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[Yosemite]

Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

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

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Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby YoseWeerjin » Sat Jun 04, 2016 1:46 pm

Hello all,

I want to start by thanking everyone for their great input into this forum. My fiance and I will be heading out of Tuolumne Meadows on June 20th (currently 3 nights) toward Glen Aulin for the first night and then up to Cloud's Rest via Polly Dome Lakes and then finally down to Happy Isles. We've gotten a lot of useful info and tips on this forum for our first visit and am hoping you might be able to help us out on a few things that we can't seem to find answers to or possible offer any suggestions that would help us enjoy our time even more.

1. After our first night at Glen Aulin, if we decide that we would like to hang out an extra day to explore the area, is there any issue with staying another night at the HSC before we continue our hike? I understand that this might entail trying to add another night onto the hike.

2. I haven't heard back from the NPS on this one. Say we get up to Cloud's Rest and decide that the decent down to the Valley would be too much for our knees. Do you think the rangers would escort us out if we backtracked and camped at upper Cathedral Lakes for the last night with the intention of exiting the hike back at Tuolumne Meadows the following day?

3. Considering our route (and realizing that Polly Dome Lakes are a bust), can anyone offer up any good fishing spots along the way?

Also, I've been checking the snow reports as well as the webcams on the conservancy site. We're really trying to avoid carrying the microspikes if we can help it so thoughts on possible snow travel at this time would help as well.

Sorry if this is a lot. I'm just trying to get the most bang for my buck as our trip is rapidly approaching.

Thanks again.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby transponster » Sat Jun 04, 2016 10:10 pm

As far as I know, there's no limit to how many nights you can spend at a HSC backpacker's camp, as long as you have a valid wilderness permit. The only thing that rangers care about is that you spend your first night in a legal location that is accessible from your entry trailhead, or the specified location if there is one (example: Glen Aulin HSC vs pass-thru). After the first night, you can deviate from your itinerary as much as you want as long as you camp in legal spots and don't exit/reenter the wilderness on the same permit. So to answer your question, it would be perfectly fine to decide on the fly whether you want to exit at TM or Happy Isles.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby MadDiver » Sun Jun 05, 2016 11:41 am

Howdy,

I did my first Yosemite trip last year though your intended route.

#1 Answered.
#2 I wouldn't worry about the knees, you can take the trail about a mile N of CR down to the JMT rather than the direct decent straight south. It is heavily burned but not difficult, you'll be a bit dirty to your knees is all. CR is really great and was the highlight of my trip. However, as said, backtracking would be OK.
#3 Can't help with the fishing, I'm sure balzaccom can chime in, he's the resident fishing expert

I can't figure out where you are planning to spend night #2 - Polly Dome Lakes? GA to CR would be a monster day. You could also do GA to May Lake (easy day, summit Mt Hoffamnn if you're feeling good once you set camp) then CR the next day. Having mentioned your knees, with the fairly short trip planned and staying at the HSC bakcpackers area, you can likely lighten your load with just one bear can as the HSC have bear boxes (just NEVER leave your pack unattended).

Beautiful trip, enjoy! Since you're heading to CR I included a marked up map of relevant info. The "last water" (really the last, NO more) is for a hiker heading south to CR. Camping just below (north) of CR is awesome.

Image
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby YoseWeerjin » Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:34 pm

Thanks for the replies...great info.

Here was our original itinerary:

Day 1 - Hike to GA and camp at HSC.
Day 2 - Hike to Sunrise Lakes and camp at Middle Lake
Day 3 - Hike up CR and then down to either CR/JMT junction (or further down to LYV) to camp (leary of second option as I've heard so many bad things about LYV)
Day 4 - Hike out to Happy Isles

Foregoing the second night at Glen Aulin HSC (for local fishing/sightseeing) we would hike to Polly Dome Lakes, see how we feel and either camp there or bite the bullet and trek it up to Sunrise Lakes and camp there for the second night. However, the tip about camping just north of CR (close to the last water supply) sounds enticing. It would just make for a really long and tough second-day hike to get there.

