Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Backpacking Silver Fork


Silver Fork - Forgotten Flat
South Fork American River
El Dorado National Forest - Kyburz, CA
Elevation approx. 6,200
What better way to spend labor day than to Get Gone in the backcountry for a few days. 4 days and 3 nights of adventuring!! 

This trip has been in the works for a few weeks. In that time we've had food dehydrators going full force, spent time brainstorming and testing recipes and learning how to use the vacuum sealer for longer storage on the trail. So far, so good. Some even say we eat better on the trail than we do at home! Hmmmm, possibly. But, it's all part of the adventure! 

Let's Go Get Gone! 

Day 1

The Adventure Begins...

We both got off of work at 1, so we were packed and heading out by 2:30 or so. Since this is Labor Day weekend, we were hoping to beat most of the holiday traffic, we were pretty successful, only a couple areas of slowdown. 

Silver Fork is about 8 miles off of Highway 50 near Kyburz, CA. As you pass through the tiny town of Silver Fork, the road splits to the right onto Silver Fork Rd. Follow the signs towards Silver Fork Campground and just beyond the campground and before you cross the Fitch Ranch Bridge, the road to Caples Creek Trailhead will be on your left.

The trailhead area has plenty of parking and a bathroom. This will be the last of the facilities for a while. I always take full advantage of it, although the smell of this one almost makes finding a tree more desirable. 

The trailhead is clearly marked. Since this is EDNF, no permit is required, except for your camp stove if you're cooking in the backcountry, which we certainly are! 

 We decided to hike in on the trail until we got to an area along the river to an area by Forgotten Flat. It's about 2.5 miles from the trailhead. (click to enlarge map)

The trail is nicely maintained and although there are some large rocks to climb over at times, it's very doable for most people to be able to hike it. 

About 2 miles in, there is a trail market that is marked Jake Schneider Meadow, straight ahead. Turning right at this sign takes you to a bridge that crosses Caples Creek. 


We planned on staying on the Silver Fork portion of the American River, so we needed to cross the bridge. 


We decided to set up camp on the opposite side of the river and what a great spot we found! A sandy area for the tent, a large rock to serve as a kitchen, ample trees for hammocks and a great log to sit right by the river. And who doesn't want to wake up to this view every morning?


After we got camp set up, it was time to try out the first of several new meals. We were both responsible for a few different meals and were trying out dehydrating and new recipes. First night was Couscous with mixed vegetables and chicken. Oops, forgot to add the chicken. It was still yummy. Will tweak the recipe even more to reduce the amount of rice and add more of yummy stuff, but a good starting point. 
(click here for recipe)


Night came on quickly after dinner. Time to get ready for a cold one too. Fire restrictions are in full effect this time of year, so we lit things up with tiny LED's, solar lights and a little fire. Camp life isn't too bad right about now. Supposed to be about 40 degrees tonight and it's dropping fast. Time for a hot cup of tea and off to snuggle up in the tent. 

Chris' ingenious firepot. 
It's technically a "stove", but put rocks around it and light it at night and it feels like a campfire. Makes all the difference in the world. 

Day 2

Exploring along the River to find waterfalls

(Otherwise known as Bushwhacking)

But first, breakfast burritos, tea and coffee... Mmmmmm...


Chilly morning, but breakfast burritos and warm tea by the river are just what we needed to get going on todays adventure. 


And a little relaxing by the river is always in order. 


 Chris had laid out a plan to venture to an area of the river that, according to the many contour lines, could have waterfalls. There are no trails in this area, so we set out on a journey to see how far down the river we could get. Most of what we were climbing over looked like this. Lots of dead trees to climb over and under. We were able to stay pretty close to the waters edge, so it was a great reference point to keep track of where we were. 

We came across our first set of waterfalls. Simply beautiful. 

Who knew it would get better and better... 
The falls behind us are even bigger. 

We took a break and had lunch here. A yummy sandwich of cold cuts and cheese with peppers and hummus on the side. Delicious! 

