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South Fork of the San Joaquin sierra junipers

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South Fork of the San Joaquin sierra junipers

Postby SSSdave » Fri Jun 01, 2007 5:14 pm

I've just about decided to do a short base camping backpack up above Florence Lake reservoir on the South Fork of the San Joaquin River and hike about to the 8,000 foot elevation just before the Piute Creek junction where the Kings Canyon National Park border starts. Thus totally within Sierra National Forest and past the horse happy Muir Trail Ranch. It is one of the Sierra's deepest U-shaped glaciated granite canyons and in that area, the bedrock floor of the canyon is quite flat and wide. I've been up that trail a few times in the past including just a couple summers ago enroute to Evolution areas. My main reason for the trip is to do large format photography of sierra juniper trees as I remember being particularly impressed with the numbers of those trees on the canyon walls and floor of that zone. Likely will be doing some class 2 scrambling up canyons walls.

Given it is early June after a light winter, this year's snowpack likely melted back in that sunny area weeks ago. So I'm expecting early wildflowers in that zone for what there are, to be out. Also some nice green grassy granite benches. So will also have fun expanding my body of Sierra wildflower closeups with my little digital Coolpix. Besides the wildflowers and junipers, both the San Joaquin River and Piute Creek ought to be rather full though certainly less than usual at this time of year. So I hope to find some nice river shots too. And the canyon itself is oriented to get moderately late afternoon light especially on towering Pavillion Dome. May try and climb up rather high for a late pm pic all the way to Mount Darwin and Haekel at the crest.

I may drive up and start the trip this Sunday afternoon and be out three or four nights? Don't expect any issue getting a permit on the drive in. Weather forecast is for generally typical sunny fair weather and less likely possibly are afternoon cumulus buildups with possible showers. Mosquitos are likely to be of some level of nuisance though my destination is a particularly dry rocky area squeeters would tend to avoid. Thus leaning on lugging my tent up instead of the lighter bivy.

What my big question is has to do with the Florence Lake Resort Ferry. Just like other Sierra ferries like Echo Lake, Saddlebag, and nearby TA Edison, the crossing rates have increased over the years. I just checked the website for Florence and they are now charging $10 one way or $19 roundtrip. Since I've been in the frugal mode the last year, I'm considering hiking around the reservoir on the trail on the way in and just spending $10 on the way out. In part because I don't want to hike the full 8 miles from the ferry dock to my destination in one day. I've got just two short backpacking trips in this year so the old joints are not in strong shape. Taking the ferry saves about 3.5 miles of hiking and eliminates about 550 feet of up and down going around the reservoir. That questionably layed out trail monotonously goes up and down like a yoyo for a dozen times on the topo. If I take the trail instead of spending $10, I'll likely hike six miles or so to near Lower Blaney Meadows late in the afternoon then do the final six miles early Monday morning. Maybe even hike with my headlight in the evening if it is warm and stop atop one of the granitoid areas. Most likely when I actually get there and heft my huge pack I'll gladly spend the 10 buckos. I'm thinking of being out 3 or 4 nights which will give me enough time to explore that area leisurely and find good tree shots.

It is Friday afternoon, so Sunday is just a couple days away. If any of you fine Sierra Topix folks out there I've had the pleasure of conversing with on the board the last few years are not tangled up in work and whatever the next few days, and are interested in independently tagging along, including driving to and from the trailhead yourself, and can get organized in short order, send me an email, the address of which is at my below website. With nearly 70 pounds I will be hiking slow and frequently taking breaks.

...David



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Postby hikerduane » Fri Jun 01, 2007 8:41 pm

I know you are familiar with the Tahoe area, but have you been to the east side of Susie Lake? To the north of the outlet, there are some old junipers above the lake. Interesting to look at them and think about world events in comparison to the growth rings where a limb or top broke off exposing the rings. Neato man! Have a good trip.
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Florence might be empty

Postby cmon4day » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:10 pm

Dave,

I was there in September of last year and they were draining Florence Lake for repair work on the dam. You may want to find out if they are still working on it. If they are, you might have to hike it anyway. If it is low, you may want to hike along the lowered shoreline. If may be easier and more direct to the bridge that crosses the SJ river.

Vic
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Postby SSSdave » Sat Jun 02, 2007 12:12 pm

I know giantbrookie likes Heather Lake too as we've both hooked into some of the big eastern brook in that lake.

...David
Last edited by SSSdave on Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Florence might be empty

Postby ERIC » Sat Jun 02, 2007 12:28 pm

cmon4day wrote:Dave,

I was there in September of last year and they were draining Florence Lake for repair work on the dam. You may want to find out if they are still working on it. If they are, you might have to hike it anyway. If it is low, you may want to hike along the lowered shoreline. If may be easier and more direct to the bridge that crosses the SJ river.

Vic


When the lake is near minimum pool, hiking the shoreline is a breeze compaired to the trail. The only thing you have to worry about (at times) are the washouts in the basin sand. But those are fairly easy to go around. The easiest route (IMO) when taking this approach is to go through Jackass Meadows camp ground, behind the damn and over the rock, and follow that side of the lake.

