Testimonials from Clients:

"I'm so glad that Sierra Spirit will continue to spread excitement, love of the outdoors, and hope." - Laura, 3-Time High Sierra Trip Trekker, 12-15-12.

I've said it once and I'll say it again- put Yosemite on your list and when you do it- travel with Karen and her team. She was rated one of the top 7 guides in the world.... and is offering custom trips. Can't miss experience! - Shannon, 1-3-13.

Sierra Spirit is aptly named, for Karen (and her team) bring a great spirit to each trip they have into the Sierras. I could not imagine back packing without her masterful guidance and joy. Her trips are far more then can be written. Look forward to taking such an adventure this summer/fall with Sierra Spirit. - Jeffrey.

Wisely, John Muir tells us: "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in,
where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul."
In August 2005 during a three day beginner's backpacking trip with Karen, like John Muir, "I was compelled
to sleep with the trees in the one great bedroom of the open night."

My physical, mental and spiritual well being has been immensely strengthened by Karen's sharing of her
love of the Sierras and her expertise in how to live safely with the freedom of a mountaineer.
Karen's love and expertise will provide you with the skills to explore the backcountry with a
friend or going solo over granite, through streams, on and off trails during sunshine or storms.

The view from Mt. Whitney is vast and breathtaking, Evolution Basin - a precious jewel. Starry
nights, high passes with spectacular views, shimmering alpine lakes, waterfalls tumbling into streams, glaciers and
magnificent petite wildflowers - all await your arrival.

Join Karen and your spirit will be rekindled as it is refreshed by Nature!

Eternally grateful to you Karen!  - Mary Clements, Ap. 16, 2013
 "From our Yosemite guide . . . I could not have said it better myself. Karen taught us much more than basic backpacking and we can't wait for another adventure with Sierra Spirit LLC!" - Aime, Feb. 2013.

You have a very smooth running operation.  One that grew very rapidly to meet the demand, and people love it.  That cannot be questioned, and a reasonable person could not ask for more.    - Mike

My trip to Yosemite with your group changed my life. Even though it was only for a few days, I learned so much. Mostly about myself. I'll always keep a piece of the high sierra with me. Your love for this place is inspiring! Chantal 1-12-13.

Hi Karen, thank you again for a wonderful trip. i really enjoyed spending time with you, rick and our group. i hope we have a chance to do this again in the near future. your attitude and spirit made this an experience i will always remember.

Dear Karen, Thank you so very much for a very memorable weekend.  It was such a wonderful experience for me that I can't wait to get out there again, soon.  I was talking w/ my husband, Cecil, and I told that he has to come along the next time.

Karen, you are quite a human being!!!  Your energy, your passion, and your integrity are qualities that are for ever seared in my mind.  I'm very happy to have had the pleasure of meeting you.  Looking forward to getting out there with you again.  My deepest regards,  Marlene.


Many thanks to the bear fightin', mountain stompin', poe'tree readin' siren of the sierra -- Robert

Karen and Ben were absolutely amazing. They took the enjoyment of the trip to the next level.

I could not have felt more comfortable or confident in our leaders. That confidence allowed me to push beyond the boundaries that I had set for myself and grow!
What were the highlights of the trip? "Karen's planning knowledge, organization, enthusiasm, experience, skills, energy, positive attitude, good humor,openness- and her eager willingness to share all these assets fully!"

Karen and Ben were incredible. We were 100% thrilled with the trip.

Instruction by Karen and Kamala was so thorough and done with sincerity. Their love of teaching and backpacking is inspiring.

Just wanted to thank you again for a wonderful experience during the wilderness survival course. I'm actually going camping this weekend with my wife and some friends in desolation wilderness in Tahoe.  will be fun to put new skills to use, although we will be bringing tents and sleeping pads : )
It's Palmy. I just wanted to say HI and thank you. Thank you. THANK  YOU! Matt and I are already planning another backpacking trip. I'm pretty sure we'd like to do an advanced backpacer's trip with you, if you're leading one.)  I joined YA and we'll be applying for their week long clean up trips as soon as possible! And if the offer is still open we would love to go on a geezer trip with you! I hope you had a great time in the Clark Ranges!
Palmy (& Matt)
Hi Karen,
I wanted to share with you what Matt wrote about our trip.  Being out there and having as wonderful and knowledgeable a guide as yourself made the whole experience so MUCH more meaningful. Tim should pay you in gold.
Truly, sincerely, really!
Hi all:

Just wanted to say we're back safe & sound from our Yosemite backpacking trip. It was really an incredible experience.  The short version is: if you haven't been to Yosemite, you need to put it on your "things-to-do-before-I-die" list. Right now. Even if you only drive in park and take a look. It is just too stunning not to experience.

