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Off-Trail Overnight Trips

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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jan 07, 2015 10:56 pm

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Since none of you answered Oleander's question about Ruby Lake, that gives me a chance to toss out that it often seems like I'm about the only one on this board that uses topo's plus Google Earth much in threads? I'm betting some of you despite the fact we talk about it often have never installed the free Google Earth application?

And yes I not only use those alot but the online topo I use is the acme mapper site on all my links that has the advantage of also having tabs for satelite views and a road map, all in registration to whatever is at the crosshair center. On that page is a field " Link to this page" that must be actuated before copying any map for link purposes. Of course this HST site also has a map function :

http://www.highsierratopix.com/high-sierra-map/map.php

But again I rarely find any of you even use that and rather will ramble on with poorly described written post descriptions that can often be far more easily understood instantly by looking at a GE pic or topo link. Another very useful bit a freeware is MWSnap for screen captures of either of those two.

So yeah I've been to Ruby Lake. I've climbed up through the talus behind the lake to Mills Lake. And have been over Mono Pass. The camping at Ruby Lake has been in the Wilderness Press guidebooks since the first edition before many of you were born, usually as a waypoint campspot before going over Mono. The place 98% of visitors camp is at the limited flat area at the outlet you can see above on the GE image and X marks the spot. Of course every dayhiker going to the lake, and there are lots of them mid summer, are going to see everything in anyones camp there. So one of the least secluded choices to backpack at in the Sierra. And for you fishermen backpackers, guess how many dayhiking fishermen are usually tossing out Super Dupers along every few feet of that outlet shoreline weekends midday?

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.41663,-118.76667&z=15&t=T

But wait. Many have heard that I rarely camp in regular camp spots because I tend to stay away from lake edges, trails, and the like. And for this person Ruby would not be a problem for seclusion. Looking at the topo it would appear that there are no other places around shore areas that offer flat camping. 95% of backpackers always camp close to water sources no more than about 50 feet above shores and that is especially the case when the water is a lake. Trying to separate many groups further away from lake edges than about 200 feet is as likely as trying to pry a bulldog off a bone.

But these GE images below show where I would camp by choice. The first above is on the little bench about 110 feet above and south of the outlet where the red arrow shows. It has a fine view of the lake and likely no one would venture up there even on an August Saturday. One can see the use trail where I put a red T. The second below pic is downstream a couple hundred yards across the creek up about 50 feet. That has only a distant Ruby view shown in the third pic but fine views down into the lakes of Little Lakes Valley.

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August 2013 on my way into Pioneer Basin from Mono Pass trail:
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby oleander » Thu Jan 08, 2015 11:37 am

Can't believe no one has mentioned these two x-country gems that are a short drive from the Bay Area:

1. Horsetail Falls. Drive is 3 hours flat, from my house. After ~1 mile on the official trail to the falls, leave the trail and climb up parallel to (and about 1/10 mile west of) the falls. Early on, there is a short Class 3 move, that is too scary for my friends who have an above-average fear of heights, but it's not truly exposed. Now you have already lost all the Desolation crowds. The rest of the climb is easy Class 2. Then wander into the untrailed lakes basin above the falls. Class 1 and 2. You can also climb Pyramid Peak from that basin. Pyramid is on my bucket list.

2. Blue Lakes and beyond, from the use trail that leaves Highway 108 from an unmarked pullout between Kennedy Meadows and Sonora Pass.

The other one I want to try is from Carson Pass. From Fourth of July Lake area, I'd like to zigzag up the ramps that climb the ginormous beautiful granite landform to the southeast of (and across the canyon from) that lake. You wind up on the shoulder of Deadwood Peak. You could descend from there to Grouse Lake to camp. I haven't talked to anyone who has tried this.

I was told by a ranger that there is some fantastic x-country "wandering around on the granite" that one can do by simply parking on the side of the road (Highway 88) just to the southwest of Silver Lake, and walking south. I'm a little puzzled by where exactly she means. But it sounds good. Short drive!

Ironically I am not the one here who asked about Ruby Lake, but my friend and I have always wondered what the juicy basin behind Ruby Lake might be like, and how is the x-country route up there. Ruby Lake itself is an unpleasant place to camp - lots of people, yes, and the sites aren't too good.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Jan 08, 2015 1:43 pm

oleander wrote:Can't believe no one has mentioned these two x-country gems that are a short drive from the Bay Area:

1. Horsetail Falls. Drive is 3 hours flat, from my house. After ~1 mile on the official trail to the falls, leave the trail and climb up parallel to (and about 1/10 mile west of) the falls. Early on, there is a short Class 3 move, that is too scary for my friends who have an above-average fear of heights, but it's not truly exposed. Now you have already lost all the Desolation crowds. The rest of the climb is easy Class 2. Then wander into the untrailed lakes basin above the falls. Class 1 and 2. You can also climb Pyramid Peak from that basin. Pyramid is on my bucket list.

