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Ryan & Brennish Thomson

Updated September 16, 2021

Crossing the Sierra Range by Backpack

by Ryan Thomson

In 1978, after my first year in New Hampshire, I traveled back to California to cross the Sierra mountains west to east by backpack with some old friends. 10 of us carried all supplies for a 10 day trek. My pack weighed about 50 pounds. I considered bringing my fiddle but choose my grandfathers old mandolin and a pennywhistle because of their lightness. 


I put the mandolin in a cloth sack and tied it to the outside of my pack. One night, while camping in an isolated mountain pass at 11,000 feet, we had an impromptu contra dance.

The picture in the boat was taken on the day we hiked back down out of the mountains and took a well deserved rest on a boat ride back to where our cars were parked. As usual, as the other hikers were gazing serenely at the beautiful scenery, I felt the urge to make music on my mandolin. Earlier in the trip I played an Irish tune on my pennywhistle while standing on a fallen Sequoia tree.


This article written by Ryan Thomson 1999

Photo of Ryan Thomson playing mandolin in the Sierra mountains in 1978 on a back packing trip with friends.

Click on either photo to enlarge it.

Photo of Ryan Thomson playing pennywhistle in the Sierra mountains in 1978 on a back packing trip with friends.

Click on either photo to enlarge it.


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