It's not always the epic destinations that give you the best experiences - but often your own backyard where you'll find your favorite memories. Occasionally I get so wrapped up in planning big trips, buying flights, and daydreaming about exotic locations, that I forget about the special places close by.
I've alway been a huge fan of the concept of a 'Sub-24' or 'Microadventure'. If you have a busy schedule or demanding job, even the busiest calendar can usually find some wiggle room for a quick trip like this. A tiny amount of time outside can bring a heap of mental and emotion well-being to an overworked lifestyle. And extra points if you use human power - bike, cycle, kayak, hike - to get to your destination.
So with the desire to get some sunshine, and balancing Connor's homework deadline and Aubrey's work schedule - it was the perfect window of opportunity to get a good dose of the great outdoors without wasting too much time driving. We loaded our boats, gassed up the Tacoma, and set out for a destination I've seen my entire life growing up in the Central Valley - Huji Island.
This tiny island only appears when the Kaweah Lake is at full capacity - the water covers up the attaching peninsula, and makes the perfect hilltop campsite. Springtime is the perfect time to be on the lake - the wildflowers are in bloom, temps are low, and rattlesnakes are still in their holes. Sitting at the base of the Sierra Nevada, you get views of high altitude peaks in Sequoia National Park, home of the largest trees in the world.
Parking at a hotel, we tackled a quick assembly and were in the water within thirty minutes. A stiff breeze gave us a good workout as we paddled three miles across the lake against a westerly wind, hugging every bit of hillside to stay in the wind shadow.
Fighting the wind while setting up our tents was equally challenging, and finding poor options for stake placement in the deep grass. But the cold beer we'd saved for post camp-pitching came in clutch, rinsing lake water off our parched lips.
After a pre sunset swim, and donning dry(er) clothes, we paddled back to the road and hiked to a favorite mountain diner. You know with a name like 'Ol Buckaroo you're gonna have a great burger, fries, and a brew to wash it down with.
Heading back to camp on glassy water, under a starry sky, it really made me wonder why many people don't take more frequent advantage of the public lands we have available.
Here are a few tips I've gathered, as you venture out on your own sub-24.
- Plan in advance! Sometimes, the anticipation and planning of a trip brings as much joy as the trip itself. It's super fun to get hyped with your friends about what you're gonna do.
- Pack ahead of time! The most time consuming aspect of most trip planning is deciding what, and how much to bring. Prep a day or two ahead, so you're ready to hit the ground running with every ray of daylight, rather than wasting it in your garage and stuffing your bags while the sun is going down.
- Don't overthink it! Sometimes spontaneity is the best part of an adventure. If weather or other conditions change your plans, roll with it!
- Don't count the ounces! For such a short trip, and instead of being a weight weenie and putting everything on the scale - remember, comfort is usually paramount, so bringing real food is gonna keep you happier than the weight you save by a crummy dehydrated meal.
- Share the love! These kinds of trips are great for inviting someone who may not be as comfortable or skilled in planning their own outdoor adventures. One night sleeping outside is a great way to gently break in someone who is still getting used to the idea of sleeping without a roof.
- Buy the best gear you can afford - but don't let not having expensive gear hold you back, either.
- Be prepared! My rule of thumb when staying outside is redundancy: two ways to cut, two ways to burn, two ways to see. Redundancy is essential for critical gear, I always have two knives, two ways to start a fire, and multiple light sources. You never want to lose your only lighter, and have to be the one to tell your pals they're not getting coffee in the morning.
I hope you get stoked on your own sub 24 adventure!
*Disclaimer - Safety is always paramount, and I always recommend wearing PFDs while kayaking. If you don't see them in paddling photos, it's because they were shot after removal and before we went swimming in the lake. Stay safe!