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[Yosemite]

Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

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

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Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby drm » Tue Jun 21, 2016 8:19 am

I posted earlier about a GCT/10 Lakes loop and gave up on that due to snow. I now have a permit for the North Rim area starting at Porcupine starting next Sunday, but that area is small and I ain't driving 12 hours from home in The Dalles, OR for two nights backpacking. So I'm doing a second backpack on this trip. After I emerge from the North Rim (any suggestions for nice camping spots welcome, especially in the vicinity of El Cap summit), I will drive over to Hetch Hetchy and avail myself to the backpackers camp so that I can start uphill the next morning in relative cool. With two nights, the standard loop with camps at Lake Vernon and Rancheria Falls would be the default choice. But as I perused the map (as we hikers are prone to do when not on hiking trips), I saw that long trail extending east along Rancheria Mtn, so I'm wondering if anybody can tell me what this area is like? I'm thinking early season that many creeks will be running so water should not be a problem. The only way I would get as far as the junction north of Rancheria Mtn (small lakes to the north, Pleasant Valley down to the east) would be if I skipped staying at the backpackers camp that first night, but maybe the hike to Rancheria is easy enough to do in the afternoon heat since it is more flat.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 21, 2016 8:26 am

The mosquitoes will be BONKERS. That area is horrible for them. We stayed the night at Rancheria in spring and I had to rock hop out into the creek and stand there in the breeze that perpetually blows down the water, to be free of the little bloodsuckers. And you could not pay me to hike along the lake in the afternoon -- maybe after five it would be tolerable. Too much granite, sun and UGH. When I go to Hetch Hetchy in summer, we come the day before, stay in the backpacker camp, and leave before dawn. It gets us up off the low trail by 10, and makes everything better....

Water crossings may be "fun" (deep and swift) but there is a bridge over Rancheria. Meadow-y areas will be boggy and buggy. Be prepared.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby Phil » Tue Jun 21, 2016 11:08 am

I get what you're saying about the haul for only two nights, but why don't you just lengthen the North Rim trip and build a bigger loop on top of that? From the North Rim, head up Yosemite Creek (even if that means backtracking from North Dome/Snow Creek to pick up the trail), come out at Lukens Lake, pass-thru White Wolf to the GCT, up to Glen Aulin, over to May Lake, back to the North Rim trail system, exit back out at Porcupine. There's your route. You could turn that into 5-6 days or more of nice hiking and gorgeous scenery easily. You can also reverse the whole thing. Either way without any problems or extra permits involved.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby drm » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:50 pm

Are you saying that all of Hetch Hetchy is bad for mosquitoes, including the lakes to the north, or just near the reservoir and at Rancheria?

As to going north from Porcupine, I just dropped that plan because there was too much snow. Maybe not at May Lake by now, but I won't have the time to do GCT with the north rim. I'll take another lop at the map tonight.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby Phil » Tue Jun 21, 2016 6:02 pm

How much time do you have? What's you average daily mileage? You're going to have to tolerate some snow, mosquitoes, or a few wet trails and crossings, no matter where you go...we got it all going on. Take your pick, or mix and match.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby drm » Tue Jun 21, 2016 6:27 pm

Sure, some mosquitoes, some snow. I did an overnighter around here the other day and there were some mosquitoes. I would say 5 on a scale of 10. It's that cloud of mosquitoes hovering around your head that is so bad, where 50 get in your tent in the time it takes to unzip, get in, and zip up. Same for snow. Patchy snow here and there, snow on some north facing slopes, etc. Just no huge route-finding problems or vast fields of snow and lakes that look like a field.

I've got 4 or 5 nights, though I don't usually backpack more than 4 nights at a time. Typically I would do 12 or 13 miles in a full day, though some days on the north rim I expected to do a short day followed by a day hike, like the loop that takes in North Dome and Indian Rock. And for trails with easy walking, I can certainly do more. Also, the Yosemite WIC told me a few days ago that one of the crossings in the GCT was going too strong. I don't care so much about wet trails and crossings here and there.

Anyway, still wondering if the mozzies are uniquely bad (mosquito armageddon) in the entire area north of Hetch Hetchy.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby drm » Tue Jun 21, 2016 9:25 pm

I think I would need 6 days to do a loop including the North Rim, including the side trips I want to do there (North Dome and El Cap), and GCT. Can I leave a food cache at White Wolf?

I could also come out of Porcupine as now planned after two nights, drive back to Tuolumne Mdws, take the bus to White Wolf, and then have a shorter hike out of Glen Aulin.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 22, 2016 8:01 am

Mosquitoes in most areas will be probably be a 7 out of 10 near water or with wet ground from about 8-10,000 ft this time of year. The North Rim shouldn't be too bad, but you'll still want repellent and a head net. They will swarm you pretty relentlessly, but if you keep moving you'll get at least some relief. I've never gotten more than a few in the tent. They're also big and slow with the altitude, so they're easier to take out.

GCT is likely to have some flooding east of Pate Valley. Haven't heard any reports of any yet, but it's pretty typical this time of year. Those areas are generally easy enough to go around or only slightly through. The ranger you talked to was probably referring to Register Creek. That's the only actual unbridged crossing. It's wider at the trail itself, but it's narrower up canyon. If it's a problem on the trail and you can't go through, just scout around until you find a better place to get across.

