My Sierra Nevada Playground – Part One, The Hiking


“Top of the World,” Arnold Rim Trail

Blogging a while back, things have changed big and we now find ourselves living in a vacation home we’ve owned for nearly 15 years that occupies a spot in Arnold, CA, at 4,189 feet elevation and just inside the western edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that spans 400 miles north to south, and 70 miles west to east. If you want, you can find lots of things to do. So we are. For example:

  • Trail Hiking (nothing is flat for very long around here)
  • Preparing Meals at Home (there are a few restaurants, but putting on pots of soup is fun and rewarding)
  • Fishing (tons of rivers, lakes, and streams; gear on order from Amazon)
  • Kayaking and Canoeing (lots of rental places)
  • Touring Caves and Caverns
  • Snowshoeing, X-Country Ski, and Alpine Ski
  • Hunting (lots of deer up here)

There are other things, such as mountain biking, but that’s the list of things that interest me, and I intend to do most of them and blog about them. Last Friday we completed our first full week of hiking, where we did four substantial hikes over seven days, so let’s begin there. A food post will be next.

I fired up the Fitbit Surge once we got up here and almost immediately found myself in a weekend challenge where I prevailed for 49,000 steps on a Saturday and Sunday. I ended up having to go out and run from 11:15 to midnight on that Sunday evening to win by 1,500 steps. Came out to about 19 miles distance total, but it was mostly on the local streets around here, not trail hikes with big ascents and descents.

We began with the trail hikes on Saturday, a week ago. Hiked two days in a row on portions of the Arnold Rim Trail that’s essentially in our backyard.

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The Fitbit logs lots of data, which you see from the dashboard, but you can also drill down for data over time (those dashboard figures are for the whole 24-hr period). For instance, here’s the heart-rate plot that includes last Friday’s near 10-mile hike with numerous ascents and descents between 3,500 and 4,400 feet elevation. It also includes cooking a steak frites meal later, which always gets my heart pumping.


But I have an even cooler trick up my sleeve. It’s a GPS and altitude logger app for my iPhone, and it works even when there’s no cellular service. Motion-GPS…check it out. I didn’t get it until before our second hike and even then, forgot to turn it on until we were .8 miles in, so this was really a 9-miler (Sunday, June 12).

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Even cooler than that is you can share the completed track, data, and plots to Facebook, Twitter, and email. So, family, friends, and followers can click the link and check out all the data interactively. Here, see for yourself.

Having just started at this, we were pretty pooped come Sunday evening and so took three days off with just basic dog walking. On days six and seven of this first week, we hit it again.

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For Thursday’s hike, rather than the Arnold Rim Trail, we did the South Grove at Big Trees State Park, only three miles away from home.


One of the smaller giant redwoods or Sequoia.

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Here’s the interactive track for that one. On Friday, it was back to the rim trail and we decided to do the car drop-off thing, then hike the whole thing from top to bottom.

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That final climb of 500 feet from 8 – 9.5 miles was a bit fucked up.

Here’s the data drill-down link for that. If you click the link, then the Speed button, you’ll see that for a brief time, we were doing 85 mph. This is the result of pausing the tracking for a brief rest, then forgetting to resume before we were a couple of hundred yards further down the trail. …I guess it has AI, or it would have logged infinite speed or at least Warp Speed.

In terms of cumulative distance, it was 28 miles for the four hikes. Not shown on these—but available data on the Motion-GPS phone app—is accumulated ascent and descent in altitude. Unfortunately, I didn’t record the cumulative total for each hike and either it doesn’t save that data, or I’ve not yet found how to access it. At any rate, those hikes were on the order of 1,500 – 2,000 ft accumulated, each way. In total, perhaps about a mile of climb and mile of descent.

All of these hikes were done with zero provisions but for water. People crack me up with their packs of various foods for a hike of a few miles. The food post will be next, and a big part of that will be about the pre-hike breakfast.

Z-Trail sport sandal Xero Shoes - camping hiking running walking travel

Now let’s talk about gear. What you see to the left is a “shoe” I got from Steven Sashen, founder of Xero Shoes. My minimalist and barefoot adventures began way, way back, in this post from 2008.

I’ve tried everything and to be honest, never liked anything that much, and all it took was a few dog walking sessions in Vibrams for me just to ditch them altogether. That was thousands of miles of dog walks around the neighborhoods barefoot, over many years.

