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Moving to CA!!!
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Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
Moving to CA!!! on 08/03/2012 07:10:58 MDT Print View

I am getting ready to embark on a major life change. The pup and I are moving to California. Not exactly sure where I am going to land, I am just winging it. I do know that it will most likely be Sacramento or further north or east. There are a few books that I am going to purchase from another thread I started. Now I need some help with general living conditions in the woods. I am not going to lie, I am a bit nervous. I have done 2 week long trips in Rocky National Park many years ago, but for the past 5 years all of my trips have been in the Catskills and Vermont in the summer and ADK, Green, and Whites in the winter.

For discussion sake I will set my location at Tahoe and Desolation wilderness. I have started looking at NF and NP websites but they are so cumbersome to navigate...

My specific questions:
What are summer and winter temps like at elevation?
Are there any particular rules I have to follow for the area that don't exist in New England? Permits? Bear resistance?

What about my kit do I need to change?
-Are bugs worse or better
-Stoked about the deeper snow, I am taking an avy class this winter for sure so not too worried about that.
-is a tarp ok for summer and fall (I am new to tarping this summer about a dozen nights by the time I move out there so still a novice)
-sun protection, I know I will need a hat, I normally hike in long pants and long sleeved shirts now. I bring sun screen but hardly every use it minimal alpine zone.
-Anything I am completely missing the boat on?

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Moving to CA!!! on 08/03/2012 07:33:29 MDT Print View

Ca. is an amazingly diverse state. You can camp year round and never face real winter conditions. You can camp in winterlike conditions all you want as well. Bear canisters are increasingly required out here. Now realize with your dog that the dog will not be welcome at any state park, national park, many county parks, etc...

Bugs are generally not much of an issue. Yeah! Mosquitos and ticks can be dealt with.

Sunscreen yes. Hat yes. Sunglasses yes.

Plenty of active forum members that can give you area specific information. Me I live way northwest of there. Have fun.

When are you moving?

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Re: Moving to CA!!! on 08/03/2012 08:17:37 MDT Print View

CA has a lot to offer, beautiful deserts, coastal environments, high mountains -- its all great. But there are a lot of people out here and so some of those places get crowded, which has resulted in rigorous permitting processes and increasing regulations. YOsemite or Desolation for example can get a little crazy. I was in colorado recently and forgot what it was like to just hit the trailhead and take off, without a canister, without a permit, without worrying about any of that stuff. But its not a big deal, there is plenty of room to get away.

And yeah, dogs are banned in a bunch of state and national parks, but those places are only a small part of what's available out here. There's plenty of places to take your dog. Again, you'll find your way with it. Sac is a good city to locate yourself in (enjoy that central valley heat though, summers are HOT! But you'll be close to the Sierras, and great skiing.

Have fun!

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
not soon enough... on 08/03/2012 08:17:38 MDT Print View

I just gave notice to my employeer. The first part of september my dad, dog, and I will be in Maine on the AT. And then I will be on my way out, should be to Sacramento by the beginning of October.

I spent most of my time out east in the National Forests where the rules are much less stringent. Is it the same in CA, I would assume they are due to the National part? I do have my eyes on a winter trip into Yosemite by the end of the not close enough winter.

I just ordered a map for desolation wilderness and the Northern Sierra book. I will start reading and map studying as soon as they get here.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
go where people don't, or where it's relaxed on 08/03/2012 13:17:19 MDT Print View

jeremy, I just never go anywhere where I need to get permits in advance, I'm not organized enough and I just don't like the idea. So that leaves almost the entire park system in California, with some areas excepted like Yosemite and other more impacted parts of the Sierra. The way I figure it, if I just let people go where everyone else goes, that means that where I end up, is going to be pretty empty, and that works out reasonably well, it's quite normal for me not to see people for 2 or more days where I go.

