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Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby quentinc » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:24 am

Thanks everyone.
Mark and GB: I'm not a fisherman. One member of our group did bring his fishing rod, but owing to some late morning starts (ugh) and our compressed hiking schedule, he didn't find any time to try out the lakes. By the way, in addition to all the switchbacks, I couldn't believe all the man-made steps that marred the trail. Total knee-killers! I've never understood steps in the national parks -- how is that consistent with the leave no trace ethos? Not to mention what a huge waste of time, money and energy.



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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby markskor » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:51 am

Q,
While the odd switchback design up there still remains a mystery – (IE: a 1/2 mile wandering diversion to gain 30 feet in elevation) – the steps do serve a purpose. Erosion control in areas of high water runoff can be slowed or curtailed by the careful placement of these steps.

Having had more than a few opportunities to chat (and occasionally join in) with several of the trail crews that do this type of work - (true unsung Sierra heroes in my book), I have come to appreciate the art form involved. Rocks placed too far apart are blasted asunder by the annual spring hydraulic pounding, not enough allowance for grade change mandates more switchbacks needed (ugh!), leaving the only recourse remaining as making steps. Agree that sometimes these steps are too high – knee pounders – this is still the best alternative available for both man and beast alike.

We all hate the “high” steps, but without extensive rerouting of difficult trail segments (read dealing with severe elevation changes), this seems to be the best way (only way) to keep our favorite trails from washing out continuously each Sierra season.
Just my 2¢
Mark
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby oldranger » Sun Sep 13, 2009 11:21 am

Actually there are frequently alternatives to the steps and riprap found in Yosemite. The trails in SEKI have many fewer steps and much less riprap. Instead trail crews in SEKI frequently use spaced retainer bars and fill with broken up rock between the retainer bars. Just different philosophies I guess.

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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Sep 13, 2009 12:26 pm

oldranger wrote:Actually there are frequently alternatives to the steps and riprap found in Yosemite. The trails in SEKI have many fewer steps and much less riprap. Instead trail crews in SEKI frequently use spaced retainer bars and fill with broken up rock between the retainer bars. Just different philosophies I guess.
Mike


I've always found the trail engineering puzzling. Obviously minimizing trail erosion from runoff is one of the goals of trail construction. Why, then, are there not more uphill-facing steps rather than the preponderance of downhill-facing ones that we see so often. I'm guessing that the downhill-facing steps result from starting with a relatively constant trail gradient tread, making placing a big rock barrier across and backfilling uphill of it with rip rap, so that what we end up seeing is a big uphill-facing step with rip rap filled in upslope of it. Still, it seems to me that a bit of engineering of the tread with an uphill-facing step, backfilled or not, makes more sense. It is true that to create an uphill-facing step on a steep section of trail requires more outright excavation of the trail tread itself and a mild amount of gradient increase uphill of the step (depending on amount of excavation--less with more). Still, gravity is working in your favor with an uphill-facing step and it is much more hiker friendly, as well as not being as visually artificial as some of the giant steps we see on many trails.

Speaking of those steps, the champion I've seen is the Pine Creek trail. I don't know why it is tradition to build those so high on that particular trail. My wife, at 5'1" has to use hand holds as well as footholds to surmount the higher ones on that trail. After two trips up that trail (as a kickoff point for the Royces on one trip and as a part of an epic day 1 into Bear Basin on another), my wife swore to never set foot on that trail again. The trail out of Twin Lakes/Mono Village in contrast doesn't so much have high waterbars as its chief annoyance so much as has absurdly inefficient switchbacks that Mark and Quentin have alluded to. One goes around a whole mess of them to gain all of rather small amounts of elevation when a single segment of but moderately graded trail would have sufficed. Whereas the Pine Creek trail is efficient, but cruel (cruelty from the extra high waterbars), the Twin Lakes route is horrendously inefficient, although it is hardly the worst--it is merely the most overengineered. The worst I ever saw in terms of inefficiency was the old segment of trail between Blue Lake and Dingleberry L out of Sabrina. The worst of this trail was rerouted sometime between 1978 (when it was still horrible) and 1983 when I found the worst bypassed. Basically there was this one place where the trail descended the side of a small gully then ascended the other side. After completing this you realized that the top part of this mega-hairpin had segments that were all of 100 yards apart with mild terrain between them and the entire hairpin was well over half a mile. The total distance to Dingleberry must have approached 3 mi with the old trail. The wooden sign at Blue Lake had said Dingleberry 1 mi, but some disgruntled hikers had carved in a "0" after the "1". No. 2 on my inefficency list, for you fishing folks out there, are the trails (collectively) in the Woodchuck-Crown area. Enormous amounts of distance can be saved by creative off trail route planning (and this excludes huge savings from the Hoffman Mtn off trail kickoff).
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: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby quentinc » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:39 pm

The Pine Creek trail is a nightmare, particularly to descend. Last time I did it I too swore never to do so again. Next time I want to visit the Italy Pass area, I'll come from North Lake, over Piute and Puppet Passes. A bit longer, but infinitely more pleasant.
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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby Rosabella » Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:47 am

markskor wrote:Having had more than a few opportunities to chat (and occasionally join in) with several of the trail crews that do this type of work - (true unsung Sierra heroes in my book), I have come to appreciate the art form involved.


Here's to the Unsung Heroes!! =D> As I was coming down from Cathedral Pass, I ran into a trail crew of about 6 people. The work they were doing was amazing, moving and breaking HUGE rocks with only simple "come-alongs" and hand tools, to repair a section of the trail that had been washed out.

Thanking each of them as I proceeded down the trail just didn't seem like it was enough. I was happy when I saw a couple cases of beer on a pack train that was headed up to re-supply the trail crew, they deserve it!
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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby maverick » Tue Sep 15, 2009 11:42 am

Hi Q

I was worried you'd have problems with the smoke but I see you did just fine, nice
TR and pictures.
I did the Northern Loop once, but as I mentioned before I much rather do the x-country
route up Little Slide and down Slide Canyon/Piute Creek to the Doe Lake/Tallulah area
avoiding the Benson Pass/Lake area all together.
I to did not care much for Benson Lake either, but Rock Island Lake is fun with Suicide
Ridge as the back drop.
The Barney route is ugly and boring, the route up to Maltby Lake, and over Ice Lake Pass
is much a more intriguing/pretty alternative.
The views from the top of Matterhorn are outstanding and the climb is quite easy from
Burro Pass, it too was one of the highlights of my first trip into the area also.
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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby quentinc » Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:49 pm

Maverick,

The smoke was nice enought to almost completely dissipate by the day we climbed the Matterhorn. It had discouraged me, 2 weeks before, from climbing Sill on my trip to the Palisade Basin (for me, peaks are all about the view).

Your cross-country route does sound like a much better way to go. But the stretch of trail from Mule Pass to Robinson Lakes was nice. I suppose one could work that in on the return to the trailhead.
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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby Cross Country » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:10 pm

I went to almost all of these places on two different trips. On a third trip to this area a friend and I hiked (and fished) down Thompson Canyon. He remarked that it seemed strange that the JMT was not in Thompson Canyon because it is so scenic. Then we hiked back through Kerrick Canyon and each of us said "now I see why".
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Re: Benson Lake Loop-de-Loop TR

Postby Ikan Mas » Tue Apr 06, 2010 12:30 pm

Thanks for the photos. I have the trail permit for the same section in the first week of August and thanks to photos like yours, I am really looking forward to going. ;)
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