Monday, April 15, 2013

Karen Najarian on Great Sierra Backpacking Destinations

Karen Najarian of Sierra Spirit

Alcorn: The more hiking and backpacking you do, the more people you learn about who are part of the hiking community. This community doesn’t necessarily require you to pay dues or attend meetings—it mostly just requires that you hike and/or support those who do! Over the years I’ve learned about certain individuals who I would consider role models—not because I necessarily want to follow in their footsteps figuratively or literally, but because I admire what they are doing in the greater outdoors.

Karen Najarian is one of the women who I look up to. She has taken her passion for hiking/backpacking/camping and found a way to not only combine those activities, but also to share them with others. Najarian, who has run the REI Adventures Yosemite Program for the last ten years and run her own guiding company, Sierra Spirit, for the last five, is on a quest to spread the joy of the wilderness in order to help people feel more confident, competent, and connected with themselves and the land. 

Najarian will be giving a series of slide shows, entitled Great Sierra Backpacking Destinations at local Sports Basements stores during the next two weeks. All start at 7 P.M.: 
  • April 17, 2013. Sunnyvale: 1177 Kern Ave., Sunnyvale, CA
  • April 18, San Francisco: 1590 Bryant Street, San Francisco
  • April 23 Walnut Creek: 1881 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek

Sports Basement will be offering everyone in attendance a 10% discount on all purchases for the nights of these events.

In the interview that follows, you'll learn that Najarian is a leader in more ways than one:

Alcorn: While you worked with REI as a contractor, what part did you play in planning and leading those hikes? 

Najarian:  I am very proud to say that I personally developed and implemented the REI Yosemite Program from the very first trip to the 28 we ran last year. REI Adventures is an office near Seattle. They contract out all their trips around the world to guiding companies. I started by leading my first trip to a place I love, Cathedral and Sunrise Lakes while providing everything from the trip description to the tents, group gear, food, and program.  

The program expanded to include seven routes and itineraries in Yosemite. Everything about my trips is carefully planned and chosen to provide for the best learning experience from the types of stoves we use to the food selection and tents. On our routes we have specific places where we teach map and compass and point out the changing flora and geology.  

Yosemite is such a grand classroom. We’ve had many clients who had never camped before and left experienced backpackers. I had one particular woman who was turning 60 who the next year wanted to do a 60-miler for her birthday. I happened to see her mid-way at the Tuolumne Meadows backpackers camp the next year. She has since hiked the entire John Muir Trail. Sierra Spirit continues this tradition. That’s why our motto is "Changing Lives One Trip at a Time."

Alcorn: Can you tell us about your own company, Sierra Spirit, and why you specialize in Sierra trips? 

Karen:  Sierra Spirit is in its fifth year of guiding in the Sierra. REI contracted with us to run their Yosemite program, while at the same time we ran trips independently in Yosemite and Inyo National Forest, on the morning-side of the Sierra. We specialize in guiding new and experienced backpackers to these world class destinations and now Sierra Spirit has a new freedom to concentrate on running only our own trips to new places, even off-trail, and to old favorites in the way that we’ve found is the most fun and safest for our clients and guides.  

We know the nooks and crannies where the perfect campsites are off the beaten path, where to find water in low snow years and toward the end of the season, where to cross the streams for safe passage during the spring run-off, and how to get to those little out-of-the-way waterfalls and wonders that only lots of experience leads you to know. We’ve got permits for trips from Hetch Hetchy to Half Dome in Yosemite and for two very popular trips in Inyo National Forest, where I go when I’m on vacation.

Alcorn: How can we find out more about you and Sierra Spirit?

Najarian: Check out my website, click here, give me a call at 925-699-6953 or email me at click here.  I’d be happy to answer any inquiries. 
“Friend Karen Najarian and “like” Sierra Spirit LLC on Facebook. Check out my picture site on Smugmug.

Info: In Part 2 of Karen Najarian on Great Sierra Backpacking Destinations, you'll get an inside look at Najarian's early years of hiking, camping, and backpacking and her career background that naturally led her to her guiding ventures. Subscribe and you will automatically receive Backpack45's columns. 


Swamy said...

My friend Diego worked for Sierra Spirit/Karen last summer. He had a blast. Seems like Karen is a very knowledgeable, caring, prepared and fun guide. He has inspired me to go backpacking in Yosemite someday. And Sierra Spirit is the only guiding company I would consider.

backpack45 said...

I sent this on to Karen, who I know will appreciate your comment. I haven't hiked with her, but everything I have heard about her and her trips sounds wonderful.

backpackingamerica said...

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backpack45 said...

Thank you, Backpacking America. I wish I had more time to write about backpacking, but I also need plenty of time for the actual hiking experiences!