TR: Northern Yosemite/Kibbie 2018

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TR: Northern Yosemite/Kibbie 2018

Post by kpeter » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:11 pm

Introduction

I made a similar trip to Boundary Lake later in June in 2012, but it was very hot and in a severe drought year, and I missed much of the charm of this place. This year, armed with more advice from WD in the wake of her extensive 2016 trip, and SSSDave in the wake of his 2017 trip, I decided to go back and try again. This summer I am trying to hike myself into better shape for a big 11 day trip in August, and I wanted to get started as soon as my academic obligations were done for the semester. So I set off on Memorial Day, and just like WD on her Memorial Day trip, I encountered hoards of people leaving as I was arriving. I said farewell to the last of them on the trail to Kibbie Lake at about 1:00 on Memorial Day. I did not see another person on the rest of the trip--5 days. Not even on the way out. It was the most isolated trip I have ever made--including some in Idaho.

Balzacom first got me interested in Boundary Lake and inspired my 2012 trip. SSSDave's account of his early season trip last year to see Cherry Creek at high water made me think about returning. Wandering Daisy's detailed trip report from 2016 gave me a huge amount of information that enriched this trip. Others have chimed in as well with advice, and I thank all of you for helping me have such a successful first trip of the season!

Day 1
I got on the road early, picked up my permit at the Groveland ranger station, and drove the winding road through to Cherry Dam. Shingle Springs trailhead was unfortunately not open, and so I had to start at the Eleanor trailhead. I was able to head up the trail by 9am (I get up early!) I found the old trail from Eleanor to Shingle Springs to be pleasant, beginning in oak woodlands and climbing up into ponderosas. In fact, since this part of the trail had not burned, it was (ironically) one of the most pleasant stretches.

When I got to Shingle Springs, the normal trailhead, I was surprised to learn that there was a charming creek, bubbling pool, and camping spot virtually at the trailhead that I had never before seen. Where the trailhead parking lot ends, a trail/old logging road continues another hundred yards to reach the spot. This struck me as a great place to camp if arriving too late to start up the trail or getting out too late to drive down the road. I would use it as a nice resting spot on my way out on day 5. Shingle Springs won't seem quite so nondescript to me any more.
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Kibbie Lake was my first day destination, especially since I had added 2 miles and 1000 feet by starting at Eleanor. I had been before and learned a thing or two about the place. The trail in was unfortunately even less interesting than before, since the Rim fire had claimed even more shade, but it was immaculately maintained. Most of the people I passed had been there just for Memorial Day, but one fellow had had a WD-style mega trip through the region. He was coming down from Flora to catch the Kibbie trail. I asked about the other Kibbie trail that he must have crossed and he said it showed as a track on his GPS but he didn't see any trail.

As you near the outlet to Kibbie, there is an intermittent stream that you cross just before dome 6725. Rather than continue on the trail, I turned upstream. It is best to stay on the granite on the west side of the stream for a couple of hundred yards until you see a break in the bluff that fronts the east side of the stream. I crossed here and easily picked my way to the top of the bluff--where open forest and granite slabs provided easy walking most of the way across the west side of Kibbie Lake. It is a much easier way to transit around the lake than attempting the shoreline.
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There are several places where long granite grooves cut against the grain of my northerly path, and each required a little scrambling, but I reached my destination with few troubles: a platform on the NW inlet stream about 200 feet above the lake, with a nice view and bordered by an entertaining series of cascades. I set up camp for the first time this year, ate, watched the sunset, and retired, happy to be away from the bustle of work.
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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite 2018

Post by kpeter » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:13 pm

Day 2
Today I planned to cross country from the NW corner of Kibbie up to the Kibbie ridge trail. Following SSSDave's advice, I had studied my Google Earth and CalTopo to figure out a decent route. The Hybrid satellite view from Cal Topo was most helpful. I followed granite as much as possible, first to an area a little north of point 6779, then across a surprising open and flat plateau with some jackstraw, then up the final steep pitch toward my destination--to a saddle just east of the pond and marsh on Kibbie ridge.
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There was one bad area with willows and whitethorn of a hundred feet or so that was unavoidable, but then it was not bad going. I tried to avoid coming into the marsh that is immediately east of the pond and did not entirely succeed--hugging the bluff further east would have worked better. But I made it to the Kibbie ridge trail by 9am, and I am slow, so it wasn't that bad.

