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TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

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TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby Pato » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:42 am

Ever since I first learned about Tunemah Lake and its supposed giant trout I knew that I had to get there – of course that is no easy task. I penciled out a challenging 6 day, 62 mile off trail loop from Courtright Reservoir that would visit some prime destinations: Blue Canyon, Tunemah, Lake 10,232, Goddard Canyon and Red Mtn Basin. Part of the allure of this trip for me was the fishing: I love exploring unknown lakes and the challenge of getting there.

As with all my trips it seems, there was a lot of anxiety leading up to this trip. I had been incredibly busy at work, traveling a lot and not exactly sure I should leave civilization at the moment. On top of that a weather system was scheduled to hit that predicted wind gusts to 50mph and potentially some rain. But as I realize every time I venture in the wilderness – I really needed the escape.

Day 1 – Maxson TH to N Fork of Kings River. 17 miles - 8 - 2400’ elevation gain

A 4am start from the Bay Area had us geared up and ready to hit the trail at 10am. With 40 lb packs we were a little heavier than I wanted to be but manageable. The first 10 miles of the trail were forested with minimal views but the miles ticked away quickly. At about 10.5 miles the views opened up where the North Fork carves its way through solid granite and creates wonderful little swimming holes and water slides. We stopped to swim at these pools and regretted not being able to stay the night there. If I had more time, this would make a wonderful stop for the first day.
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We continued on up the North Fork through mosquito hell at Big Maxson Meadow and past 2 Outward Bound groups of 10 kids or so coming back from a 7 day trip into Bench Valley and Blackcap Basin. I was impressed to see young kids doing such an adventurous trip – very encouraging! At 6pm we rolled into our planned destination near where the trail crosses the North Fork. I briefly considered fishing the creek, but decided against it and took refuge from the attacking mosquitoes in the tent. A long first day for sure and sadly no views to enjoy at the end of the day.

Day 2 –N Fork of Kings River to Blue Canyon. 7.8 miles - 2800’ elevation gain

Almost immediately we said goodbye to the trail (and people) for the next 4 days, and headed cross country up Maxson Basin. We skirted the shallow lake in the basin which was actually prettier than expected and had a nice view of Blackcap Mtn to the North.
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The mosquitoes were thick as we ascended to the ridge at about 10,600 where we got a light breeze and enjoyed wonderful views of Crown Basin and down to the Middle Fork of the Kings. The descent off this ridge was a little trickier than expected but not too bad and we made good time across Crown Basin and up to Hummingbird Lake and Mantle Pass.
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Again mosquitoes were thick in this area until we hit the pass where a breeze would knock them back. From Mantle Pass we made a sweeping traverse to the twin lakes at 10,320+ and made our way over to Lake 10,401 sitting at the back end of the canyon. Views from 10,401 were fantastic although we struggled with finding a flat campsite for our tent. We settled on some semi-level granite on the north end of the lake that had a good breeze to fend off our bloodsucking enemies.
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After setting up camp I spent about 15 minutes fishing, and deemed it fishless (saw no signs of life) so we scrambled down to the twin marsh-lined lakes 400’ below.
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These lakes indeed had plenty of rainbows, running to about 12” or so but the mosquitoes were almost unbearably bad.
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We fished until we could not bear them anymore and scrambled back up to camp. That evening, the wind began picking up – a sign that the predicted weather front was moving in. For the moment we were happy that they kept the bugs at bay.
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Day 3 – Blue Canyon to Tunemah Basin. 3.68 miles - 1420’ elevation gain

Ahh….Tunemah…I had been daydreaming about this day for years! We woke up to overcast skies and fog. Some weather had definitely moved in overnight. As we made our way up Dykeman Pass a light rain developed. Dykeman proved easy and once over it and into the Alpine Creek drainage, we dropped our packs and decided to scramble over to the large unnamed lake at 10,400+.
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I had not been able to find any information on this lake regarding fish so I had dreams that this was a secret lunker lake. My dreams proved unfounded as we fished for probably 45 minutes with no action, no visuals, no signs of life. Not sure I can rule out fish for sure, but we came up empty handed.
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Back at our packs we made our way up the Alpine Creek drainage where we had wonderful views back down to the Middle Fork and across to the Monarch Divide. We pushed on, excited to get to Tunemah. Once we crested the saddle, there it was - Tunemah Lake. I couldn’t wait – we threw down our packs and began to fish. 30 minutes passed - Nothing. We moved our packs over to the jawdropping views at the outlet and fished some more.
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Still nothing. Hmmm….could Tunemah now be fishless? As much as I wanted to fish some more, I’d still have a chance to determine that tomorrow. We decided we should get into camp and enjoy the improved weather (sans mosquitoes) and , reluctantly, I retreated down to the beautiful basin below Tunemah.

