our physically abilities and technical skills.

I call these emotionally driven situations ‘Oh Shit!’ moments where your group is forced to make quick decisions deviating from the original plan. They happen due to unexpected hazards (weather), human error (becoming lost) or just bad luck (injury). They are experience altering and often scary at the time, but make great stories and valuable experience later. I’ve had a number of these moments so I wanted to share my strategies for making the best decision when you realize, ‘Oh Shit!’


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The Best of Banff Adventure Film

David Lama from the film Cerro Torre – A Snowball’s Chance in Hell © Manuel Ferrigato
David Lama from the film Cerro Torre – A Snowball’s Chance in Hell © Manuel Ferrigato under approved Banff Usage

Every year the Banff Mountain Film Festival gets me fired up to push my next expedition even further and leaves me in awe of the modern adventures pursued today. I’ve attended every Banff Film Festival event in the SF Bay Area for the past three years and I love it! I promise you, watching each year’s favorite below will leave you with a new perspective:


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What a GIFF tells you about Geocaching

I took an hour the other day to watch the short film finalists for the Geocaching International Film Festival (GIFF). What I liked most about the GIFF is that the films touched on the major themes in geocaching: community, adventure, exploration, memorial and just good fun.

Additionally I loved how real and relatable the GIFF felt. No expensive camera equipment, no fly overs, just a collection of diverse storytellers who feel like normal people you could meet on the street. With all that in mind, get ready to smile and laugh as I share my favorites from the 16 finalists of the GIFF.


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What its Really Like Going Solo


In November 2014 I decided to spend a week alone in the backcountry to get a taste of the solo backpacking life. Some people love the true solitude, some people hate it. So before I thought anymore about the John Muir Trail I wanted to get a taste. As a plus, the trip was also the longest backpacking trip I’ve done and my first time winter backpacking. It ended up being one of the more difficult physical things I’ve accomplished.

To document the solo experience I journaled daily and I’m hoping that journal can help share the experience with you.


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Best of the Bay: Geocaching


I found my first geocache in the bay area in November 2013. Having just purchased a GPS, I was curious about this global treasure hunting game called geocaching where you find containers others have hidden at specific coordinates. I immediately became hooked. In 2014 I logged 120 geocaches. One of the many reasons why I enjoy the game of geocaching is that it reveals another layer of society. Walk a mile in any direction and you will have walked past one if not multiple geocaches.

Another reason I love geocaching is that the community is so creative. All geocaches have their own cool factor, but some really outshine others in their construction or placement. Today I’m going to celebrate some of the most creative geocaches I’ve found in the bay. If your curious about geocaching I encourage you to go experience their awesomeness!


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The Complete Guide to Skyline to the Sea


While I accomplished my first Thru-Hike by accident, my second was more of an idea that nobody said no to. Its hard to argue with the beauty of the Skyline to Sea concept: starting from the South San Francisco Bay, park on top of the first ridge line and start hiking until you hit the ocean.

My original plan was to backpack this route over two days, however some overly ambitious and encouraging cohorts convinced me it was doable in a day with light packs. “Its all downhill” they would repeat at my objections. For better or worse, all it takes is an enabler to get me onboard with doing any number of things.


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