We pressed on a little farther and there it was, a huge waterfall. Took my breath away. Funny how something in nature is so beautiful and powerful, but because it is off the beaten path, few will ever see it. Something about that really struck a chord with me and I got a bit emotional. Being able to venture out on a gorgeous day with someone you truly care about and share these kinds of awe inspiring creations is truly wonderful. 
This is also where we came across the only people we saw in the 4 days we were out there. Two men and a dog were also enjoying the waterfall. After a brief hello and a bee sting or two, okay three. The waterfall was all ours. 

We spent some time at these waterfalls checking it out from all angles. 

Even decided to get up to the top and sit for a bit. Wow

The trip back was a quick one now that we knew the way. More dead tree forests and rocks to climb over. 
Tracks from base camp to Waterfall. 


We got back to camp just in time to deploy the hammocks. 
Oh yeah, a nap is about to happen! 

The afternoon breeze quickly reminded us that evening was coming and cooler temps were right around the corner. It also means, it's time for dinner! Woohoo! Another fun meal to explore and enjoy at camp. 

Tonight's dinner was truly scrumptious. Chris' Tom Kha Gai Soup. A coconut soup with chicken, lemon grass, ginger and cilantro served over rice. This is so good I could eat this at home on a regularly basis, and out on the trail, even more delicious!! 

 I'm always on the hunt for hearts and smiley faces made by nature. 
The meadow right next to our camp was covered in little heart plants, but we ended up finding them all over the place. 

Day 3

Peak Adventure Day

We've been looking at this peak from camp, can we get up there? Of course we can. 

First things first though... Breakfast!! 


While I am going to whip up some french toast, Chris is trying to get warmed up in the early morning sun. It was colder last night, got down to 36. Not arctic by any means, but cold enough to make you want to keep moving or stay in the sun, it gets chilly otherwise. 
Ok, back to the food...


On the menu this morning is Trail French Toast. 
French Toast is a favorite at home and even more delicious out on the trail! 
I've got this recipe down so that all you need to do is add water to the mix. 
Now I just need to figure out the perfect type of bread that is packable, but still makes good french toast. 
This is a dense sourdough. A little sour for this recipe, but very packable when vacuum sealed. Will keep working on this one and update the recipe when I find that perfect fit. 


And of course, some tea by the river. 


And we're off for another day of adventuring! 
And where we are headed, there is no trail, so more bushwhacking will be on the today's agenda. We crossed the river and headed up Caples Creek Trail in the direction of Highway 88. 


After about a mile, we came to another junction near a flat meadow. Once we got here, we knew we'd gone a bit too far. So we double backed and were officially now off the trail and headed towards the peak. 


We quickly got through a meadow and some thinned out areas of trees, then the real fun began. Because this is an area with no trails, it's covered with game trails. 

LARGE game trails. With large game trails, comes large scat. A little unnerving at times wondering if we are about to come nose to nose with a bear, but their trail really was the best route up to where we were headed. And yes, I took a bunch of pictures of bear poop...


Found a huge boulder to climb under. 

 Thought we could head this way. Nope. Too much manzanita. Can't even see the ground. But can you see the face in that rock? Way cool!

There were also times where it seemed easier to pass through it as others before have done. Those others happened to be large 4-legged animals, but it was fun to crawl into these areas. 

Sometimes when Chris asks me which way I want to go, left or right, I point up. Let's just go up! Haha! I'm direct if nothing else, and it applies in my hiking tactics too. Shortest way to get there, just go straight on through...
We kept pushing upwards and at times were up to our ears in manzanita, literally. 
I'm becoming friends with the manzanita. It's actually helpful at times. Especially when climbing down steep terrain. You can hold onto it, get your footing secure and keep from sliding around. However, it likes to reach out and grab you, slap back at you and scratch the heck out of your arms if you aren't careful. 


And then, the peak was in sight. Euphoria!!! We charged up to the top as soon as we got it into view. We were going to make it up there after all. 
AT THE TOP!! 
We've hiked on trails to much higher peaks, blazed a trail up others, 
but this one was nonetheless amazing. 

