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Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sierras

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Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sierras

Postby MetalBackpacker » Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:42 pm

Hey everyone, I'm an experienced hiker looking to do my first trip to the Sierras. My dates are flexible but looking to do this generally in late August, around the 20th or so. I figure there may be fewer people out there with schools and colleges starting around this time. I wanted to do the Sierra High Route, but I can't get that much time off work. I'm going solo and looking to do about 100 miles over around 7 or 8 days. I am looking to put together a route that is spectacular and has the least amount of people possible. I know this means some off-trail hiking and I'm ok with that. I'd be flying into Fresno and renting a small car, so no 4x4 or high clearance roads to the trailhead, must be able to reach it in a small car. I'm looking for loop hikes only since I don't want to pay for a shuttle in addition to the rental car which will be sitting at the trailhead for a week wasting money as it is.

Before I spend the time designing a route, I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions for a route that will fit my requirements.

My concerns at this point are the bear canisters, since I've never had to use one. I've always avoided areas where they were required because I'm worried that I won't be able to fit all my food in them. The OPsaks by LokSak have always worked flawlessly for me, and would never use a bear canister over one of these if it wasn't required. I never carry a stove either and typically carry food that's slightly less calorie dense than other hikers resulting in a larger quantity of food, but it's food I know I'll eat when I'm hungry. What are my options for approved bear canisters out there? Does this vary from park to park or is it all the same everywhere in the Sierras? Are there any areas of the Sierras where I don't have to carry a bear canister?

Can someone explain the permit system to me? I was reading on the NPS site about permits being issued based on the trailhead I leave from. So the way I understand it, I could leave from a less popular trailhead but hike all of the popular areas (if I wanted to) and camp there, just because I started from a less popular trailhead? It's confusing, never seen a permit system like this. I usually avoid areas that require heavy permitting requirements, but the one's I've dealt with required choosing the campsites or zones I wish to camp in and had nothing to do with the trailhead I would start from.

I'm going to have more questions, but I'll leave it at that for now.



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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 18, 2016 1:19 pm

Hi MetalBackpacker,

Welcome to HST! Please read: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205

What are my options for approved bear canisters out there? Does this vary from park to park or is it all the same everywhere in the Sierras? Are there any areas of the Sierras where I don't have to carry a bear canister?


This will answer your questions: http://sierrawild.gov/bears/faq

So the way I understand it, I could leave from a less popular trailhead but hike all of the popular areas (if I wanted to) and camp there, just because I started from a less popular trailhead?


Basically. For example if one was interested in seeing Ediza Lake in the Minarets, but you could not reserve permits for the Shadow Lake Trail, you you could use the High Trail, River Trail or the Minaret Lakes Trail (and some others) to access that area and get to you destination or you could try to get a first come first served wilderness permit.


Access to lower/popular elevation trailheads will be in high demand, wilderness permits have been gone months ago, you will have to try to secure a first come, first served permit, and for areas beyond, you will also need to possess winter camping experience, exceptional navigation skills, and understand the risks/dangers of snow/ice travel and high flow creek crossings.


Yosemite NP regulation for first come, first served permits:
Wilderness permits are available during business hours at any permit issuing station beginning at 11 am the day before the beginning of your wilderness trip. Priority for permits for a particular trailhead is given to the closest permit issuing station, though it is possible to obtain a permit for any trailhead at any permit issuing station. This mainly affects the most popular trailheads that fill up quickly each morning, such as Little Yosemite Valley trailheads, Lyell Canyon, Cathedral Lakes, among others.

First-come, first-served procedure for all wilderness permit stations (approximately May through October): Unreserved permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 11 am on the day before the intended entry date. All reservations (same day and next day) and same-day unreserved permits may still be picked up when the wilderness center opens for the day.

Though popular trailheads may fill up, there is always space available on other trailheads in the park. From November through April, wilderness permits are available without a reservation.

