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Yosemite Advice

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Yosemite Advice

Postby luvtobackpack » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:01 pm

First post to the group. I am planning a trip for four to Yosemite in early June. We have a campsite reserved at Dimond O for the week but would rather go backcountry. Without a reservation how likely are we to score permits during the week? What are good early season backpacks(multiple nights) and what can we expect as far as mosquitoes go. We would like to avoid the places where we would need crampons/fords. Places of interest are Half Dome(can this be done from Tenaya Lake or Toulumne Meadows this time of year), El Capitan loop, maybe Hetch Hetchy(Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne). I was in Yosimte once before in September so I have no experience this time if year.


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Hetchhetchy: The Lake Vernon Loop!

Postby Hetchy » Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:43 pm

Wow! I belive the Diamond O is right along the Evergreen road into Hetchhetchy! Striking distance to a relatively underused treasure trove of early season Sierra Pleasure. One of these is:
The Lake Vernon Loop Trek.
I can suggest that you pehaps stay at Diamond O the first night, after driving. The next day you can get a wilderness permit at the Hetchhetchy entrance station about a mile beyond Camp Mather. For a three day early season hike in early June.. I recommend the Lake Vernon Loop. You can cross the O' Shaunessey Dam(through a several hundred foot long tunnel in solid granite) and climb the switchbacks toward Laurel Lake, perhaps even stay at Laurel the first night(Good Fishing even early May but beware the crossing of Frog creek can be treacherous).
By the way.. When you get to Beehive Meadow you will be within a few feet of "The Gem" of Northern Yosemite. The spring of which I speak is located at the end of the meadow near the junction of the Laurel lake/Lake Vernon trails. It is a small wooden box.. and despite it's appearance, it contains the absolutely sparkling clear ice cold "nectar of the gods" spring water of The Beehive Spring.
And having just climbed 3000 feet in elevation over 6 miles you will no doubt appreciate this small miracle!
Proceed to Lake Vernon(fantastic sub-alpine scenery just 10 miles from the dam) and camp there.
The granite flats below Lake Vernon make for incredible adventuring and in early June you should be able to cross the lake Vernon bridge of falls creek easily (though some years water is high and crossing might mean wet feet) Check the water level when you get there. I have found it has a reverse tide, being lower in the afternoon than morning.
The beauty of this hike is that even if you can't or don't want to cross falls creek there is enough to do at Vernon to make a very respectable 3 day trip out of it all if you decide to then just hike back down to the Dam. The trip from the Dam to lake Vernon alone requires NO creeks be crossed though some minor patches of snow might exist upon approaching the Moraine ridge junction and later along the shoulder of Mt Gibson(If you choose to do the loop).
Falls creek is SPECTACULAR as it thunders down canyon from this point! Fishing at Vernon can be good some years but never as good as at Laurel at the same time of year. Best to fish at Laurel and explore at Vernon.
Proceeding on the trail up over Mt Gibson the views of The Grand Canyon Of The Tuolumne River explode into view. There could be a minor amount of snow as you reach the highest elevation of the trip along the shoulder of Mount Gibson.
Next You drop down into Tiltill valley. (Bring Bug Dope for this section!) The meadow in Tiltill is fantastic in early june! Tiltill Valley is a strangely contorted Granite canyon and a little known but worthwhile lunch stop.
Next you decend to Rancheria falls which is offers much flat granite sun basking and fishing opportunities in Hetchyhetchy itself.
The 6 mile hike out takes you under Wapama and in sight of Tueeulala Falls. Be aware that the road into and out of Hetchhetchy is locked after 9PM and opened by 7AM
Also there is a very nice(but HOT) backpackers campground ($5/night 1 night upon entering or exiting only) at the dam itself with bathrooms and running water, and even a wash sink.
Steel bearboxes are numerous there as well.
My introduction to backpacking and the High Sierra began with this hike! I cannot recommend this area highly enough. Particularly if you want to remain far from the crowds of "The Valley".
The Hetchhetchy area could be just the ticket. :D
Cheers, Hetchy
You can make more money, but you can't make more time.
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Re: Yosemite Advice

Postby ndwoods » Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:13 am

I ditto above suggestion. Memorial weekend this loop is a highway. The rest of the year noone goes there! The other ideas you ask about are great too...but you are right in the front door or the Vernon Loop there....
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Re: Yosemite Advice

Postby maverick » Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:45 am

Hi Luvtobackpack

Welcome to HST.
The Tenaya route to Half Dome will not be doable since Tioga Road
will probably not be open yet.
The area Hetchy recommends is pretty and I would like to add to this, if your
interested and have some cross-country experience.
Hike on Lake Vernon's southern coast all the way to the back of the basin where
you'll find Branigan Creek(cascade) and follow it up on its eastern side to
Branigan Lake.
Follow the southern contours of the lake and then follow the creek to some
beautiful smaller lakes south of Branigan lake.
Continue following these lakes(south) back to the last lake on the bench and then
climb down the ridge back to the Vernon Basin.
There are some great campsites all along these lakes especially the first
lake after Branigan Lake and the last lake on the bench.
Skeetrz maybe bad, but could be moderate, it changes from year to year
just be prepared.
Branigan Lake's shore is rocky so take your time, also there is a little bush
you will have to get through between Lake Branigan and the first lake
though this is no big deal.
The ridge down to the Vernon Basin is steep, but there is no need to rush
and just choose your route safely and you will not have any problems.
Falls Creek is not crossable once above Lake Vernon so keep that in mind
when you go out exploring.
If you want to climb Half Dome then I would recommend starting from the
Valley and hike to the Sunrise Creek-Clouds Rest Junction and go over the
creek and there is a small trail on your right that leads down to this great
camp site from where you can climb Half Dome one day and Clouds Rest
the next without all the crowds.
Clouds Rest's view is spectacular and much more encompassing than Half
Dome's since Clouds Rest blocks the views to the north because of it being
over 1000 ft taller.
If you do either hike make sure you have water and the Clouds Rest hike
may have some hard/icy snow at 8000 ft in some area so hiking poles
come in handy.
The poles between the cables will not be up for the Half Dome hike so
make sure your comfortable with heights especially on the way down.
Also bring your own leather gloves for the steel cables.
Either place you end up going especially the Half Dome hike area has bear
problems so store your food properly.
You can also hike to Merced Lake and come back via the High Merced Trail.
The top of Moraine Dome area is really cool almost like your in a high alpine
zone with great views of the Merced River, and the Cascade Cliffs area.
This trail will hook up with the JMT which you follow down to the previous
mention camp site near the junction with Clouds Rest.
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