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Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

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Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby valeofoakland » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:57 pm

HST Friends,

My next scheduled trip is July 2-5. This time I'll be taking my 4 brothers (30's and 40) out into the wilderness. A couple are flying in from the northeast and it will be the first backpacking trip for 3. I'm looking for Sierra destinations within a 4 hour drive from the Bay Area with terrific mountain scenery (that can't really be had in New England), not too hard on the beginners, where we can drop our packs for a day or 2 to explore. I reserved permits for Desolation (Aloha), but I'm also considering Emigrant from Crabtree, Gianelli, or Kennedy Meadows.

I would love your thoughts on other options!

Level 3
- Class 1 terrain/trail hiking
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country

What is your main interest?
- Lakes
- Big Mountain scenery
- Bonding with family

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead? 4/3

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers? <8

Do you have a route logistics preference: loop, out and back, point to point (which
may require 2 vehicles or hitchhiking)? Loop or out & back OK

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in(Yosemite, SEKI
western sierra start or eastern start ect.)? Emigrant, Hoover, Desolation... Within ~4hr drive from Oakland

Will you be hiking with a dog? No



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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:07 am

I fear Emigrant will be full of mosquitoes this time of year. Watch the mosquito report under "backcountry conditions". One good thing about Aloha Lake is that it is usually windy enough to keep the skeets down at your campsites. Another good thing about Aloha is that it is quite scenic from the first step on the trail, whereas, Emigrant from Crabtree takes almost a day before things get scenic. You are not likely to need a reserved permit for Emigrant, so you could switch to that at the last minute. Or get both permits to play it safe.

I would take beginners to Garnet Lake in the Minarets, from Agnew Meadows. It is a good loop. Day 1 to Shadow Lake. Day 2 day-hike up to Iceberg Lake and past Ediza. Day 3 to Garnet Lake - good camping along the north shore - use trail along that side. Day 4- return via River Trail. Could also make Thousand Island Lake your destination. But this route is often difficult to get a walk-in permit, and reserved spots are probably already taken. You can also get to Garnet and Thousand Island Lake from Silver Lake via Gem Lake and would not likely have permit problems with this, but it is a more rigorous route.

It simply is mosquito season, so be sure to have head nets and repellant.
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:16 am

Forgot to add - IF I were going to Emigrant I would go in Kennedy Meadows to Emigrant Lake- day trips to Buck Lake, Middle Emigrant, and much more. I have never liked Crabtree trail. If going to this area, Gianelli is more scenic.
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby maverick » Thu Apr 23, 2015 12:43 pm

The Minaret Loop would be a great trip for them, some of the best scenery the Sierra has to offer, with the least amount
of effort.

Would highly recommend that you read this following thread, otherwise if could be their last backpacking trip:
viewtopic.php?f=15&t=7828&hilit=mosquito+avoidance#p56699

Make sure they start carrying a backpack with some weight, start with 15 lbs working up to the full weight of
the trip over several weeks, this will ensure that they can physically handle the rigors of backpacking, not get
into camp wasted, unable to enjoy the trip, or get injured. Being fit will also help with the exercise at altitude
and not getting AMS.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby Tom_H » Thu Apr 23, 2015 1:05 pm

To get into good scenery in Emigrant will take more time and altitude gain than your 3 nights allows. One possible exception is if you have 4wd and go in at Leavitt Lake. It is possible to do a small loop there maybe doing Kennedy Canyon around to Emigrant Meadows and back.

You could go around to 395 and in around Twin Lakes, but that's going to be beyond your 4 hours driving from the Bay, though Minarettes area is pretty.

Echo Lakes with the water taxi gets you to Aloha pretty quickly, although climbing that blasted granite trail can be brutal on the feet of newbies. That's a hard first 2 hours if you've never packed before, but you do top out and the hard part's over in a couple of hours; Haypress Meadows is gentle on the feet after the initial climb is over. You could do a mini-loop, going by Lake of the Woods on the way in or out and taking the other trail for the other leg. You can day hike around the area during the down time. Alternately, it's possible to make a loop by going to Heather, Susie, Glen Alpine, then back to Echo via the Angora Trail. If that initial climb is too hard, you can just go to the interlaken of Ralston and Tamarack on the first night.