But the third day could then be a gorgeous morning summit of CR with plenty of time to slow-knee hike it down through the burn zone for a third night near the CR/JMT junction or LYV. Geez, so many options. It's one thing to try and look at a topo and make plans but it's an entirely different beast when you get out there (as we all know).

Has anyone seen the water levels coming out of the Tenaya Lake outlet?

ps, really appreciated the attached topo.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby Phil » Sun Jun 05, 2016 5:03 pm

You've got some good advice going already, but I'll add couple things.

Yes, you can spend a second night at Glen Aulin, but you might also want to head downriver and find a more secluded spot nearer to the falls complex on the Tuolumne if you stay a second night. Doing that your first night would obviously be another option.

MadDiver is also right about GA- Sunrise Lakes being a tough day. I wouldn't try to hold yourselves to an itinerary like that. Do visit Polly Dome Lakes. No fishing to speak of, but it's not too far a diversion from the May Lakes Trail. Speaking of which, and going back to the mileage between GA- Sunrise/CR, the trail you'll be on to get to Polly Dome is the Murphy Creek Trail. It exits on Tioga Rd at Tenaya Lake, but, it's not a legal option to get to the base of the Sunrise trailhead because it requires you to walk the road...a big no-no! It would require a second permit for that. Instead, what you are going to be required to do is go up to May Lake, then down to Sunrise, where you'll simply cross the road. This alone is what makes the GA- Sunrise/CR plan so tough. Stopping to camp at Polly Dome will cut your daily mileage, but maybe not quite enough. A visit to May Lake would cut it even more, and would be worth it, but if you do push through and get past either, you better hope you don't run out of steam, because you won't have the option to stop and make camp until you get up to Sunrise Lakes. Just to get it said, from where you start to where you end up at Happy Isles, 3 nights is not going to be enough. Add at least a couple days and have a much, much better trip.

The crossing at Tenaya Creek will be probably anywhere from thigh to waist deep. I haven't been up there this year, but that's pretty typical for mid-late June. Wide is the norm, but it's not moving fast. It's doable once you wrap your mind around it or if that sort of thing doesn't bother you. We should have at least a couple trip reports in before your departure date, so keep an eye out.

At the top, Middle Sunrise Lake is gorgeous. Upper is nice, too, and if fishing is what you want, this is the absolutely best place to do it on your entire route. Big trout, biting like crazy this early in the season! Bring a pan! (leave it at one of the bear lockers at the base of Sunrise and grab it on the way up) Another point I might also go ahead and make is about bears- it's a very active area up there, and they're very adept at what they do.

If your knees are an issue, listen to MadDiver's advice and take that lower trail on the north side of CR. Going up and over the summit, either via the lower or the upper trails down are long, and generally steep enough to be hard on knees and toes. Instead of LYV, find a site at the JMT/CR trail junction at Sunrise Creek. If you do end up taking that upper trail that both MD and I mentioned to the north of the ascent up to CR (called the Forsyth Trail), as soon as you hit the JMT, go left and along Sunrise Creek for the best sites in the area.

Also, if you haven't picked this up from other threads, you'll want to carry plenty of mosquito repellent and head nets.

***Oh, and don't bother with bringing spikes, you won't need them, even for CR. And yes, if you want or need to exit via Cathedral Lakes, it should be fine. As long as you have a valid wilderness permit, nobody is going to bother you.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby MadDiver » Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:59 am

Figuring time and distances in a new area can be challenging. So to help you plan: TM to GA is about 5.5miles, a bit downhill: ~3 hours even taking lots of pics on the way. GA to the Polly Dome lakes junction is 4 miles and mostly an easy stroll through the woods, 3 hrs tops. Continuing to May Lake (not sure if there are fish there) would be a full but far from punishing day. All the High Sierra Camps (going in a circle) are a "normal" day's hike from each other for an "average" person.

If you were to camp near CR, I wouldn't do it by "last water" but continue to just below the summit where it's still forested. I picked the area north of the trail where on the map a green shaded arm extends NW into Tenaya Canyon. As a bonus, it's probably the one place on your trip guaranteed to be skeeter free.