Are you absolutely sure you have to live in or near Sacramento? Summer smog and heat is getting truly disgusting in that part of the state. Valley smog has been expanding almost yearly, used to be a dome over the sacramento area, which you could see from the approaching freeways, now it's like a haze that goes from one side of the valley to the other on bad weeks.

As Ken noted, there's so many diverse areas to backpack here, and believe me, if you go in late fall/winter, even the most popular destinations are largely empty. It's the rare day for example inland in Big Sur / Ventana that I see a single person once you're beyond 1 days travel in.

Once the rivers rise and the logs to cross them get washed away, the people start to vanish.

So you have a lot more options that just up the road in the Sierras. And those options are year round. Downside is lots of poison oak at lower elevations, which is fine until you lose your resistance to it. Then it's not so good.

Here's a sample trip planning process to go to Big Sur for a week, for example: dry food, store.

When I feel like it, pack backpack, get on bus, change buses, change again, get off at ventana, start walking.

There's a campsite about 1 mile from the Northern End of the Golden Gate that almost nobody uses and almost nobody knows about, it's free, but you are supposed to register for it, but I doubt they check.

I was alone in Point Reyes once either new year's eve or the day before the super bowl. can't remember, it's all in the timing.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2012 13:24:57 MDT.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
no rules for me on 08/03/2012 14:31:11 MDT Print View

I don't have to live anywhere in CA, I am moving out there on a why not excuse. I am open to suggestions for that too. I am a Landscape Architect so I need a larger city or a region filled with 2nd homes and resorts that need planned, designed, and built to make a living but other than that I am open to recommendations.

I am more interested in gear changes and new rules to not break than places to go. Just looking at google topo and Wikipedia I see dozens of areas that I will slowly start exploring.

What is weather like in the sierras? I know from my Rocky Mtn trips that the weather was all over the place both times I went high. Sun was shining one minute, the next it was hailing, and 20 minutes later the 2" of hail had melted and the sun was back out. Really crazy. Is that the case in the sierra Mtns.? I know the weather at lower elevations is very predictable, at least when compared to east coast weather?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: no rules for me on 08/03/2012 15:00:35 MDT Print View

"What is weather like in the sierras?"

Fairly easy to predict, but with lots of surprises. I've been snowed upon during every month of the year. The higher you go in elevation, the more likely that the weather gets extreme, like high wind, sleet, hail, etc. Lots of the summertime trail conditions are dictated by the snow that accumulated six months earlier, so we get some good summers and some bad summers. As a general rule, California needs water, and if the snow accumulates deeply all winter, that is a helpful form of water storage, so that is good. Therefore, we don't complain too much about snow, especially if we are skiers.

A friend of mine headed out on a nine-day solo trip one summer. He got rained on for the first seven days, and then gave up. Now, that is extreme, but you almost have to plan gear for it. Others have gone out for three weeks and never had to put on anything extra besides a warm jacket at dawn. I did a six-day ski trip across Yosemite one time in March, and I wore either one wool shirt or else two wool shirts, and I never had to put on down or Gore-tex. You can't count on that.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: no rules for me on 08/03/2012 15:08:08 MDT Print View

The summer weather in the Sierras is usually t-shirt weather. Mostly. Sometimes it can get real hot. It can have it's own freaky weather but probably much less so than the Rockys.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
the valley sucks on 08/03/2012 15:29:34 MDT Print View

Jeremy, having lived here most of my life, and spent too many years living close to Sacramento in the valley, here's my list of places in Northern California I'd least want to live in, for larger urban areas:

Tied for number one, worst, Fresno, Bakersfield

Stockton comes close after that, recently gaining acclaim for being the largest city in California to declare bankruptcy, that's after leading the nation in the mortgage default / real estate collapse. Also amusing and largely unreported serious issues with gangs and crime. That goes along with economic collapse. Plus side, if you're buying and you have cash, you can get decent deals on housing now. Rentals are tougher.

