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[Yosemite]

4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Hiking, backpacking, running, biking, climbing, rafting, and other human-powered activities in Yosemite National Park

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4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Postby paulhiker » Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:12 pm

Hello all,

We are planning on a 4 night / 5 day backpacking trip within Yosemite. Our wilderness pass starts on June 23rd (from Rafferty Creek trailhead). We have a proposed itinerary that we are looking for any feedback / suggestions.

Here are the things we are looking to accomplish on a trip to give you a sense of what we are looking for to see if our itinerary will meet these goals.

1) Stunning scenery for photography
2) Some isolation - I recognize we won't be completely isolated, but we would at least like to feel like we are "out there" a bit and not overcrowded. Ideally we can take photos of a great scene without people in the shots (I'm hoping for at least that much isolation)
3) Lakes (a chance to visit a few beautiful lake areas like I see in people's photos) - waterfalls flowing would be a plus (we will have a day to explore the Valley before heading up for our wilderness pass / trail)
4) Summit half dome (weather permitting, this is an important goal to us) - we have secured permits already
5) An agenda that is not too aggressive. We are all in shape, but don't want to be pushing for extra miles at the expense of having a little leisure time throughout the hike / camping.

Based on those goals, here is what we came up with:
- June 23, 2016 - Leave Rafferty Creek trailhead at sunrise (wilderness pass already secured)
- Day / night 1 - goal to make it to Vogelsang lake and find a great wilderness camping area with some seclusion and nice views (suggestions welcome)
- Day / night 2 - goal to make it around Merced lake area (doesn't have to be that exact stopping point) - same camping goals as above (suggestions welcome)
- Day / night 3 - goal to make it to Sunrise lakes - same camping goals as above (suggestions welcome)
- Day / night 4 - summit Clouds Rest and find a campsite somewhere near Half Dome
- Day 5 - summit Half Dome in the morning - hike out through LYV and exit Happy Isles

With those goals and itinerary in mind, here are our questions:

1) Is this a good itinerary that would meet our objectives? (we have the wilderness pass for Rafferty Creek, but could possibly change this if anyone has a different suggestion that would better meet our objectives)
2) Anything you would change / do different (we are very open to suggestions)?
3) Are our daily goals reasonable to account for some leisure or are they too aggressive or conservative? Would you change anything to go either further or shorter on certain days to get a better experience?
4) With a date of June 23, 2016 do you have any concerns about this itinerary as it relates to water levels (crossings, soggy trails), snow, mosquitos, etc? The June 23rd date is preferred, but if people feel we would be better making changes to our trailhead / dates to best accomplish our goals, we are willing to change.

Any insight or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Paul
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Re: 4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Postby balzaccom » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:16 pm

I'll answer in reverse order:

4. June for this hike almost certainly guarantees lots of skeeters. And you might even get some snow, depending on the weather. Don't forget that Tuolumne Pass is 10,000, Vogelsang is higher. That's not said to discourage you...but the bugs come out within about a week after the snow melts, and are fierce. They then slower decrease in numbers and ferocity throughout the summer. Many vets in the Sierra prefer August or September for that very reason. Here's a photo from near Tuolumne Pass in early July a few years ago:

Image

3. I can't comment on your daily mileage without knowing more about you and your condition. Are you going to come here directly from eight months of drinking at sea level in NOLA? Then this is ambitious. If you're in good shape, and you do some acclimatization, this should be fine. Take the first day a bit slow, keep hydrated, and get an early start each day. You have all day to hike about six to eight miles each day...and you have more than eight hours a day to do that.

2. This depends on what you want to photograph. The top of Half Dome will always have people. This route is one of the more popular routes in the park. But that doesn't mean you're going to meet people every five minutes on the trail. Maybe every twenty minutes, or hour. The closer you are to the trailhead, the more people you'll see. The section between Vogelsang and Merced Lake will have the fewest people. Half Dome to Happy Isles will be crowded.

1. If you want more views, take Fletcher Creek rather than Lewis Creek when you leave Vogelsang. The lower part of this trail is over the top of a large granite face that opens up for wonderful views. Lewis Creek is down in a canyon with far less visibility. In fact, camp at Emeric Lake for fewer people (lots of bugs in June, though!) Best campsites are on the West side of the lake. Or head over Vogelsang Pass and take the short side trail to Bernice Lake...also lovely and fewer people.

Bernice Lake:

Image

Emeric lake:

Image

The view from Fletcher Creek:

Image

Fletcher Canyon:

Image

And at Merced Lake, head up the canyon towards Washburn, where you won't have near so many people. Actually, you are choosing a route that pretty much suggests that you camp at each of the High Sierra Camps: Vogelsang, Merced, Sunrise....all of those will have lots of people around. And then you add Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley. Almost anywhere else in the backcountry of the part will have fewer people than that.