2. Blue Lakes and beyond, from the use trail that leaves Highway 108 from an unmarked pullout between Kennedy Meadows and Sonora Pass.

Blue Canyon is a place I remember looking at on the map many years ago...thanks for reminding me!
The other one I want to try is from Carson Pass. From Fourth of July Lake area, I'd like to zigzag up the ramps that climb the ginormous beautiful granite landform to the southeast of (and across the canyon from) that lake. You wind up on the shoulder of Deadwood Peak. You could descend from there to Grouse Lake to camp. I haven't talked to anyone who has tried this.

Interesting...I've looked at a route down from Grouse to Summit City Creek, but your way looks like it might go as well. You could approach from Blue Lakes via Devil's Corral and Summit City Canyon, and make a loop of it.

There's lots of interesting cross-country within a fairly compact area in that part of Mokelumne. Snow Canyon is quite pretty, for example.
I was told by a ranger that there is some fantastic x-country "wandering around on the granite" that one can do by simply parking on the side of the road (Highway 88) just to the southwest of Silver Lake, and walking south. I'm a little puzzled by where exactly she means. But it sounds good. Short drive!

Looking at the map, I'd guess she means the Tragedy Creek drainage--that area you look out over from Shot Rock Vista. Couple little lakes in there...might well be worth some exploration...
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby fourputt » Thu Jan 08, 2015 2:06 pm

Long a** drive, rather popular, and 1st 99% doesn’t meet your requirements, but the trail ends before Mott Lake and just camping on the far side or a little higher is real-deal high x-ctry scenery with an option to do a long exit over Rosy Finch and down Laurel Creek.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby schmalz » Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:19 pm

I've done a handful of these so far. I had the best luck with Finger Lake out of Big Pine. It had a nice combination of being of of the way enough while being incredibly scenic.

https://scontent-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos ... e=55384214

I also think that NyDiver lake out of Agnew Meadows could be a good one.

Neither of these destinations will likely give you absolute solitude on a summer weekend, but probably close enough.

Edit: I also think that if you are ambitious than Pioneer Basin could be included into this discussion.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:45 pm

fourputt wrote:Long a** drive, rather popular, and 1st 99% doesn’t meet your requirements, but the trail ends before Mott Lake and just camping on the far side or a little higher is real-deal high x-ctry scenery with an option to do a long exit over Rosy Finch and down Laurel Creek.

Or Blue Jay Lakes is a nice getaway from Mott--we camped there on my first SC trip, a mere 21 years ago. Depends on the ferry to make it a single-day hike in, though.

In the same general area, I wonder about Vermillion, Arrowhead, and Feather lakes. How hard to get to, and are they worth it?

schmalz wrote:I've done a handful of these so far. I had the best luck with Finger Lake out of Big Pine. It had a nice combination of being of of the way enough while being incredibly scenic.

https://scontent-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos ... e=55384214

I also think that NyDiver lake out of Agnew Meadows could be a good one. - See more at: posting.php?mode=quote&f=1&p=91672#sthash.hRKoTf3g.dpuf

Interesting possibilities. Beautiful pic!
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby balzaccom » Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:54 pm

This is a great question.

Yes to Nelson or Echo Lakes. Both of those are great--although it's a bit of a drive from SF to Tuolumne Meadows for the weekend...

We like Clark Fork in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. There is no lake but if you head up Clark Fork, avoiding the more popular trails to either Disaster Creek or Boulder Lake, you should have sweet solitude and some decent fishing for brookies.

Out of Kennedy Meadows you might be able to get up Summit Creek and into the lakes above it: Ridge, Iceland,etc.

And we made it to Leopold Lake in a day out of Gianelli trailhead in Emigrant Wilderness. Chain Lakes, below Grouse Lake, would also be an option in that general area.

