The Sierra High Route

Walking Softly
Strange cloud dissipating over Vennacher Needle, from camp in Lake Basin
A place worth preserving

Wilderness is for pilgrimages, and we pilgrims must fight to retain the places we love. We're fortunate to have organizations dedicated to saving what little we have left — support them!

On a more personal level we must each walk softly on hallowed ground. The following suggestions, although they apply specifically to the Sierra High Route, are nearly universal.

Camp at least 100 feet away from water. This is now the law and certainly helps protect fragile streamside habitats. When possible, camp where others have rather than establish a new site. Plan for storms and pitch your tent in a spot with good drainage; don't dig runoff trenches. John Muir cut pine boughs for his bed, but foam pads mean you don't have to. Leave the site as you'd like to see it next time.

There's no wood at many places on the High Route, and carrying a stove is imperative. If you do make a fire, scrounge only fallen wood and enjoy a small blaze in an existing fireplace. It is sinful to build a new fireplace ring! Extinguish all fires thoroughly before leaving.

Crystal-clear streams are not to be trusted. Giardiasis, that insidious parasitic disease, can be contracted, though it's rare. Other bugs, worse ones, lurk also, so use a filter or boil the water for a few minutes. Wash dishes — without soap — away from water, thus maintaining the biological balance of lakes and streams.

Bury feces far from water and campsites, in a hole at least four inches deep. This can be difficult, but seek out the best place even if you have to walk a few hundred yards.

If you packed it in, pack it out. And, if you find some slob's refuse, pack that out also.

Using your route-finding skills, skirt fragile meadowlands whenever feasible. Walking on higher, drier ground is better for the meadow and for your boots.

Some practices don't really harm the landscape, but they certainly detract from the High Route experience. Whenever possible, travel in small, unobtrusive groups. If you own two tents, one fire-engine red and one green, take the latter. Leave dogs at home. Avoid unnecessary yelling and yodeling.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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