Then Sacramento. So Sacramento might be the best inland large city in Northern California, but that's not saying much. It's ok in winter and fall though. Sacramento has a few saving graces, the two rivers cut through it, Sacramento and American, somewhat save it from being a pure hell like Fresno is.

For landscaping what you want is people with cash flow, and those people live along the coasts, Marin county could be fruitful, as could cities down the SF peninsula, where all the dot com money hangs out. Expensive to live in, but it's not far from the East Bay by car, just over the bridge. The reason people with money live along the coasts is that the coasts are by far and away the best place to live in California.

Don't underestimate the massive impact the mortgage collapse had on inland California, huge drops in housing prices, many people sitting there with negative value in the house, banks holding onto property for fear of flooding the market and dropping prices further. Not an ideal location for luxury work like landscape architecting, but you never know. Lots of unemployment and homelessness too to add spice to that mix. Sacramento, for example, had a very large homeless town that I believe was shut down, it was just getting too big, don't remember the details, but it was a news item.

I have a friend who's sister has been clinging to the edge of total business collapse in her home decor/plumbing type business in Stockton for years now, Sacramento is a bit better off, but I don't follow the inland cities much anymore. But summer in Sacramento is about as vile as anything I've ever seen, incredibly hot, smoggy, much like LA in a way, minus the access to the coast. It gets so hot there that if your car is sitting in the sun, you have to open the doors and let it air out for several minutes before you can even place your hands on the steering wheel. And windshields crack from the temperature. 110 degrees F is not uncommon in summer, and nights where it's 90 at least are also common, leaving you praying for the winds that sweep down the delta all too infrequently. Last time I stayed in that area I actually would wear driving gloves until my steering wheel cooled down enough to hold it without burning myself.

As an interesting historical note, the original native americans did not inhabit much of the valley in those parts, it was a mosquito and disease infested swampland, only made habitable by draining. Industrial large scale agriculture is the rule, not the exception, in that area as well, along with strip malls, freeways, and a few nooks that are not so bad. Not as bad as Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, LA, but closing in quickly.

Hopefully this will give you a faint feel. Now, if you like suburbs, endless strip malls, endless miles of 6 lane roads cutting through suburban tracts, dissected by Freeways, where walking is generally not an option, and where the streets glimmer with heat haze in summer, then Sacramento is right up your alley. Some people actually like that stuff, so I can't assume that everyone doesn't.

Better informed than not, and people can often find a way to make things work if they are clever, so you never know, all I know is that there is really no amount of money you could pay me to move to the valley. Now there are nicer spots, like the Sierra foothills, but no large towns there.

Best way to understand California: there are 3 sections, one is the inland belt that covers the entire central valley. This is not profoundly different from the midwest, except it's more expensive in terms of housing, and suffers more from the housing collapse. Two is SoCal, LA, up to about Santa Barbara, down to Mexican border. It is what it is, water guzzling megacity stuck in the desert surrounded by close to a hundred miles of suburbs. Three is the Northern California coastal strip, including the coast range. That includes Mendocino, Marin, Sonoma, and the north counties. This strip is where they grow most of the pot here, and it's generally the state's largest single agricultural product in terms of money. All the good schools are on the coast strip, more or less. And that's where almost all the cutting edge tech stuff is, for very good reason. To me, moving to the valley is not really moving to california, it's moving to the midwest, only closer to the ocean.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2012 15:54:49 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
re gear on 08/03/2012 15:41:00 MDT Print View

And re gear, you have serious deserts, Mediterranean terrain, high mountains, alpine, mid level mountains, redwoods, rain forests. You pick, there is no gear list for here, it's got almost everything.

In Big Sur you can transition from coastal redwoods to chaparral near desert in about 15 minutes of hiking. If you go in winter, you can add in snow to that mix on the high ridges. And if you go further, you can hit sort of plains type terrain, lower altitude.

So gear is just gear, same as anywhere else, just depends on where you are going. Since lower areas are more temperate year round, it just means you prepare for cold rain in winter, not snow. And winter in the mountains is snow, as Bob notes.