To be continued…
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Re: TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby Pato » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:52 am

Day 3 – continued

I read reports calling Tunemah basin “enchanted” and I couldn’t agree more. A huge smile set across my face as I strolled down through the valley.
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What an amazing place. We set up camp in between the lakes at 10,440+ and enjoyed spectacular views of the Ragged Spur.
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Fishing at these lakes was descent for rainbows running to maybe 12” but fishing was second place to the scenery. The weather had cleared and we wandered down to a small lakelet below the larger lakes and enjoyed one of the most spectacular vistas I have seen in the Sierra. This is the stuff I live for!
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Back at camp I discovered an area about 100’ from our tents that had 7 large (mostly fresh) piles of bear scat.
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Without bear canisters we went to bed a little nervous that night…hoping that bears don’t like to eat where they poop! I tried to think about the monster fish back at Tunemah.

To be continued…
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Last edited by Pato on Mon Jul 07, 2014 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Jul 07, 2014 8:47 am

Pato: This is one excellent TR. Lower Tunemah Basin, that's the stuff us cross-country mountaineers live for. Those pictures and memories will last you for a lifetime.
Still waiting for a Tunemah Lake picture. ;) A map would be nice: I had to decipher from what you said, your pictures, a good map and Google Earth exactly what direction the camera was pointing at sometimes. I was like, "OOOoooh...he was there...Cooooool..."
Just an awesome TR, and I can't wait for the rest. Good job!

(I had a cat named Pato, which in Japanese means "Toes", and my cat had too many.)
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Re: TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby Kelbaker » Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:26 am

I was also skunked at Tunemah last year. Although I did have one pretty good bite so I am thinking there is still fish there, I did see what looked like MYLF's hopping around though. It was suppose to be a fish dinner night so I had to go to the lower lakes to fulfill that requirement. Thanks for the beautiful pitchers and of a beautiful place.
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TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby Bluewater » Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:42 am

This is beautiful! Lower Tunemah Basin looks amazing. The pano view from the photo taken above Lake 10,600 is spectacular, and the third one from LTB with the waterfall and wildflowers makes we want to be there right now. Looking forward to the rest. BTW, I was also following along on my maps, looks like a fun route.


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Re: TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Jul 07, 2014 1:01 pm

Ah, this is the stuff of dreams. The basin below Tunemah is High Sierra paradise. That may be my favorite spot in the entire range. Like many others, I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of this report.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 07, 2014 1:18 pm

Beautiful report and love the pictures, especially the ones with the wildflowers.
How were the wildflowers in the Crown/Maxson area?

DWD wrote:
(I had a cat named Pato, which in Japanese means "Toes", and my cat had too many.)


Means "Duck" in spanish. I taught "Yubi" is toes in Japanese.
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Jul 07, 2014 1:30 pm

maverick wrote:Beautiful report and love the pictures, especially the ones with the wildflowers.
How were the wildflowers in the Crown/Maxson area?
DWD wrote:
(I had a cat named Pato, which in Japanese means "Toes", and my cat had too many.)

Means "Duck" in spanish. I taught "Yubi" is toes in Japanese.

You are right. I got my cats mixed up. I had cats named Pato and Yubi. Currently I have three: Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingly and Bridget. Yes, my wife is a Jane Austin fan. Geez.

When I passed through Crown Basin, it looked like there would be plenty of flowers in the proper time of year, but I was there late season. There is certainly plenty of meadows, running water and ponds.
Last edited by DoyleWDonehoo on Mon Jul 07, 2014 3:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby jenreyn » Mon Jul 07, 2014 3:43 pm

Thanks for the pics.....looks really amazing especially the lower basin. I am headed out there in a few days. Excited to go but wondering if the fishing pole is worthy since there are mixed fishing reports. Also, did you follow the outlet of Tunemah down into Goddard Canyon or back over Blue Canyon Pass?
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Re: TR: Tunemah 6/24-6/29

Postby TehipiteTom » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:21 am

Excellent report, amazing photos. That area is a longtime dream of mine...
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