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TR: Southern Yosemite 7/19-7/26-Chiquito Crk TH/Merced Pass

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TR: Southern Yosemite 7/19-7/26-Chiquito Crk TH/Merced Pass

Postby richapple » Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:00 pm

Sneaking into Southern Yosemite semi-loop trip
Chain Lakes, Merced Pass Lakes, Ottoway Lakes, Givens Lake
July 19-26, 2016

I say "sneaking into Southern Yosemite," but in my wallet is the senior national parks pass (new this year!) that costs 10 bucks and lasts... forever! I also see "TR" and think, "Toes Report," but surely the details of my toes for this trip aren't needed here. Suffice it to say I made it and still have them. All of them.

We stayed in Oakhurst which should have made it easy to get onto the trail early, but it never does. Not our first drive up Beasore Road, but just to the Chiquito Creek TH it sure is an easy and beautiful drive. The left turn at Globe Rock let the Prius hobble up a dirt road for 2.5 miles, but it was a piece of cake. 5 mph at the slowest, usually 10 mph, and at times speeding along at 17 mph. Easy peasy. The TH does have a bearbox you gotta look for (behind a tree), though the permit people in Oakhurst said it was unlikely. We started hiking at 11:20 AM.

There is a bit of controversy about the pronunciation of "Beasore," and rather than it looks, the "Bea" is pronounced "Bay." The minor controversy is what comes after that, and as far as I can tell after some researching, many say "Bay-shore," - some locals included - but "Bay-sore," or even "Bay-zore" just may be more correct.

There is another road (Sky Ranch Road?) that is probably a long way on a rough road, but it gets you right up to within a half mile of Chiquito Lake from the Quartz Mountain TH... Our trail from the Chiquito Creek TH after the very doable Prius ride was about 3 miles to the pass. Very easy and not even too many mosquitos. Though there were some mid-day, they really weren't causing any problems. Chiquito Lake is super shallow and grassy, though, and looks like an industrial mosquito farming operation.

So on this trip you hike up (well, kind of up... 8000 feet or so is all?) Chiquito Pass, but when you hike into Yosemite you've gone beyond "Chiquita Pass." All the signs in Yosemite say "Chiquita." Neither one is wrong in terms of Spanish, but clearly somebody doing the signs work in Yosemite likes bananas. Or perhaps it's simply seen as a very androgynous pass. We were at this "tiny boy" or "tiny girl" pass at 1:15 PM.

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-- Mariposa Lilly, with a visitor --

We were headed to Chain Lakes (8.4 miles is a pretty big day for us) and in that direction, you don't really hike "down" from the pass. You keep hiking up, but pretty darn gradual. The 411 on Chain Lakes is that Middle Chain Lakes is popular and can be overrun with boy scouts and other groups, and it was. We saw an eight person trail crew there too, but they passed us in a while, also headed to Upper Chain Lake. We arrived at Upper Chain Lake around 5:20 PM.

The season being what it was (clear hot weather the whole time), the smart campsites for what I could figure were up on some rocky knoll areas west of Upper Chain Lake. But that's where the trail crew were all scattered. So we did hunt around the north side in the trees a bit at a trail crew person's recommendation, but mainly found mosquitos and ended up in kind of a main big site between the raised rocky area and the outlet. Even that lower site on the west side had openness and a great breeze and the mosquitos were pretty much no problem!

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-- Upper Chain Lake from west side --

Day hike the next day was to find a good route we might use to get over the ridge to Breeze Lake. We didn't find such a route, though we did get onto the ridge and see Breeze. Perhaps our clambering took us about two hours. I kept wondering if I should have read a Wandering Daisy TR more closely where she had day-hiked from Breeze to Upper Chain, but the only info there (now that I read it) is the "Wandering Daisy" part. We were lucky to meet Wandering Daisy once (near Window Peak Lake) and we've read her posts, and we're quite sure she'd just bramble straight up and over the rocky ridge without any trail or route. But our view of Breeze Lake was lovely and it made for a great lunch spot followed by a great swim/rinse off on our way back at the lakelet a bit before Upper Chain Lake. (Upper Chain Lake didn't seem to have the easiest lake access for getting in/out of the water.)

