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TR: Labor Day Gold

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TR: Labor Day Gold

Postby windknot » Wed Sep 03, 2008 10:50 pm

I've been itching to get to this basin for a while now and thanks to descriptions from forum members like giantbrookie, Buck Forester, and cmon4day over the past few years I had at least a vague idea of what to expect. The steep climb and spotty trail coupled with the sheer beauty of these alpine lakes promised a magical weekend, and so on Saturday morning we found ourselves at the trailhead chomping on homemade breakfast burritos and gearing up to hit the trail.
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The first stretch was a hot, steep grind. It gains about 1500 feet of elevation in less than two miles right off the bat, and doesn't really let up until it reaches the first lake. As we climbed higher we began to lose the trail and so after about a mile we decided to ditch it completely and hoof it cross-country up to the lake. This involved some serious sidehilling.
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Taking a much-needed break.
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More climbing..
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And more resting.
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Finally, the welcome sight of the lake.
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Alpenglow in the evening. I need to invest in a digital SLR; my pictures don't do these places justice.
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The next lake up in the chain and a quick scramble up from camp.
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The view on the way back down.
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En route to our next destination.
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A gorgeous lake.
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Mt. Hooper looming above.
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The fishing was excellent at all three lakes. The catching was a bit more temperamental, but we still managed to get into lots of feisty, colorful goldens.

Here are a few representative fish.
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I did manage to hook into one decent-sized fish, my new personal best golden.
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Unfortunately, all too soon it was time to pack up and head out.
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We finished with a completely off-trail descent back down to the roadhead to conclude a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. The best part was that we only ran into one party (a dayhiker and his dog) during the entire Labor Day weekend. Even after over 6,000 feet of total elevation gain and loss, I'm already itching to leave on a four-day, mostly off-trail backpack I have planned for later this month.

Thanks for reading!
Matt

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Last edited by windknot on Sun Sep 18, 2011 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/



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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby cmon4day » Thu Sep 04, 2008 8:05 am

Hey Matt,

Awesome trip report and nice pictures as well. Makes me want to get back into my beloved mountains. I love your personal best. That's a nice fish. When I was there we camped at Harvey Lake. In your TR you mentioned you XC'd all the way down. Which way did you go? The terrain gets pretty rugged below Gordon.
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby Buck Forester » Thu Sep 04, 2008 11:36 am

Fantastic photos and trip report! And some nice goldens too! It sounds like the 'trail' leading up has faded even more because although it got steep and spotty at times, it was still follow-able. It's been about 4 years since I've been there now. On one of my trips I did what you guys did, bush-whacked all the way from Chamberlain down to the road. I remember following the drainage most of the way. It was getting dark so about 1/2 of my hike was in fading light and about 1/4 of it was in complete darkness. It gets rugged and steep the further you go down, ha! I scratched my eyeball real bad on a branch at one point, and had to dance around steep ledges using my headlamp to find a doable descent route in places. It was a great adventure, just me and my two dogs. After I finally made it to the dirt road I wasn't 100% sure where I came out so it took me another 45 minutes of wandering the roads to find my parked truck. Man... now that I'm married with two young kids and my dogs are gone, that seems a lifetime ago!
It's all about the WILDERNESS!!!

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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby hikerduane » Thu Sep 04, 2008 4:15 pm

So much country, so little time. Thank you for the photos and report. Love the kids acting up.
Piece of cake.
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby Codester » Thu Sep 04, 2008 4:51 pm

Awesome adventure and beautiful country! I love the color of those fish. Especially the silvery color of that big golden!
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby maverick » Thu Sep 04, 2008 5:08 pm

Nice TR to a place not frequently visited and Chamberlain is pretty lake.
Windknot have you visited Apollo, Cirque, and Depressed Lake area yet, if not
this is a gorgeous area one of the highlights west of the Mono Divide.
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby MountainMinstrel » Thu Sep 04, 2008 6:35 pm

Great trip report. Those Goldens make me consider getting a fishing license again.
Just an old musician who loves the Mountains.
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby windknot » Thu Sep 04, 2008 8:11 pm

Thanks for all the comments, guys.

Cmon4day, coming down we followed pretty close to Chamberlain's outlet creek (dry this time of year) almost down to the intersection with the creek coming from the adjacent drainage, then cut west, dropping to the flat northwest of that unnamed lake at around 9700 ft (I thought about checking this one out, but we were on a pretty tight schedule so I'll have to save it for next time), then following the easiest topography from there nearly directly down to the diversion dam. Brush wasn't too bad for the majority of the route and while some stretches were steep it never got to the point that we had to turn back and find another way down, so it ended up saving quite a bit of time over going back to Gordon and the trail, as well as being much more fun.