If it helps you plan you can read my trip report here: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3459 the first 3 days covers many the areas you are looking at.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby YoseWeerjin » Mon Jun 06, 2016 1:01 pm

Thanks Phil and MadDiver.

Now stand back and don't let my naivete blind you...

When I was initially planning this route, I looked mostly at USGS topos as well as the Nat.Geo. Trails Illustrated Map and both of those maps showed a north/south fork toward the very end of the GA to Tenaya Lake trail. The North fork followed Murphy Creek down to the Murphy Creek trailhead and the Southern fork seemed to meander down along the road ending up pretty close to the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead. Then I looked at the NPS Trailhead Map and indeed, as you have both implied/indicated, there is only the one trail leading down from Polly Dome Lakes. Is this an old trail that has since been abandoned? Not that I'm opposed to stopping by May Lake but I'm just not sure I can add the additional days onto my permit. Or is this something the permit office does all the time?

By the way, excellent trip report MadDiver. The photos were great.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby MadDiver » Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:15 pm

No, that trail is certainly present on my map and Caltopo (great online topo map) also. It does look like you would simply have to cross the road. I'd call and ask... might as well ask if you can add a day as well (if you have the time). Since permits are issued based on staring date and number of people it doesn't seem like adding a day should be a problem.

Thanks for the compliment on the trip report. Oh, btw, don't let my description of the burned trail get you nervous, I was perhaps a little excessive in my criticism of it, you'll get a little dirty but it is hardly hell on earth. There has also been another year of rain and snow to wash away the finer bits. You may lose the trail at times (I did) but don't worry, it's a natural funnel, just keep going down and keep the little stream the trail follows in sight until you hit Sunrise Creek.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby Phil » Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:41 pm

Murphy Creek trail is a nice trail that's well maintained. You'll be on it for a little over 1/4 mile from the May Lake trail junction before you head left on a use trail over to Polly Dome Lakes. But again, it DOES NOT meet up with Sunrise trail and you would have to walk the road, which is illegal because you've technically left one wilderness area and entered another. Crossing the road is fine, walking down it is not. If you get caught, you get fined and escorted out. You have to go via May Lake to do it legally without a second permit.

If you've got the time available, just add as many days to your permit as you think you'll actually need. It's done all the time, and it's relatively open-ended as far as exit dates go. It's the trailhead and the entry date for it that's written in stone and non-negotiable with the permit you're carrying. If there aren't restrictions or conditions to your permit, once you enter the wilderness, and remain there without exiting, you're pretty much free to roam wherever you like within it. They track entry quotas closely, but with a few exceptions where there are exit quotas, exit dates aren't monitored for anything more than as a point of reference.

If you don't have the number already, and it's not clear enough, you can speak to a wilderness ranger at 209-372-0826.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby YoseWeerjin » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:59 pm

Hello again,

OK, so I contacted the ranger's offices. Initially, I spoke with Annie (sp.) and she seemed as perplexed as I was that you couldn't just cross the road via the southern section of Murphy Creek fork. She then asked another ranger in the office and he confirmed that it wouldn't be a problem. I didn't feel 100% sure about this so I called back later to ask again in addition to the extra days availability...but to no avail...I got the answering machine.

Long story short, I finally got a call back today from Ranger Sharon and got a couple extra days added to my permit and an thumbs up on the Tioga Rd crossing dilemma. She basically told me the same thing...that "it would be fine to cross the road at that point and continue on with the Sunrise Lakes Trail (near the old Lake Tenaya Campground) as long as we were not planning on actually leaving the hike to catch a night at a hotel and then return to the trail".

I do value your opinion, Phil. And being a bit of a worry wort, I think I'll plan for both routes and "triple check" when we actually get there. By the way, thanks for reminding me of the phone number. I tend to forget about the "old stand-by" in this day of emails and text messages.