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-- Breeze Lake from ridge --

Timing is everything, though, and just before we removed our garments to get into the lakelet from a great granite slab peninsula, suddenly we heard shouting and carrying on from the west. The boy scouts! En masse! Piling up and over the western ridge from of our little lakelet from some off-trail "follow the inlet" they'd done from Middle Chain Lake. Or from somewhere. The key thing being, there they were, hooting and hollering and some apparently prepped for some fishing. Fortunately they were all headed up to Upper Chain by what we could tell, and our peaceful swim that followed their fading hollers as they tromped on was only disturbed by one frantic scout hollering for "Noah" as he retraced their steps. "Noah" soon became "Wilma" in my ears as he sounded like Fred Flinstone hollering like Jackie Gleason, and after a bit Julie was hearing "Wilbur" and the scout was simply doing a poor impersonation of Mister Ed. We assume Noah turned up somewhere and wasn't just hiding behind some tree to catch glimpses of two very mature backpackers skinny dipping...

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-- Lakelet just below Upper Chain Lake, sans boy scouts --

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-- Shooting Stars at lakelet granite swim launch --

ROUTE INFO: Just below the lowest of the Chain Lakes there was a good-sized marker and even some trailishness no doubt heading for a cross-country route to Breeze Lake. By standard trail you would go way way down from there and clear to Moraine Meadows before heading up the trail to Breeze. How well that cross-country route is ducked or obvious I don't know, but by the topo there must be a route way shorter than the main trail, and probably not even up and over the main ridge defining the west side of the Breeze basin. Our route for our day hike got us on the ridge probably about half way between Breeze and peak "9857T" on mappingsupport and the HST map resource topos. Ours would not have been a happy route with backpacks. Where we took off from the trail was before dropping to (or having a view of) Middle Chain Lake.

That night (having Upper Chain Lake all to ourselves) some map study and creative thinking changed our plan to go to Breeze and then west to Givens Lake and then out. A new plan developed to go over Merced Pass to the Upper and Lower Merced Pass Lakes, and then get in a day hike to Ottoway Lakes. "Ottoway," by the way, is most likely pronounced Oh-Tuh-Way, with the emphasis on the first long-O syllable. That according to name pronunciation stuff (named after a Corporal Ottoway or perhaps some official title other than "Corporal") and we only questioned our "Auto-Way" pronunciation (thinking of the "Otto" like the name "Otto") after some hiker coming down from there claimed it to be "Oat-Way". It could be that for the actual name pronunciation the middle syllable "tuh" is barely uttered, but here I am getting ahead of myself. (We didn't think to ask the hiker how he pronounced "Beasore".)

We left Upper Chain for Merced Pass and beyond at 11:30 AM. (Impressed by our early starts?) Down down down, all trail, and eventually crossing the South Fork of the Merced River. Skeeters? Yes. Moraine Meadows? Pretty, but probably don't slow down too much. Upper Chain Lake had been so "mosquito lite," but now we were putting on our new repellent, "Bug Shield" from the Philippines. Herbal Armor and Lemon Eucalyptus Repel have both chucked their lotion lines, and we don't go for the oilier spray stuff, and, uh, obviously we don't like DEET. (We're DEET haters and believe it shouldn't be allowed in the beautiful wilds of the Sierras at all. And no, not trying to prompt any discussions. DEET lovers? Enjoy, but please do all you can to not let it get into the water and so forth...) "Bug Shield" is a lotion, all natural, isn't hideous at all, and it works, though like all the naturals you probably need to put it on a little more often.

ROUTE INFO: At a T Junction in Moraine Meadows it is a right to Breeze Lake (sign only shows "Fernandez Pass") and a left to the route west from where you'll turn north to Merced Pass or continue west and south towards Royal Arch Lake, Wawona and so forth. The trail to the left there is kind of vague and the sign (Wawona is probably on it) is a ways off along that trail that is just some trodden grasses right at the junction. Anyone using a map isn't going to screw this up, especially when a compass is saying you're then traveling due east if you continue past the junction toward Fernandez Pass, but I toss this in because someone in mosquito hell might not be thinking straight. (Mosquitos weren't as bad as that for us, but we did take our lunch break atop the ridge of a huge rock along the trail on the way to the Merced Pass junction that had us, well, enjoying some extra breeze and no mosquitos, but looking way down the other side of that rock ridge at -- well, certain death if we fell. Which we didn't.)