But going barefoot on trails can be pretty problematic if it’s not something you do all the time. So, I’d often just get out the Vibrams even though for various reasons, I don’t like them. I have a “Roman” or “Greek” toe, for one, and I just find the idea of putting your toes in a glove hilariously ridiculous. The only thing in “paleo” I find more ridiculous is the prevalence of various nut butters of different kinds…where the mark of distinction is that it’s not peanut butter.””


These have everything I need—which is minimal protection with a solid sense of earth and its contours, along with adequate securing of shoe sole to foot—and nothing I don’t want, like a glove, sweat, stink, and a jammed second toe (yeah, I know about the “cigarette lighter” mod).

Let me address a couple of things those who’re fans of Vibrams might raise. The first would be security; that is, slippage between the shoe sole and foot sole. There’s no doubt that something that holds you overly tight like an extra-large condom is not going to be slipping around on the inside. But is it overkill? Well, in my experience over those miles on trails—and bounding around on various rock outcroppings and precipice—the webbed nylon “tube” straps are adequate. Just enough, not too much.

The second thing is pebbles small enough to get in and stay in. Even as tight as Vibram-condoms are, this still happens, and you have to clear them. It does happen with these as well, but it’s surprisingly rare. No more than a few times in 28 miles have I had to stop to clear a “just right” pebble between my foot sole and the shoe sole. I suspect that the design element of that raised lip on the back of the sandal is more about foiling those pebble entries than about slipping backward since the rear velcro strap is more than adequate.

A final thing is a slipperiness from sweat. Vibram solves this by overkill. In other words, they’ll wrap you so tight in their foot condom you’re sure to have awfully sweaty feet over the space of a long trail hike; but you’re wrapped tight, so no worries. I have often lamented flip flops because the soles of my feet tend to sweat, and then I start slipping around, and since there’re no means of securing your foot by design, it can be a problem. Miraculously, no such problem with these. But, in honesty, I have to clarify that I only wear them trail hiking, which is dirt, so it may be that the dust is a naturally circulating means of keeping you dry with the sole of your foot firmly in sensory control.

This aspect is most profound when descending a loose, small rocky gradient of 10-12% (Motion-GPS gives me gradient data as well). Who hasn’t been in hard-soled hiking boots where the little rocks act like ball bearings, and you end up on your ass with a nice view? This is just another element where these X-shoes excel in perhaps their greatest expression of minimalist ethic meets function. The soles are thin enough to feel everything. The soles are thick enough that even the sharpest, pointiest rocks and pebbles are no problem. The soles are malleable enough to contour around all of it, just as your bare foot would. In short, I watched my wife, in regular minimalist shoes, having great problems with the steep descent gradients and I sailed down them, sure-footed. In 28 miles of dirty, rocky trails, I didn’t have a single slippery incident.

If you like Vibrams, knock yourself out, but these Xero Shoes have a timeless, classic sandal look that even Jesus would be proud to wear…and when you have the “what would Jesus do” thing covered, well, it doesn’t get better than that. And hey, if you’re Jewish, I’m sure Abraham would have been hunky-dory leading the Jews out of Egypt to tromp around in the desert for 40 years in these as well. (Yes, I know, that was Moses; but why quibble?)

I think the biggest endorsement I can offer is that after 28 miles of trails over the last week, I can not imagine myself wearing anything else, ever. I just can’t.

IMG_0036 (1)

Beyond that gear, the only other thing is my little .380 semi-auto, my go-to concealed carry piece. Fits easily right under my belt loop, available to me in a second.

The magazine holds six rounds, and I carry a spare six in one of my cargo pockets.

Some of these trails are remote, and you don’t see another human soul for hours or miles. In fact, that first hike we did, up to “Cougar Rock”—and I don’t think they’re talking about a place where sexy older women with hard bodies hang out—was without seeing another person the entire loop.

People get a false sense of security in the “wild,” which is an element of the tragedy of the commons. They believe that because it’s on a map, people go there, hike it, etc., that it’s safe. The better way to look at it is that just like most things in life, the Earth outpost of the universe is not malevolent to human life, per se, but shit can happen. Be prepared for that; but more importantly, be aware of its possibility.

Usually, you’ll be fine. Don’t take it for granted.

But reality can bite hard, and I prefer to be at least able to put up a No; Fuck No!

Other people vote.

…Late Saturday afternoon, a couple of days ago, we had the front door of the house open, as well as the gate from the deck, to the stairway to ground, so the three rat terriers and beagle hound could roam freely at will.

Suddenly, big commotion right in the front yard. Bea: “there’s a bear!”