If you can hitch or take 2 vehicles there are a couple of more routes that start at Echo. You could do Echo, Aloha, Susie, Gilmore, climb Mt. Tallac for an amazing view of Lake Tahoe, then go out at Glen Alpine. You also could do Echo, Aloha, Susie, Gilmore, Tallac, Dick's Pass to Dick's Lake, Fontinillis, Upper Velma, and then out at either Eagle Falls or at Bayview.

Don't hesitate to ask for more details.
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby tim » Thu Apr 23, 2015 3:47 pm

Yes, Aloha has been my go to location for beginners (I've done 4 trips there now, including this week). The only thing that's lacking is the ability to have a fire. The southern end of the lake has good campspots and the hike across the open granite to swim at Waca Lake is a great day hike option. I have no idea if they are unable to run the water taxi in drought years (at the moment the water level is too low to get to the second lake) but even without that the ~6 mile hike is pretty easy (and when there's no water taxi it keeps the number of day hikers down).

Another option (that was good with my kids when they were small) is Cathedral Lakes to Sunrise Lakes in Yosemite, using the shuttle to get you back to your car, but you probably won't get a permit for July at this point in time, unless you take a backdoor route (e.g. making a loop by going through Glen Aulin/Murphy Creek/May Lake) or get there early and take a chance on a walk-up permit. Porcupine Creek (for North Dome) is also a good Yosemite trailhead for short hikes that usually has availability because most people do North Dome as a day hike. You can camp at Indian Ridge and day hike to North Dome from there and then go over to Yosemite Falls for another night. But I'm not sure how reliable the water sources will be near Indian Ridge this year.
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby SSSdave » Thu Apr 23, 2015 4:47 pm

Aloha Lake might impress people when its full but because it isn't a natural lake at all and rather is a reservoir with a dam, in a droughty year like this you will see a bathtub ring with water levels far below usual levels. And that shows right now if you look at a satellite image.

Much better choices even at Desolation. Island Lake is one. WD's suggestion in the Ritter Range is much better though is more than your 4 hours to drive to. It is guaranteed to impress max and make you the hero. Generally to see what makes the High Sierra famous one needs to at least be as far south as Yosemite and if one has only 3 days to hike out, that pretty much eliminates most everything on western Sierra slopes outside the Tuolumne Meadows area because the spectacular Sierra Crest areas are much further. TM would have permit issues. Thus with just 3 days, far better to bite the bullet and access the Sierra from the East side but then your drive is longer.
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby wildhiker » Fri Apr 24, 2015 12:18 am

Another option in Desolation Wilderness if you can do a short car shuttle is to leave a car at the Bayview Trailhead on the southeast side of Emerald Bay on the west side of Lake Tahoe, then drive a few miles north to Meeks Bay. Hike up the creek there to Crag Lake, then up the chain of lakes to Phipps Pass and down to the PCT which you take to the Velma Lakes, Fontanillis Lake, and Dicks Lake (all very alpine granite), and then the side trail back down to your car over Maggies Peaks with some spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay from above. I would imagine this would all be open in this drought year, but I don't know what the mosquito situation will be in early July. The nice thing about Desolation Wilderness is that you can reserve your permits all on-line and see how many spots are left for each camping zone. The bad part is that it is heavily used, although the first half of the trip I described is lesser used.

Personally, from the Bay Area (where I live), I would take visitor who want to see big mountains and the true alpine high country to Yosemite National Park. IF you can get a permit, you can do the John Muir Trail or nearby route from Tenaya Lake or Tuolumne Meadows down to the Valley and climb over the top of Clouds Rest or Half Dome (or both) on the way. You can drive to the Valley and take either the concessionaire bus (early morning) or YARTS bus (late afternoon) up to Tenaya Lake or Tuolumne Meadows. Then it is mostly downhill back to the Valley. Very crowded, but also extremely scenic.

-Phil
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby valeofoakland » Fri Apr 24, 2015 8:03 am

Thanks everyone for your excellent suggestions! I'll be looking into them. Meantime, I'm glad to have our permits for Desolation.
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Apr 24, 2015 8:21 am

It depends on what you mean by "big mountains". Yosemite Valley is spectacular, but not in a "mountaineering" sense. But it sure would impress someone from the east coast! Unfortunately, getting a permit 4th July weekend may be impossible (reservation) and waiting in line for a first-come cancellation permit would waste precious time, as well as traffic jams in the Valley and waiting for public transportation. In fact you may be able to get feet on the trail faster if you drive the extra 2 hours to the east side.