And MadDiver, if that's the type of campsite we have to look forward to at CR, count us IN! Nice. Just out of curiosity, weren't you the least bit concerned that your food keg might go rolling down the canyon? :shock:
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:11 am

If they say you're good, go for it. Maybe I've been wrong all this time, but it's a matter of "designated wilderness". Tioga Rd is a distinct line between such areas. Definitely catching a shuttle, driving, or otherwise leaving, invalidates your permit, but the rangers also aren't too keen on people walking the roads between trailheads. I can't honestly say I've never done it, but if I do it, then you do it, then 10 other people do it....eventually everyone does it, and the entire premise behind the Wilderness Act and trailhead quotas is completely undermined because people will run amok and go wherever they think they're entitled to go simply because it's within walking distance. Technically allowed or not, if your intent is to simply pass-through, and not done with disregard or in order to cheat the process, I suppose that changes things. Do verify that it's okay, but basically, if you have their blessings, unless you've got a real hankering to see May Lake, go ahead and exit at Murphy Creek. It's shorter and easier.

But I will say this; I called the wilderness office myself yesterday asking about an entry for my own trip on the same trail I told you that you had to cross in order to be legal, and the ranger had no idea what trail I was even talking about and immediately defaulted to asking me if I was talking about Murphy Creek. It kind of leaves me wondering.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jun 08, 2016 5:47 am

People who answer phones are sometimes volunteers, not actual Rangers, and sometimes don't get out on trails - they have told me blatantly wrong things in the past.

The road is NOT a trail and walking on it is dangerous. People drive too fast and it's narrow. It is not wilderness - you leave the wilderness by walking on it. I never plan routes that would take a road, because actual patrol rangers often have a different interpretation of regs and roads are not trails.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 08, 2016 6:01 am

Thanks for chiming in on this one, AT. I was hoping you would. You've been missed.

Wow, I've been here one year as of today. My how time flies.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jun 08, 2016 6:37 am

I read actual regulations. They're on the Yosemite website.

There are rules for backpackers, and other rules for thru hikers - if you are a thru hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail there is a huge amount of leeway. If you are on a thru hike of some other kind - Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, John Muir Trail - there's leeway for leaving and re-entering the wilderness.

Backpacking for a few days is different -- I look at it with the knowledge that 1) everyone wants to see Yosemite 2) 95% of everyone getting permits is going somewhere within a day or two of the road 3) 90% of everyone asks the same questions, over and over, "can I do this, can I do that" to try to short cut, get around, dodge or fudge together something to make the most of what they get, instead of doing the right thing.

Fudging around the rules gets people hurt, damages the wilderness, and gets bears killed. All the rules are there, not to be a nuisance, but to preserve SOMETHING, whether it's your safety, the wilderness, the animals, or the wilderness experience. The no camping areas? they are preserving the wilderness. The rule not to camp within a mile of the road outside designated campgrounds -- same thing, since the corridor around the road would be a treeless wasteland of pullouts and fire rings and trampled area without it, as people jam themselves into every corner of the park. You can't camp in pullouts -- there would be hundreds of people in them otherwise, because the campgrounds fill within five minutes of reservations being available.

Just re-plan the trip to stay on the trail, or choose a route that off trail navigation is possible, and stay in the wilderness. This is not an uncommon question -- it's frequently repeated. If you backpack, why would you want to bother with a road anyway? Isn't the point to be in a wilderness? You can't camp anywhere near it. You shouldn't. Once you enter the wilderness you don't really need a trail. If you want to do the route you see on the map, and there is a creek to follow or something that makes off trail travel easy, do it. You may end up bushwhacking but that too can be an experience. Or you can learn land navigation -- classes are offered at places like REI.

Try a Tom Harrison map, Harrison updates frequently and I know from experience that he includes what's there.
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Re: Questions/Suggestions-Virgin Yosemite Hiker

Postby YoseWeerjin » Wed Jun 08, 2016 7:54 am

Thanks for the input, AlmostThere. For what it's worth, I'm not trying to skim the system. I understand why the rules are there. I was just looking at a map and saw a viable path. But this discussion has made me question whether or not I was being understood by my description so please take a look at the pic and let me know if this is to even be relied upon.
Image

If the map is just old and the trail is no longer there, I could see the reasoning behind not walking all the way from the North-end of Tenaya Lake. But this looks like crossing the road and walking maybe 100 ft through an old campground.

Sorry for dragging it out...I'll drop it after this. I just like to cover all my bases.

Thanks for your help.
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