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June Backpacking Trip - Route/Campsite Recommendations

PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:28 pm
by Floater53
Hello All!

I am planning a backpacking trip with a group of between 5 and 10 people from June 3rd to June 11th, 2017. We have a mix of highly experienced outdoorsmen and some very inexperienced party members. For this reason, I am thinking that our best bet is to find a secluded lake that is about a half day/full day hike from a given trailhead and set up a main/permanent camp there.

This will allow the more experienced members of the party to venture out and take day or multi-night trips, while the less experienced members can just chill at the main camp, and take trips at their leisure. It is important that the inexperienced members have the ability to easily hike out at any time if they find that living in the outdoors for a week or more is too much to handle.

A little background regarding my experience: I did a 55 mile loop around the Clark Range in 2012 (Mono Meadows > Merced Peak > Red Peak > Post Peak > Fernandez Pass > Mono Meadows) over the span of 5 nights and 6 days. I am fully aware of the need for bear canisters and freeze dried food, proper storage of food at night, need for planning out water sources, extreme elevation gain when hiking out into the backcountry, the fact that there are no creature comforts and multiple "annoyances" (mosquitos, etc), and the fact that a lack of hiking/backpacking experience will be rough for newbies.

That being said, here is what I am looking for in terms of the main campsite:

~ Within Yosemite, a four to eight hour hike from whichever trailhead we start at

~ Trailhead does not necessarily need to start in Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne, since we want a backcountry spot, away from populated trails and popular areas

~ Potentially on a route that allows horses/pack mules if some of the less experienced members don't want to schlep their own gear or hike in

~ A lake that is secluded (i.e. it's ok if there are other campers at the lake, but I would prefer that it not be on a main thoroughfare and that it not be a lake frequented by a lot of people)

~ A lake that we can catch fish in

~ A location that offers access to some good circuits for day or multi-night trips

Any suggestions that you may be able to provide would help our team greatly in planning this trip so that all levels of backpackers can have a great time.

Thank you very much!

Re: June Backpacking Trip - Route/Campsite Recommendations

PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 5:06 pm
by AlmostThere
You are in the first two criteria already doomed to failure. Nothing from the valley floor or Tuolumne Meadows will get you to a lake in four to eight hours especially if you have a bunch of newbies who will, if carrying full packs for the first time, want to take breaks and probably struggle. ESPECIALLY considering that ALL the trails out of Yosemite Valley will immediately ascend more than a thousand feet IMMEDIATELY in the first few miles and they will DIE. (Well, they will probably want to.) From Tuolumne Meadows, meeting that criteria you will have Elizabeth Lake, at the end of a very short trail from Tuolumne campground, or Ireland Lake (although that is a fairly long hike from the trailhead) the trailhead for which is the JMT south, and therefore extremely difficult to get permits for one or two people, let alone a big group. Or Young Lakes, which is at the end of a trail. And there ya go.

I will recommend the following options, because each will be much easier for you.

1) Go to Saddlebag Lakes Loop. The permits are from the national forest, can be obtained in Tuolumne wilderness office on the way over Tioga Pass, no quota so it is a sure thing, and it will give awesome scenery with minimal work and also, options. Newbies can cut miles by taking the water taxi across Saddlebag Lake. Experienced folk can go cross country up over to Yosemite wilderness and come back. There are many lakes with many fish and you can manage a Sierra Slam - catch brook, rainbow, golden, cutthroat, and brown trout all in the same trip. No fires, because it is above 10k.
2) get campsites and camp in a Yosemite campground and day hike everything. Wanting to see everything BIG and ICONIC? That's the thing to do. Best thing for the folks who have never been there, despite the crowds. You can go to Tuolumne Meadows one day, Mariposa Grove another, Hetch Hetchy -- and also,you can hike all those steep trails without a backpack and enjoy the waterfalls and the iconic views. Newbies don't have to die and you don't need to figure out the bear canisters. Which are a BIG deal -- gotta have them and gotta get every single piece of trash, food or smelly item inside that thing every night. GOTTA.
3. Go to Glacier Point Road and hike to Ostrander Lake. You can have fires as it is below the 9600 foot elevation ban. You can fish. You can with a short cross country bit connect to the Buena Vista trail and do a longer loop, or base camp and day hike. It's fun to climb Horse Ridge and walk along it to Hart Lake. Great views.
4. The Ten Lakes basin - the lower lakes are below the fire ban. The best fishing is in the lower lakes. There are places to explore and trails to continue on, for those that choose to do so. The trailhead is on Tioga Road, not at Tuolumne Meadows.

The things that are going to complicate your life with the plan you have:
1) people who never used bear cans before will hate them. Repackage everything in ziplock bags, squeeze out all the air, use only foods that aren't destroyed by smashing them into small spaces, no eggs or crackers or bananas or apples -- dehydrate everything or use freeze dried meals ala Packit Gourmet, Mountain House, Backpacker Pantry, GET IT ALL IN THERE. Hanging food is illegal and dangerous. If a bear gets your food -- and these bears are ninjas, get well-hung food in a heartbeat -- you face a fine of up to $5000.
2) You will need multiple wilderness permits. People are expected to stay together in a group. You can't go backpacking on some long loop with the permit and leave the group, or vice versa -- if someone shows up to check permits, and they don't have the permit with them, they can be hiked out and ejected from the park with a fine.

Re: June Backpacking Trip - Route/Campsite Recommendations

PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 6:37 pm
by Phil
Weather and conditions might get in your way at that time. Even if they don't, the less hardy members of your party are going to go insane with the mosquitoes around any lakes. That said, I would definitely look into AT's suggestion for Ten Lakes Basin (Lake #2 or #3 specifically). Your less experienced members will have a good base and lots of little hikes, and the rest of you can get out and do some serious cross country routes too. Fishing is fair, but not much big stuff. Definitely check permit regs though. Also, that time of year crowds aren't even really an issue to start considering yet in any of the mid-high country.

