Backpacking in the Sierra
By Tim Hauserman
Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada are certainly popular places to backpack. In fact, I just returned from my third backpack trip of the summer and thought it would be fun to summarize what it is that brings backpackers back for more. It’s easy to focus on the challenges: You have to walk long distances with a heavy pack on your back, eat dehydrated food, sleep on the ground, and not have the opportunity to take a shower. But compensation is found in the form of healthy exercise, spectacular views, and most importantly, a relaxing peace of mind that is hard to find in our go, go, go society.
I regularly go on long bike rides, paddle trips, or day hikes in the Tahoe region. But once you put that big pack on it’s a whole new ball game. Sure Tour De France riders are kick ass, but the folks who every summer walk the 2600 mile long Pacific Crest Trail are to me the true kick ass athletes. Part of the reason I do it is to challenge myself, but for me backpacking is mostly about the spiritual satisfaction that gets me back out there.
It is mediative to slowly walk your way across the landscape, following a narrow path through miles of wilderness while carrying everything you need on your back. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Tahoe Rim Trail, and when you hike for days along the trail you can often see where you were hiking a few days ago and where you will be in another few days…and it is quite impressive how far we can go if we just keep on walking.
What makes backpacking superior to day hiking is the sunsets and sunrises. If you day hike, you miss both of them as you are only out walking during the day. When you set up your tent, however, you are given the opportunity to watch a quiet sunset along a mountain lake. Then the next morning, you get to catch the show as the sun’s warm rays slowly march down from the mountain top to your little piece of paradise.