Want an alternative route? Take a cross-country trail to Nelson or Echo Lakes, follow one of those creeks down towards the Merced River below Merced Lake. You'll have great views, very few people. Then again, on the north side of those entry passes in June, you might well have a lot of snow....enough to make you think twice about it.
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: 4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Postby paulhiker » Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:05 am

Wow, thank you so much for the phenomenal response. This is so insightful and helpful to us. I really appreciate it and you have given us a lot to consider for our trip. I have also enjoyed looking through the links on your website, so thanks for all the great resources.
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Re: 4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:30 am

My pleasure, Hope you have a great trip.

meanwhile, here is a shot from near Vogelsang Pass, on the way to Lewis Canyon and Bernice lake...

Image

And here's one from the Pass itself:

Image
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: 4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Postby Phil » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:24 pm

Hi,

That time of year you're not going to run into as many people as you think, even on the High Sierra Camp circuit. You might even find that they still haven't put up the tent cabins yet and the camps are almost, if not entirely, abandoned...it's very early in the season for most. You might see 10 small groups or so of the dedicated and hardcore the entire time you're out, until you get over toward Half Dome and LYV. You won't have to look for solitude, you'll most likely get it by default.

Assuming there's no heavy snowpack, mosquitoes are absolutely going to be your biggest issue for pretty much your entire route. The area around Vogelsang, and then again, Sunrise Lakes, can be especially horrible, and you may see some trail flooding in some of the meadows along the way as well. Do not go without head nets and more DEET than you think you'll need! You can have all the leisure time you want, but if you're sitting still, and thereby a sitting duck, you'll wish you were still moving or spend your downtime hunkered inside the tent for relief. I can't even begin to count how many times I swore it would be the last time we went up high that time of year, but did it again anyhow, thinking we could beat the feeding frenzy with some newly conceived stroke of desperate brilliance...failing every time. Also, be aware that if DEET spills inside your bear cans, it's going to dissolve the ABS plastic they're made of (done that too). Also bring full rain gear and at least a couple extra pairs of socks. I hate to be a downer, but you can't even imagine it until you've been there. They don't stop unless it starts raining, snowing, or you go to sleep!

I would also go Fetcher Creek rather than Lewis Creek. Emeric Lake is sort of uneventful to me, so I would try for Babcock Lake instead. If you do go to Emeric though, when you come over the rise on the moraine between the main trail and the lake itself, bear right instead of left when you get to the end of the trail in order to get to the sites on the west side (you'll find nothing on the east side). You'll get some marshy areas where Emeric Creek enters the lake in that direction, but you'll avoid the lake drainage where Fletcher Creek begins and a lot of sketchy and dangerous boulder hopping in order to get to the campsites on the other side. Still, Babcock is more remote and has better sites that are easier to get to, IMO.
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Re: 4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Postby paulhiker » Tue Jan 12, 2016 5:23 pm

Thank you Phil!

All of this insight has been very helpful as we think about our options.
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Re: 4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:43 pm

Phil wrote:Hi,

If you do go to Emeric though, when you come over the rise on the moraine between the main trail and the lake itself, bear right instead of left when you get to the end of the trail in order to get to the sites on the west side (you'll find nothing on the east side). You'll get some marshy areas where Emeric Creek enters the lake in that direction, but you'll avoid the lake drainage where Fletcher Creek begins and a lot of sketchy and dangerous boulder hopping in order to get to the campsites on the other side. Still, Babcock is more remote and has better sites that are easier to get to, IMO.



You can see the marshy area Phil's talking about in the photo I posted above...
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: 4 nights / 5 days - Itinerary thoughts?

Postby paulhiker » Thu Jan 14, 2016 8:25 pm

Hello Phil and Balzaccom,

If we were to push the date of our trip back to mid / late July to try to reduce some of the mosquitos, would you suggest an alternative itinerary from our original plan to hit the HSC's (Vogelsang, Merced, Sunrise, then Half Dome)? Or do you feel our original itinerary would still be best in July?

Here was our original wish list:
1) Stunning scenery for photography
2) Some isolation - I recognize we won't be completely isolated, but we would at least like to feel like we are "out there" a bit and not overcrowded.
3) Lakes (a chance to visit a few beautiful lake areas like I see in people's photos) - waterfalls flowing would be a plus (we will have a day to explore the Valley before heading up to our wilderness pass / trail)
4) Summit half dome (weather permitting, this is an important goal to us)
5) An agenda that is not too aggressive (6 - 8 miles per day). We are all in shape, but don't want to be pushing for extra miles at the expense of having a little leisure time throughout the hike / camping.

We are open to any and all suggestions to help build our itinerary that would best meet these objectives.
paulhiker
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