Yes, there are lockers at White Wolf across from the store, and at the Luken's Lake pullout along Tioga Rd.

If you leave the wilderness area of the North Rim after two days and drive to Tuolumne, you'll need another permit for the second trip from White Wolf. My suggestion to go up Yosemite Creek avoids that, but it shouldn't be a big deal.

If your entry is Porcupine Creek, North dome isn't really a "side trip", it can be part of your primary route. You'll then head over to El Cap, and be uptrail on Yosemite Creek anyhow, so that was also part of my thinking with suggesting just continuing on to Luken's Lake, etc under the same permit. From El Cap, to get back to the car at Porcupine Creek, you add about 10.5 miles of backtracking, and it's roughly a push to just go ahead and walk up to White Wolf. Depending on how your timing and schedule work out, while having the car at Tuolumne would make it shorter and easier when you exit from Glen Aulin, it might also be easier to drop your food at WW or Luken's Lake on the way into your trip, and then just use the shuttle to get back to the car. Check the schedules for the hiker's bus and YARTS to see if that might work out. Just a thought. I'm not one that likes to throw a few hours of logistics into the middle of trips for second legs if it can be avoided. But that's just my preference, so whatever you think is going to work out best to suit your needs, obviously.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby drm » Wed Jun 22, 2016 8:49 am

Thanks for the info, Phil. A bus on the day out doesn't work because I will need to get in the car and head home and not wait for once-a-day schedules. But the availability of lockers at White Wolf gets rid of any consideration of busing in the middle of the trip. Part of me still want to check out Hetch Hetchy as I've always wondered about that part of the park, but GCT sounds amazing. I've got some decisions to make in the next few day - fun decisions. I can only hope somebody will post a very recent trip report for HH indicating how bad the bugs are.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 22, 2016 9:01 am

No problem. Yeah, those bus schedules are ridiculous. We're already basing way too much of our trip planning on more loops and avoiding them altogether. Makes hitchhiking a downright viable and efficient alternative.

If AlmostThere says there are lots of mosquitoes at HH, take her at her word.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jun 22, 2016 10:20 am

Hetch Hetchy is gorgeous - but the last few times I was in the area, I went from Cherry Lake, getting permits from the Forest Service, and started higher, avoiding the heat and rattlesnakes and habituated bears. Going out from Lake Eleanor or Cherry nto the park on a loop that climbs into Emigrant, winds around through the high country and returns got us at elevation faster. Need a bear can, still, but they are easy to rent from REI or by mail from Wild Ideas if you don't own one. Less people that way too. You can camp near the trailhead at the campground at Cherry or just crash next to your car, unlike the park. Many NF offices have a night drop - Groveland office is one of those.

There will be increasing numbers of skeeters everywhere, but they collect in low sheltered areas, trees, etc because the afternoon breeze easily carries them off. This weekend I will be in high granitic areas taking full advantage of the breezes, myself. Hiking until afternoon and slowing down to fish and enjoy as the adiabatic process blows air around.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby drm » Wed Jun 22, 2016 10:37 am

Almost There - That sounds great for a local, but never having been to the reservoir, I can't imagine visiting the area and not seeing it from the reservoir the first time. The other thing is that I'm driving in from the east, coming down 395, so that is out of the way.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 22, 2016 11:03 am

Habituated bears are something to keep in mind in and around Pate Valley. Rattlesnakes are most numerous from the switchbacks down from White Wolf and up most of the GCT. Just watch where you step and shoo them away with a pole or stick.


Speaking of the descent from WW- one of the best views of Hetch Hetchy is from the ledges at the top of Morrison Creek. With what you have planned already, you get to see down the length of most of it without actually being there, and from ~2500 above. There are some nice sites up there, so it's worth a night's camping before you head down to Pate.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby drm » Wed Jun 22, 2016 1:34 pm

Phil - That's really useful. So rather than camping at the backpackers camp in WW, I can go a little ways down the hill to camps with great views. Then I would probably skip camping at Pate Valley and head part way up the canyon the next day.

I'm also getting skeptical of the trail segment mileages in my Trails Illustrated Yosemite map. The trail segment north of the Tioga Rad that goes by Lukens Lake, just to reach the next junction (right to 10 Lakes, let to WW), it says it is 2.2 miles. Doesn't look like it.
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Re: Hetch Hetchy east towards Rancheria Mtn

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 22, 2016 3:01 pm

That segment from Tioga Rd @ the Luken's Lake trailhead to the next junction (WW or Ten Lakes) is only 2.2 miles. It's basically 60/40 road to lake/ lake to junction. My map is Tom Harrison.

From that same junction, whether you actually go to WW or bypass it to the east, those campsites at Morrison are about a push on distance. All easy trails. I'm not positive of the exact date this year, but I think the WW campground is scheduled to open July 15th-ish. If the main drive-in campground isn't open, you can't stay at the backpacker's camp, and the rangers' living quarters are right across the road a couple hundred feet away. Past that, the top of Morrison Creek is the next place camping is legally allowed anyhow. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... lheads.pdf

Even though it's not really far enough for a good day's distance, Pate Valley is a great place to camp too, so it's worth consideration. After Pate Valley proper, there are some sites between there and Register Creek, and then after Muir Gorge that are fewer and farther in between. Most aren't particularly obvious and require keeping an eye out.
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