A second immediate thought would be Upper Sunrise Lake. Great fishing that time of year, and fairly easy access to Cloud's Rest, Echo Valley, and a few cross country peaks and lakes. Find a site on the far side of the lake, and there are a few that can handle that sized party. The only thing for this spot is the climb up from Tenaya Lake that shouldn't be taken lightly, but it's only about 3 miles from the trailhead.

Get those newbies training ASAP.

Re: June Backpacking Trip - Route/Campsite Recommendations

PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 8:07 am
by balzaccom
A few additional thoughts here. What you have requested is what everyone wants: a lake that's easy to hike to, has good fishing, and no crowds.

Sorry, doesn't exist. And sorry, but Elizabeth Lake is closed to camping. You have to climb over the ridge to Nelson Lake on the use-trail to camp in that area. Not a trip I would suggest for newbies, but we did it with a relative greenhorn and he loved it. More mosquitoes than you can possibly imagine, but that will be true anywhere in the Sierra in June, unless you get right up into the snowmelt edge.

Young Lakes is probably the closest to your ideal, but there will be plenty of other people there. You can explore by hiking off-trail over to Roosevelt Lake, and you can also explore/fish all three of Young Lakes. But in June, there is a good chance there will be tons of snow there...and there is even the possibility that Tioga Road won't be open.

A second major concern with Yosemite is that permits for a large group like this may be hard to get...and you need to request the permit for as many people as are going on the trip. You can't get a permit for five, and then take ten. And it's really not fair to request a permit for ten knowing that it's likely only six will go. That keeps this destination away from others who might enjoy it.

An easier permit situation would be something like Bear Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness. Fishing, not many crowds, and explorations to Granite Lake, Y Meadow Lake and others. But it also may have lots of snow in June. No quota on permits, though, so you can make that plan later.

Final option might be Chain Lakes. It starts outside of Yosemite, off Beasore Road out of Bass Lake, but climbs into the park at the southern boundary. Same snow issues exist here, but permits are a bit easier than in Yosemite.

Re: June Backpacking Trip - Route/Campsite Recommendations

PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 9:57 am
by Floater53
Seems I may need to reassess the makeup of the group. I definitely want to really get away from the population centers, so I think that I may need to restrict this to more experienced backpackers. Most of the people that I have invited on this trip are outdoorsy and would be fine with the "inconveniences" that come along with back country living. I am well versed in dealing with bear canisters, the importance of food storage, etc.

I am totally fine with and actually prefer to hike for two days out into the wilderness to find a truly unpopulated lake. Fishing is not of the utmost importance to me, nor are fires, or any other creature comforts for that matter. I just want to be in the wilderness for a week, experience it mano y mano. I do still like the idea of creating a permanent camp at a particular location and then taking day/multi-night trips from there, however.

From what you guys are saying, it sounds like June may be a bit dodgy. Does it rain a lot that month? Is June mosquito mating season? I am seeing on AccuWeather that nighttime temperatures fluctuate between the 40s and 50s in June. Does that sound about right?

My last backpacking trip occurred in the month of August and it only rained once in the 6 days we were out there and we had no issues with mosquitoes by lakes (stayed on the shores of Lower Ottoway Lake, Lake 10005 near Post Peak Pass, and a lake near Fernandez Pass). There were very few water sources up there during August, though. Do you guys have a recommendation in terms of month of the year to go? I am available to go on this trip any time between June and mid-August.

Thanks again for all of your responses. They really help a lot!

Re: June Backpacking Trip - Route/Campsite Recommendations

PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:05 am
by AlmostThere
Snow starts to melt in spring, and as it does, the skeeters start to breed in all the standing water that results from that. Meadows and lakes are particularly fun. I have fond memories of running with a backpack through the Emigrant Wilderness through long grass with clouds of skeeters rising with every step, around me... Sometimes it gets to the point that DEET doesn't even matter any more, there are so many of them they land on you anyway and the only thing to do is get in the tent and play a card game.

It's also common for snow to linger in the high places, making trails impossible to find. The snow in the Sierra Nevada turns to crusty suncupped stuff that goes to slush in the afternoon. A pain to posthole in. Falling through into very cold snowmelt water is fun, too. It also makes stream crossings an adventure in not being swept away -- people have died in Yosemite underestimating and drowning in waterways that are running high with the melt. High passes can hold a lot of snow later in season, sometimes well into August, if there is an above average snowpack.

If you truly want the experience you initially describe the Ruby Mountains are a better fit. The only permit you need is the Nevada fishing permit. The lakes are full of fish and the mountains very Sierra like. No bears either. But July and after would be best for that range.

Re: June Backpacking Trip - Route/Campsite Recommendations

PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2016 6:33 am
by Phil
Physical exertion and logistics of wilderness backpacking/camping aside: if you're bringing newbies that you ever want to take out again, late July- August is the time to go.

Re: June Backpacking Trip - Route/Campsite Recommendations

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 2:16 pm
by balzaccom
One more thought: if you are thinking about August (better in every case, in my mind) then you might consider that same Young Lakes still works that way, but make that easy cross-country over to Roosevelt Lake...and then if you want to, continue on to McCabe Lakes as well. Plenty to see and do there, and you won't find anyone camping at Roosevelt.

BTW, if you have trouble getting permit for a larger group here, look at a Glen Aulin Pass Through Permit that would allow you to hike up Conness Creek out of Glen Aulin. That would take you to the same area, the navigation is pretty simple, and you wouldn't see a soul. My wife and I did that trip in 2015....and didn't see anyone until we got to Young Lakes on the third day.