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McGee Canyon TR

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McGee Canyon TR

Postby millertime » Sun Jul 11, 2010 7:52 pm

I'll start by saying I'm new to hiking in the Eastern Sierra, I'm used to the greater Tahoe Basin, as I live in Roseville, Ca. As far as the Eastern Sierra's go, I've hiked from Agnew Meadows up the river trail to Thousand Island Lake and back on the High trail, and to Lake Ediza from Agnew on a different day, both trips taking place last summer. I was already acclimated when I did both these trips, and had no issues whatsoever on them. Hiking in Tahoe, as everyone knows, is all under 10000ft, mostly around 7500-9000ft on average, with some of the peaks reaching around or are barely over 10000ft. I went with two friends and my buddy's dog, neither of which have been to the Eastern Sierra, though we are experienced in Tahoe. With that background info, here is TR, albeit embarrassing.

At 7am, we met at Wes's house and headed off for the hwy 50>89>88>395 route towards bishop. Due to some traffic in Folsom and on 89, our trip was 6.5hours to Bishop instead of 5.5. We picked up our permits in Bishop and took our 30 minute drive back up 395 to the McGee Creek rd.

We started the hike into the beautiful McGee Canyon (which I hiked two miles into last summer) around 3:30pm.
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Everything was fine and dandy up until about 8500ft, two miles into the trail, when the skeetz showed up. They were moderate at first, but soon turned into a pretty heavy swarm. There were no breaks in them for the next 4 miles. We didn't acclimate the night before, which was taking a toll on Andrew and I, though Wes was holding up ok. Once we ascended the last set of switchbacks, reaching 10000ft, I could not go on, realizing that I just worked my way into minor altitude sickness (at least I think. symptoms= disorientation, nausea, headache, fatigue).

We set up camp at the vast meadow which is immediate after the last set of switchbacks, where the swarm was even headier. I didn't eat dinner, we were low on water and I wasn't going to be doing anything else besides laying there. I brought the water filter, and for that reason Andrew didn't bring his. Wes used it to filter the water from a bottle of snowmelt he collected and then he and Andrew headed off to the stream nearby to filter some more water. Due to myself being disoriented, I forgot to tell them to put the debris filter on it, and they had never used my filter. After they collected a liter and a half of water, small pebbles soon got clogged in the pump part of the filter destroying a washer and a complex valve (its an MSR sweetwater). We had 400ml of water per person for the night. No one slept well, with the 3 of us probably only getting 3-4 hours of sleep. The skeetz didn't die down until 30-60 minutes after there was no light left in the sky.

In the morning, before the sun rose, as soon as there was the faintest light in the sky, the skeetz woke back up, making any trips outside the tent a royal pain. After the sun rose, feeling good enough to walk around, I attempted to filter more water at the stream near camp, too no avail, the filter was done, no suction. Andrew decided at that point that we had no choice but to drink unfiltered snowmelt. This stream was coming directly from the snowmelt on the mountain next to the meadow. It was fresh and moving very fast through rock bead, not dirt, coming directly from the peak next to the meadow (albeit carrying a decent amount of iron). It was highly unlikely that any animals had contaminated it. He said that his Dad drank unfiltered snowmelt for 20 years while backpacking without any problems (not that you ever should), given you pick a smart source. With no other options (no water= no hiking, and there were no other campers in the area) we filled up on snowmelt (2 liters each), cooked breakfast and packed up camp a day early. We decided to hike to Big McGee lake, which we meant to camp at before heading out a day early. At this point I was feeling a bit better, better enough to walk 2 miles with no gear.

We camped in this meadow
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Our hike to the lake
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Andrews Hat, should have taken more pictures of the skeetz, never thought about it though. His back would have 20-40 skeetz on it at any given time on this short hike
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As close to the lake as we would get
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but fed up and anxious to get home we headed back to camp, grabbed some quick food and headed back down the trail at 11:50am. There would be skeetz for the next 4 miles, as there were on the way up. As we descended in elevation to about 9000ft I felt pretty much fully recovered albeit tired and sick of skeetz. We would get to the truck at 3:30pm and headed back on our long 5 hour drive.

Lesson's learned:
1. ACCLIMATE when backpacking above 9000ft
2. Don't hike in the early season swarm
3. Don't hike in the early season swarm on a wet year
4. Bring more than one water filter. What happened shouldn't have happened, and wouldn't have if I wasn't disoriented, stuff happens.

