Toddler on SUP/Sit-on-Top Kayak

A quick update on the kayaking skills. At 22 months, we took J again to the Russian River in Sonoma. This time, we were up there for a week of summer vacation. Unfortunately we hit an unusually cold week, with afternoon temperatures reaching upper 70s/low 80s (around 27 C) in the afternoon. Still great swimming temperatures for adults, but definitely going into teeth chattering territory for smaller kids once the wind picked up around 6 pm. I will definitely look for a toddler wetsuit to expand our season and also for our upcoming Hawaiian adventure. This article has some good general guidance on thickness of wetsuit based on water temperature, and also gives some recommendations on reasonably prized brands with good seam quality.

Back to our adventure. We started out as last time, with Dad paddling in the stern, while J and I were duffing (sitting in the boat without paddling) as much toward the bow as possible to balance the boat. After a day, we switched from me sitting on the bow seat and J standing to J sitting on the seat, and me sitting in the middle. and of course, J needed to have his own paddle to hold and skid along on the water! As J balanced so well, I decided we should try something different.We have a Nalu Kayak/SUP hybridNail Kayak/SUP hybrid. So the next day, we put that in the water, and I sat down J between my knees facing me. He was quite happy on it, since he could both easily put his hands into the water and also drag a small paddle along. With that, we could paddle 30-45 minutes at a stretch between beach breaks. And I finally get back to paddling myself!

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Of course J wanted to have my big paddle. Eventually I negotiated to switch back:-)

 

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How do you know if your toddler is allergic to bee stings?

My friend, 20 weeks pregnant with her future adventurer, and I were sitting at the pool while a bee I fished out of the water was drying off and getting ready for flight again. “How do you know”, she asked me, “if your toddler is allergic to bee stings if he has not been stung before? A backpacking trip would not be a good time to find out.” And with that question, she cleanly had found the very shallow depth of my expertise.

Back at work the next day, I did a search of the medical literature. DISCLAIMER: I am not a physician. This is not a literature review. Scientific knowledge is found by trial and error. Please talk to your doctor if you have questions. Below is a summary of what I found, and some learning points I drew from it.

Existing Data on Allergic Reactions in Children

Allergic reactions are graded in literature from I (mild), II (moderate), III (severe) and IV (critical). If reactions are local they can range from mild (e.g. minor local swelling) to moderate (e.g. swelling of a limb). When reactions become systemic, they range from moderate (e.g. rash over the whole body) to severe (anaphylactic shock closing off airways). The prevalence in children for a systemic reaction is between 0.15 – 0.3 % (3 out of a 1000 children).  60% (3 out of 5) of those systemic reactions are mild to moderate, meaning it does not reach Grade III anaphylactic shock. Which means if a randomly selected 1000 children get stung by a bee, 1-2 of those would have a severe, systemic allergic reaction. Bees have about 2.5 times the venom load of wasps, making their stings higher risk. About 20 stings/kg body weight is considered lethal, although reports exists of individuals surviving considerably more stings.

