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TR: Northern Yosemite Loop 8/11 - 8/16

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TR: Northern Yosemite Loop 8/11 - 8/16

Postby lauralai627 » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:04 pm

Northern Yosemite Loop Trip Report 8/11-8/16

My husband and I got married recently down at Convict Lake and couldn’t think of a better honeymoon than to do a backpacking loop in the Eastern Sierras, especially since we were already out there. We asked HST for trail recommendations – something along the lines of the North to South Lake Loop, good fishing a huge plus – and boy, did you deliver! We did the Northern Yosemite Loop out of Twin Lakes / Robinson Creek Trailhead in a little more than five days.

Day 1 – We had a lot of packing and a lot of goodbyes to take care of before leaving Convict Lake, where so many good friends and family had gathered to help us celebrate our wedding. By the time we picked up our permit from the Bridgeport Ranger Station and drove out to Twin Lakes it was already early afternoon. We had to pay $10 to register our car and park at the Mono Village where the trailhead starts and then we were finally off into the backcountry. We hiked up to Barney Lake and took a little break on the beautiful sandy beach before heading farther up to Crown Lake to camp. The sun was setting as we got to the lake – perfect fishing time. We caught a bunch of brook trout (they seemed REALLY hungry) but threw all of them back.

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Day 2 – From Crown Lake we headed toward Mule Pass. On the way to the pass the trail goes by a small but beautiful lake on one side, and Slide Mountain on the other. My husband decided to scramble to the top of Slide Mountain (despite my objections that it was probably called Slide Mountain for a reason). He made it up and back down in one piece but it took him more than an hour or so, longer than he had thought. We headed toward Mule Pass and toward the Finger Peaks. We stopped for lunch at a gorgeous little waterfall and had a swim before hiking up to spectacular Burro Pass. From here, we had a great view of the Sawtooth Ridge and the Matterhorn Canyon. If we did this loop again, I think we would want to camp by the lake under the Finger Peaks.

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Up and over our second pass of the day (though both of them were pretty mellow), we headed down beautiful Matterhorn Canyon, which reminded us a bit of our hike through Big Arroyo last year. Downhill, it was smooth sailing down to a great campsite near Matterhorn Creek, just before the PCT junction. We decided against the rainfly that night and each of us woke up cold a few times during the night. Each time we woke up, if we were able to keep our eyes open for a few minutes, we were treated to one or two shooting stars – apparently we had stumbled across the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower.

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Day 3 – Tired after a big Day 2, we decided to play Day 3 a little bit by ear. We were planning on spending our last night (5) of the trip at Peeler Lake and so we didn’t actually need to cover that much ground. We hiked up and over Benson Pass, where we ran into a family that had rented two pack llamas. I’d never seen llamas in the backcountry before but apparently they can carry up to 60 lbs. each!

One look at Smedberg Lake and we both agreed to camp there for the night. Big granite shores and a few swimmable/wade-able islands. Even though it was just about midday, the worst time of day for fishing, we could see deep drop-offs right off the shore so we threw in a line. One cast later we had a pretty big trout (~14 inches?). Four casts later we had two big ones. We ended up giving them both to some teenagers who were out in the backcountry with an older brother and running a bit low on food. They built a little fire and ate the fish right there on the rock. Next time they won’t forget their rods!

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We set up camp on the western edge of the lake (there are a few good sites over there) and spent the rest of the day fishing and swimming. That night, we found a big slab of granite to lay out and watch meteors.

Day 4 – We woke up and tried to get on board with leaving Smedberg Lake by fishing the morning away. We eventually, reluctantly, packed up and headed toward Benson Lake. We passed a few guys on the trail who had come from there, and described the lake as “like the Mexican Riviera, but in the mountains!” (We also ran into other people who had similar descriptions – “it’s like we’re in Thailand!” “this could be the Bahamas!” It’s definitely beautiful but come on people, we’re in the mountains!) Not much later we got to the Lake and saw the huge, sandy beach and clear-ish waters for ourselves. The entire northeastern shore is a huge beach, like you would expect to see on the coast, and the rest of the lake is surrounded by steep granite and a few domes that pop up toward the southwestern end. There’s also some crazy looking blue/green-ish algae floating around the shallow waters, which makes the color of the water look even more dramatically aqua. This all makes for an incredibly dramatic, seemingly out of place landscape. It sure was beautiful. We spent a few hours lounging on the beach but decided not to camp there because of strong winds. Also, there was a pretty big trail crew camp on one side of the beach and we wanted to find a bit more space for ourselves.