A suggestion for getting across the lake when the water's up... There are usually fishermen all over there this time of year. You might try approaching one of them to see if they'd mind giving you a ride for a small donation (I've been successful in going this route at both Florence and Edison in the past).
If I was going to be up there at that time, I have access to a couple small aluminium boats stored at the lake that I could take you across with. But I'm going to be fairly tied up for most of the month of June, and probably wont even get my first trip in until the end of the month or the early part of July... Another time, perhaps. :smirk:
Last edited by ERIC on Sat Jun 02, 2007 6:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby hikerduane » Sat Jun 02, 2007 1:03 pm

Sorry/You're welcome, Dave. :lol: I have only been into Desolation early a couple times. 4-5 years ago in June sometime, still damp around Upper Velma, I had to be selective where I set up camp and a couple years ago with a group from NorthCA Hiking over the Memorial Day weekend. We camped on snow that trip close to Lucille. I was watching a couple guys at Heather one year fishing over by the west side. They caught a couple nice ones, so to be socialable, I moved my fishing pole by them and caught a nice one also. Seemed to only be 3-4 cruising that shore at the time.

Your first photo looks the most familiar, but then I can't remember details 5 minutes after I pass by. Show us some photos when you get back.
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Re: South Fork of the San Joaquin sierra junipers

Postby ERIC » Sat Jun 02, 2007 2:07 pm

SSSdave wrote:It is one of the Sierra's deepest U-shaped glaciated granite canyons and in that area...


Speaking of the many granite wonders in that area, the Heather Lake/Upper Indian Lake area that's divided by the park boundary is one of my favorites. Climbing 'the shoot', as we called it back then, between the two lakes was one of my favorite things to do as a kid. The fishing there isn't half bad, either, if you don't mind a few skeeters. :thumbsup:
Last edited by ERIC on Sat Jun 02, 2007 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Florence Lake

Postby gdurkee » Sat Jun 02, 2007 4:04 pm

Have a great trip. Send back a report. I'll be heading up that way myself in a couple of weeks.

I would recommend paying the bucks for the ferry. That's an awful trail around the lake and I'm not sure I agree with Eric that going the shore is any easier. I came back the north shore last year, when the reservoir was drained, and it was pretty awful. My knees are equally aged... . Lots of up and down and muck. Seemed endless to me. I would think you might well have good luck hitching a ride with a fisherperson if you get there early enough.

Some other great junipers to photograph, which you may already know about, are the ones coming down the Dusy switchbacks to Le Conte. There's one terrific one where you can get it and a downcanyon shot of Le Conte and the Devils Crags.

And, oh wait!, it may be that one of the record ones is right at the top of Guyot Pass, just west of the trail on the pass itself, between Rock Creek and Whitney Creek.

Good hiking.

g.
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Postby giantbrookie » Sat Jun 02, 2007 4:20 pm

The rich reds and dark grays of the metamorphic rocks in the Heather-Susie, etc. area also enhance beauty of that area. The island in Heather adds a nice little touch. Yes, bringing fishing gear in there is highly recommended. Heather is most famous for the epic browns that live there although there are indeed some nice brookies too. The brookies tend to constitute more of the catch early and mid season and the browns dominate the lake in the fall. The brookies in Susie tend to come in an array of sizes. I've only caught medium sized ones, but I've had an email report as recently as two years ago of a 16-incher taken there. Gilmore has those mackinaw that reach absurd sizes. Depending on the year, the early season wildflowers around Gilmore can equal the Carson Pass area (really). Regarding the thaw in the Glen Alpine area, I have a report of successful fishing of Granite Lake as of the weekend before Memorial Day. Based on that I think that Heather and Susie will be in fine shape (Gilmore, too, most likely). Desolation is less of a target for me now that I'm living in Fresno (making most Desolation trailheads about an hour further away than they were when I lived in the Bay Area), but I still get the hankering to go up there and chase the monster fish that dwell in so many of the lakes there.

Have a good trip.
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Postby madeintahoe » Sat Jun 02, 2007 7:29 pm

David....I will look forward to your beautiful pictures and report on the conditions! As of May 12th looking from the top of Tallac Gilmore and Aloha were completely frozen..and the whole north facing Crystal range had a lot of snow on it.

This last Tuesday I was at Tamarack Lake....and things were fine. a lot of that north facing snow has melted..im sure the lakes are all thawed out by now..it has been very warm if not down right hot here the last few weeks! :eek: I have seen a few flowers out...today I saw the orange colored columbines.
The thunder activity was better today than it has been the last 5 days...we did have cloud build up..but it did not do much..it seemed to be worse looking north

Have a really nice time out there...are you starting at Glen Alpine TH?
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Postby SSSdave » Sat Jun 02, 2007 9:24 pm

madeintahoe >>>"...are you starting at Glen Alpine TH?"

Yep.

giantbrookie >>>"...Yes, bringing fishing gear in there is highly recommended. "

I'm expecting to be too busy to make taking the full fishing gear worthwhile. On the holiday weekend my bro Joe and I did a short 2-day fishing backpack to a South Yuba River lake north of I80 and caught and ate limits of nice trout. So instead will just bring my minimalist few ounce kit with some dry fly line on a spool, a few flies, and clear floats. That way I'll use a willow limb with a couple safety pins for ferrules. Rather crude and comical but a rig I do catch fish with.

...David
Last edited by SSSdave on Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Florence Lake

Postby Snow Nymph » Sun Jun 03, 2007 8:18 am

gdurkee wrote:Have a great trip. Send back a report. I'll be heading up that way myself in a couple of weeks.

I would recommend paying the bucks for the ferry. That's an awful trail around the lake and I'm not sure I agree with Eric that going the shore is any easier.

g.


I agree. One year we decided "its not that far", but the trail seemed to go on forever. :(

I'm interested in the the lake status. Thinking about going there early July, maybe.
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