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Alternative Wilderness Options

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

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Alternative Wilderness Options

Postby YukonMooch » Mon Jul 02, 2018 5:45 am

I was curious to get some thoughts on three different one night backpacking trips. I currently have a two night reservation, starting at Young Lakes. My original plan was to hike to Young Lake night one via Dog Lake, then circle back to Glen Aulin second night, and back out third day. I will probably end up changing to just a one nighter to Young Lakes. This is my first solo "backpacking" trip. I am keeping the mileage to less than 10 in a give day and will assume an 1 hour per mile hiking pace (this is similar to my pace from last year in RMNP, backpacking three days between ~9000-1000 ft elevation)

The alternative options I would choose would be a walk in permit to Sunrise Lakes or Cathedral Lakes, if available. I've gotten the impression that Young Lakes may offer a little more solitude, while Sunrise Lakes is a good basecamp particularly for avoiding a full day hike to Clouds rest and back. I've also heard alot of great things about Cathedral Lakes scenery, although this might be a good day hike as opposed to an overnight.

I will be spending two nights in the Tuolumne meadows campgrounds prior to my backpack to acclimate and do some short day hikes prior to my wilderness overnight.

Elevation: Sunrise has the intense 1,000 ft 1 mile gain into the area while the Young Lakes hike appears to have a more general gradual elevation gain. Cathedral Lakes also has some intense elevation gain

Water Sources: There seem to be a few water sources in route to Sunrise but not many, if any, between Sunrise and Clouds Rest. With regard to young lakes, dingley creek appears to be the only water source between the trailhead and the lakes. My permit is entry at Young Lakes and exit via Dog Lake.

Camping Spots: I've saved some previous posts that have discussed camping locations in the Sunrise lake area, but I haven't seen much chatter about the Young Lake area. I haven't done alot of research in the Cathedral lakes area.

If there are some general thoughts/suggestions about some good camping spots in any of those areas, as well as some general opinions about the Young Lake, Sunrise, and Cathedral areas, that would be greatly appreciated. I think ultimately I am torn between a out and back to Young Lakes vs a short hike to sunrise to set up camp, followed by hitting Clouds rest and then back to camp at Sunrise before heading out the next day. Thanks!
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Re: Alternative Wilderness Options

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:27 am

The best camping spots are 100 feet from the water because they are legal and help you avoid damaging wilderness resources. Yosemite prefers that you use the really obvious, extremely well used sites, and not create any new ones. You'll know them when you see them. If you are within a mile of the Sunrise High Sierra Camp you must camp in the designated sites at the camp itself. Same with Glen Aulin.

No fires at lower Cathedral Lake. No fires above 9600 feet. Ignore illegal campfire rings, the removal crew hasn't got to them yet. At Young Lakes, it's too high for fires, so...

Don't forget mosquito prevention... they have been bad and it's unpredictable.

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/backpacking.htm

Have fun! Don't forget to make sure everything fits in the bear can before you leave the trailhead.
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Re: Alternative Wilderness Options

Postby balzaccom » Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:48 am

The trail to Young Lakes from Dog Lake is stunning, with huge vistas across Tuolumne Meadows to the Cathedral Range. One of my favorite stretches of trail in the park.

There are lots and lots of places to camp at Young Lakes---as there are three lakes, and you can generally find the solitude you want if you just keep looking.

Cathedral Lakes are right on the John Muir Trail. Lots more people. Stunning views of Cathedral Peak.

You can't lose.
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: Alternative Wilderness Options

Postby Phil » Mon Jul 02, 2018 7:18 am

Hey,

Don't make any mistake about it, while it's generally moderate, you're going to do some climbing up to Young Lakes. Like about 1300 ft and 7 or so miles of it, pretty consistently, so, all day at your pace. You didn't mention your trip date, but you should be able to find water en-route at Dog Lake, Dingley and Delaney Creeks for most of the summer. It's been a while since I was up there, and just checking the Full Trailhead Report: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... lheads.htm looks to be pretty crowded. A lot of reasons for that. Lower Young has the most campsites, but as you go along the chain, Middle has some, and Upper has a few that a solo hiker should have no trouble fitting into, and it should theoretically give you the most solitude. Your views are gorgeous and different than most of the other trails you're considering, but you're also far enough east that you're more toward the actual Pacific Crest, so you're more or less at the western edge of where the clouds pile up and create the typical afternoon thunderstorms. Sometimes that's a big deal, sometimes not, just something you should know. You have a reserved permit, it's worthwhile for sure, try to keep it. As a soloist, you should be able to find what you're looking for and give it the test, but you're also not so isolated from others that you can't find help if you need it. There's a big psychological difference (as well as lots of logistical aspects to learn and focus on) between taking your first solo trip and knowing that there are at least a few other people fairly close by, and realizing that you haven't seen anyone for days, and won't.