Is there anything which could predict which children might be at risk? Several studies report that the risk of systemic reaction rises the more often a person is stung. An italian study found a statistically significant correlation between insect bite allergies and allergies to dairy, eggs, and parietaria judaica (stickyweed pollen). There is a rare disease called mastocytosis in which mast cells are more prevalent than typical, which leads to higher risk. Less than 200,000 people in the US are thought to have this disease.
Bern University Hospital (38,000 ER visits per year) did a 5 year review of all emergency patients with insect-related anaphylactic shock who visited the department 2009-2014. They found 143 patients, age ranged from 19-84 years. Incidence was highest on dry, war summer days. Only 16 patients needed epinephrine. Risk factors they identified was being male (60:40 ratio matching general ER visits), inattentive drinking/eating, and wearing open-toed shoes.
LESSONS LEARNED
Unless my kid has any other allergies, the risk that the first insect sting will lead to anaphylactic shock is very small. Thinking back on myself growing up, playing in gardens, pools, and mountain meadow, I can recall getting stung a total of 4 times. First time was by a bee in my lower lip as it collided with me sitting on my grandmas bike cargo seat. The risk of getting my feet caught in the spokes or my fingers in the springs of her seat was considerably higher! No helmets in those days either. Second time was stepping on a bee on our lawn studded with daisies. Third time was absent-mindedly touching a flower on which a bumblebee sat. Third time was hooking my arm into a pool spill, where a bumblebee was sitting on the other side. That was the only time I got a moderate reaction with my lower arm swelling. Swimming 1000+ yards of freestyle after an insect sting to the body surface hitting the water is not exactly smart. Two of the stings I could have avoided, two were by chance. All happened within 10 minutes of a phone, although two of them in more rural areas of the country with a bit of a drive to the nearest emergency room.
Risk increases with exposure and age, which means avoiding stings is a good precaution. In order of priority for me:
1)  Wearing closed-toed shoes while hiking is a good idea. Yes, I am a big fan of sandals and minimalist shoes. But considering evidence, closed-toe shoes might be a good idea when you are a ways from medical care with a child.
2) Teach your children to avoid stings by remaining calm. Bees and wasps only sting when provoked.
1) Limiting drinks to water will reduce the risk of stings due to inadvertently
 
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Can you canoe in a little boat build for two?

The title of this blog is the first song on the “Can You Canoe” album by the Okee Dokee Brothers. Great outdoor musics with witty texts to sing along to!

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So, how did the canoe outing with a now 21 month old go? Splashy! Much better than 10 months ago. First, J does not mind wearing his Stohlquist Nemo life jacket, which is a bog improvement over the previous model. Part of it may be that he is really into figuring out buckles these days. When we took the canoe out of the garage, he was immediately climbing into it.

Once in the water, he did not mind joining us in the boat and immediately started to check it out. Dad was paddling in the stern. I had a strained back muscle and was not planning to paddle anyway. My seat in the bow facing toward the stern was perfect for supervising J directly in front of me. After 10 minutes of Dad paddling and J seriously observing proceedings, my little guy decided to start sticking his hand in the water. I corralled him in as best as I could. Same goes for J’s attempts to climb across the boat to Dad.

My paddle boarding colleague had already told me that all of his kids fell of the paddle board a couple times before they got the idea why it is a good idea to stay on board. All the more reason for us to test J’s life vest before one of his swim lessons in an indoor pool. We used that time to make sure we had all straps and buckles  tightened. Getting dropped into the warm pool water a few times from all kinds of positions is a good idea to check for good functionality, and often great fun for kids if they are familiar with the pool environment and being in and under water.

Anyway, the inevitable happened. As a recap, we were on the to us very familiar Russian River near Guerneville, which on that day had low water flow and a nice swimming temperature. While I always supported J standing in the canoe (he did not agree to sitting down) with at least one hand, I did take my eyes off of him for two seconds at most. I think I was checking out the shifted location of the shallows for Dad. With an amazing sense for timing, J chose this precise moment to bend over to look into the water. His heavy toddler head combined with the bulk of the life vest provided the perfect lever to pitch him headfirst into the roughy 68F/20C water.

The vest functioned as intended and tested. It immediately flipped J on his back and floated him toward the water surface. I could see J had held his breath and was staring up with eyes wide open. The forward momentum of the canoe had carried Dad to be right at J’s side when he reached the water surface. Dad lifted J into the boat, and that was that. What surprised me most was that  was not even crying. He was whining a bit, I think from the combination of an unexpected event and the invigorating dip. For the rest of our 20 minute trip, and also the next day, he stayed safely in the middle of the boat without my intervention. Once at the beach, J hopped out of the boat and right into the shallow water. There were rocks to throw into the water, ducks to chase, and parents to splash! J hopped right back into he boat when it was time to leave. The next day, he kept asking to go downstairs to the water, and was quite happy to go on another canoe outing with us. Hurray!