Having joined the ridge trail after the most boring points were behind, I powered forward. At Sachse Springs I vowed I would leave the trail long enough to find the cabin. I did--although there is nothing left of a trail to it. As WD points out, it is a reasonable camping spot. I also found a nice running spring there and replenished my water. It is the headwaters of the stream that ran by my camp at NW Kibbie. I don't know if there would be water there later in the season, and I did not find a pipe that others have mentioned.
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Getting across the Sachse springs area is still a mess. The trail disappeared into marsh and soggy grass, and I eventually found my way to the trail on the other side. This was a trail that was definitely built in another era--when everyone rode horses and no one cared about the damage they might do to wetlands. Horses don't seem to mind getting their feet wet.

I should comment on the trail conditions. In general, the trail was in better shape than when I hiked it in 2012. In 2012 I counted deadfall and there were more than 100. This time I would estimate about half that. A few of them were quite annoying, but having 50 trees come down across a long trail like that each winter is probably expected. Of course, rather than just sawing them all out, it would be good to see this trail also reengineered to go around some of the perennial wet spots. A sign or two might be in order as well--there are none after the Kibbie Lake turnoff. Although perhaps with GPS signage will become a thing of the past. On the other hand, these obstacles might be why I had the entire region to myself!

After Sachse Springs I came to an area that was most transformed since my 2012 trip--a broad stretch of forest that burned. For the most part, the effects of the Rim Fire did not seem as profound as I would have expected--but this was an exception. It did allow me a more expansive view. Then out onto the large granite expanse below and around Mecur Peak and then through Styx Pass. I lost the trail across the granite once or twice but picked it back up easily with ducks helping out. This is no different than most trails that go across large level granite slabs.
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What an odd pass--it feels like a pass with a vigorous uphill climb from the other (east) side, but it is downhill or level to it, through a slot in the woods, from the west side. But popping out to the east you get an expansive view of Cherry Creek Canyon.
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Heading down into the canyon I left the trail on its second switchback and headed for the pools, where I found a nearby camp.
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That evening, I toured the "creek." There was more water moving through it than some large rivers I have seen, and following SSSDave's advice I headed downstream for late afternoon and evening pictures of the spray as the sun reached the water.
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Now I knew I had made the right decision to come back and give this place another try. The first time I waded Cherry Creek and the water came to my shins. This time my delight in running water was thoroughly quenched, with the full sense of its power and touch of fear.
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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite 2018

Post by kpeter » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:14 pm

Day 3

Today was to be a return to old haunts. I headed up the trail to Boundary Lake. The turnoff was well marked with three ducks, and it was not too bad keeping on the trail. I made a couple of wrong turns but rapidly got back on track. The trail comes to a wide ledge with mosses and grass and it is easy to lose the trail there. Just go straight across--unless you want to walk over to the edge for another great view--and you will come to the outlet of a pond below Boundary Lake. From here the trail is obvious again, although the willows will squeeze you as you edge around the pond.

I love Boundary Lake, but I spent a couple of days there and wanted to get around it to do something else on this trip, so I hiked down the efficient west side. There are bits of trail but it is not a bad hike at all. I paused to check out my old campsite on the pointy peninsula opposite cliffs toward the southern end. Sublime as it was before.
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My destination, however, was the southern end of Little Bear Lake where I hoped to set up camp to do some more exploring. Last time I found my way there by traveling down the west side of the lake. To do this you have to climb up from Boundary--bypassing the outlet of Boundary entirely--and find your way over and down the bluff that juts into the lake and prevents a lakeside trail. There are a few useful ducts, and it is not as hard as it sounds.
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This time, however, I thought I would try something new and check out the east side. I found my way to the outlet which was easy to step across--no more than two feet wide. A little friction walking got me up and over to the north shore of Little Bear. Little Bear did not yet have its full complement of green sedges--perhaps it was too early in the season. I started around the east shore, and every word that WD put in her trip report rang true. A maze of deadfall and swampy areas. I eventually got to the granite--granite is your friend!--and looped to the southern end of the lake.

I was delighted to find the outlet of Little Bear was flowing--it was dry on my last visit, and I set up camp nearby, with the sound of the stream and a view of dome 7822 to keep me company.
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I got camp set up by early afternoon, and decided to check out Spotted Fawn Lake, which I had missed last time. Here I got a lessen in micro route finding. I had intended to take the obvious route down the granite slabs from the SE corner of Little Bear, but as I approached this low saddle I saw a slot cutting through the granite to my right. I thought I would check it out, and it just kept going and going, until it started descending and I had a growing view of Spotted Fawn. It also got steeper.
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I made it down through this slot in the cliffs to Spotted Fawn safely, but there were a couple of stretches that were a lot easier going down than they would be going up.
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I found Spotted Fawn to be a particularly beautiful lake from a bit of a distance--it has a much more interesting setting, with cliffs and granite, and forest alternately around its circumference. Once I got down to the shore, however, views were mostly obstructed by forest and brush, and cliffs and steep brush limited the shoreline I could explore to a small part of the NW shore. I think I found the spot where WD waded through the lake to get around it.