The dogs had him three feet up, hugging the trunk of a pine tree and they were not happy at all. Mind you; this is about 70 pounds of doG in total, 200-300 pounds of an adolescent brown bear. But these doGs are a pack, the senior being 11-yr-old Nuke, a female so ripped it’s worrisome for me, at times.

I ran in to grab the gun while instructing Beatrice to get the dog leashes, the plan being: nobody get’s hurt. While that was going on, the bear goes from the tree he was in, to another one. But as soon as I descended the stairs and was there, the doGs gave it up to the Alpha and the bear scurried off.

Nobody gets hurt. The gun is to give you the final authority to have the wherewithal to interject to make sure nobody gets hurt if you can help it.

Alright. I think I’m done here.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. The Arnold Rim Trail on June 20, 2016 at 12:51

    […] Here’s the post, with all of the details. […]

  2. RMcSack on June 20, 2016 at 15:10

    I bought a Xero kit a few years ago and laced them with some paracord. Every once in awhile, the knot under my toe breaks, I unravel another couple inches, and re-lace them, but otherwise no problems. They’re the best fucking footwear I’ve ever had hands down. If I could wear them to work I’d have them on all the time.

    I wore them through miles of hiking on one vacation in Colorado, and was blown away how maneuverable I was compared to everyone else stomping around in their bulky, shit-kicking clogs, fully insulated from the ground. After awhile the rubber just molds to your foot contours making a truly custom fit.

    Love those things.

  3. Daniel F on June 20, 2016 at 16:45

    “Other people vote.”


    Thanks for the extremely informative post. I will definitely look into Xeros.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2016 at 16:54

      Jesus, and that line was off the cuff. The extra-large condom, Jesus and Abraham bits took a lot more thought.


    • Daniel F on June 20, 2016 at 17:02

      It sums up a lot of truth though, and I think that’s why it made me laugh:

      Real world, in the wild, dealing with reality, solving problems, no one there to help you taking responsibility for one’s own shit vs. cluelessness, virtue-signaling, magical thinking and never really improving one’s own lot through small, concrete, local action.

  4. Alec on June 21, 2016 at 06:17

    Interesting tale.

    So what happens when you and another wacko with a gun run into one another? Bang, bang, you’re all dead.

    Given the dunderhead militarism of your government though, I can see why you’re in no hurry to hand over your weapons. Instead of murdering Syrians, they’d be murdering Americans. Oh, wait. They already are. Been open season on brothers since forever.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2016 at 06:43


      Being so emotional and spouting the leftist narrative doesn’t behoove an IT guy whose job it is to deal in facts.

      So here’s a whole slew for you. Pay particular attention to the difference between Plano, TX with the highest gun ownership per person (several guns per person) and the big city municipalities that have been highly gun controlled (and under the control of Democrats) for decades.

      In the meantime, time for another hike.

      Oh, BTW, lots of people carry up here and the Calaveras county sheriff is highly supportive of issuing concealed carry warrants to good citizens. Same in lots of the other rural counties. Contrary to myth, there is no statewide law prohibiting issuance of such warrants. It’s up to each county sheriff.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2016 at 08:43


      Is this who you wish to be perceived as, man?

    • Alec on June 21, 2016 at 08:59

      No, I’d like to live in a country where whacked out Islamists (or fundies or drug dealers) or any other whack job doesn’t have easy access to firearms.

      You’ve been cherry picking your firearm statistics Richard. Comparing murder rates with Honduras (a place basically run by the drug mob and in and out of civil war).

      US death rate by homicide with firearms is just behind Nicarauaga (thanks Reagan) at 3.43 per hundred thousand. A typical European country (say Slovakia) is 0.26 per hundred thousand (and that’s not cherry picking the only places with higher rates in Europe are countries with recent civil wars, many are lower). Even your neighbours to the north in Canada are about ten times lower at 0.38 homicides per hundred thousand.

      Where there are guns in free play (that’s the US situation), death and destruction and tragedy follow. How many more murders and mass murders do you need?

      You do realise that without a gun, it’s fairly difficult to kill another human. It’s a rather high risk activity.

      And yes, if I’d been in the gay bar in Orlando, I certainly would have taken a table and thrown it at the killer clown while he was reloading. I’ve been under gunfire in civil war and around guns on a wild boar hunt. Don’t understand why no one did. If he backed himself into a corner when ammo was low and reloaded holding the pistol in his ammo hand, it’s possible he picked off the few heroes there.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2016 at 11:46

        “No, I’d like to live in a country where whacked out Islamists (or fundies or drug dealers) or any other whack job doesn’t have easy access to firearms.”

        Like Paris?