What went well:

  • J’s motor skills were at the stage where he had much better balance on the canoe. He runs now, when on our last outing he was still learning to navigate door threshold.
  • The better life vest design made J much more comfortable.
  • We went out right after nap and snack.
  • Fellow paddler parents had prepared us for the high likelihood of a kid-over-board event, and we had our safety ducks in a row to be prepared.

What can be improved:

  • I should have tested the fit of J’s sun hat before we left home. Toddler heads grow fast.
  • J needs quick-drying  swim trunks for sun protection. I have a hard time finding ones for under 4-year olds.

 

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Introducing a Toddler to the Canoe

Taking small children onto a boat or canoe is controversial. Admittedly, travelling on water has inherently higher risk than staying on solid ground. I do believe though that there are responsible ways to minimize the risks and create age-appropriate water outings. These were my personal reasons to decide it was ok:

  • In summer, the Russian River behaves largely like a very narrow lake with slow flow and perfect swimming temperature.
  • We have decades of exprience paddling this section of the river
  • I worked for several years as a life guard, am an experienced open water swimmer including several races, and I am also trained as a Wilderness First Responder
  • My son was tall and heavy enough to fit in an US Coast Guard approved PFD II type flotation device (moe information here). We tested that device in a pool before going out.
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    Mallard diving for food on the Russian River in summer.

     

A few remarks on water safety. Many states in the USA have specific laws on life jackets; the Coast Guard recommends for children under 13 years of age to wear a PFD (personal flotation device). It is essential for safety, even once your child becomes a good swimmer. One can easily loose consciousness by a hit on the head during a boating accident. I have lost two adult friends due to this type of injury earlier in my life. Modern PFDs are much less bulky and do barely interfere with motion while boating. Lucie’s List has a recently updated blog post with reviews of currently available PFDs for toddlers. Never restrain your child during a water outing; a PFD only works if the child can exit the boat and float unencumbered.

Because of the high ratio of body surface to body volume children are much more susceptible to hypothermia than adults.  I found a story in this blog post by little aid which very clearly describes the symptoms you might see at the onset of mild hypothermia. For adults, my former rowing club used the “air + water temperature > 100 F” rule as the bare minimum requirement to go out. I still use this rule for myself today if I do not wear a wetsuit, and I would most definitely not take my toddler on the water if this rule plus generous margin would not hold.

At the time when we took J out for his first canoe outing, he was 10 month old and had just started to walk. He also was in the middle of the transition from two naps to one nap per day, which made it difficult to predict when he was tired or hungry. It was the 4th of July weekend in California. Mornings on the Russian River are foggy and cool, afternoons are nice and warm. We had pretty bulky RFP sold at the local stores. I should have been better prepared and bought a better designed PFD before the trip! J usually rolls with whatever is happening, but he stuck close to me because there were a lot of new sights and sounds to process. I decided to sit in the bow with J and not paddling. In this canoe, there is a fishing bucket installed in the front of the canoe, which restricts the space and required me to hold J. J tolerated the one hour trip to the beach fairly well, but when we got there he was super hungry. I only brought a but more than his usual amount of food. I quickly learned over the next outings that J gets unusually hungry on a boating trip. On the way back, J was hungry, cranky, and done with this PFD thing. I eventually managed to sing him to sleep.

Photo Jul 07

Exhausted from his first canoe trip. For the next trip, I moved back with him to the middle section of our boat just behind my seat. That worked much better.

The next two trips we wised up: more food, and shorter outing. We only kept paddling 20 minutes to the next beach, spend a good long time playing there, and paddled back after a hearty snack. With each of the outings J got more comfortable sitting in warm shall water which was not his bathtub. Discovering that rocks are fun to play with helped.He still was not too excited about being on the water, but singing lots of songs and waving to other canoes on the river entertained and distracted him.

