Hike uphill to class

Outdoorsman teaches backpacking trail skills

Juan Villa
Visalia Times Delta
Mar. 15, 2014 3:28 AM
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If you’ve ever wanted to hike the Sierra Nevada backcountry, but didn’t know what to bring or where to stay, Tom Lionvale of Visalia is a man you need to meet.

The outdoorsman has backpacked some of the country’s longest and toughest trails, so he knows what he’s doing. And judging from the numerous times we’ve spoken, he isn’t shy about sharing his outdoors experience.

“I’ve been backpacking for more than 65 years,” he said. “I oughta be good at it.”

Good enough to have his own class. A $100 class I’d say is worth the price of admission.

Back Country Backpacking in the Sierras begins on April 1 at College of the Sequoias in Visalia. The class, which is offered by the Community Education office, meets every Tuesday in April and for a three-day backpacking trip in May.

The trip will begin in the Foothills area of Sequoia National Park, an area of the park that’s often overlooked by visitors on the way to visit the world-famous Giant Sequoias. The location was selected because it’s typically below snow level — well, everything seems to be below snow level because of the state’s drought.

On the first day, the group will hike the Middle Fork Trail near Hospital Rock to a campground about three miles from the trailhead. They will go in three more miles the second day. It’s close to the river and some creeks where they’ll get fresh water.

Panther Creek Falls is three miles from the trailhead.

While I haven’t taken the class myself just yet, I’ve spoken to Lionvale on numerous occasions and know the man knows his stuff.

Knows enough that he can confidently say that after taking his class even the most inexperienced hiker will be able to take an extended trip to the Sierras without a problem.

And don’t the let name of the class intimate you; no skills or experience is required to join.

“I don’t want to make it intimidating. Maybe we oughta change the damn name,” Lionvale joked. “Maybe it should be Beginning Backpacking or something.”

The class won’t lack entertaining moments.

Some of the topics covered in class include clothing, food, navigation and equipment.

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