        You are way out of your depth here. To wit.

        “You’ve been cherry picking your firearm statistics Richard.”

        That’s an outright lie, Alec. I gave the link to the whole dataset and posted a screen clip of the top 10, said there were much more. And in loathsome dishonesty, you immediately—-after lying to accuse me of cherry picking—-write this:

        “US death rate by homicide WITH FIREARMS.” [emphasis mine]

        So, you’re dishonest in service of The Narrative. You’ll first lie, in order to accuse me falsely of something I most explicitly did not do (and quite to the contrary), and then go and do precisely what you accuse me of doing, and which is entirely covered in the whole first section of the post—which you make no effort to discredit (the irrational, self-serving, and meaningless distinction of gun murders over all-means murder).

        What am I going to do with you?

        Oh, there’s more.

        “A typical European country (say Slovakia) is…”

        And you go on to make distinctions over different areas in a total population of 5.5 million that’s one hell of a lot more E. Euro homogenous than the 315 Million melting pot of America, and then in hubris and audacity, in a show of superiority that’s palpable, go on:

        “Where there are guns in free play (that’s the US situation), death and destruction and tragedy follow.”

        Lumping all 315 million into a single category where you’re willing to draw (valid) distinctions in a population of 5.5 Million. That’s just being dishonest, Alec. The distinctions rightly belong to the juxtaposition between Plano, TX with more guns per person than anywhere in the world and a murder rate in line with Euro Utopia, and Chicago, Baltimore, DC, and elsewhere with the fewest guns per person and murder rates right up there with drug and civil-war torn areas. But keepers of The Narrative literally can’t deal with the facts. So they ignore then, lie, and smear the ones raising inconvenient truths.

        And this is being just dumb:

        “And yes, if I’d been in the gay bar in Orlando, I certainly would have taken a table and thrown it at the killer clown while he was reloading.”

        Do you mean to tell me that in a population of 300 gay men, there aren’t at least a few who excel enough, are responsible enough, have as much discipline, strength of character and purpose of righteous will that they could not possibly have been trusted with a sidearm such as I carry around often, over decades, and still have never pointed it at anyone?

        See, this is the problem with being a water-boy for a narrative, rather than using reason and a mind. Narratives exist for the purpose of circumventing both.

        “You do realise that without a gun, it’s fairly difficult to kill another human. It’s a rather high risk activity.”

        Bullshit. In fact, overall, you are far more likely to get away with murder by not using a gun (less risk), which comes with noise, lots of traceable data from entry angle, ballistics, blood spray, lots of blood, and powder residue and other stuff. There are thousands of ways to kill someone else and guns just happen to be one of the easiest and most expedient for stupid people. Certainly not the safest or most prudent, should you not wish to get caught.

        But hey, everything else you have said stems from the ignorance that comes part in parcel of serving a narrative rather than thinking for yourself.

        I actually do have a post in draft about all of this that was 75% done by the time I had to get distracted with all this typical nonsense, same as I’ve dealt with thousands of times spanning three decades.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2016 at 13:29

        Here, Alec.

        I think you deserve every word of this.

        Even though you have sometimes known me differently in the past, I’m more of a lemons-to-lemonade guy than perhaps anything else.

        In other words, thanks for the inspiration. Had a different post planned.

        I am curious, though.

        “…what happens when you and another wacko with a gun…”

        Do you really believe I’m a wacko, Alec, and if so—since I’ve been your customer since 2009 in various capacities and full managed service right now—does that make you a whore?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2016 at 11:56

      “the killer clown”

      Well certainly. But that’s like noting that Muhammad Ali was black. See how I trolled George Takei:

      (that’s what it’s like to think, rather than regurgitate a narrative and lie and be dishonest to do so).

      The killer was an irrational, always angry (because his solipsism didn’t conform to his irrational worldview), radicalized Muslim, a religion literally 700 years behind the modernization of Christianity and Judaism, who was also a registered Democrat who voted.

      But hey, there are Christians who don’t want to bake gay wedding cakes, or have men in the girls restroom. Far more pressing.

    • thhq on June 21, 2016 at 12:28

      Alec where are you from? You sound like a Chavista.

  5. sassysquatch on June 21, 2016 at 07:51

    Is this Sasquatch country?

  6. thhq on June 21, 2016 at 08:05

    Oh yeah. Long stretches in the fat burn zone. I do it daily on heavy old Schwinns. But I’m riding on river bottom with wide bike lanes and paths. Flat is good on a 50 lb bike.

