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Much like in years past, neither of us remembers the exact reason or the exact moment we decided on the Pacific Crest Trail. But we’d never hiked there before, and that’s usually enough.

2016 marks the 7th Annual Off-the-Grid Adventure for Jeff and me, and we still look forward to the precious unplugged time as much as ever. The formula is simple: 2 people + 1 week + 0 emails and phone calls and adult responsibilities. Add a few dozen miles of backcountry trail, and you’ve got #HoodsUnplugged

[typography font=”Permanent Marker” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#8c0510″]Getting There[/typography]

The plan was to hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through a remote area of Yosemite National Park. We backpacked in Yosemite back in 2011 and we knew the scenery and weather in the sierras would be perfect — so we planned a week with International Alpine Guides and booked tickets West.

Since you can’t just tool into Yosemite, we flew into Vegas (“it’s a dry heat”) and made the drive over the mountains.

The 5ish hour drive was pretty quiet. Stretches of desert as far as the eye could see, periodic dust storms, and warnings of open cattle grazing. When we hit the mountains it was like a rollercoaster. Three mountain passes made us make a mental note of which airports were on the OTHER side of the mountains — for next time.



After an unforgettable stop for gas in Area 51, we found Twin Lakes Campground tucked away at the end of a dirt road, and met up with our guide, Ross, for dinner at the cafe.

We had enough daylight left to make one last (payphone!) call to Colt, talk about our week and sort some gear. Then an early night in anticipation of an early morning.

[typography font=”Permanent Marker” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#8c0510″]Day 1[/typography]

I cannot overstate this: I LOVE waking up in a tent. LOVE. We weren’t even in the backcountry yet, but I woke up to the sunrise and the sounds of the woods — rather than a snooze button. Nowhere to be but RIGHT. HERE. That’s what keeps me coming back for more.

Not in a rush, we got up and around and packed our gear then secured the car and our suitcase from curious bears and headed for the trailhead.

Sarah, Ross, Jeff - ready to hike out
Sarah, Ross, Jeff – ready to hike out

We would spend our first day in the Hoover Wilderness, just east of Yosemite and north of where we would eventually join up with the PCT. With permits and parking and an indulgent big breakfast at the cafe, we got a late start but we were on the trail by 11am.



And then we had nothing but THAT for over 8 miles. At the right time of day, the sky is so blue it doesn’t look real. Mostly uphill, it was a tough first day, but the weather was picture perfect and we saw plenty of deer and other hikers.



And evidently, the 5 years that had passed since the last time we hiked in that general area of the world was just enough time for us to completely forget how truly awful bear canisters are. California has unique rules about bears and they make you carry a bear-proof canister instead of hanging your food and toiletries. And bear canisters are HEAVY. Empty, they weigh almost 5 pounds. The pack I carried on this trip was the heaviest I’ve ever carried.

My view during a mid-afternoon break.
Barney Lake
Barney Lake


Eventually, me and my heavy pack made it to Peeler Lake, our destination for the night. We made camp, washed our unbelievably filthy feet in the lake, swatted some mosquitoes, and enjoyed burritos for dinner and sunset over the lake as we talked about Day 2’s itinerary.

Peeler Lake at sunset
Day 1 | 8.4 miles | 2500ft net elevation gain
Day 1 | 8.4 miles | 2500ft net elevation gain
Day 1 - Elevation
Day 1 – Elevation

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