Don't overthink it, it's not like going to Iceland or Alaska or Northern Norway, where you really do need different gear, it's a largely temperate zone with high mountains that have high mountain conditions.

If I remember right, snowline around this part of California is 4000, 5000 feet, give or take. Varies, but that's about what it is usually. So in winter, some of our local coast range mountains will get a sprinkling of snow some days.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2012 16:06:33 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: the valley sucks on 08/03/2012 15:55:31 MDT Print View

"Sacramento has a few saving graces, the two rivers cut through it, Sacramento and American, somewhat save it from being a pure hell like Fresno is."

Now, don't be unkind. Fresno is... well... yes, I guess it is a pure hell. I never even stop my car in Fresno for fear that a gang will attack me or my car will overheat. When heading out of the mountains and cutting through Fresno on my way home, I don't even stop to get a Pepsi.


Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
Bob knows, heh on 08/03/2012 16:14:18 MDT Print View

By the way, anything related to Sierra methods and gear, Bob is the man, anything he says I tend to heed in that department. Sierras aren't my thing, so I just pay attention to what people who know them well say and suggest. Personally I'm a fan of being in a new ecosystem every 15 to 20 minutes of hiking, that's just nifty.

On the plus side, of course, if you know which towns to go in the valley, there are some very cool Mexican towns there now, small towns, not like Mexico, they are Mexico, and that's pretty nifty. Great Mexican food too, way better than the East Coast. Good restaurants, good butchers, that's the plus side.

Oh, it gets hotter when you get away from the Delta inland in the valley, North and South, to levels you really have to experience to understand, hot as in the air hurts your lungs when you breathe hot. That's what saves Sacramento and Stockton, the Delta ventilation system, otherwise it would be literally unlivable.

That's the same system that keeps the Bay Area by the coast at a very narrow temperature range year round, with a few exception in summer and winter, but they usually only last a few days, of 90s or 30s, and it's why the coastal Bay Area has some of the highest housing prices in the nation, it's just really pleasant to live here year round.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2012 16:20:30 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: not soon enough... on 08/03/2012 16:14:42 MDT Print View

If you've not been out here before, it's hard to communicate how large and varied California is--we have counties as big as any of the New England states. Pick somewhere on the map--Sacramento is as good a starting point as anywhere--land, find a place to live, explore the region and after, say, a year, settle where your heart leads you. There's something for everybody, trust me.

National and state parks don't allow dogs on trails, but they are allowed in the parks themselves. Wilderness areas do allow dogs as do non-designated national forests. Permitting is proportionate to popularity--the more an area is used the more likely you'll need a permit. Day hike permits are generally not numerically restricted and self-service.

Good luck, whatever path you choose.


Edited by halfturbo on 08/03/2012 16:38:57 MDT.

David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
the valley sucks on 08/03/2012 16:39:33 MDT Print View

Bob and Harold,

The comments in your post demonstrate severe ignorance of valley cities and a good amount to sensationalism. There is no doubt that the area has it challenges, some of which you alluded to in your email. Are you really going to try and whitewash the east bay or San Jose? I know there are some neighborhoods in each of these cities where perhaps you wouldn't "stop to get a Pepsi". I'll spare myself and everyone a defense of the valley and simply state that it has its virtues.


I hope you find a place to live and work in California that you enjoy. Experience Sacramento or other valley cities yourself before you write them off like some others have. There are some exceptionally nice neighborhoods in Sacramento and Fresno.