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-- Crescent shaped lakelet to left of trail a short ways before the junction up to Merced Pass --

After Merced Pass we made it down to the junction to the Ottoway Lakes, which is also where you hike south just a bit to get to Upper Merced Pass Lake. The outlet wasn't flowing, but being about 6 PM, the lake seemed just fine to us for camping, so we did. And again, another lake all to ourselves. We enjoyed seeing marmots across the lake doing the standing/chirping thing like you see squirrels do. We'd never seen a marmot do that! And we've seen plenty of marmots...

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-- Marmot dancing and singing --

These places were all new to us, so we had no idea what Lower Merced Pass Lake was like, but we did get to thinking a day hike to Ottoway Lakes could easily just be frustrating because we'd probably wish we'd packed up there to stay a night. So the next day we did. We stayed two nights with a nice day hike up to Upper Ottoway Lakes and even a ways up for a better view of Red Peak Pass. Wild wild stuff up there!

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-- Red Peak Pass, photo from day hike out of order 'cuz my writing is out of order --

The hike up to Lower Ottoway Lake from Upper Merced Pass Lake was just 11:20 AM to 2 PM. We'd heard tell (from the Oat-Way pronouncing hiker and his buddies) that there was a large Sierra Club group up there and some boy scouts. They said they were all very quiet, though. So at the lake we surveyed the situation and found the boy scouts had trundled on, but the Sierra Club mob (14 people!) was still there and on the west side of the lake up from the trail. Most of the traditional good camping is in that zone, but we booked it to the east side not too far from the south end, which was a much more rocky area along the lake. Probably better for avoiding mosquitos, which were there. Some, but not bad. Not a whole lot of sites, but we finally found a good one with tons of view, plenty far back from the water, and with great water access. Even close to an inlet with cascades. Uh, not a lot of shade, though, so where exactly to hang out at times was kind of limited.

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-- Lower Ottoway Lake, near where you arrive by trail --

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-- Lower Ottoway Lake from southernmost inlet on the east side of the lake --

And those 14 Sierra Club Outing folks? The couple of them we did talk to were nice enough, of course. And the Sierra Club - I've been a member since the '70s. But were they quiet? Not so much. They were kind of hootin' and hollerin', they were. So, uh, having fun in the evening is all good, but my Sierras instinct has always seen any group of more than several (at the most) people as just too many. But this particular group did jolly on out of there the next day...

This next is controversial (just between Julie and I). I'm using her notes of the trip to show hiking times, and in her notes on Sunday morning she wrote about the gnarly fireball we saw Saturday night. I'm sure for a few reasons it was our first night at Lower Ottoway Lake, Friday night, that we saw the fireball, and I'd seen a pretty remarkably long shooting star earlier. But whichever night, the fireball at around 9:45 PM was a wild thing to see, with greens and reds moving fairly slowly with a big white tail.

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-- No fireball photos to go here, so maybe a couple water shots from the inlet to Lower Ottoway Lake? --

Let's see. I think now I'm to Saturday, July 23rd, and that was the day we did the aforementioned day hike up to Upper Ottoway and towards Red Peak Pass. Super day, and hanging out at the outlet of the smaller Upper Ottoway Lake for lunch was way cool. The larger (Upper) Upper Ottoway Lake was pretty rad, too. We hiked up on the ridge to its northeast, but didn't attempt to get down to it.

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-- Both photos of the smaller lake between what topo calls Upper Ottoway Lake and trail --

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-- Shooting Star flower time on hike back to Lower Ottoway Lake --

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-- Again by the inlet to Lower Ottoway Lake --

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-- More groovy water in that inlet --

Sunday the 24th we left Lower Ottoway Lake at 11:20 AM and had a nice hike down to Lower Merced Pass Lake. We did not see any bears, and sadly didn't the entire trip. We like to see bears!

Lower Merced Pass Lake is technically off trail, but... It's a fairly big thing and easy to find. We scoped out the best place to camp (for us, for a mosquito time of year) and at 1:45 we were at the southwest corner, just out of the trees and before the giant talus fields.

