I'm looking forward to meeting you all and enjoying the wisedom of your collective experiences. Although I've just found this forum, I've been tromping around the Sierra's fishing, hiking, backpacking since the mid sixties. I remember buying my first serious pieces of equipment from The North Face storefront in the old Stanford Barn - Palo Alto CA. A bright orange overstuffed down jacket and a beautiful (orange again) Superlight Down Bag rated to 15*F that easily kept me warm close to 0* in the winter. Most of my other equipment was cobbled together from various sources - there weren't many dedicated back-country shops back then. Having replacing my 6lb dacron bag and wool coat, my kit weighed in at around 50 lbs, consumables not included. Occasionally I'd add to the misery by throwing in a two man vinyl inflatable canoe with paddles. And I'd carry that load wearing a 5 lb pair of beautiful leather Italian mountaineering boots. I felt invincible when I put those puppies on. Once I got moving I was like a freight train chugging along slow and steady. My legs still ache when I remember some of the adventures those boots carried me through (They sit in my closet to this day - I just can't throw them away-too many memories). At some point I picked up Collin Fletcher's book and read the thing backwards and forwards until I had memorized about every word. And that is when I started to think about being more efficient and lightening my load.
By the early eighties I had lowered my pack weight to around 35lbs (minus consumables) thanks to some careful editing and several home made items (including an early light weight pack I designed and mounted on an old Trailwise external aluminum frame). I also made myself a great light weight parka out of this new stuff called goretex. Even sewed up a pair of pants with zippered legs. But my biggest revelation was a pair of New Balance running shoes that I carried for camp wear. One morning in Emigrant Basin, I decided for some reason to hike in the tennies and carry my beautiful but heavy boots. I don't remember why but that was huge - a totally new experience. Even with 40+ pounds on my back I felt like I was out for a Sunday stroll. Encouraged, I began simplifying my camp kitchen and menu, left behind the elaborate fishing gear, binoculars, camera equipment, heavy foam mattress, much of the wardrobe and learned that I could travel quite comfortably and safely with much less weight and far greater enjoyment.
In the last 15 or so years, new technologies and redesigned gear made truly light weight backpacking possible. Just in time for my aging knees. I was in hiker heaven! Then about 7 years ago I was moving my daughter into her 4th floor dorm at UC Santa Cruz and I found myself huffing and puffing like never before. A bit concerned I visited my doc and after some testing learned that my kidneys were failing. Thatwas the end of the world in many ways, but especially difficult because the failed kidneys undermined my strength and energy. I tried to hike but found walking around a campsite at 8000' akin to mucking through quick sand with a baby elephant strapped to my back. The mountains were home, my place of peace and reverence, and I was cut off.
But over time, I worked on my conditioning, and managed to build up some endurance. During the same period, this wonderful ultralight backpacking explosion opened a whole new threshold to the back country. I still have trouble at altitude but can manage the likes of Mt St Helena north of San Francisco. And now after 5 years of waiting I've been informed that I'm nearing the top of the transplant list for my region and I should receive a new kidney within a year. So I'm gathering a new momentum with my sights set on a first trip back to the high Sierra's perhaps to the northern fringes of Yosemite's backcountry, hopefully as a prelude to the entire JMT. My base weight is now down to around ten pounds and I'll be carrying the added weight of a third kidney, but quite willingly and with the biggest smile anyone could imagine. As you might imagine, I've not paid close attention to the world of backpacking for some time now. Things have changed, in some cases radically, over the last few years and I will be leaning on the good members of this forum to help steer my course.
Best wishes and happy trails to all of you