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Q & A - Questions posed by readers

I receive a lot of questions concerning hikes, trip planning, etc. Here are some I'll share with you, in case you have similar questions.

Question: Have you ever considered writing a book?

Answer: Sure, I've considered it. I would love to. But I do have a day job, and writing a book would take up a lot of time and require a lot of travel. I also think there's more for me to learn, especially from a botanical perspective (pointing out flora and fauna), that would improve my writing. So, perhaps some day in the future...

Question: What kind of DIGITAL camera do you have?

Answer: At the time this question was asked, I didn't. Most of the pictures on this site are taken with actual film - slide film, usually Fuji Velvia to be precise. I scanned the images using a good quality slide scanner. I now have a Minolta digital SLR that I'm happy with, although the slides I took are probably better quality. For the gory details on my camera equipment, see About This Site.

Question: I can't believe you gave the Routeburn and Milford Tracks an 8 rating! What gives?

Answer: I have a soft spot for staying dry. What can I say? If I had done those hikes and not hiked through rain/fog so thick I couldn't see 25 feet in front of me, or gotten pelted by hail so hard I thought it would leave welts on my legs, then maybe I would have given those hikes 9's. And, I'm sorry, but there's no way I would ever give the Milford Track a 10, even if it is billed as "The Finest Walk in the World". I've been on too many great Sierra hikes to give it a 10. I may be a little biased here. But don't let this fool you -- I absolutely loved New Zealand and would go back there in a heart beat.

Question: Everything on your site is rated 8. What gives?

Answer: Actually, the average hike rating on my site is currently around 7. You can see a list of hikes by rating (including the average) here. The ratings generally follow a bell-shaped curve, with the bulk of hikes receiving 6/7/8 ratings, exceptionally good hikes getting 9/10, and exceptionally bad hikes getting 4 or 5. I'm not quite sure what would constitute a 1/2/3 rating. So I guess I am biased a little high. But certainly not as high as some guide books would tell it. Generally, when you see me give a hike an 8, 9, or 10, you can be pretty sure you're in for a great hike.

Question: Milford Track Walk Hello, I will be in New Zealand in February and am interested in doing the Milford Track. How does one make reservations for the huts along the 4 day trek? Are all walks guided or do you go on your own? If you have any other recommendations for day hikes in New Zealand we would appreciate it. Looks like you had a great time. Thank You.

Answer: No, you do not have to be guided. Basically, there are two sets of hikers on the trail - guided and unguided. There are a limited number of spots in both the guided hikes and the huts for unguided hikers, so you do need to contact ahead. For info on reserving a spot: DOC. You also need to make boat reservations in advance. More info on that: DOC. As for other day hikes, everything I did is on my web site, so I don't have much to add to that. Have a great trip!

Question: More info on Tinker Knob? Hi, I was wondering if you had any more information on the Tinker Knob hike, particularly how to get there (though I do have directions from another site you linked) and how to stay on course during the hike. Another site I read claimed that Shirley Lake is indeed along the trail. It sounds like the Tinker Knob hike is more confusing than most. I'd like to attempt it next week after doing Mt. Tallac tomorrow (which I did last summer.) Where can a good map of the trails be found? Thanks a lot!

Answer: To get there, just drive to the main Squaw Valley ski area lot. I'm sure you can find directions from their web site. As for maps of Tahoe trails...I like the maps by Fine Edge productions: They're great for an overview of the area. For hiking Tinker Knob, though, I recommend getting the USGS map and carrying it with you on the hike -- you may need it! To be honest, I couldn't tell you how to stay on course -- there are so many unmarked creeks that you will probably find yourself off course at some point. The important thing is to recognize this and be able to correct it using the map. Note that, because of the topography, you can't get completely lost in the sense of not being able to find your way back -- at worst, you'll just have to backtrack or go cross-country like I did. Good luck!

Question: Ohlone wilderness season? Nice Web page. I'm planning some winter backpacking trips while the Sierra and Great Basin lie beneath the snow. I am considering hiking the Ohlone Wilderness Trail between January and March, but I am very unfamiliar with Bay Area weather, as I live in Reno. Can you give me an idea of what the weather might be like and when in that timeframe might be the best time to go?

Answer: Bay Area from Dec to Mar is usually cool and wet. In rare cases, it'll snow a bit at the higher elevations. You can usually count on at least a couple days of snow a year on Mt. Hamilton (4000 feet), and it sometimes gets down to around 3000 feet. But it's never very much snow. (We had a freak storm drop snow flurries on us in April that year, but it was pretty light) Basically, we get our winter storms (which turn to snow storms by the time they reach you in Reno) with days of rain, interspersed with cool, clear days (like today -- nice and sunny). Because of that, the best time for Ohlone is probably April/May. By June/July, it all turns brown. But in April/May, it's a wonderful green with lots of wildflowers. And most of the rains have stopped. Some years, we can go from May through November without a single drop of rain (or at least it seems that way). If you can't wait until then, try to go as late in March as you can. You will have to make camp reservations. Then check the weather forecasts the week of your trip. I would say that in general you'd have a 40-50% chance of having rain on your trip in March, going down to 10% by May.

Question: Do you have a hiking club? I want to know if you have a club, or if you know any good club that organizes some challenging hikes to Yosemite, Mt Shasta, etc.

Answer: I don't personally have a club, but I have the perfect answer for you: The group has over 1500 members, and someone's always organizing a trip, from a walk in the city to mountaineering in the Sierras.

Question: beginning landscape photography your photos are stunning!! ive been a avid hiker since i was a tot. after thru hiking the JMT, i very disappointed in the quality of photos i took (used a disposable). i took a beginning b+w photoclass as an undergrad. can you recommend any gear,tips or website so i can start taking more aesthetic photos?

Answer: Gear tips vary a lot from person to person depending on what your goals are, what format you want, and what weight you're willing to carry. I highly recommend as a resource for reading about gear and making good photos. I also like books by John Shaw and Galen Rowell. Shaw's books are more instructional, whereas Rowell's books are nicer to look at.

Question: Dog trails Can I take my dog on the Purisima Creek trails?

Answer: Sorry, I don't know in particular about that park off the top of my head. You can find out about dog accessibility for any of the MROSD lands (of which Purisima Creek is one) at their website: Another great resource for dog owners is the BAHiker dog park page:

Question: I'm a skydiver in Lodi and since it has been raining, I am searching for some trails to hike or other outdoor activities to do on these days. Any suggestions?

Answer: I have to admit I haven't hiked anywhere near Lodi. You might want to check out "75 Year-Round Hikes in Northern California" by Marc J. Soares. It has some Sacramento area hikes. I find that visiting my local library and checking out hiking guide books is often a better source of information than Google, believe it or not.

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