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-- Red Peak zone of the Clark Range from Lower Merced Pass Lake --

Since being in the Merced Pass area Julie had talked some about the old "Lodestar lightning" episode from around 1977. Well, maybe "episode" is too flippant since a couple people did die (pilot and passenger?), but upon our return some research shows that it was indeed Lower Merced Pass Lake where they crashed and met their end. Nevada Barr's "High Country" novel has the story worked into it, but this being High Sierra Topix, how about a show of hands from those who were around in Camp 4 and were making the drought-year springtime trek up to Lower Merced Pass Lake to retrieve some of the, uh, booty? All I've got to contribute to what's been told about it all is why the weed had "Lodestar" in its token name when the plane itself was a Lockheed PV-1 Ventura. (See what I did there with "token?") The Lockheed Lodestar was a very well known plane that had been around, and along with a couple other models built by Lockheed following the Lodestar, the PV-1 Ventura was designed from the Lodestar and looked a lot like it. Probably the public called 'em all "Lodestars." The "lightning," though, rumor or legend has it, was because much of the pot may have been tainted with jet fuel... Supposedly it was quite good, worth lots of money and covered some expenses for some enterprising rock climbers to last through the summer at Camp 4.

Lower Merced Pass Lake was awesome even without us knowing the exact history at the time. The view from our side of the lake across to the Red Peak zone of the Clark Range was fairly spectacular, and the swimming access from a pile of rocks near camp was excellent. The entire trip's swims were all very warm, by the way. There were pretty much zero mosquitos where we were (with a nice breeze), except right at 8 PM. Right then there were lots for about 20 minutes, and yes, the "Bug Shield" lotion went on and did the trick. Also, maybe around 9 PM there was an odd swarming of gnats. We do have "net hats" that could double as "gnat hats," but the odd swarming was over in short order. Good time to keep one's mouth closed. (Wish I would have realized that then.)

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-- Mount Clark and my island tree buddy, Lower Merced Pass Lake --

A huge boulder right next to the tent site that looked like it had been sliced several times by a cheese slicer did turn out to be a crazy-fun play area for some baby chipmunks. They caught Julie's eye and soon we were entranced by these 4 adorable little chipmunks frolicking on this rock, in and out of the cracks, rolling about with each other, simply having a blast. We never did see any supervision, but when the sun went down they scurried off to the ground cover near the lake. Probably saw the porch light had been turned on.

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-- Peekaboo, we see you --

We headed out from Lower Merced Pass Lake at 10:50 AM (early start!) to go back over Merced Pass and down to Givens Lake. Givens is off trail, but there is a "trail" from the main trail to get you started. Did we make it to that on our way in? Naaahh...

ROUTE INFO: We were sure we were close to the area where the junction of the turn would be, but we saw a cairn set up in the general direction that kind of looked like a junction, and off we went. Old Schaffer instructions mention being able to see some trail, and since we did make it back to the trail at the right location the next day, we can attest that yes it does have a visible trail there. Julie is good about taking notes, and she even brings a GPS for some trips these days, especially the cross-country ones. For this trip she did a waypoint at that actual junction to Givens Lake, which was: N 37.58009, W -119.45610. I'm pretty sure there is some "floating around" for these numbers having to do with satellites (or sunspots or UFOs?). At any rate, Schaffer's old description was still useful from where we started since we did make it to the meadow you cross, and you do continue to find ducks and trail after that crossing. From that "trail" on the west side of the meadow we were good for a bit, but then we lost it when it swung left and was invisible going among some big boulders. At that point it's better to veer left/west toward the lake, but we found some other markers and Schaffer's description was saying "north" at that point, so that all ultimately sent us too far north and had us unnecessarily navigate some talus. (We like bears, but we don't like talus.) We may have been more along the old Schaffer route because he does say one ends up at the northeast corner of the lake. The better route to the lake (marked well and having some trailishness) gets to the lake at the east side, probably more south than north, just up a ways from the outlet. When you're at the lake there's an obvious campsite there just off the lake trail and the route is pretty clear after walking through that camp away from the lake.

