First-Time Backpackers
Dominic cutting his first trail.

Above my head, fifty feet of fly line danced through the air. Below me, ten thousand feet of rock and soil stood between my soles and sea level. My attempts to avoid cliché and the word ‘zen’ are completely foiled by the authenticity of this experience. I watch my line straighten out across the water, gently setting the fly on the water. Perfect, I think not just of my cast, but of the time, place and moment. The French have a word for this, “terroir” meaning the sense of a place. That feeling of knowing the terroir, being part of it, not just being an observer, but a part of it, is why I backpack. Who wouldn’t want to share such an experience? Thus, I brought along my friend Dom for what would be not only his first time in the Sierras, but also his first time backpacking.

First-Time Backpackers
Photo by moonjazz Flickr.com

When taking out first-time backpackers, whether you’re camping or on any sort of adventure that you wish to introduce them to, it is imperative that you remember that first impressions are everything. Most potential disasters that can occur when bringing a newbie backpacking can be avoided by proper planning. That includes being a great overseer when it comes to your buddy’s kit and their planning. Do not assume anything about a new person’s gear or knowledge until you’ve checked in with them. Assess their gear thoroughly, chances are they will try to bring too much or not enough or an odd combo of both; when you do talk gear, offer up any spares you might have for them to borrow, as starting from scratch can be daunting financially. An honest assessment of your adventure buddy’s fitness level is also a must when selecting your destination. You don’t want something so hard they break, and you don’t want it so easy that there’s no challenge.

When it came to destination, my sights settled on the trek to Twin Lakes due to its flexibility for beginners. The hike is challenging, however, there are some camping options before reaching the lakes just in case there is a need to split the journey into stages. There is little exposure on the trail, perfect for beginners new to packs and uneven ground. I also wanted a trail I was familiar with so I could give more attention to Domilito and how he was handling the altitude and terrain. Add this to the payoff of ending up at a majestic alpine lake ready to be fished or swam in and you have a near perfect first backpacking trip.

First-Time Backpackers
Don’t forget to take in the views!

For those not familiar with the Twin Lakes, it is located in the Sequoia Wilderness in the Western Sierras. You will need a special wilderness permit from the ranger station in order to disembark and a valid fishing license if you plan on reeling in any trout. When departing from lodgepole, the trail will take you seven miles in and nearly 4,000 ft up in elevation. Most of the way there is an ascent, with the last mile and a half having the steepest elevation climb of the trek, nicknamed the ‘stone stairmaster.’ Along the way to the Lakes there are a few campsite options if you feel like you cannot complete the journey in one go. The best option in my opinion is clover creek about two miles from the lake, which has bear boxes, fire pits and, of course, a creek. Once you do reach the Lakes, you’re rewarded by a large lake that has a smaller fraternal twin. Both have plenty of brook trout that can be had with flies or a spinning outfit with ‘kastmaster’ type lures, as the lakes are artificial baits only. The campsites do have a toilet (sort of) and bear boxes, though be sure to pack a gas stove— once you reach the Twins fires are prohibited. It is black bear country, so practice proper storage of any food or toiletries like toothpaste.

First-Time Backpackers
Dom surveying the smaller of the twins.

Grab a friend, dust the city off them and drag them into the wonderland. They might just leave with a new outlook on what lays beyond the concrete mazes and modern conveniences.

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