One aspect of California living that we struggle with is the distance to the mountains and the LOGISTICS of backcountry permits. However, once we are in the Sierra, it is a magical place to rival Colorado and BC. For the July long weekend, we had a backcountry permit for the White Chief Trail — 4 km and 900 m to the first backcountry campground. Thankfully my sister and her boyfriend adjusted their normal 30-40 km weekend backpacking trips to join us and help get the munchkin up the hill.
We were well prepared for the steep climb: 1/2 lb of gummy worms and sweedish fish and another 1/2 pound of m&ms. We only had to rely on the daddy train for about 1 km for the climb in. The hardest part of hiking/backpacking with a child is keeping their imagination engaged. She quickly tires if we are just hiking, but if we are climbing up the North Mountain (ala Frozen) or playing some oddball game from her imagination then she POWERS on. Seriously, one day on our 2 week Colorado trip she did 12 kms in the rain without a single fuss because we were playing marmot and moose and baby deer birthday party.
I admit to being disappointed with being assigned the White Chief trailhead. It was third on my list of 5 trailheads for the backcountry permit. We were hoping to camp near a lake and make use of our packraft. That is what I get for not doing my homework… White Chief was amazing. There was an old mine, there were karst features (aka caves!), there was contact metamorphism (marble!), there was a beautiful alpine basin with a waterfall, there were wildflowers, there were snow fields. Thanks to the permit system which limits the number of visitors at each trailhead we had two nights with no one else in sight.
I really love having a little kid now instead of a toddler or baby. The hiking is slower since we don’t carry her anymore and her candy consumption/kilometer is really a marvel, but she is learning that this is what our family does. We go outside. She is also big enough now for the junior ranger program at the National Parks. We worked on her junior ranger book and I have never seen her so proud as when she got her first badge from the Ranger. <3
Little miss is also learning the joys of backcountry skinnydipping.
In August, I will lead a group of 8 cavers and we plan on exploring White Chief Cave, Eagle Sinks, and Cirque Cave. I hiked to the entrances of White Chief about 10 years ago, but what you show in your pics isn’t what I saw, unless that is the downstream entrance.
We would appreciate any guidance you might have.
Thanks so much, Tom Beckman NSS 22331
Hey Tom, That sounds fun. Tonight I’ll try to annotate some screen grabs of topo maps to show where we were. We don’t actually do much off trail exploring with the 4 year old so everything would have been pretty obvious to all trail users.