Buck, thanks for the entertaining memories. I can see how following the creek all the way down would get nasty on that last descent, we tried to avoid it by skirting west and that turned out to be a much easier route (saw some stone ducks, so others have done this as well). The first part of the trail was definitely followable but we lost it after about a thousand feet of gain so at that point we gave up and just made a go of it from there.

Maverick, I haven't been to the Cirque-Apollo-Orchid area yet but it's high on my to-do list. Have you ever gone in there by way of Hooper Basin? It looks like Depressed and Cirque may be reachable by way of a diagonal ascent from Harvey.

Matt
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby SSSdave » Sat Sep 06, 2008 11:39 am

I've had a modest interest in climbing up there because those lakes are unblocked by any ridges further west, thus can potentially have excellent alpenglow if the air is also exceptionally clear. Unfortunately it may be clear for a few miles but is usually not so dozens of miles west over the Central Valley. I've always expected the main use route up to those lakes follows somewhere up along the Gordon Lake outlet creek. That is because most novice backcountry users pay little attention to topographic map terrain steepness and instead tend to simply follow streams. In this case the obvious better less steep route is well away from that outlet stream and instead up towards Chamberlain Lake. That does not mean following the exact Chamberline outlet stream either all the way but rather the least steep vertical line to line sections while avoiding some expected brushy zones.
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby windknot » Sat Sep 06, 2008 12:37 pm

Interesting point, Dave. On first glance, it appears that the logical route to take would follow Hooper Creek all the way from the diversion dam up to the lower lakes in the basin. However, the gentlest topography is either first to the north of the roadhead (where the stock trail climbs some 1500 feet up toward the Infant Buttes) or to the south (where several stone ducks indicate that hikers headed toward Chamberlain prefer this route) rather than to the east. We ascended to Gordon following the general route of the stock trail, and from Chamberlain followed the gentlest topography back down to the diversion dam.

Now I'm trying to work out the best way to hit Cirque/Apollo/Orchid and I'm exploring different approaches from both the west and south, perhaps again kicking off at the Hooper Diversion roadhead. I'd love to try to make a loop that goes through the Cirque/Apollo area, around to Rose, then up over Crazy Pass down into Hooper Basin and out.

Matt
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Sep 06, 2008 4:45 pm

windknot wrote:Now I'm trying to work out the best way to hit Cirque/Apollo/Orchid and I'm exploring different approaches from both the west and south, perhaps again kicking off at the Hooper Diversion roadhead. I'd love to try to make a loop that goes through the Cirque/Apollo area, around to Rose, then up over Crazy Pass down into Hooper Basin and out.
Matt

Matt,

Check out the latest edition of the Sierra National Forest map. It shows the unofficial stock trail that goes to the Hooper Basin as well as the one that goes to Marcella/Cirque (Apollo and Orchid are still off trail, it would appear, fortunately). The thing to do is to look at the USFS map which doesn't have topo and make a copy of the trail. Then, compare distances between common index points on the USFS map and whatever topo you'd like to use (say USFS JMW/Seki, WP Mt Abbot, or Tom Harrison Mono Divide). Calculate the reduction or enlargment factor necessary than perform the necessary adjustment on the copy of the trail using a variable enlarment/reduction xerox machine or by scanning, Photoshop scaling and printing. Then register the common points, overlay your topo over the corrected scale copy and trace the trail(s) onto your topo; an old school light table will work, but in the absence of this, so will taping the two layers to a window. In many situations I would simply choose the best route based on topo and forget about the trails (this cuts off lots of time and distance in Woodchuck Country), but in this case, I'm betting that the unofficial trail can actually save you some time.

Cheers,

John
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Labor Day Gold: Hooper Basin TR

Postby windknot » Sun Sep 07, 2008 12:52 pm

Thanks for the tip, John. It looks like both of the stock trails afford interesting ways to reach Cirque/Apollo, and a route that uses parts of both trails may be the quickest way to get up there (while still keeping the idea of a loop trip intact). I mapped out one such idea that would entail taking the Hooper diversion trail up to its highest point (at around 9150 ft) on that south-facing slope under the Infant Buttes, then instead of following the trail as it doubles back toward Hooper basin, continue ascending N/NW and pick a route that meets up with the Marcella stock trail somewhere near Bear Dome. From there, the trail can be taken to Marcella and Cirque, with off-trail stuff starting at Cirque and continuing through Apollo, Orchid, then over to Rose and up through Crazy Pass, then down through Hooper Basin and back out to the car.

With one of your death march itineraries this could probably be done in a single weekend, but I'm planning it for a 5-day trip with camps anticipated at Marcella, Apollo, Rose, and Harvey. This would provide ample time for fishing at each of the most appealing lakes along the loop (assuming Depressed and the unnamed lake at around 10380 ft NW of it are fishless).

Any thoughts or advice about this rough itinerary are welcomed; I've got at least the entire winter to tinker with it, but I'm already getting restless so I figure I may as well start now.

Matt
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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