Our canoe outings were cut short in late August, because the low water flow and heat during the California drought caused toxic blue algae to develop in the water. We decided it was not worth taking the risk of J accidentally ingesting them. What I did instead was sign J up for baby swim classes at a local swim school to keep him used to larger bodies of water. He not only loves going there, but also gets weekly practice listening to commands when to wait and when to go into the water. Next week is Memorial Day weekend, and if all goes well we will be out on the water with a much bigger boy and his new life vest. He loves wearing it, and did not mind when we tested it on him in the pool. In hindsight, it would probably have been easier for us to start the canoe introduction after J’s transition from a two nap to a one nap schedule was solidified. The combination of bulky life vest and J just having learned to walk on solid ground was too challenging for him.

What went well:

  • Keeping the initial outing short, around 20 minutes
  • Having one person 100% dedicated to staying with the kid
  • Hat, rashguard and longish pants as sun protection
  • Starting after the noon nap time

What we changed next time:

  • Bring more food. Double all portions. Then add even more.
  • Changed the life vest to a different model
  • Signed J up for swim class to get him used to be in and around larger bodies of water than his bathtub

 

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Beyond the park: Taking toddlers outdoors

This blog has been dormant for a few years, because I did not have a clear goal. Since the last post, we also have added a not-so-tiny-anymore adventurer to our outdoors family. But with that also came the realization of the challenge that comes with introducing a toddler to the natural world beyond the nearby park. Most outdoor organizations I am (was?) a member of do not permit underage members to participate in outings, or if they do the minimum age is somewhere around elementary school age. I ave tried joining some local Sierra Club outings, but either the leader flat out refused to have us join a casual car-camping outing despite our experience (!), or never responded to my question if I could take my toddler along. Yet I knew from blogs like Beth Rodden’s blog and from my friends in the Owen’s River Valley on the East Side of the Sierra Nevada that safe outdoors travel is possible with our tiny adventurers.

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Privately and informally, I have reached out to my outdoorsy friends with and without small children in their lifes to form a village to introduce our kids to the outdoors on a pace and level which is appropriate for their age. I am hoping that together we can reach a few goals:

  • Overcome the inertia which comes with the extra logistics of preparing for a trip with a toddler.
  • We like going on trips with our friends, and similarly our kids enjoy having their little friends around.
  • Learn from each other what gear works best, and where to find it. Also, how to improvise (see Beth Rodden’s naptime sleeping bag)
  • Encourage outdoor clubs and organizations we are involved with to expand their scope to include the next generation and their parents at an early age.
  • Share some trip destinations and tell you about companies who accomodate adventurous toddlers.

Next week, I will share how our first car camping trip for J’s first birthday went.Other upcoming post ideas: introducing my toddler to the canoe, a summary of resources for pediatric wilderness medicine, a lovely 10 mile day hike to my own favorite childhood hiking destination while I grew up in Germany. Please leave me comments what else you want to hear about! In the future, I am also looking to sharing this space with guest bloggers.

 

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Hiking to Italy (Pine Creek trailhead to Lake Italy)

Making Plans

During an east-west traverse of the Sierra over the top of Stanford N, I had seen the
towering peaks over the Mono Recesses and dreamed of climbing them.
Finally, the opportunity came and my friend Larry and I started out at
Pine Creek trailhead toward Italy Pass for a week. Spectacular
climbing weather turned into significant atmospheric instabilities,
which forced us to adapt our ambitious climbing plans.

Taking it up and away

After we parked our car at the Pine Creek trailhead, it took us a while to assemble everything and get started. At 9:30 am we finally got going, and then were immediately thwarted by our attempt to find the trailhead. Yes, you have to walk into the pack station. Then make a right turn to pass between the paddock to your left and the trailers on your right. There is a sign marking the trailhead, but when we were there it was rather overgrown and really hard to see. The trail winds through some forest to meet an old mining road just above the big Pine Creek Tungsten Mine. There are still old mine shafts, tools and structures to be found in two smaller mines along the old road. I am still amazed the old cars got up that rugged, rocky trail.