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm

Inyo NF regulations for first come, first served permits:
Walk in permits must be requested in person at the visitor centers. During the quota season (May 1 to November 1) walk in permits cannot be issued more than one day before the entry date. Permits are issued for same day entry or for next day entry; you must enter on the date stated.

- Walk-in permits are subject to space available* at the time the permit request is processed.
- Person requesting the permit will be listed as the group leader. Leader must be a person going on the trip and must be in person at the visitor center.
- Group leader can request a permit for the whole group; all members of the group do not need to be present.
- Leader responsibility includes the terms in Permit Policy
- Walk in permit cannot be held by phone or web.
- No night box service for walk in permits.
- Walk in permit is free.

*The amount of space available for walk-in permits may vary. For all trails except Mt Whitney, 40% of the quota space is saved for walk-in permit requests. In addition, space from any reservations that did not fully book, cancelations, group size reductions, and reservations that are not confirmed or picked up (No Show) will be made available for walk-in requests. Some specific trails are identified as non-quota and are only limited by maximum group size.

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/pass ... n%20permit

SEKI regulations for first come, first served:
Permits are issued on the day of your hike by trailhead rangers during normal operating hours.
The rangers provide important information about trail conditions in the area. No night drops are permitted. You may, however, obtain permits the afternoon prior to your hike (after 1:00pm).

Approximately three-quarters of the daily trail quota (see trail descriptions) may be reserved in advance. The remaining spaces are available on a first-come-first-served basis. The permit fee applies to both walk-up and reserved permits; and both walk-up and reserved permits must be picked up at the issuing station closest to your trailhead. The Lakes Trail/Pear Lake Trail is NOT reservable.
https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/ ... ermits.htm
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: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby MetalBackpacker » Mon Jul 18, 2016 5:37 pm

Thanks for the reply Maverick. That map of the food storage requirement was very helpful. It does look like it would be possible to plan a pretty nice trip without having to lug around that bear canister.

Basically. For example if one was interested in seeing Ediza Lake in the Minarets, but you could not reserve permits for the Shadow Lake Trail, you you could use the High Trail, River Trail or the Minaret Lakes Trail (and some others) to access that area and get to you destination or you could try to get a first come first served wilderness permit.


Sweet, that's good news!

Access to lower/popular elevation trailheads will be in high demand, wilderness permits have been gone months ago, you will have to try to secure a first come, first served permit, and for areas beyond, you will also need to possess winter camping experience, exceptional navigation skills, and understand the risks/dangers of snow/ice travel and high flow creek crossings.


I'm looking for more of a high route, so I'd be looking to use the higher elevation trailheads if possible, providing my small rental car can make it up the roads. Are there any good trailheads that are paved or well groomed dirt roads that would give access to the high country in Kings Canyon, Sequoia, John Muir Wilderness or Ansel Adams Wilderness areas? Any maps of the trailheads throughout the Sierras?

Regarding the suggestion for a route, I'll try to fill in any gaps based on what your thread stated. I've done a solo thru hike of the Wind River Range High Route in 2014 and would love to get that same experience here in the Sierras. I'm not too familiar with the Sierras so I'm not set on any one area of it. However, I'm not really looking at Yosemite, and not looking to drive more than 4-5 hours max from Fresno. The shorter the drive, the better. I think this might leave me with Kings Canyon, Sequoia, John Muir Wilderness or Ansel Adams Wilderness areas. I am looking for a high route, with a lot of class 2 but occasional class 3 terrain ok. Water crossings ok. Some snow travel ok, but I'm not bringing an ice axe or crampons so no glacier travel. I am comfortable with extensive off trial travel and will have a gps with me if needed. My main interests are big mountains and photography, but also fond of fishing the alpine lakes at the end of the day. Miles per day, could be 18 on long days and 10 on a short day. No preference on taking a zero day. I could take one or not depending on the route. Also, in light of the fact that not all of these parks require a bear canister in all areas, I'd like to try and plan my route to stay outside of any zones where the bear canister is required.

