Three Days in November

By Forrest Smith -

My wife is incredible. She saw the three-day weekend on the calendar and decided to fly to the Pacific Northwest with our little one, giving me the some time to hike, backpack, or do whatever I wanted to for a few days. To repay the favor, I sense a couple of mom-weekends-off in our future. A worthy trade!

Originally I planned for a backpack, but thoughts of long November nights bored in a tent made me reconsider. Instead, I opted for three-and-a-half days of sleeping in our car, hiking and exploring by day, and relaxing or working on personal projects at night.

Day 1

I drove up from San Diego on a Thursday afternoon, and was able to find a place to park the car in the Alabama Hills dispersed camping area. Our Subaru is my new favorite tent; since I got in fairly late and was pretty tired, I was easily able to fold down the back seat, blow up my sleeping pad, and pretty soon I was laying down, looking up at the stars through the back window. In the morning, I only needed to lift my head slightly to see the view that I parked myself in front of:

Alabama Hills and Mt. Whitney

November hikes in the high country are great. I’m still getting used to being able to explore the mountains this late into the season — I guess a benefit of being a southern Californian, where the Sierra Nevada are open for a much wider window than the Pacific Northwest mountains that I grew up with.

After waking, I drove into town, picked up a quick breakfast, and then drove up to the trailhead.

The hike was great, although not the quiestest trail I’ve ever been on. Fighter jets routinely flew high above, with the loud roar of their engines ricocheting of the barren granite walls (This is however better than being buzzed by a fighter jet flying low and just above the trees — which has happened to me a couple times in the backcountry. It’s both kind of cool and terrifying when it happens).

IceSierra Nevada LakeSierra Nevada LakeWalking Bliss

Walking Bliss

Day 2

I’ve done this trail before, last time carrying our then 2-year-old. I awoke this morning to a little bit of hazy smoke in the air, which got heavier the closer I got to the trailhead (I double-checked the current fire map to make sure the source wasn’t near me). As I started hiking, the smoke made it difficult to even see the tops of the peaks around me.

As I neared my destination, the smoke lifted a little — it was still a little hazy, but overall visibility improved. It was warm enough to hike with just a tshirt on for some segments. At the final lake I visited, I found the perfect rock along the water’s edge to lounge on and enjoy the view, which I had completely to myself. I love the sound of water lapping along the shores of a mountain lake.


More walking bliss — what is it about a nice meandering trail through trees?

Eastern Sierra NevadaEastern Sierra NevadaEastern Sierra Nevada

Day 3

Another day, another hike. I could get used to this pattern.My only regret on this day was that the hike turned out a bit shorter than needed. Oh, and it was pretty cold for the start of my hike, the car stating a balmy 19 degrees. Later I would be hiking in a t-shirt again at one point.

I made it to the pass, which made for a natural turn-around spot, but I was back to the car by 1:30, which left several hours of daylight on the table.

A Cold StartEastern Sierra Sunrise

Another beautiful view to wake up to.

Eastern Sierra NevadaEastern Sierra NevadaEastern Sierra Nevada

More Please

It was an incredible trip, and I loved living the dirtbag lifestyle for a few days. Sleeping in the back of our Subaru worked perfectly — I had minimal setup and takedown allowing me more time to get out and explore. I’m not sure when I’ll have the opportunity to live this way again, but I’m looking forward to it whenever it occurs.