Views of Pyramid Peak, Jack's Peak, Dicks Peak and Mount Ralston are in the background. 


Chris picked a great area to build a cairn. It was a bridge on top of a large rock. We collected rocks and were able to add a bit more to the elevation of this mountain. We decided since this was an unnamed peak, we would call it Bridge Mountain.

 Our peak selfie
Bridge Mountain, 6,821 feet + 1.5 with the cairn!



And of course, some other fun creations...


We sat and enjoyed another lunch of cold cut sandwiches, cheese and dried fruits. The memo must have been sent in front of our arrival because the yellow jackets seemed to know we were coming. They were in full force and wanted to share lunch with us. No likey.  But the views were amazing. 


It was time to head back down and the way we came seemed like the best approach to get down too. The other side was very steep and covered in thick manzanita.
We made quick time on the return trip. We were able to skirt around most of the thick manzanita and decided to stick to a large game trail most of the way out. 


Our Tracks to the Peak (click to enlarge)
We had an overall gain of about 1,087 from start to finish. 
According to Strava, roundtrip was 7 miles

Hammock time is sometimes the best part of the day!

Back to camp for another round of naps. We were really planning ahead this time and deployed the sleeping bags to go inside the hammocks. Full caterpillar napping is about to happen. Oh yeah! zzzzzzzzz


Our kitchen rock. Not a bad place to cook a meal...


I've got dinner tonight. On the menu, Fiesta rice with chicken, black beans, tomatoes and grilled corn. We've had a great time figuring out what works and what doesn't when dehydrating/rehydrating food. This recipe will get some tweaks as well, but will be a great one to have on hand in the pantry for a quick go to meal on the trail. 

Another chilly evening, but nothing that hot chocolate and homemade style marshmallows can't fix! 

Day 4

Tragedy Springs and Breaking Camp


Our last morning at camp. It's been a wonderful adventure and I'm a bit melancholy to see it come to an end. But before we can even think about heading out, we've still got breakfast, more exploring and lunch to think about!



On the breakfast menu today is Chris' bacon pancakes. 
And makin' bacon pancakes he did! 
Yummy! 


Now for another quick adventure! We thought we would just go straight up the hill behind us to forgotten flat and see what we can find to get ourselves into today. We seem to have an aversion towards trails, so straight up the hill we go! 

We got the top for a lackluster view as there were too many trees obstructing the view. Not that this is a horrible view, but I think we've been spoiled with the peak views from yesterday. We ended up going up and over and down the other side.

 We ended up going all the way down and found tragedy springs. Was surprised to find there was still some water here. 
We walked around checking out the rocks and scenery a bit and decided to head back to camp to start packing up and get ready for some lunch. 


On the menu for lunch: Curry chicken with rice and mixed vegetables. The meals that I did were all fully dehydrated and required only water to rehydrate them and eat. It's quite a process dehydrating veggies and chicken and learning what works and what doesn't. This trip taught me a lot and I've already tweaked these recipes to make the necessary changes so that these are easy and delicious! 

We broke camp, took one final look around and headed out. The mood was solemn, at least for me. 

But guess what?.........


Chicken butt!! haha!! Just trying to lighten the mood a bit. Breaking camp and heading home means the end to the adventure and is always a little sad, but what an amazing adventure we've had over the last few days. Couldn't have asked for a better time or a better person to spend it with. 


The food is an important part of all of our adventures and now that we are armed with dehydrators, a food sealer and more ideas, the recipe page will be getting filled with lots of trail tested recipes. 

This trip included:
Breakfast Burritos
Chicken Couscous with Mixed Vegetables
Tom Kha Gai Soup
Cinnamon French Toast
Fiesta Rice with Chicken
Bacon Pancakes
Curry Chicken with Rice
Kitchen Sink Logan Bread Bars
Apple Bars
Sweet Watermelon Jerky

With all of this cooking, we also used a TON of water. 
Filtering water with my new MSR Guardian was awesome! 
Read about it here


Now, Go Get Gone!!

**Most pics and maps on the page will enlarge when clicked on**
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