Our goal was to learn backpacking: putting all your gear on your back and heading off into the wilderness, off trail, away from the roads, trails, and crowds, in the real backcountry. And this we did!  Forgive my rambling narrative here; we happliy lost sense of time and order and I want to capture it as I remember it, before I forget it all!

On our first night we were visited by a black bear, unfortunately a common occurance in Yosemite due to all the campers and their associated food (a bear gets a lot more calories from ripping open a bag of granola than from foraging for berries).  Hanging the food from a tall branch (the previous bear-proofing method) doesn't work anymore because the bears have become very crafty in getting the food -- they'll climb an adjacent tree and bend it over until they can reach the bag and play food-bag pinata.  So you have to lock your food away in tamper-proof "bear canisters" that weigh about 3 lbs. In any case our bear, as with most black bears, ran away with some clanging of pots and yelling.  Bruce, Rob, Paul: this is not something you need to tell Mom :)

We also experienced life at 9900 feet (3000 meters for you metric buffs).  Before the trip, Palmy and I had worked out 4-5 times a week at the gym, and also did 4 dry-runs in the hills near our home, multi-hour treks loaded with full packs and all of our gear. It was great practice and really got us in great shape -- we were keeping up with the guide while 2 others in the group were straggling way behind. But I gotta tell you that humping a 45 lb pack at sea level is a different world from doing it "at altitude."  The lack of oxygene up there plays all sorts of neat tricks on you. I was walking at a normal pace on an incline that was no big deal, and yet my heart was racing far more rapidly than normal, almost put of control.  But once I stopped walking and just stood there for 10 seconds, my heart rate would plummet back to normal. Over time your body adjusts, but this takes a day or more.

Neither of us experienced true altitude sickness, though at times we did feel dizzy, a bit nauseated and generally "hung over."  The trick to any malady, we learned, was to drink a lot water.  One night in camp -- long after we had been resting a while -- Palmy's heart was racing out of control. It was beating so hard her chest and arms hurt. The guide ascertained that Palmy hadn't had much water since mid-day and the guide told Palmy just to drink as much water as she could handle. She did so and the next day she was fine. The next night in camp I was feeling very very cold, even with all my warm gear stuff on.  I realized I hadn't had much water that day, and started chugging the stuff. Sure enough within an hour or so I warmed up -- after drinking cold water! Pretty interesting.

The wonderful thing about Yosemite is that while the air is very dry, there are lakes and streams all over, which of course add stunning beauty on top of the already majestic landscape.  The vast meadows, where millions of years ago glaciers had carved out of the granite, held a wide variety of wildflowers. This was a real treat for Palmy, who would stop to examine them every chance we got.  Our guide knew all the names of the plants, flowers, trees, which I forgot as soon as I heard, but Palmy logged them all and spent as much as she could drawing them. An interesting thing is that Yosemite and its flora were "discovered" only about 150 years ago by John Muir. Previously no Indians lived there.  The Paiute Indians (from the Eastern/Nevada side of the Sierras) and the Miwoks (Western/Pacific side of the mtns) would meet up there for a few weeks a year to do some trading, and go home.  Muir, along with some professors from Univ of California (Berkeley) spent their summers off cataloging all the different plants, flowers, trees, rocks, etc. on their own dime (John & Rob: what are YOU doing with your summers off??? :).  This was the founding of the Sierra Club - in the fall the explorers would go back home and report out to the Club members what they found. (The pictures from that era are priceless: Men in woolen suit coats & ties, wearing hobnail boots, ladies in those old billowing hoop dresses, all tramping around the wilderness!).  It was Muir and these folks who posited the first theories about the formation of Yosemite, namely that glaciers had moved back and forth through a mountain range and carved huge valleys with monumental granite walls.  They were later proven to be correct.

On day 2 we left the John Muir trail. It is often crowded in Yosemite during the summer: tour buses, camper trailers, Harley hog riders all drive in to take a look at Yosemite valley.  It can get a bit noisy and take on an amusement park quality, which detracts from the grandeur. But, as they say there, go 100 feet from the pavement and no one's there. This wasn't entirely true, but there were certainly fewer people: RVers and car-campers, mostly. But it is even more true that when you go beyond a day's hike in, you see exponentially fewer people ("just those day hikers" our guide would sniff). And when you leave the trail, you see nobody. It is the real back country. We hiked across the large meadow, using map & compass to guide us where to go, heading for a general landmark but no clear cut way to get there. It is really incredible what stepping off the trail does to you. You look at your watch less.  You become less concrete goal-oriented (and as a Franklin Covey devotee I can tell you that't quite a mentality shift). You know where you're going, but you're in no hurry to get there. You literally stop to smell the flowers.