Just above where the last abandoned mine sits perched and hidden high above Rovana town, we encountered a friendly dog hanging out on the trail and voices high above. Behold, a doggie guarding the possessions of two climbers high up on the wall! It turns out the area is a good rock climbing spot. Turning the corner, a remarkably striped mountain guards Pine Creek Lake outlet. It looks indeed challenging to climb, although the impressive Geology which does not quite come out in a mere photograph makes it very tempting.

Nice Geology! Looking difficult to climb, though.

Nice Geology! Looking difficult to climb, though.

We reached Pine Lake and then a mile later Upper Pine Lake, and around 4 pm we arrived at Honeymoon Lake. We sat down for a snack, talked a bit about staying vs going, and decided to keep on heading toward Italy Pass until we were too tired and/or found a nice campsite. The trail at this point is very easy to follow; we met lots of dayhikers who went to Italy Pass and were coming down to their campsites around Pine Lake. Nearing 3000 m (10,000 ft), we found a flat campsite near the trail and a small waterfall where we put our tent down for the night. We had to hang some food in the trees. As usual, I over-packed on food because I keep forgetting how much the altitude dampens my appetite, especially in the first 2-3 days. Despite my best efforts, I can only eat so much without feeling worse. On the other hand, I certainly carry enough reserves on my body, and my body seems to be quite efficient to draw on those reserves while I am adjusting to altitude without impacting my performance too much.

All Trails Lead to Italy

Well, there was really only one trail. By 8 am we were on it again and slowly wound our way up and back into a gorgeous Sierra valley filled with lakes, tarns, and meadows framed by granite.

Lovely high mountain meadows, lakes and tarns just below Italy Pass.

Lovely high mountain meadows, lakes and tarns just below Italy Pass.

And filled with frogs. One had to really pay attention not to flatten any of them while hiking!

One of the many frogs living near the streams and tarns.

One of the many frogs living near the streams and tarns.

The valley is longer than it appears to be. It took us much more time than expected, but on the other hand we were not exactly rushing through either. The unmaintained trail is quite easy to find until it reaches the highest lake. From there, it is well marked with cairns once the snow cover is gone. On the other hand, as the photo below shows the terrain leading from the lake to Italy Pass is quite gentle, easy to navigate and covered with easily hiked granite slabs. One could just forget about hunting cairns and make a beeline for the pass.

Mount Julius Caesar standing guard over Italy Pass.

Mount Julius Caesar standing guard over Italy Pass.

A Visit to the Emperor

By noon on our 2nd hiking day, we had hauled our still food-filled packs to the crest of Italy Pass at 12,400 ft. Larry had some altitude issues, so I left him, the packs, the SPOT and my binoculars behind and set off to visit the Emperor Himself via the south ridge from Italy Pass. For the most part, there are sandy ledges making up a use trail for the various alpine-dwelling mammals. The talus is made up of nice granite; solidly stacked and not prone to kicking down rocks should a multi-climber party ascend. I reached a small saddle near the top where multiple routes converge. From there, I found the summit block to be easy, non-exposed 3rd class simply because of the comparative size of the boulders vs. me. I easily located the summit register, signed, and left some Trader Joe Ginger Chews for the next climbers.

The Feather Couloir as seen from the summit of Julius Caesar. Merriam, Royce Peak and Royce lakes are just behind Feather. Gemini is visible on the far right horizon.

The Feather Couloir as seen from the summit of Julius Caesar. Merriam, Royce Peak and Royce lakes are just behind Feather. Gemini is visible on the far right horizon.
Lake Italy is very, very long. Toe Lake in the forefront. The S couloir ascent route leading to the headwall of Mt Gabb is nicely visible.

Lake Italy is very, very long. Toe Lake in the forefront. The SE Face ascent route leading to the headwall of Mt Hilgard is nicely visible.