Full set from this trip, at least it yielded a few good shots.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/17893090@N ... 348923371/

EDIT: I'd like to add that I had dreams about being swarmed by mosquitoes last night, and I just found out that Andrew did too. Pretty crazy stuff!
I'm also not sure whether to rate this a 4 or a 5 or skeeters. If you stopped moving for over a minute, yes 100 would land on you, if your moving, anywhere from 20-40 are on your clothes.



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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby gochicagobears! » Sun Jul 11, 2010 10:54 pm

strange how something that we all take for granted (clean water) can have such a deleterious effect on an outing. i've never gone without at least another filter in our group since a buddy's MSR failed while up near Cloud's Rest, the result being an end to the hike and no ascent...
the pictures look great, however. congrats on getting out on the trail, albeit shortened... still biding my time having called off two into Desolation due to snow levels near Aloha...
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby millertime » Sun Jul 11, 2010 11:12 pm

I've called off going into desolation twice now as well... Planning on heading to Island Lake on the 26th. Hoping for fewer mosquitoes. I've also thought about doing a few trips into the Trinity Alps, but 90 degree days sound pretty miserable...
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:56 am

Hi Millertime

Seems like quite a learning experience for you and your group.
This time of the year you have to come prepared not only physically, but mentally
especially to deal with the skeetrz.
Head net, ultralight windbreaker(3-4 oz), long light weight pants, gloves in some cases.
I treat my shirt, pants, bandanna(which I wear under my baseball style cap), hat, and
gloves with permethrin.
I have used the steri pen for several seasons now, where needed, and have been much
happier with it then a filter.
I also take a chemical back up in case the steri pen malfunctioned.
Nice pic's by the way.
Also, it is very important to stay well hydrated at elevation, otherwise it too will
aggravate your altitude sickness symptoms.
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby SSSdave » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:20 am

Your mosquito experience is classic example of those unenlightened who need some tips when hiking in such conditions. I wouldn't get bit at all in such conditions though might be annoyed at times like having to hassle some when taking my daily jump in the water. See page 2 and 3 of this current thread to join the rest of us:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5088&start=15
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby millertime » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:38 am

Right, dehydration definitely aggravated the altitude sickness, and we were not ready for that heavy of a swarm. I've never seen anything like it in Desolation Wilderness but the Eastern Sierra's are a whole different world altogether.

Next time I will have permathrin treated clothes and a mosquito net

Thanks SSSdave and Maverick for the advice
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby Jaeger » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:27 pm

And don't forget, you can always boil your water if no other treatment options are available at the time.

Those pictures look awesome by the way. I have to get my butt over to the Eastern side some time.
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby Cross Country » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:50 pm

I feel certain that the chemical backup maverick refers to are water purification tablets. These consist of two types of tablets, one that purifies and one that makes the water taste good. It really works, so well in fact that I eventually stopped taking a filter. This requires planning (all the time) timing and self discipline, things that most backpackers have in common. As to mosquitos I agree with the other people: you need to be mos. prepared. Being so makes them (to me) nothing more than a nuisance.
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby snusmumriken » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:28 pm

I love your photographs millertime! Makes me want to grab my backpack and head out the door right now.

On the topic of water, I hardly ever filter or treat the water in the Sierras. No ill effects yet, but I might just be lucky. Next time bring a few water purification tablets in your emergency kit.
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby copeg » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:20 pm

Thanks for posting the TR and photos. Seems like a learning experience (the skeeterz on the hat look pretty nuts). A few water tablets or some Aqua MIra go a long way if you are reliant on a filter and it conks out on you.
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:05 pm

While I think everybody else should do what they are comfortable with, 90% of the time I never use or bring a water filter, and almost never early season. This has been my pards and my rule for the last 15 years. We used to always filter everything until experience taught us how to choose our water sources reliably. Obvious example: Merced River all the way to the HSC, filter! Early season runoff streams coming from the heights in the back-country, forget the filter. General rule: if we are not sure of all the water quality on a trip, we bring a filter and use it as needed situationaly. Thousands of trail miles and not sick yet.

I expect to have to deal with flying bloodsuckers this upcoming trip. I may leave the filter behind but not the deet! Or wind pants, bug screens, lite plastic gloves.... #-o
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http://www.doylewdonehoo.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: McGee Canyon TR

Postby windknot » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:38 pm

Thanks for the report, and nice pictures. Sorry about the mosquitoes; I heard they were horrible in Little Lakes Valley last week, and although I got lucky and spent the past week virtually skeeter-free in Dusy Basin, they were getting annoying when we got back over Bishop Pass yesterday.

I'm starting to doubt the necessity of using a filter at all times, especially if the source is a relatively lightly-traveled stream or lake. Better safe than sorry, of course, but if my filter ever breaks down I won't feel too unsafe drinking unfiltered water.

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