Hoover Wilderness usually has plenty of permits:

Twin Lakes- loop to Barney Lake, Peeler Lake, Kerrick Meadows, Rock Island Pass, Crown Lake, Robinson Lake, back out via Barney Lake. Very nice but granted, not as spectacular as Yosemite Valley

Green Lake - with day hikes to East Lake, Summit Lake and West Lake.

I believe there are not restrictions on Saddlebag Lake. Go into Cascade Lake and then day-hike to Conness Lake (off-trail). However this is a very buggy area - worst mosquitoes I have experienced on 4th July weekend.

But, I still would try for the Minarets. July 2- drive, get permits at Mono Lake visitor center, hike to Gem Lake, July 3- Waugh Lake, to PCT, over Island Pass, camp at Island Lake (NW shore near inlet is breezy - good if mosquitoes). There is a use-trail all the way around Island Lake. July 4 day-hike PCT to Garnet Lake, use-trail to inlet, moderate x-country over pass to southwest end of Island Lake (or just return same as you get there on the trails). July 5 - up very early walk out via the trail that goes over Agnew Pass and ends at the outlet of Agnew Lake, back to Silver Lake TH. Yes, it would be a midnight drive back. But you have plenty of drivers to share the driving. And while getting permits at the Mono Lake visitor center, you may luck out and get a cancellation spot for Agnew Meadow (Devils Post Pile) which as easier access. Cancelled permits are given out after 11AM, I believe. You may want to call FS to see if this is the case.

Then, if you want this trip to be 100% guaranteed, I would stick with the Aloha Lake plan. You can actually drop towards Suzie Lake to camp if Aloha is ugly due to the bathtub ring. But I think that all the snow is going to melt between now and 4th July, and that will fill up Aloha Lake a bit more, so it will not be so low.
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby Tom_H » Fri Apr 24, 2015 9:02 am

I agree with WildHiker re. Meeks Bay and up chain of lakes. You can come out at Bayview as he says or at Eagle Falls. This is a busy highway and its easy to take one car and let one driver hitchhike.

Twin Lakes to Peeler does have some steep climbing as you approach Peeler, but it's moderated by the switchbacks. Peeler is interesting in that it has an outlet on each side. The water flows around a mountain range that is at the same time an island.

Aloha is going to be pretty regardless of whether the water is low. Someone just posted a trip report and there's actually still a lot of ice and snow there, though Rockbound Valley on the other side of Mosquito Pass is dry as a bone. You might do a few yards of XC to Lake Le Conte for a private little campspot, but I don't think there's any shade there. There are all kinds of little tarns around Aloha to find little private retreats if you're willing to do a bit of scrambling.
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Re: Trip Advice: July 2-5 with Beginners

Postby seanr » Fri Apr 24, 2015 12:49 pm

If you really want to wow visitors with roadside and trailside scenery and get out on easy backpacking this 4th of July, I agree taking them up Tioga Pass Road (HWY 120), and then backpacking from Saddlebag Lake (no quota) or from Agnew Meadow/Minarets area (farther and more complicated) is worth driving beyond your stated four hour parameter. Time permitting, roadside vistas and short hikes along Tioga Road from Tenaya Lake-Tuolumne Meadows area are hard to beat through fresh eyes. Looping back over Sonora Pass (108) would be possible for additional sightseeing and for traffic avoidance if not driving back in the dark (I end up in the dark a lot to hike more). :)

For future reference, besides Tahoe-Desolation area, I'll add that Lassen Volcanic NP, Mt. Shasta, and some parts of Trinity Alps Wilderness near Weaverville are potentially within 3-4.5 hours and lacking traffic once on I-505 and I-5 from Vacaville. They are not quite Tioga Pass-Yosemite-Minarets through my eyes, but (IMO) as worthwhile as Emigrant or Tahoe area to visit at least once. Plus, they will still have some snow to gaze upon. YMMV. It is great that you already have a permit for a scenic area. Everybody and his mother's uncle goes to Tahoe 4th of July, but lots of people go to other well known mountain spots too.
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