Backpacking the Western States Trail

When planning the perfect backpacking trip I like to try and push the limits just as far as they’ll go. So, even though the Western States Trail is best known as an ultra-marathon that runners finish in less than 24 hours – Jesse and I thought we’d turn the same trail into a challenging backpacking trip at about 25 miles per day.

Adventure for me is all about pushing limits – be it skiing out of bounds, backpacking for a month, or in this case, pushing 100 miles of high sierra in 4 days.

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Jesse taking a rest while climbing up Squaw (Lake Tahoe in the background)

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Looking out over the Western States Trail and the terrain we’d be covering over the next few days.

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As a photographer I probably shouldn’t post this photo – but…. the Western States Trail is not the most well marked trail, it really only sees use 1 day a year. So, probably 5 times each day we would lose the trail, either to hike 9 miles out of our way (that happened) or in this case, wander aimlessly through a forest hoping to cross the trail again at some point in the near future – this was in the middle of having bush wacked for nearly two hours and still having no idea if we were any closer to picking up the trail again.

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California is known for it’s fires – the last big fire of the year in our area ended up halting our hike at one point and sending us in one huge loop out away from the original trail and basically killed all hopes of finishing as we’d hoped.

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Thankful for being careful scanning the trail when backpacking – this littler rattler didn’t make a single noise as we approached. (really glad that Phil wasn’t with us or there might be another video of me screaming like a girl)

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I brought my roller on this trip as I was having some knee issues coming into it and was worried about locking up and being stuck in the middle of nowhere.

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This was probably the best campsite the entire trip (also I think there was a sign to the left saying camping isn’t allowed…. hmmmmm)

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As we got a bit closer to the end of the trail my ankle started to feel a bit funny… on the last day as we tried to push hard to get out to civilization and we sat down for a quick lunch break, this was what I was looking at:IMG_0716

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This cabin in the middle of nowhere was the first place we got lost. I blame the dirt bike trail (it was calling to me to follow it)

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Thanks to my wife for making the amazing beanie for the trip! so warm, so colorful – and thanks to Jesse for snapping a shot me me happily eating dinner before falling asleep only to wake up to a bear walking into camp (yes, that happened, and yes, we spent most of the night trying to chase it away)

Backpacking is a weird mental game for me – I can’t wait to go, I LOVE the gear, and once on the trail, I’m 80% miserable the whole time, but I LOVE it. After I finish a trail, I have no interest in going back – but give it a few months and I always find my mind wandering back – and seeing as the fire chased us off the trail, and as Spring starts to try and make an appearance in California – I’m beginning to make plans to push this trail again this year, possible in 3 days, but more realistically in 4 – now to get someone to push the miles with!

  • Nice story! Thanks for taking the time!! When you guys were on the trail what was your mph?

  • It was fun to have the idea to back back the western states and find your website. I have a blog called joyful walker, and I am inspired to do more work on it, now that I have visited your website.

  • Concordia said:

    That green pack on the picnic table where you're rolling our knee . . . is that a homemade GVP pack? Looks just like the one my stepson made. (GVP was predecessor to Gossamer Gear.)

    • Tim Halberg said:

      I'm 90% sure my buddy made that himself... not positive if it was based off the GVP - the other pack there is a Goasamer pack.

  • Tim Halberg said:

    Hey Vikki,

    Have you hit the trail yet? Make sure you're prepared to navigate!