Going back to Little Bear I thought would be easy, just taking the slabs that I bypassed on the way down. However, I overshot and instead of heading NNW I headed NNE and wound up at the base of point 7897. At the top of this valley there was a little scrambling but I managed to get through to the Little Bear drainage and headed back for camp.

After a rest, I explored the outlet stream in the late afternoon light.
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I love streams and running water more than anything else in the high country, and this was no doubt why I was disappointed in 2012. Not so in 2018.
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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite 2018

Post by kpeter » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:15 pm

Day 4

On this day I took stock of my options. My plans had been to either cross country to Inferno Lakes or to try for Nance Peak. My adventures in micro route finding on day 3 shook my confidence a bit. Plus I was breaking in new boots, and my heels were blistered--doing pretty well with the miracle of Second Skin and Spenco adhesive--but I wondered if a lot of vigorous cross country would be the right decision. Alternatively, I regretted that I had not made time to explore the lakes below Mercur Peak, and they seemed a lot easier than Inferno or Nance. And so I decided to move camp to the Mercur Lakes.

Heading out I took the west shore of Little Bear, finding the correct route "up and over" on my second try, then retraced my steps up the east side of Boundary, up over Styx, and departed from the trail to take the exceptionally easy stroll up the slabs to the saddle above Mercur Lakes. I decided to circle the lakes clockwise. The south side of the lakes I found to be difficult to navigate, with deadfall, a maze of ponds--many not shown on the maps--and other obstacles. I got to the west end of the largest lake, with a view that was not terrible spectacular, and I was beginning to wonder if I had made a mistake. It was near noon which killed the scenery, the setting of the lake did not seem that spectacular, and I was questioning if I wanted to spend more time here.

I pulled out my notes, and saw that SSSDave raved about the photographic possibilities shooting west across the lake--problem was I couldn't find a place to do that anywhere along the south shore. Then I saw that WD had camped on the NE side of the lake with a view of Cherry Creek Canyon. Well the view of Cherry Creek canyon on the far west end was not particularly interesting. I almost felt I owed it to WD and SSSDave to finish the circuit of the lake to appreciate their advice.

I am so glad I did. I found WD's campsite with its spectacular view into another part of Cherry Creek Canyon, with the full panoply of white rapids visible far below.
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It had become windy and cold, and so I camped below closer to the lake, but used her camp area for photography. Furthermore, exploring the north side of the lake was very different from the south side. It was not marshy and had a 20-30 foot "rim" of granite between the lake and Cherry Creek canyon that was easy and fun to explore.
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I also found a spot of shoreline with a clear view across the lake to the west.
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The weather did not particularly cooperate--the cold front seems to have eliminated those glorious clouds from the sky by sunset, but I did my best at sunset and sunrise. I also had time to explore the maze of ponds and ducked out a clear route through them for my next day's exit. I felt like a swamp rat!
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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite 2018

Post by kpeter » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:16 pm

Day 5

The day home is always a bit nostalgic and depressing. It started well, I was up before dawn for the photography, packed quickly and headed over the easy granite slabs that are "Mercur pass." Joined up with the main ridge trail and headed out, making excellent time with a light pack and improved lungs and the mostly downhill route.
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Along the way I took careful note of water sources. Sachse Springs is one, although I don't know if it has water late in the season. The pond is an obvious possibility. There I decided to replenish water. Advice--don't draw water from the pond unless you have a pre filter. The outlet stream (if it is flowing) is MUCH better. There are many fewer things swimming in it. Several miles south there is an intermittent stream marked as crossing the trail--the only one on the topo. SSSDave has pointed this out as a possible camping spot early season. I thought it was a nice little oasis after coming down from a bleak chalky stretch to the north. Again, I don't know how long that water will last.
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Then there was nothing until Shingle Springs, which had its own nice oasis, that I described before.

Reaching the car and the drive home, I realized that I had not seen a single human being on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. This trip set a new record of isolation for me--and not in a place I would normally expect it.
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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite/Kibbie 2018

Post by SSSdave » Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:25 pm

Good read and enjoyed your photography. How were the small wildflowers in granite sand flats? What about the myriad blue damsel flies that rise out of the swampy Little Bear Lake edges? They really eat a lot of squeetoes if timing is right.

