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TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:16 am
by Lrnix
Day 0: Left the Santa Cruz Mountains early Friday the 26th with plans to disperse camp along Beasore road. Picked up permit at the Bass Lake Ranger District and found camp about two miles down from Isberg trailhead, crashed early.
Day 1: Got an early start from Isberg and was immediately swarmed by mosquitoes. Thankfully the breeze picked up as we climbed to the Niche and we were able to cruise along the well trodden trail, arriving at Hemlock and setting up camp around 4pm.
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Day 2: Today we planned for a few easy trail miles before crossing the North Fork and camping somewhere in upper Bench Canyon. The trail miles went quick and we crossed the North Fork just above the packer camp, about 300 yards above where Bench Canyon enters the North Fork. From there it was easy climbing through lower Bench Canyon and up over the waterfall and into the upper canyon. We were tired at this point so instead of pushing to Blue lake we set up camp in the trees just above the first tarn.
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Day 3: Today was our layover day in Bench, we planned a day hike to Blue lake and than exploration of the ridge that leads into long creek and rockbound lake. The day went as planned, however as we were descending down from the ridge we saw dark clouds swirling around Ritter and knew we had to hustle back down to camp. We got to camp right in time before the sky opened up with an hour or so of hail and rain that lasted well into the evening.
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Day 4: Today we planned to cross the ridge into long creek and set up camp somewhere near the little pothole lakes immediately to the east of Sadler. The ridge crossing was uneventful and we enjoyed a nice lunch break at the wonderful tarns just before the use trail starts to climb up the saddle. We noticed a carin at the start of the trail but basically just headed straight up towards the saddle shooting the gap between sadler and peak 9734. It was easy hiking and we soon made the pothole lakes below Sadler. The mosquitos were thick and it was still early so we made the decision to bail down to the car as the mosquitos were only getting worse as we dropped elevation and we figured it was an easy 4-5 miles all downhill back to isberg. The trail becomes harder to find once over the saddle but its all down hill over easy terrain and soon we hit chetwood cabin and arrived back at the isberg trailhead around 4pm. From there a long drive down recently partly paved Beasore road and back home just after midnight. In closing, a lovely relaxed first trip to a new area and a great first trip of the season.
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Re: TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2020 11:10 pm
by wildhiker
Nice report on a lovely area. Did you see any other backpackers?
-Phil

Re: TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2020 11:47 pm
by Lrnix
We saw two groups on our way into Hemlock and than no one else for the remainder of the trip. When we hiked in there were 9 cars at the trailhead, on the way out there was only two.

Re: TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2020 8:45 am
by Wandering Daisy
I have done all of your loop except Long Canyon. How would you rate it compared to continuing to intersect the Isberg Trail (which I have done).

Re: TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2020 10:56 am
by Lrnix
Wandering Daisy wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 8:45 am
I have done all of your loop except Long Canyon. How would you rate it compared to continuing to intersect the Isberg Trail (which I have done).
Although I have never dropped down to the Isberg Trail, the trail out of Long Creek was lovely and for the most part easy to navigate. You pass through two lovely tarns in lower Long Creek and have an easy opportunity to climb Sadler from the ridge line. I could see that later in the year water could be a real issue as you descend from the Sadler ridge line towards Chetwood.
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Re: TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2020 11:14 am
by maverick
No mention of wildflowers in Bench Canyon, this is not going to be a good year for them. :(

Re: TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2020 11:26 am
by Lrnix
Yes, unfortunately there were almost no blooms in Bench Canyon and the surrounding area. Only some shooting stars farther down in Stevenson meadow, but they were miniscule compared to years past.

Re: TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2020 1:16 pm
by windknot
Thanks for the report and photos! Looks like a nice trip.

Re: TR Granite Creek-Bench Canyon-Long Creek Loop

Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2020 2:14 pm
by cgundersen
Thanks for the early season report! Love the views one gets of the Ritter Range/Minarets from Blue Lakes and you clearly had some great blue sky days go with that one explosion.Cg