I've also read somewhere that if I were hiking solo, there's a very good chance that I could walk in and get a permit in all but the most popular areas. I really hate to plan a trip like this on maybes. Can anyone speak to this? Any info on which areas in the above mentioned regions of the Sierras will have a higher probability of being able to obtain permit reservations with this little notice (probably about 4 weeks)?
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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:01 pm

This gives you the dates still available on each trailhead: https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/ ... bility.htm
This will give a trail descriptions: https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/traildesc.htm

There are permits available for the Aug 20th, Copper Creek Trail, you could do the SHR, exit Cartridge Pass at Lakes Basin and use the JMT and Woods Creek back to Roads End visiting beautiful Bench Lake, Castle Domes, and Paradise Valley on the way back to Roads End.

Franklin Pass has wilderness permits available for the Aug 20th, visit Franklin Lakes, Little Claire Lake, Soda Creek, Big Five Lakes, Little Five Lakes, Big Arroyo, Nine Lakes Basin, Kaweah Gap, Precipice Lake, Hamilton Lakes, Redwood Meadow, Timber Gap, and back to Mineral King.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby MetalBackpacker » Wed Jul 20, 2016 10:15 am

Thanks for the info. I just noticed the food storage map has all of the trailheads on it, I had been looking all over for a map of the trailheads! So hard to find that simple information, but so necessary for planning. I'm looking at starting from the Florence Lake TH in the John Muir Wilderness. It looks like permits are issued from the Sierra National Forest here. Any idea on how popular this trailhead is? I found the application form for this wilderness permit, and it's asking me to list my campsite itinerary. I thought I could start from any trailhead that had not yet met its quota and then go pretty much wherever I want after that?

I've come up with a very rough first draft of a possible route starting from Florence Lake. It will have me going into Kings Canyon NP as well, so would I need to get a permit there as well? How does that work permit-wise if I'll be in both the John Muir Wilderness and Kings Canyon NP?

Here's a link to my caltopo map:

http://caltopo.com/m/M1SL

I'd be doing the loop counter clock-wise. I haven't picked potential campsites yet, wanting more info on the permitting requirements for this route first and whether or not I have to have a strict or if a rough itinerary is acceptable here when applying for this permit.

I'm not really planning on going through any areas that require a bear canister, but just curious... when it says a bear canister is required, am I allowed to hike through the area during the day without a bear canister, to pass through? Or does this requirement only apply to those camping overnight in that zone?
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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:19 pm

I'm looking at starting from the Florence Lake TH in the John Muir Wilderness. It looks like permits are issued from the Sierra National Forest here. Any idea on how popular this trailhead is?


Popular, but you should be alright, try to start mid week if possible.

I thought I could start from any trailhead that had not yet met its quota and then go pretty much wherever I want after that?


You have to start from the trailhead you indicate on your wilderness permit, after that you can go on you trip, campsite listing is not necessary, but you can give them a rough outline.

It will have me going into Kings Canyon NP as well, so would I need to get a permit there as well? How does that work permit-wise if I'll be in both the John Muir Wilderness and Kings Canyon NP?


No, you only need to secure a permit with the agency that oversees your starting trailhead.

but just curious... when it says a bear canister is required, am I allowed to hike through the area during the day without a bear canister, to pass through? Or does this requirement only apply to those camping overnight in that zone


Yes you can hike through those zones, only those camping are required to have a bear canister.


With all that said, your route is way to ambitious/optimistic for 7-8 days, more like maybe 10-12 days.
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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:41 pm

Also, whichever trip you decide to do, please make sure to leave a precise itinerary back home or friend, use something like our ReConn Form in conjunction with any SPOT or any other emergency locating device. reconn.org
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby wildhiker » Wed Jul 20, 2016 3:29 pm

MetalBackpacker,

Your trip plan is really ambitious! However, doing it counter-clockwise is good because it gives you several opportunities to cut the trip short if you are running behind schedule, or decide you like some area so much that you want to spend more time there. You can cut the trip in half by exiting down Evolution Creek, or at the 2/3 to 3/4 mark by exiting down from Humphreys Basin to Piute Creek and out.

