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Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

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Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby tallkan » Thu Sep 18, 2014 1:34 pm

Hi HSTers!!! What an awesome forum!!

I've been on here off and on for several years. I'm excited to share a few trips that I did earlier this year. But wow, doing trip reports takes a ton of time!! This makes me appreciate all of the awesome trip reports on here even more. Thanks everyone for sharing! I'll try for my first HST report in the next few days!!

In the mean time, I just got the green light to take my family of 5 backpacking in just 3 weeks!! I'm stoked beyond words, especially since our last hike together turned out to be one of the awesomest most memorable times in my hiking career.

Anywho, my wife, myself, and my three daughters (ages 10-15) will be hiking 3-4 days...but where???
The trip that I have done the most planning for, and in fact already had in motion once but had to abandon at the trailhead due to road closures, is my Tuolumne Meadows ramble. Basically we would start at Murphy Creek trailhead and wander about the low incline trails spending the night at Polly Dome Lakes, May Lake, Tenaya Creek, etc.

However, I have also drooled at the prospect of returning to Cottonwood lakes or taking our first venture into Little Lakes Valley. Decisions decisions!! I'm sure any of these would be just awesome and it really doesnt matter. I just thought somebody on here might have visited one of these areas recently and could give me an idea of conditions which might sway my decision one way or another.

My kids are big on swimming, lakes, creeks, waterfalls, slides, etc. I also am careful about making them grind it out on never-ending climbs, etc. I'm hoping bugs have started hibernating for the season. Then there's the fire near half dome, I dont know if that smoke is trending toward a certain direction which I can avoid?

So far I'm think Tuolumne because we can swim and sleep at a variety of lakes, and then hike down Tenaya creek and let them play on the granite slides and bowls there. We get to wander around a bit instead of just an in-and-back hike. And I think permits and parking is pretty easy after Oct 1st?

So, what do you all think???



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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby rlown » Thu Sep 18, 2014 3:47 pm

October is a tough call, esp with young kids at all the places you mention. They're in process of "rolling up the roads" so to speak in Tuolumne. In the first week of Oct, it'll be really cold in the mornings, and in general.

Anything at the places you mention will be freezing over night, and if you do choose one of your destinations, you also have to watch the weather closely prior to departure. One freak storm can change your trip forever.

I would prefer a lower altitude trip this time of year, even on the west side below the massive fires going on.
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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Sep 18, 2014 4:32 pm

The pass closes to overnight parking on Oct 15 and the campgrounds close in late September. Snow and weather can be expected... Each year I go out the first weekend of October and get hail, rain, snow, sometimes all in the same trip.

In all the places you list I would be ready for weather, freezing temps, and probably not planning to swim.
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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby tallkan » Thu Sep 18, 2014 5:01 pm

Wow, yeah, I guess in my excitement of the news, I didnt realize we're already in Mid September!! Yikes!! I missed out on prime time!!

We had originally planned to go last week, now it's going to be a very different hike.

Okay, so let's see. Tuolumne is probably still a "safe" bet as long as a) we are open to mild weather and b) we are prepared to bail if weather turns really bad. I mean, the route I described is never more than 3 miles from the road (and our car). Our trip would end on 10/5, so parking is fine. Still, not an ideal location by any means, since the likelihood of all-day chilly weather would put a damper on the fun big time.

Thanks for the wakeup call guys!! If anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them.

I know, how about Mountain Home State Forest!!?? Ive heard good things about it and elevations go from 6000-8500.

Thanks rlown!! and AlmostThere!!!
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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby tim » Thu Sep 18, 2014 6:16 pm

Hetch Hetchy would be one option, eg in to Rancheria Falls, day hike to Leconte Point, and then Day 3 back out, as we did here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5136
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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:38 pm

You need to check on smoke from the Meadow Fire. The NWS forecast usually mentions haze or smoke. Fires are popping up all over northern CA so you need to check anywhere before you go. Desolation Wilderness would be perfect, EXCEPT, the King Fire is spewing smoke all over right now.

Cottonwood Lakes vs Tuolumne is a long distance apart. Where would you be driving from? If only 3-5 days you do not want to spend two days just driving.
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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby gary c. » Thu Sep 18, 2014 9:39 pm

It sounds to me like a trip up the Forks of the Kern might be a better for your girls this time of year. Even better might be a Jerkey Meadow - Kern Flat - Forks of the Kern loop. The temps should be better for your girls and even the Kern will probably be warm enough for dip or two.
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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby RichardCullip » Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:20 am

gary c. wrote:It sounds to me like a trip up the Forks of the Kern might be a better for your girls this time of year. Even better might be a Jerkey Meadow - Kern Flat - Forks of the Kern loop. The temps should be better for your girls and even the Kern will probably be warm enough for dip or two.


Gary - good call. That's a great area to explore as we transition into Fall. So good, in fact, that I'll be visiting the Forks of the Kern and places up river next weekend with a group from the Southern Sierra Fly Fishing club. Hope the weather holds.
Life is good. Eternal Life is better!

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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby tallkan » Fri Sep 19, 2014 3:09 pm

Thanks everyone for the advice!

As for driving, i dont worry about it too much. For a 3 day camping trip recently I took my family to Zion. :) Left thursday right after work and we were there by early morning Friday and had an amazing 3 days before going home. Not my preference of course, closer is better, but I will pay miles to get into really good stuff.

Forks of the Kern is now on the list.
Hidden falls up the Tule to Hocket Meadows might be a good one?
Tuolumne is still on the list because of how easy it is to bail, but smoke likely a problem.
What about Road's End to Bubbs Creek (also a long drive)?

Any other ideas?
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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby seanr » Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:06 pm

Regarding Tuolumne, I would not count on smoke being a problem this far out. The Meadow Fire was not as huge as the press might have made it seem and was at peak over three weeks before you would potentially begin to be there. The huge King Fire is creating smoke problems across the region today, but ought to be quieter by the time you head out. Winds change. More fires could start. Who knows?

However, I agree with others about Tuolumne and the higher places you mentioned being risky as far as cold. You mentioned swimming a lot. Best case scenario in Tuolumne would be a small part of the day in the 70s, but 50s to 60s would be more likely for highs. Keep in mind that the sun is not nearly as warming and intense in the fall. Lows will likely be 20s to low 30s with any low 40s likely due to clouds blowing through. The thought of clouds blowing through brings me to the possibility of highs in the 30s or 40s with snow and lows in the single digits to 20s. You did mention the possibility of bailing. Absent a forecast of a major five day heatwave, with sunny high 60s or 70s as you hit the trails, why go there or anywhere in the high country if swimming is a huge priority? Yes, it has awesome scenery and rock pools, so good luck to you with the weather. Road's End starts low, but if weather is cold or stormy backpacking options for a several day trip might be pretty limited from there.
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Re: Family hike, Cottonwood Lakes, Little Lakes or Tuolumne

Postby rlown » Fri Sep 19, 2014 5:43 pm

i know we don't get to vote on this, but I'd vote Kern. That actually sounded like the best options put forth. 3 young girls will not have fun with the cold in TM. (my sisters hated cold). It's pretty but it takes a different mental model to be painted this time of year.
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