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The hike up to Seavey Pass was interesting – lots of gorgeous, unnamed lakes (as far as our map was concerned), and lots of places we thought might be the Pass, but weren’t exactly sure about. Once we were sure we had crossed over the pass, Kerrick Meadow and what’s left of Rancheria Creek (which isn’t much) stretched out endlessly in front of us. Beautiful (though dry) grassy meadow with an almost completely dry winding stream, and huge rocky outcroppings on all sides. We off-trailed it just a little up to Arndt Lake for the night. We were the only ones there.

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Day 5 – We took off from Arndt Lake pretty quickly because we wanted to get up to Peeler Lake for lunch. The trail through the meadow is easy and flat so it didn’t take us long to get up to Peeler. We parked ourselves on a big granite rock with a big shelf. The water was so clear we could see the bottom of the lake, even though it was at least 20, and maybe 40 feet down. We tried to fish but got skunked most of the day. The water was so clear we could see huge trout swim right past us. They could probably see us (our shadows and our lines) perfectly well, too. We didn’t get any bites until later that afternoon – one at our lunch spot and a bunch at the other side of the lake near the outlet.

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We had a really hard time choosing between camping at Peeler (which would allow us to swim and fish in the morning) or heading back toward Barney so that we could get out early on Sunday and get a head start on the 5 hour drive home (6 if you include our standard stops at the farm stand and Bass Pro). With some weird looking clouds on the horizon, we decided to keep hiking. We camped a bit beyond Barney Lake, which again, we had all to ourselves.

Day 6 – As we approach the end of each backpacking trip, I am always torn between getting off the trail early and getting home and unpacking at a reasonable hour (which my husband prefers) or lingering in the mountains for as long as possible (stopping off at Tenaya for one last swim, or in Markleeville for one last fish) before heading back to the city. This time the decision was a bit easier – I had given up on any more fishing as we had hiked out of Peeler the night before, and we had a car full of wedding, car camping, backpacking, and other random stuff to take care of when we got back. We could also see that the sky was haze and darkening, most likely from a wildfire (later we would find out it was the Walker Fire). We made it back down to Twin Lakes pretty quickly, inhaled a big breakfast at the pub in Bridgeport and headed home via Sonora Pass. A great trip with dramatic mountain views (the Sawtooth are just spectacular) and fantastic fishing. Just what we asked for. We are already trying to figure out when we can come back.
Last edited by lauralai627 on Mon Aug 31, 2015 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite Loop 8/11 - 8/16

Postby balzaccom » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:18 pm

Great report! Glad you enjoyed this area.

We look forward to seeing more of your adventures in the mountains!
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check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite Loop 8/11 - 8/16

Postby maverick » Mon Aug 31, 2015 3:44 pm

Hi Laura,

Sounds like you all had a great time, perfect honeymoon backpacking trip. Great to read that you enjoyed the Northern Loop, and yes, those lakes at Finger Peaks are really pretty, especially at sunset. Next time you visit the area, and want a little more adventure, Big Slide Canyon, and for fishing, Doe Lake. ;)
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: TR: Northern Yosemite Loop 8/11 - 8/16

Postby Cross Country » Mon Aug 31, 2015 7:15 pm

My best fishing in that area was Doe Lake too. Mike and I were at Benson for one and a half days and caught enough small fish for two big fish dinners. It really is the Sierra Riviera.
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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite Loop 8/11 - 8/16

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Aug 31, 2015 7:49 pm

First of all, congratulations on your wedding---What a terrific place to be married and such a wonderful honeymoon, too. It's kinda odd that my wife and I didn't honeymoon in the High Sierra, although I suppose as of our wedding we weren't the High Sierra-crazy duo we would become (averaging about 40 days and over 10 trips per year from 1991-1997).

That is a heck of a nice trip for a honeymoon backpack, or any backpacking trip.

I haven't been to Benson and Smedberg and they are pretty high on my list of places to go. My wife and I did get to Doe and Tallulah (my favorite in that area--fish size significantly larger than Doe) back in '93. We probably would have visited Benson and Smedberg on that trip, but we were a day behind because I was fighting a bad cold and much slower than usual.
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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