(sorry, gotta go to work now. I'll continue this when I get a chance!)

Hi Karen,

I expect Emily has told you, we already went back to Yosemite (last weekend).  Thank you for all you taught us. Because of that, it went quite well. We went on pretty much the same trail.  That built up my confidence about being off trail. Being unsure of myself, I took my GPS machine along and was surprised to see its accuracy. I only looked at it to verify it would report correctly, but it was comfortable having it along knowing we were going off trail.  The whole trip seemed to go quite a bit faster. There were 5 of us and everyone else was less than half my age, so at times I lagged behind especially going down hill, but the group was good staying together. At Lower Cathedral Lake we camped on the west side, since where we were (with your group) had been filled up. And there were no bears!! We took too much food so we had to tie some up (not as well as you did), but it was left untouched.At Mildred Lake we saw two other couples camping. It was a warm and starry night. We all slept outside that night…I don't remember of ever seeing so
many stars.

Our biggest mistake was we took to much food…. and my biggest concern was: half way through (at Upper Cathedral) my water filter stopped pumping. We had another one….but one that was difficult to use.

Emily is already planning our next trip (latter this month), but it probably won't be in the Sierra's.
So, thank you so much for what you've added to our family. You are a hero to us!

Hi Karen,
 I hope this email finds you well.  I'm not sure if you remember me from your  backpacking 101 class last year. Anyways, I'm wondering if you are leading the  backpack trips this year. Myself and Joanne (she also did your class) are trying to get 3 other girl friends to go a back pack trip.   I was hoping you'd be leading so that I could set their expectation.

HI Karen!
how are you doing?
i'm not sure if you will get this by the time necessary- but, my dad, and two friends of mine are going up to yosemite this weekend- (labor day weekend) (you may be out there right now. . . ) and we wanted to do the same route, but because its labor day weekend and cathedral trailhead is very popular, it sounds like we may not get a permit for that spot.so- we're searching through the yosemite book looking for other trails- and it is overwhelming.do you have any suggestions of good three day hike- that start at a trail head that isn't as popular???we need some back-up plans.

anyway, i am probably asking you way too late- cause we are leaving sat. morning, really early again- but in case you get this before then- could you drop me any quick advice?

by the way, you are in a way a hero to me- cause you introduced me to one of my new true loves, backpacking- and  you are an amazing and wonderful individual- and i don't like diamonds, but i loved your wedding ring-  and now i want to have one just like that when i get married. all to say, you are really cool and my mom wants to email you because she's a writer also. . . . karen, you are beautiful in so many ways- and you have such a humility in you that not many people have.

okay, i am a rambler.
i shall stop now.
may you be blessed as you continue the outdoor adventures. maybe we'll run into eachother on some trail!

love to you,
(animal woman)

      You have impacted our family! After taking 2 daughters down to San Diego the past 4 days to get situated at college, David has spent much of today buying the necessities to go back to Yosemite with Emily, her boyfriend and another gal. They're hooked on backpacking - somehow I fear the bears may win- never knew their rational thinking was so good to gnaw off a branch.
      While David and Emily were with you I was working on an article for the national parks - for a disability magazine called Specialiving talking about how much we saw through the windshield at Arches, for example. then I read your quote and I see David and Emily's photo and I think who am I
kidding - i've never really seen a national park, nor will i ever in this life time. As usual our conclusions become challenged and a black bear earthquakes our black box - at 57 I have so much growing yet to do and sorting through new ideas. But at the end of it all, I still have a wheelchair that doesn't travel on the backroads and i'm not a 'supercrip' like Mark Wellman - so i find wonder where i'm at, particularly if there's a bird or a tree to keep me company. I guess my backpacking trips have been an internal journey.
      Anyhoo, no need to answer my e-mail - i'm thankful for the tangible and intangible gifts you've given our family. I heard about your book of quotes, many by John Muir.  Ironic, D and E were out in the wilderness reading from your meditation booklet and I was srounging for the perfect quote by John Muir for my article. This is what i came up with - "Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
      Bless thee, special one - judy

Dear Karen:  We want to again thank you for a very wonderful experience.  This was just fabulous!  Your calm, knowledgeable leadership made everything seem so...doable!  Brian and I returned feelings mentally/spiritually revived as though we had been away for a week or two!  Thanks again, to our fantastic guide.  We shall never forget our trip with you, Karen! -  Kathy & Brian.

For Trip Queeries or Reservations
email Karen, sierramaclure@sbcglobal.net

"Discover the Soul of the Sierra"