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sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby adam » Tue Sep 29, 2009 12:14 pm

I'd like to do a low-key cross-country (at least in part) 2-night trip in the sunrise/cathedral area of yosemite before the october 15 overnight parking ban.

I was thinking of going to mildred lake the first night (or sunrise lakes? are they nicer?), then to long meadow, matthes lake, and camp at either nelson or reymann lake the next night. then out via elizabeth lake, either by cutting over to the headwaters of echo creek and following the standard nelson lake route home, or by going NE towards Johnson peak, and then descending down into Elizabeth lake (are the lakes below Johnson nice?).

Does anyone have any suggestions on which of those lakes are nicest for camping (or somewhere else in the area that would be time better spent?), and what a good route between them might be? I day hiked to Mildred once, and did an overnight at Nelson with side trips to Reymann and matthes lakes, but both were 18 years ago-- beyond nice alpenglow from the clifs next to nelson and the dramatic matthes crest at matthes, I don't remember much about them. I've never been to the sunrise lakes, and never to the area between sunrise/mildred and matthes.

I suppose i should define "low key"-- i don't mind class 2 type hiking, but I'd prefer to avoid extensive talus and brush, and days that require dawn-dusk travel and multi-thousand foot gain/loss

thanks in advance for any help,
adam



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Re: sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby Telkwa » Fri Oct 02, 2009 8:34 am

Hey, adam, a few years back my wife and I started from Tenaya and hiked past Sunrise on trail. Headed north towards Cathedral Pass, then took the first trail east. That's the one that goes east for about a mile, then turns sharply southward and heads toward Echo Valley. At that sharp southward turn, we left the trail, crossed the creek, and turned northeastward x-country across nice open slabs of granite. The creek is very scenic - it was only an inch deep and wandered across the slabs. It was pretty easy to guess where the outflow from Matthes Lake came in. We followed that to Matthes for the first night. Nelson was an easy hop from there. Very easy as far as route-finding. The descent from the ridge between Matthes and Nelson was a little steep for the first 20 minutes but not scary. Nice grabby granite. We were at Nelson in a few hours but decided to stay there for the day. The walk up to Reymann was very easy and scenic - open forest, polished granite, very nice. There's a nice campsite tucked near the cliff at the NE corner of Reymann Lake. I'm using the "Tuolomne Meadows" Tom Harrison map - see those 3 lakes just west-southwest of Johnson Peak? Even though they're ridiculously close to Tuolomne, it appears they're sparsely visited. Leave Reymann following the contour of the draw, but before you get to the actual pass turn left and head on up toward the ridgeline. If you follow the contour of the land all the way to the pass between Rafferty Creek and Reymann you'll get into a bunch of dense juniper. Head for the un-named lakes.

Those un-named lakes are very pretty. We camped near the rocky brow that drops off toward Elizabeth Lake. Next day we followed a faint trail off the edge, then just x-countried northward til we ran into the obvious Elizabeth Lake trail. Picked up a shuttle bus at the Tuolomne Store and back to the car.

It was a nice trip. Nelson and Matthes aren't super-scenic. We thought Reymann was prettier, and the two un-named lakes the nicest.
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Re: sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby adam » Fri Oct 02, 2009 11:42 am

Thanks so much for the advice-- that's exactly the route I was thinking of doing. Based on previous travel in the area, I figured it would all be nice and relatively easy travel, but it's always great to get confirmation that there aren't nasty surprises tucked in there somewhere.

I'm committed to doing city culture this weekend-- hopefully the weather will hold up to do this trip during the last weekend before the overnight parking ban.

Based on the NPS page http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tmbus.htm I'm assuming that the shuttle bus is out of commision for the season and I'll bring a bike to connect the trailheads.

thanks again-- looking forward to checking it out in person!

-adam
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Re: sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby John Dittli » Fri Oct 02, 2009 11:59 am

I believe "Johnson Lakes" are not open to camping
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Re: sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby snusmumriken » Fri Oct 02, 2009 3:39 pm

Middle Sunrise Lake is one of my very favorites. Well worth a visit. Only 3 steep miles from the trail-head, very scenic alpine lake, good camping in several spots and this late in the season you have a good chance of having it all to yourself.
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Re: sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby Telkwa » Fri Oct 09, 2009 9:57 am

Johnditti -
You may be correct. What's the rule? Three miles from roads? I remember we were concerned about that limitation, but we felt at the time that the lakes were far enuf out. I don't remember how we came to that conclusion, nor whether there was some fudging involved. I don't remember thinking "if we run into a ranger here there could be trouble". And we did run into a ranger at Matthes so I wasn't assuming that it couldn't happen.

My wife and I are not in great shape. Even so, it only took a coupla hours to go from Reymann to the un-named lakes (Johnson Lakes?). We left the un-named lakes at daybreak (wind had been beating on the tent all night long, we'd gotten very little sleep, and there seemed little point in laying there any longer) and were at our car at the Tenaya trailhead by 9:00 AM even with a half-hour wait for the bus. So a hike from Reymann all the way out with a nice brunch break at the lakes would not be an ordeal.

EDIT: I did some quick measuring, using the mileage grid on the previously-mentioned Tom Harrison map, and it appears the "Johnson Lakes" are about 2.5 miles as the crow flies from the Tioga Pass Road. That might explain why they seemed to be sparsely-visited! I don't want to encourage anyone to break the law... :paranoid:
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Re: sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby John Dittli » Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:14 pm

Thanks for posting that Telkwa

The rule states "4 trail miles from Tuolumne Meadows" (elsewhere 1 air mile from paved roads), but technically that puts lower Cathedral outa bounds as well? I don't think the NPS wants to enforce that though.

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Re: sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby mokelumnekid » Sun Oct 11, 2009 10:36 pm

I remember once getting busted for camping about 300 yards inside the no-camping boundary (don't recall if it was three or four miles) by a back country ranger. We thought we were cool, being just southwest of Echo Peaks. But he made us break camp and then walked us to what he considered acceptable, which was only rock throwing distance south. I understand the problem (Budd Lake, etc. gets hammered) but sheesh, I mean it wasn't like we were sneaking around by the road or anything, it was a best guess. This link has a pic of where we ended up:

http://tinyurl.com/ykmdp6h

By the way Johnson Lakes are fantastic and stay that way becasue people are not allowed to camp there. Please respect that. I have spent a lot of time around Tuolumne and support the no camping rule despite the fact it bit me once.
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Re: sunrise-cathedral (yosemite) xc advice requested

Postby adam » Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:37 pm

I just posted a trip report under a different thread, since I didn't go exactly where I had earlier discussed. I don't know about the echo area, the wilderness ranger lectured me several times that I had to be out of the elizabeth-johnson lakes drainage to camp-- she didn't seem too concerned about the distance, just that I was over the crest-- which we were, by about 60 feet. She also seemed to think that telling me several times that I wasn't allowed to camp at Elizabeth lake would make a difference. It seems that if one is determined to camp illegeally, being told multiple times that it's illegeal won't change much.

whatever-- in any case, that's such a fun area-- everywhere you go is beautiful, and it's generally easy walking.
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