Okay, so Cathedral Lakes and Sunrise are nice and scenic, definitely worth seeing, but they're also popular and crowded. You're not going to find much in the way of solitude, and there's also a good chance that you're going to take the full tour and have to do a little exploring to find the kind of site you're looking for. You will see tents, and you will hear others. Cathedral's elevation gain is about 1200 over 3.6 miles, Sunrise is 1100 over 2.5 miles, and if you do decide to go to CR instead, you do have water at the pond and at the creek up-trail. Frankly, while I don't mind helping people out with their trip planning for these areas at all, it's been written about, talked about, and dissected to the point where we can only figure that everybody is going there. Not exactly a recipe for solitude.

I can think of lots of great hikes, but another thought on what might work for you would be Murphy Creek, camp at one of the Polly Dome Lakes, then maybe have a short walk over to Raisin Lake for another night if you want, then either exit back at the same trailhead or loop around past May Lake (climb Mt Hoffman as a day hike), then dump out down at Sunrise and go back to the car. Nice area, pretty easy route, fair chance at finding at least some sense of isolation if you either get lucky or carry a few Nalgenes or a water reservoir and walk off somewhere with a view, but a little more removed.
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Re: Alternative Wilderness Options

Postby YukonMooch » Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:57 am

I appreciate the responses. I'll probably just keep my Young Lakes permit at this point, day hike to Cathedral early in the week and then near the end of my trip (I'll be up there for five days this week, Tuesday-Saturday, Thursday-Friday backpack) if I have anything left in the tank, try for the Clouds rest day hike on Saturday. It sounds like the approach to Young Lakes is more scenic from Dog Lakes as opposed to heading towards Glen Aulin and then turning towards Young Lakes.

I've also mentally prepared myself for mosquitoes, long sleeves and pants, headnets, treated clothing with permethrin. Any opinions on the thermacell stuff, supposedly keeps mosquitoes away in a small radius by attaching to a fuel canister...I was contemplating getting an extra small fuel canister to cook/have the thermacell going. At the same time, does that stuff give off a smell that may perk a bears interest? Although I guess the food smell would anyway.

One last thing that just came to mind, when I was up in the Adirondacks last year, our bearvault was said to be not suitable and they made us rent one. Any issues with those in Yosemite? Maybe they were just trying to make a quick ten bucks.
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Re: Alternative Wilderness Options

Postby Phil » Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:50 am

Definitely take the mosquito measures you are. I'm actually going to be trying out the Thermacell Backpacker this weekend. The reviews are good, but I have my doubts. Aside from whether it actually works or not, the biggest issue is going to be the altitude since they're only supposed to be reliable up to 7000 ft. As per the tech people at Thermacell, it's a fuel ratio issue, not a device issue. That's not uncommon, as it's generally the rule that performance of any isobutane fired stove, etc suffers above 8000 ft, from slowing boil times, up to just not lighting at all even higher up. I have a homemade set up specifically designed for this that allows me to isolate and invert my fuel cartridge and burn a higher percentage of propane (which will burn at higher altitudes) than normal with what would otherwise be a piggybacked appliance. I have no idea if it'll work or not, but I'm going to give it a shot and see what happens. Worse case scenario, I return it, I waste a cartridge, carry an extra 4-5 oz, go back to what I've always relied on and carried for dealing with mosquitoes, eat in the tent, swear that I'll never do it again until I forget and do it again.... Bottom line: don't rely on it just yet, and if bears happen to be attracted to it, good, I hope they eat it and enjoy every bite of crunchy plastic goodness. Or, really worse case scenario, it bursts into flame and the toxic fumes from it melting keep the mosquitoes away better than it would've if it worked.

Bear Vaults are approved in Yosemite. Apparently several of the bears along the AT are smarter than ours and have figured out how to compress the latch and pop the top or, more likely, they were cases of human error. But, if one does happen to get into your can, take pride in the fact that you'll be the first here to have it happen, and be sure to post a trip report with pictures.
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