I also took a look at the West Ridge, which in Secor 3rd edition is called a classic class 3 climb. No kidding. I thought David Harris’ trip report to be a bit exaggerated at first. On seeing this ridge, I have to agree with David that it is definitely not class 3, or I am a way better climber than I make myself believe! It looked like a solid class 2 to me, and certainly an easier climb than the SW Ridge on Mt Gabb. After studying the route up Mt Gabb, I returned to Italy Pass about 2.5 hours after I started. Not bad for a 2nd day at altitude.

Red Sonja just below the summit blocks of Julius Caesar.

Red Sonja just below the summit blocks of Julius Caesar.

The Home Stretch along Jumble Lake

Picking up Larry and the pack back at Italy Pass, we headed down through Marmot Heaven along the little creek leading to Jumble Lake. There are ducks, but you could go cross-country as long as you catch the sandy trail skirting the east side of Jumble Lake about 200 feet above the lake. I remember being absolutely flabbergasted how someone either build or found this trail through, well, a jumble of rocks! You definitely don’t want to rock-hop here unless you have boundless time or energy. We had not. At the outlet of Jumble Lake, we found the first glimpse of Lake Italy but lost the trail again. We spotted some hikers and their dog near headed our way along Lake Italy and just headed straight for them. Meeting them near the lakeshore around 5 pm, we learned they were aiming to hike all the way back to Pine Lake the same day. They had only daypacks. I wonder what became of them, since they were not hiking very fast and the dog was visibly tired.

We were pooped at that point as well. Maybe a bit dehydrated too, because I was pushing hard and eager to get to the camp for the night, while foolishly not stopping for water. I have a tendency to do that toward the end of a long hiking day; I really need to get rid of this habit. Anyway, there was a group camping east of the inlet from Jumble Lake to Lake Italy. We headed west on the fishermen’s trail toward the outlet of Italy. A few hundred yards before reaching the outlet, there are campsites where folks have build low walls for wind protection. There is one big campsite including kitchen area near the outlet close to the trail. We chose an earlier set of two campsites higher up and away from the trail. We were glad to huddle our tent behind the windbreak wall, because the updraft wind really builds up along the lake in the evenings.

Good night!

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Dome Land Wilderness: A no-snow MLK weekend trip to Taylor Dome and Sirretta

This winter was highly unusual. Mid-January and with it MLK weekend rolled around, and no snowfall yet in the Sierra. What to do? I poked around on the SPS list and decided Sirretta, Rockhouse and Taylor Dome would be fun. They are fairly low, and far away from the Bay Area which made having a 3-day weekend for driving really nice. I went to the USGS Map room in Menlo Park, stocked myself up with maps (also for Moses, Maggie, Coyote and Angora for the future), and figured out how to get to the Big Meadow trailhead.  Terry Cline and Larry Jang decided to join me. Ironically, this was the same group that got stuck in too much snow last July in the Desolation Wilderness.

Waking up in the truck? Must be on an adventure.

We took off Friday night to get part of the drive behind us. We stayed at Leary Flat FS Campground on M-99 just before the hamlet of California Hot Springs.  The CG has a running stream, which made for a cold and damp night. The water pipes were still working, so we did not even need the stream for water. I loved crawling into he back of the truck, seeing brilliant stars above me, ready for adventure.

Saturday morning, we drove the two hours to the Sirretta trailhead (7800 feet) at the Northwestern end of Big Meadows. Cherry Hill Road is paved at first, then a well-graded dirt road. In shady patches, there were some patches of snow and ice on the road. We also met two dudes who tried to find Church Dome using a AAA map. Whatever?! Without the snow on the ground, I would have gotten my VW Jetta to the trailhead without too much trouble, although having a high-clearance 4WD was nice. The Sirretta trailhead has plenty of flat spaces for tent spots, but no water. Someone even left a smoker next to the fire ring. We should have brought the shortribs!