Last year I had to start at the west side of CV dam. By time I reached the old Shingle Springs camp spot, I was sweaty and dusty. There is a deep enough pool in that small stream right at the trail crossing I've dunked in twice. Last year during my trip, the forest service was already driving their trucks into the trailhead while claiming road was too damaged yet it remained closed for another month and suspect the real reason had more to do with making the hike all the way to Cherry Creek too far keeping kayakers from smashing their bodies up in high Cherry Creek flows. And it may be they are playing the same game unless there is really some new road damage.

Kpeter after reaching those cascades behind Kibbie, you were a wimp if after setting up your camp, you didn't jump into the whitewater of that small stream then lay out on the smooth warm slabs. (:

Not sure if I am going to fit in a trip up there this month as am likely to hit the Rock Creek to Mono Lake sagebrush zones in a day or two for an open ended road trip. After that wildflowers start rising on many lower east side Sierra slopes.

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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite/Kibbie 2018

Post by kpeter » Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:21 pm

SSSdave wrote:Good read and enjoyed your photography. How were the small wildflowers in granite sand flats? What about the myriad blue damsel flies that rise out of the swampy Little Bear Lake edges? They really eat a lot of squeetoes if timing is right.

Last year I had to start at the west side of CV dam. By time I reached the old Shingle Springs camp spot, I was sweaty and dusty. There is a deep enough pool in that small stream right at the trail crossing I've dunked in twice. Last year during my trip, the forest service was already driving their trucks into the trailhead while claiming road was too damaged yet it remained closed for another month and suspect the real reason had more to do with making the hike all the way to Cherry Creek too far keeping kayakers from smashing their bodies up in high Cherry Creek flows. And it may be they are playing the same game unless there is really some new road damage.

Kpeter after reaching those cascades behind Kibbie, you were a wimp if after setting up your camp, you didn't jump into the whitewater of that small stream then lay out on the smooth warm slabs. (:

Not sure if I am going to fit in a trip up there this month as am likely to hit the Rock Creek to Mono Lake sagebrush zones in a day or two for an open ended road trip. After that wildflowers start rising on many lower east side Sierra slopes.
Thanks Dave,

I did not do a full dunk, but I definitely took extensive sponge baths. Part of the problem was that I did not want to soak the extensive patchwork on my feet. On my first trip to Kibbie I discovered that high inlet camp too late, and regretted that I had not camped there. This year I knew right where to go, and it was delightful to be entertained by those pretty cascades, and to hang out on the granite there.

There was a big concrete barrier across the road at the Eleanor trailhead, and so no service trucks were going up it. In fact, there was a part of the road that looked like a riverbed below the Eleanor trailhead and I had second thoughts about driving my passenger car over it. I can well imagine that there was more of that further up.

Sadly, the damselflies did not seem to be out at Little Bear yet, but that was probably because there were no mosquitoes for them to eat! And the green sedge there was not fully up either.

As for flowers in the granite cracks--nothing nearly as spectacular as I found in Emigrant last year. But there were these:
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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite/Kibbie 2018

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:03 pm

Thanks for the trip report. Mercur Lakes have very complex shorelines, and add melting snow to that when I was there and it was difficult to hike around them. I wonder why they did not put the trail up on the ridge instead of in the swampy bog near the top of Kibbie Ridge. Good to hear that it is not bad to get up onto Kibbie Ridge from Kibbie Lake. I will have to try that if I go in again. Do you think you could have gone up to Huckleberry Lake inlet without walking on snow? I think you picked a good time. Looks like the bugs were not bad at all. After it warmed up on June 2 the bugs seemed to really come out when I was down in the GC Tuolumne.

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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite/Kibbie 2018

Post by rhyang » Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:41 pm

Beautiful. I keep thinking sometime I should bring a packraft to some of these large Sierra lakes. Maybe this year ...

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Re: TR: Northern Yosemite/Kibbie 2018

Post by watsonic » Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:06 pm

Really curious about the route up from Kibbie. Do you have a topo with route plot you could share? I'd love to ascend to the Boundary Lake area via that route (because of the road closure to KR TH), but sounds like there could be some trouble with the deadfall and brush.

I took the trail from KR TH -> Boundary Lake a couple of years ago (must have just been before the road closed) and enjoyed the destination but not as much the journey. Wondering if I can squeeze in a visit back to Boundary, Inferno and Cherry Creek area into 3 days. West Fork Cherry Creek at the intersection of Buck Meadow Creek two weekends ago was powerful in several senses of the word. Difficult but possible ford.

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