And out of Carson Pass and Blue Lakes, we hiked past Granite Lake to Grouse Lake there (yep, another Grouse Lake.) Saw nobody, and no fish.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby schmalz » Thu Jan 08, 2015 4:05 pm

Forgot to mention Wonder Lakes. This might be the best option on the east side.

http://calitrails.com/2013/07/12/north- ... der-lakes/
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:06 pm

One of the issues with overnight trips is actually being able to spend enough time at destinations to make an effort worthwhile. In other words most people are not going to get much out of overnight trips to destinations that although such can be reached in a single day, are so strenuous that a backpacker won't have energy to do anything much more than veg in camp recovering. Though that does not apply as much to peak bagging enthusiasts and trail runners.

Since one is going to return the next day, yes there are a few morning hours when a person will be rested though will be forced to get on the route back early if it is long. So what threshold makes that worthwhile?

A good example of that is Pioneer Basin at 11 miles and 2700 feet vertical going in. Unlike many destinations where it is up the first day and all down on the return, because of the crest one has to climb all the way back up 2k going out. So yeah possible for not much more than a peak bagger's endurance challenge.

Thus for overnight trips which means 2 days, one going in and one coming back out, key requirements are:

    Not having to drive so far from wherever one lives else possible hours on the road versus on the destination have little balance over just 2 days. For this person that is 4 or 5 hours max.

    Any national park destinations or the still few national forest destinations that demand standing in front of a person for a sermon at a ranger station at 8am or later Saturday mornings on trail departure days make getting enough hours in at destinations for activities rather hopeless. Conversely being able to get a short notice wilderness permit at recreation.gov then having it set up for a night box pickup on the evening of a drive in is ideal. And that can leverage a night hike in too in order to really have a day.

    Mileage and time on the trail is short so after one gets to wherever, they are still lively and have enough time to enjoy themselves both on the hike in day and the next morning. This requirement eliminates a lot of backpacking destinations that are long one day efforts. Of course the more ultra-light the more strongly conditioned a person is, the further that can be.

One of my favorites is 20 Lakes Basin because after sneaking out of work early say at 3pm Friday the drive is 5 hours. Then one can night box pick up at Mono Visitor Center, and be at Saddlebag hiking along the lakeshore by 9:30pm and reach about anywhere in that basin by 11:30pm. Next morning have a whole day to enjoy. Then Sunday morning get in a few hours yet a second morning before departing. And note best photography light and calm waters on its many lakes is early mornings.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby schmalz » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:12 pm

SSSdave wrote:A good example of that is Pioneer Basin at 11 miles and 2700 feet vertical going in. Unlike many destinations where it is up the first day and all down on the return, because of the crest one has to climb all the way back up 2k going out. So yeah possible for not much more than a peak bagger's endurance challenge.


Can't say I agree with you here. Last time I was there I was able to pack up camp in the morning, hike out, and I was home by 5PM. 11 miles with 2700 feet gain/loss isn't that big of a hike. If you are only out for 1 night and the weather forecast is favorable, you don't really need to haul in a ton of gear or food either.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby schmalz » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:18 pm

Also, one other random note:

These types of trips really highlight the inadequacies of the permit system. In a nutshell, getting a walk in permit for a trip like this is a huge pain, since you have to wait til 8AM to begin the process of waiting to get one etc. For example, for my Finger Lake example, if I show up in Lone Pine at 8 on a Saturday to get a weekend permit, I will probably not be on the trail until 9:30ish. That is a huge chunk of the day wasted and it can really limit where you can go.

So, I usually only try these trips now if I can reserve a permit ahead of time for a destination that is not in a NP so that I can pick it up in the night drop box. That way, I can hit the trail by 7AM on Saturday and give myself a full day and a half in the mountains, which can really go a long way if you plan the trip right.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:40 pm

schmalz wrote:Also, one other random note:

These types of trips really highlight the inadequacies of the permit system. In a nutshell, getting a walk in permit for a trip like this is a huge pain, since you have to wait til 8AM to begin the process of waiting to get one etc. For example, for my Finger Lake example, if I show up in Lone Pine at 8 on a Saturday to get a weekend permit, I will probably not be on the trail until 9:30ish. That is a huge chunk of the day wasted and it can really limit where you can go.

So, I usually only try these trips now if I can reserve a permit ahead of time for a destination that is not in a NP so that I can pick it up in the night drop box. That way, I can hit the trail by 7AM on Saturday and give myself a full day and a half in the mountains, which can really go a long way if you plan the trip right.

This has occurred to me as well. Emigrant will do night box drops on day-before phone reservations, but just about everyone else does it only for advance reservations. So the bottom line is, I'll just have to do more planning ahead to make the most of the little time I have.
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