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[Yosemite]

Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

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

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Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Justin-T » Wed Jan 11, 2017 7:36 am

I'm planning a 5-night trip in early/mid July (probably around 10-16th), starting/ending in TM, going up to Vogelsang via Rafferty, around a loop taking us past Emeric, Babcock, Bernice & Ireland Lakes and back via Lyell route. I've seen the odd comment about Babcock & Bernice being good choices for camping, but any thoughts about those two at that time of year? Are there spots a little off the lake at Babcock that might alleviate the mosquitoes a bit? Best spots around Bernice?

A related question is what we can expect (on average, beginning to look like a heavy snow winter) if we spend an extra day at Bernice to explore the smaller lakes to the north and east of it. It looks like those are probably going to be clear of snow despite the elevation, because they're on south-facing slopes. But what have people experienced here?

Any tips/advice much appreciated.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:07 am

If mosquitos are there they are there. Especially at dusk. July, very likely they will be everywhere. Going in September there would be none.

Snow, that's anyone's guess how much there will really be. The roads should be open, but coverage depends on the weather after May and the progress of the melt. It could be anything from crusty crappy thin snow over air gaps that when breached plunge your foot into four inches of icy water, to mud.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby balzaccom » Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:09 am

Hi Justin

We did a trip a few years ago that includes stops at Bernice and Emeric (not Babcock.) Can only say that mosquitoes will probably be an issue well into July. They were fierce. We camped on the ridge to the west of Bernice, where we got a bit of a breeze in the afternoon, but not enough to drive the skeeters away. I think that's your best bet. We did the same thing at Emeric, up on the granite above the lake to the south.

There's a nice waterfall/cascade coming down the creek on the east side of Bernice. The Gallison Lakes above that are supposed to be quite nice, but when we checked them out from Vogelsang Pass things seemed a bit wet up there, so we chose to come back another time.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Phil » Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:28 am

Interesting route selection.

Babcock's sites are dotted all around the lake. You come in roughly from the East, and the best sites are on the opposite shore- back away from the lake, in the trees, spacious, but probably not going to save you from the mosquitoes much, since they seem to make it a point to find you.

At Bernice, again, you probably won't escape the mosquitoes. Beautiful area, great basecamp for cross-country day trips. Best sites, IMO, are off the water, up higher, left of the trail on the west side.

Hard to say what the snowpack is going to look like so far in the future, especially this year. Shouldn't be too bad in July, but if it's a late melt, mosquitoes will be right behind it by a couple weeks, and it can get pretty crazy up there.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Justin-T » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:58 pm

Thanks guys for all the advice, very useful.

I wish we had the option of a later trip to avoid the flying monsters, but I'm stuck with mid-July. In two trips (last year and 2015) covering similar elevations at the same time of year we had very few issues with them (although early evening around Merced Lake last year was hellacious), but they were both drought-affected summers (esp. 2015). I think we'll just have to take our head nets and hope, although perhaps some late stage route adjustments might be doable if late June trip reports sound bad.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby balzaccom » Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:07 pm

Everybody complains about the mosquitoes, and so do we, but we take a trip every year in early July, and while we sometimes wear headnets, we still love the hiking. Bugs are part of the experience.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Dave_Ayers » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:06 pm

I haven't made camp at Babcock, but Bernice is sublime. There are a couple nice camp spots on the NNE side. Exploring that local area (Gallison, etc.) is certainly worthwhile. The adventurous may want to try to bag Simmons Peak. It is possible to contour from Gallison to near Voglesang pass too, though side-hilling such a slope is not for everyone.

In general I've seen the better campsites at the lakes in the general vicinity of Vogelsang (Fletcher, Evelyn, et al.) to be on the east ends in clumps of tress. But of course, each lake is unique. If you do stop at Fletcher, I recommend walking up to Townsley (called Upper Fletcher on Google Maps for some odd reason) which is very scenic. It's not hard to cross-country from Fletcher to Evelyn via Townsley. A little more difficult is to go on to Ireland in similar fashion.

Another great side trip is the high trail between Lewis Creek and the Lyell Fork of the Merced. Great views along that stretch.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Justin-T » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:59 pm

Thanks Dave, some of our group like the sound of those ideas, others will have to stay by the lake and read a book 8)
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Justin-T » Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:39 pm

Phil wrote:Interesting route selection.

I missed this the first time round Phil, is that a good kind of "interesting" or something else? I'll have to be submitting our permit application this weekend so just thought I'd check...
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Phil » Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:05 am

Interesting in a good way.

You've been around long enough to know that most go up, pass through, then drop down with very little time spent exploring in between. You go up, stay up, enjoy and explore what the area has to offer (a whole worthwhile trip unto itself), then exit on yet another beautiful continuation. For what it's worth, I highly approve and find that refreshing. :P Nice!
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Justin-T » Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:30 am

Thanks :D

I spent a while thinking about what we learned from our two previous trips in coming up with this. It's also an important week because this time my wife will be coming along for her first ever backpacking experience, so there's some extra pressure there. We could easily do the loop in 1 or 2 fewer days, but it would mean long days with much less time to enjoy being up there. Much greater opportunities to use my new camera too :twisted:
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Phil » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:23 am

Ooooh, are you sure that being the wife's first trip doesn't change the dynamics considerably, Justin?

Snow or not, beautiful scenery.....or not, the mosquitoes are going to be brutal. Unrelenting, vicious, everywhere. I've seen people that are otherwise perfectly fine with every bad aspect of nature that comes their way reduced to a frantic panic with mosquitoes by the thousands in their faces. So much DEET that the soft tissues in your eyes, nose and corners of your mouth are raw and bloody, still with no relief whatsoever. No fun. It probably won't be anything like your honeymoon, but you will spend a lot of time in your tent.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Justin-T » Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:47 am

Yikes. I'm realizing too that this is 2 weeks earlier than when we were in the same area last year, when we really didn't have much problem other than the usual stuff around sunset. So I had been imagining something different than your description... Will have to take another look at the possibility of going later in the month or first week of August. Thanks for the heads up.
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Justin-T » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:32 pm

I think we could do it 3 weeks later - surely the end of July into the first week of August should be significantly less skeetery? I know there will still likely be some (we've lived in the upper midwest and northeast, so are used to dealing with them on a daily basis in the summer) but the "unrelenting/vicious" period should be over?
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Re: Babcock and Bernice Lakes for camping etc

Postby Phil » Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:35 pm

I think that's a good call for matrimonial bliss and a better first backpacking trip, Justin.

Late July through August is much better for mosquitoes, temperatures, and generally more predictable weather patterns (afternoon thunderstorms on the Crest are common, so do be prepared though). You'll have more people along the way, but your route and willingness to go slightly off the beaten path is going to take care of at least some of that. Also with your route being largely lake-based, no real worries over water sources, inclusive of Lewis, Fletcher and Ireland Creeks still being workable for camping and trail hydration.

With scheduling, since you're coming from outside Ca, make sure you watch your reservation dates, but I do think you have a fair amount of preplanning window to work with in your actual dates, not to mention the odds of an overall better experience, and a higher level of certainty that nothing is going to go catastrophically wrong with conditions.
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