At noon, we took off from the clearly marked Sirretta trailhead. The trail leads about two miles uphill to Sirretta Pass. I was thrilled to feel really fit and energetic. The altitude did not bother me much, other than fast heart beat. Less stress and better nutrition is starting to work:-)

The use trail to Sirretta Peak, well marked by ducks, takes off to the left before you get up to Sirretta Pass. If you find yourself at the pass, you missed it! We traversed over to the ridge between Sirretta Pass and the peak to the west and soon found the ducks. The trail leads up the ridge and then toward the summit ridge connecting the three high points. The LOWEST summit to the south is indeed the actual, named, Sirretta Peak with the summit register. The summit is an easy scramble on solid granite boulders with a unique summit “block”. Views over the southern Sierra are gorgeous. We did not backtrack, but bushwhacked down from the summit toward the drainage in southeastern direction, where we met the trail again. Getting down through the brush was not too bad, but I would not recommend taking this direct route up.

Back at Big Meadow, we moved our car clockwise around the meadow to 3 o’clock, where the southern trailhead to Manter Meadow and the trailhead 34E15 to Taylor Meadow are located, with a corral in between them. After the sun set at 5:30 pm, it got chilly really quickly. We cooked dinner, prepared our packs for the next morning, and crawled into our sleeping bags. The night felt warmer, even though I remember waking up a few times worrying about the next day’s climb. I always tend to do that, although it is getting better as I get more experienced.

The next morning, we started (30 minutes later than planned) at 7 am on the Manter Meadows trailhead toward Rockhouse. It took me a bit to see the actual trail, probably because the truck was parked right on it! We expected a long 17-mile day, with the sun setting at 5 pm this early in the year. 10 minutes into the hike, we discovered there was still plenty of snow left on west-facing forested slopes. This made navigation challenging, cost time,  and wading through a foot of snow slowed us down while using energy. I would have felt ok with navigating part of the trail back to the car in the dark, with a 3/4 moon and GPS. But definitely not through snow! After 45 minutes, we decided trying to reach Rockhouse would not make sense under the circumstances, and turned back to climb Taylor Dome instead.

Taylor Dome is marked as 8802T on square #10 of the USGS Cannell Peak 7.5′ quadrangle. The (at times faint) Taylor Meadow trail heads a low ridge before making a right (south) turn up a drainage to a pass. From the trailhead to this point, there was still a mix of ice, hard-packed snow, and foot-deep snowdrifts on the ground. I was very happy to have my brand-new Yaktrax on, giving me good grip and hiking speed. From the pass, you will get a beautiful view of the twin peaks of Taylor Dome to the East. The trip report from Will Molland-Simms mentions a boulder pile marking the place where you turn off the trail. This 20-foot, really obvious boulder pile is roughly at elevation 7900′ below the saddle further down, and right next to, the Taylor Meadows trail.

We decided instead to follow the west-east ridge from the saddle toward Taylor Dome just below the rock outcroppings. You get to admire the rock formations at close view, but this approach is more of a bushwhack and takes longer. We eventually reached the lightly forested, manzanita-covered slope leading to the summit. Just below the twin summits is a large summit plateau. The northern peak is the true summit, with an exposed Class 3 crack on solid granite with good holds. It is fun climbing up the chimney on the other summit as well, although considering the strong wind we all decided against trying the last move onto this summit.

Exploring the twin summits of Taylor Dome

 

Because it was a cold and very wind day with gusts up to 30 mph, we left the summit plateau quickly and dropped down into the forest to find cover for lunch. For our descent, we mainly followed the drainage south until it turned west toward Taylor Meadow. At this point, we left the drainage, climbed over small hump, and were right back at the trail with the obvious boulder heap marking the spot.

Back at the car, we decided we would head home early. We found a nice italian restaurant in the Central Valley to fuel up, and got home by 11 am. It took a while to unload the truck and get everything cleaned & stored. Terry’s shaving kit was uncovered, so no, he won’t be wearing a beard anytime soon.

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