Givens Lake is nice, and the "blunt peninsula" described by Schaffer was a good place to be. Some mosquitos, but not too horrid. What was horrid - though my fault - was swimming. Givens is shallow and has boulders sticking out of the water here and there, so it was totally "on me" that I kicked a rock. Yes, with my very toes that had been giving me trouble, but thankfully the bleeding scrape was more on the top of the foot near, and a bit on top of, the toes in question. So when you are swimming in Givens, keep in mind that if you don't have good visibility, don't assume it's deep where you are!

Also horrid - and not my fault - was that there was something in the water at Givens Lake (besides the submerged rocks). When I studied the water I'd scooped for "zapping" (SteriPen Adventurer UV thing), there was a disappointing number of "specks." Enough so that I did get out the little pre-scooping filter thing for the Nalgene and gurgle-gathered the water that way. But, well, still lots of specks. And after a while of letting them settle (figuring some extra minerals weren't going to kill us), I looked, held up the bottle to Julie, and asked, "Do you think these things are moving?" To which she replied while reaching for the bottle, "Moving? Like, with a purpose?"

The bottom line is that they were. Moving with a purpose. Swimming about. Alive. Critters. Tiny little someones.

QUESTION: Does anybody know what such little specks moving slightly to and fro on their own might be? Years and years ago at Secret Lake (just outside Yosemite, east over the ridge from McCabe Lakes) we did find tiny little brine type shrimp dealies in the water. They moved with a purpose, but they were, well, very visible. These were just specks. Anybody know? The internet has refused to supply me with an answer. I'd describe them better than just "specks," but I'd left my microscope at home.

Before you start worrying that Julie and I are now harboring some little alien life critters inside of us, be assured that the Sawyer-Mini Squeeze Julie carries for emergencies totally did the trick. No specks moving about with a purpose in us. Well, except for the usual living bacteria and stuff that rides along in and on humans...

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-- At Givens Lake, but probably NOT one of the "specks" all growed up --

Tuesday was going to be a big day. All the way out from Givens Lake to the car at Chiquito Creek TH. Well, "Chiquita" until we got to the pass, and then "Chiquito." And for this trip, then the drive home (rather than holing up in a run down motel somewhere). We left Givens Lake at 9:10 AM. Yes, you read correctly. 9:10 AM. Dawn Patrol! The better route from the lake was obvious and the hike to the main trail easy. But... 9.2 miles is a big day for us, and though Chiquita/Chiquito is a low flung "pass", as usual those mountain trails go up and go down. Up and then down. Other than my being under some trees when monkeys or something decided to let loose with a hard rain of pinecones and pieces of bark, the hike out was uneventful other than lots of sweating and slowness on the uphill. For me. Did I mention Julie is usually out ahead of me on the uphill nowadays? Just a few years back it was the opposite!

ROUTE INFO: One last little route nuance (this could prove more "nuisance" than "nuance," especially if you have no plans to look for it at all, so buyer beware) is just a tiny shortcut from the main trail coming from that Givens Lake junction towards Buck Camp/Wawona and so forth to cut the corner (junction) where you'd turn left onto the eastbound trail to Soda Springs that is the route back to Chiquita/Chiquito Pass. A 1980 Wilderness Press "Merced Peak, Calif" 15 minute quadrangle topo I have shows this little shortcut, and Schaffer tells of it. It sure is not obvious from the main trail, probably even purposely "removed" now, and probably doesn't save too much distance or unnecessary elevation change at all anyway. Route curiosity had us seeking it out, though, and on the current online topo maps where you see an 8438T peak south of the trail as you are heading toward that Soda Springs trail junction... Probably about 400 meters southwest of that peak is another smaller peak (mappingsupport is showing meters - I'm actually a miles/feet dude normally, and that works out to be about a quarter of a mile). The route is turning off the main trail before you get to that second peak and going first east while fully to the north of the second peak, and then along the east side of the second peak, angling to the Soda Springs trail. Well, that was the way we took and it had a freckle of trailishness as if others had gone that way too. The actual old trail on the map shows it angling down while staying more east, and then meeting the Soda Springs trail right about where you have a junction turning south toward Swamp Lake and Gravelly Ford. Our "route" angled and hit the trail way before that junction, so our shortcut was probably not using the full old trail. But from the time we got to the trail I was watching for any evidence of a trail coming from the left as we hiked toward the Swamp Lake turn, and I saw nothing. Okay, raise your hands if you realize this is pretty much useless information!! And confusing as all heck? Sorry. But also raise your hands and speak up if you know that old trail to still be there and want to say, "Apple and Julie, you just missed it!"