You may want to contact James Winstead who is on the BPL forums. He is a great guy and a landscape architect in San Francisco.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
there are some spots in the valley agreed on 08/03/2012 16:52:49 MDT Print View

I did allude to some niche areas in those towns, and some towns in the valley, smaller, that are reasonably decent. However there's nothing really non fact based in anything I wrote, the descriptions of sacto are based on the last time I lived in that area, and my last visits there. I'd say they are quite accurate, but as I noted, some people like that type of environment. One can ignore these realities in one's day to day life, which is about the only way you can actually deal with them, of course. Cars and driving help a lot, ie, if you don't drive everywhere, it's very hard to ignore them in those towns. If you haven't seen the smog or sweltering heat, you don't live in Sacramento I'd say. Or you have heavily tinted windows and never walk anywhere, and always use air conditioning from the second you step in your car to the second you step out, in summer, which is the norm now in the valley, which is why it's getting so polluted.

California is not nearly the utopia people from outside think it is, not anymore, those times are fast fading, serious overpopulation and pollution have taken care of that nicely. And yes, the East Bay in parts does make people nervous, heh, for good reason at times. Although I can walk out my front door, ride up the mountain, lock my bike, and then I'm in a redwood park that is very large. And San Jose is not the most pleasant place in the world, for sure. But that doesn't change the fact that the money floats towards the areas that are nicest, and those areas are on the coast. I understand that some people like the suburban thing in the valley, and if suburban life i what you want, that's a decent spot to find it. Particularly in the smaller towns, almost all of which now have rings of new suburban housing around the old town centers.

Believe me, I know the valley far too well, that's why I wouldn't live there. I do understand that some people actually like that lifestyle however.

I didn't mention the ground water problem, lol, there's only so many bad things one can note about an area.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2012 17:01:41 MDT.

David T
(DaveT) - F
moving to CA on 08/03/2012 16:59:24 MDT Print View

I'm with Dave Wage on this one. Apparently Harold's dog got run over by Sacramento and Stockton stole his high-school girlfriend away from him. Please don't take just one person's opinion about where to be. Otherwise you'll head to Harold's glorious "East Bay" and get car-jacked in Oakland or forced to make vegan dolmas to bring to a hippie love-in in Berkeley.

Also, to speak to your original point before the thread got taken sideways, the weather is quite mild, pretty predicatble (but check the weather forecast), and you'll be blown away by the variety of places to backpack, from coastal beaches to 14,000' granite.

Edited by DaveT on 08/04/2012 18:51:45 MDT.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: the valley sucks on 08/03/2012 17:01:54 MDT Print View

I agree with Dave Wage on his sentiments...most of my family comes from The Fresno area as does Dave's. My family is college educated and all hard working folks. Very bad MIS-representation of the Central Valley area. Fresno might not be the cultural hub that San Francisco is, but that's not the point

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
midtown sacto is nice too on 08/03/2012 17:04:30 MDT Print View

midtown sacto is another reasonably nice spot, agreed. That's the river area, which is one of the nicer things there, that's why I said it's a saving grace for sacto. Some of the older outlying areas, semi rural are also nice. But doesn't make up for the strip malls.

But how you can ignore the actual air is a mystery to me, anyway, I'll leave it at that. It's better I think for people to get differing views, there's a lot of serious fantasies about california outside of california, and it's better to be informed then you can be either pleasantly surprised because it actually does suite your taste, or you can say, ok, yeah, that's that.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: midtown sacto is nice too on 08/03/2012 17:15:32 MDT Print View

Technically, summer air quality is improving with time (those pesky freedom-robbing emission regulations). Ain't always great, but here are the Sac summer seasonal data since 2001, for the curious.

Down-valley towards Bakersfield it's a chronic problem, with particulates perhaps the biggest issue.

Has the thread been mortally hijacked yet? I can never tell for sure.

Cheers [cough],


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: midtown sacto is nice too on 08/03/2012 17:22:07 MDT Print View

"Has the thread been mortally hijacked yet? I can never tell for sure."

To add to the confusion, I would think that towns like Petaluma or Santa Rosa might be worth a look. Both are close enough to Marin and The Bay Area to provide access to the money bags who are likely to be interested in second homes. They are also ideally situated to get a head start on trips to choice Northern California hiking areas further north. Davis is another nice town, if you can stand the heat.