The Sierra forest asks for a trip itinerary (campsites) mostly so they have some idea where to look for you if your family/friends report that you are missing. So a rough itinerary is OK. But really, fill out the reconn form and send that to your family/friends if you actually want to be found! Although Florence Lake is popular, it also has one of the highest daily quotas of any Sierra trailhead, so I don't think you will have any problem with a walk-up permit. Also, by the last week of August, a lot of school districts have started already and that cuts the number of vacationers in the mountains.

Personally, I found the upper Goddard Canyon and Evolution Basin/Valley areas so nice that I would spend more time there and do a shorter trip overall. You can see some photos of the trip I did there in 2004 at this website: http://www.wildhiker.com/ . But then, I'm also old and slow.

-Phil
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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jul 20, 2016 7:32 pm

I'll just say that bear canisters are ALWAYS taken by people I hike with, because badly habituated bears pay little attention to boundaries where canisters are required. And OPsacks are as odor proof as a regular ziplock, and do nothing special, according to drug sniffing dogs - there is an actual article about that, over at backpackinglight.com, and bears have much better noses than dogs. If you are not using actual bear resistant containers you're risking an abrupt end to your trip and potentially the death of a bear, since each food reward brings a nuisance bear one more step toward aggressive, and aggressive bears get shot.

That your food was never taken means nothing -- it's only bear resistant if it actually resisted a bear. And there is not a single wilderness area that does not require either a CORRECT (not lazy, five feet off the ground) bear hang or bear resistant container. Leaving it sitting around in a bag doesn't count.
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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby Jimr » Wed Jul 20, 2016 11:13 pm

It does seem very ambitious in the time alotted. Getting though Ionian basin is rugged. Have you thoroughly researched your route from Lamarck col to Piute pass?
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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby Hobbes » Thu Jul 21, 2016 8:14 am

Am I allowed to hike through the area during the day without a bear canister, to pass through? Or does this requirement only apply to those camping overnight in that zone?


Speaking as someone who almost never takes a can - and figures out ways to work around it if I'm passing through a required area - you should just suck it up and use a can. Since this is your first trip, and you're traveling from out-of-state, it seems like you're putting a lot of time/hassle @ risk just for 2lbs.

As for passing through bear can areas, which I do fairly regularly on my trips, you should be aware that you can't "guard your food". That is, you can't take a nap or rest break with the food as a head rest/pillow, wrapped in your arms, etc, nor can you temporarily leave it out of your immediate control. For example, you can't put your pack on the ground and then fish, or explore a bit looking for good photo spots, etc.

Lastly, leaving out of the west side will consume around 2 days of your trip (driving in, hiking in, hiking out, driving out) just to get to the high Sierra. Since you're starting from Fresno, why not just drive into Yosemite? In fact, if you went to Tuolumne meadows, you could get a walk-in or cancellation and head to the back-country (for instance, where the HST meet-up is located). From there, you could take the SHR over to Mammoth, or depending how much time you had, perhaps even make it to Duck lake via the JMT or SHR. (Then walk back to Coldwater TH.)

Mammoth is actually pretty ideal - there are a zillion access/exit points and a ton of shuttle/bus options. From practically any TH, it's an easy ride back to town, then YARTS back to your car in TM.

Basically, you should try and keep it simple: take a can, start high, don't fret.
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Re: Late August ~100 Mile Solo Hike - First Time In The Sier

Postby MetalBackpacker » Thu Jul 21, 2016 4:01 pm

maverick wrote:
With all that said, your route is way to ambitious/optimistic for 7-8 days, more like maybe 10-12 days.


7 days would be cutting it close for sure, but I could do this in 8 or 9 days. I'm leaning towards 9. I've got options to cut it short if need be.


wildhiker wrote:MetalBackpacker,

Your trip plan is really ambitious! However, doing it counter-clockwise is good because it gives you several opportunities to cut the trip short if you are running behind schedule, or decide you like some area so much that you want to spend more time there. You can cut the trip in half by exiting down Evolution Creek, or at the 2/3 to 3/4 mark by exiting down from Humphreys Basin to Piute Creek and out.