    Ever head up north to the land of lava?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2016 at 08:25

      Dude, I’ve been flying hang gliders over lava fields for nearly 20 years.

      Search “Hat Creek” on the blog.

    • thhq on June 21, 2016 at 12:23

      I first spent time in that country working in KFalls summer 1986. Anywhere from there down to Gardnerville NV is where I like to travel. Many 22 longs spent on coffee cups and bottles along the way. Many bike rides on the old OC&E line. Way out in the high lonesome.

  7. Jin on June 21, 2016 at 12:27

    Hey Richard,
    A little off topic but I have links to the iron and enrichment posts and when clicked I get this

    There’s a problem with this website’s security certificate

    This might mean that someone’s trying to trick you or steal any information that you send to the server. You should close this site immediately.

    Go to my homepage instead

    Continue to this web page (not recommended

    and if you click on continue you get taken here

    Oops! That’s not the site you’re looking for.

    We’re sorry, you’ve landing on a page that is hosted by Flywheel, but isn’t yet set up correctly. Flywheel is a premium WordPress hosting company, built specifically for designers, freelancers and creative agencies. If you’re the site owner, follow the instructions below and you’ll be up and running in no time!

    • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2016 at 12:30

      Switch all your links from https to http.

      I made a strategic move to go all http. It’s a public blog and SSL fucks you over long term, and I have no need of it.

      That said, I am trying to see if there are possible solutions to redirect https to http. Works automatically the other way….

  8. Richard Nikoley on June 22, 2016 at 08:23

    Zero Correlation between gun law and homicide rates. Zero. And I said correlation, which must be established prior to even considering causation.

    This is what happens when you’re woefully ignorant about the data and instead focus on emotional appeals to The Narrative.

  9. Radford McAwesome on June 22, 2016 at 11:29

    Is a .380 effective bear deterrent?

  10. Radford McAwesome on June 22, 2016 at 12:08

    Guess it’s better than nothing.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 22, 2016 at 13:15

      Yep, a tradeoff. I did have an S-G 40 S&W that I sold about a year ago. I’ll be getting a classic .45 ACP soon. Not sure if I’ll carry that on hikes, though. I understand the tradeoffs. Six rounds of a mushrooming bullet, semi-auto, from a steady hand like mine should cover me.

    • John on June 23, 2016 at 12:54

      .380 is pretty damn weak for bear.

      I’ve heard good things about 10mm for bear, as a semi-auto caliber.

      (I’d love to pick up a Sig P220 SAO 10mm anyway! )

      And I remember seeing you talk down about bear spray, but it is widely reported to be extremely effective at stopping bear attacks (some claim more effective more of the time than guns, IIRC).

    • ramon on June 23, 2016 at 06:36

      hopefully you don’t have to use it on a bear, but if you did a .45 would be better.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 23, 2016 at 13:48

      First of all, I’m not using it for bear hunting. Merely a line of defense and I’m smart enough to shoot into soft tissue, like an open mouth, neck, or even a belly or rump shot.

      Just now got some Critical Defense hollow-point with the little rubber tips. $$$ so I’ll only be loading them up for the remote hikes (but not before doing a little side-by-side comparison with the FMJs down at the pit everyone goes to shoot (you can pretty much shoot anywhere beyond the local neighborhoods up here, but also nice to keep it in one place so people always know what direction gunfire is coming from.

      Can’t recall what exactly I said about bear spray, but my attitude is it’s a line of defense, but I would not want it to be my only one. Guess I’ll get some. Bea can carry that, I’ll have the other line.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 23, 2016 at 13:53

      ….Oh, and they have a sweet little 3″ .45 ACP for $530 that just might make the issue moot. It’s substantially larger form from the .380, but quite a bit less that the standard .45 form.

    • John on June 23, 2016 at 14:07

      Is it the Springfield XD-S?

      If so, I love mine – Pretty substantial recoil but very manageable. (I paid $399 but I’m not subject to purchasing in California).

    • Richard Nikoley on June 23, 2016 at 14:27

      No, but that is sexy. The two I saw were the classic form (with the wood of wood-like composite side grips).

      I’ll investigate fully before purchase.

    • John on June 24, 2016 at 07:38

      Here’s what you said about bear spray:

      “Walked the dogs in bear country. Chose this over the “bear spray.”

      Fuck you fucktards. Cold dead hands.”

      Seemed like a pretty strong opposing statement haha.

  11. Arlow on August 8, 2016 at 13:58

    Are you still carrying the .380?
    Exhaustive ammo tests here:

    But after all is said and done, you have to read the comments to see that he gives this high marks.

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