What we did do right was make it to the car at 3:45 PM. Earlier than we could have imagined (for us). Back to Beasore (pronounce it however the hell you like), through Oakhurst where they have gas stations that won't even let you fill up your water bottles (well, in the store... I imagine radiator water outside is up for grabs) and on to Los Banos where we enjoyed a nice Mexican meal at Espana's. We'd actually eaten there once before in 2003 on our way home from hiking the JMT late season. It always amazes me to have a dinner after backpacking and realizing it is probably equal to what I'd eat in 4 days on the trail!

Good, though.
richapple



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Re: TR: Southern Yosemite 7/19-7/26-Chiquito Crk TH/Merced P

Postby balzaccom » Mon Aug 08, 2016 8:44 pm

What a great report! We've been into that area a couple of times, but you really did it right. And the photos are stunning. My guess is that you were carrying a few pounds of camera on this trip?
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Re: TR: Southern Yosemite 7/19-7/26-Chiquito Crk TH/Merced P

Postby kpeter » Mon Aug 08, 2016 11:50 pm

A splendid report and wonderful photos! We missed each other by no more than a couple of days. I was at Upper Merced Pass Lake and Lower Ottoway lake on Monday July 25 toward the beginning of my SW Yosemite loop. I recognize a lot of your photos from that part of your trip! Yes, Red Peak Pass was one heck of a trail.
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Re: TR: Southern Yosemite 7/19-7/26-Chiquito Crk TH/Merced P

Postby richapple » Fri Aug 12, 2016 7:20 pm

Thanks, balzaccom and kpeter!

kpeter - I have your Southwest Yosemite Loop TR open in another tab and look forward to reading it, though maybe will be after we get back from another trip we just "did our food" for... Yes you did make it through some of the "hood" where we were, but I see you went further, higher, and actually covered lots more ground in, well, a day less!

balzaccom - Compliments for the photos in HST are pretty cool, considering how many truly great (even professional) photogs there are here. Thanks! I carried film camera equipment and multiple lenses from the '70s to 2003 (SLR, Canon), but then continued on with fairly simple digital. These days it's a Canon PowerShot S3 IS. Kind of old, but their PowerShot line kept getting bigger and heavier. I think "prosumer" is a term I've heard for single lens digital cameras that are good but are not SLR... If I managed to have it look like I was carrying more high-end stuff, that could be because a number of my images end up looking large format? When the exposure need is there I do often take two photos, one with the exposure good for the ridge and the sky, for instance, then another where the darker lake is more correct and the sky/ridge are overexposed. And often the two are purposely kind of panorama style and then I let Photoshop's auto photo merge do its thing. If it nails it I go with it, but if it messes up and gets the merge wrong, only rarely do I bother messing with the two shots cropping and so forth to try to get the automatic merge to work...

Thanks!
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Re: TR: Southern Yosemite 7/19-7/26-Chiquito Crk TH/Merced P

Postby oldranger » Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:11 pm

Been going into Beasore Meadows since the 50s and stayed there in a friends cabin and it was pronounced baysore. But that is anglicized version of the name of a native American that worked in the area. I believe his name was Jim (last name may not be correct spelling but is phonetic version) Baysaw. Rangers have always pronounced Ottaway autoway. The best way to get from Chain to Breeze is to go up almost to Upper Chain then head to the little mosquito pond to the n. of the pond below Upper Chain then angle your way n just east of point 9344 then the second saddle se of point 9857. from there head se down toward the little ponds nw of Breeze then to the se to Breeze. From the junction above gravelly ford Markskor and I left the trail and worked our way to the Givens Creek drainage and up to where the trail crosses Givens Creek. We camped there a few days before Memorial day in 2012. And found an old WW II bomber crash site less than 100 yards below the ford. Didn't worry about finding old trail to Givens, just hiked up the trail about 300 vertical feet and angled over to the lake. Pretty sure there were some descriptions of these routes in our 2010 Old Fart TR to Chain Lakes and Mark's and my May 2012 TR to this area.

Great pics by the way!
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