It is ambitious, but that's what I'm looking for. I do 2 big hikes like this a year, one in the winter, in the desert, and one in the summer, in the high country. I definitely have some options to cut it short if need be, those are some good options.

Jimr wrote:It does seem very ambitious in the time alotted. Getting though Ionian basin is rugged. Have you thoroughly researched your route from Lamarck col to Piute pass?


Probably doing this in 9 days now. I haven't "thoroughly" researched any of this yet, it's basically a rough draft. That area between Piute and Lamarck Col does look tough. I'll be refining this route until the day I leave, lol. Of course, I'm open to any suggestions or advice regarding the route. I'm trying to achieve the best mix of stunning scenery and solitude, have it be challenging but not completely brutal. If there's a section of this route that is really difficult and has little reward for that effort, please let me know. Likewise, if there's a spectacular lake or valley nearby that I'm missing, providing it's not crawling with hundreds of other people, I'd like to know about it. I'm willing to change my route to make it better in any way possible.


Hobbes wrote:Speaking as someone who almost never takes a can - and figures out ways to work around it if I'm passing through a required area - you should just suck it up and use a can. Since this is your first trip, and you're traveling from out-of-state, it seems like you're putting a lot of time/hassle @ risk just for 2lbs.

Lastly, leaving out of the west side will consume around 2 days of your trip (driving in, hiking in, hiking out, driving out) just to get to the high Sierra. Since you're starting from Fresno, why not just drive into Yosemite? In fact, if you went to Tuolumne meadows, you could get a walk-in or cancellation and head to the back-country (for instance, where the HST meet-up is located). From there, you could take the SHR over to Mammoth, or depending how much time you had, perhaps even make it to Duck lake via the JMT or SHR. (Then walk back to Coldwater TH.)


It's not so much the weight of the bear canister, but the bulk. There's no way I could fit 9 days of food in one of those, I'd need two of them at least. And when the food is gone those things are not only going to be dead weight but a lot of bulk. I'm not really seeing the bear canister as an issue anymore, I'm just going to use my OPsaks and be done with it. Easy enough.

Florence Lake is only 90 miles, 2 hours 45 minutes from the Fresno airport, that's not bad at all. I appreciate the ideas but I've already spent quite a bit of time planning this route, and I'm pretty confident I can make a great trip out of what I've got so far.

AlmostThere wrote:I'll just say that bear canisters are ALWAYS taken by people I hike with, because badly habituated bears pay little attention to boundaries where canisters are required. And OPsacks are as odor proof as a regular ziplock, and do nothing special, according to drug sniffing dogs - there is an actual article about that, over at backpackinglight.com, and bears have much better noses than dogs. If you are not using actual bear resistant containers you're risking an abrupt end to your trip and potentially the death of a bear, since each food reward brings a nuisance bear one more step toward aggressive, and aggressive bears get shot.

That your food was never taken means nothing -- it's only bear resistant if it actually resisted a bear. And there is not a single wilderness area that does not require either a CORRECT (not lazy, five feet off the ground) bear hang or bear resistant container. Leaving it sitting around in a bag doesn't count.


Which method of storing food do you think will ATTRACT bears more though, the OPsaks or the bear canister? I've set an OPsak in a field infested with hundreds of rodents in the San Juans at night and they never touched the bag. A hiker I passed who camped there the night prior had his food raided in the same spot. I've tested it with food in the OPsak in front of several dogs. These things have worked well for me for years. Sure, if a bear walks right up to it, it might smell something. But I guarantee a bear can smell the food in your bear canister from a lot farther away. I'd rather decrease my chances of having a bear encounter in the first place by storing it in a bag that reduces it's odor and camping away from popular campsites. Most, if not all of my campsites besides my first night will be above treeline(where you can't hang your food anyways), and I'm not going to be doing any cooking(less odors in the air), bringing only dry food. I'll be fine!
Last edited by MetalBackpacker on Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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