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Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

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Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby rbaldini » Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:22 pm

Hey folks,

I've got reservations to spend two nights up at the Young Lakes with my girlfriend in August. We'll start at the Tuolomne Meadows area, and the highest we'll go will be just over 10,000 feet. This will be our first time in Yosemite, so naturally I'm quite excited.

It says on my reservation notice that we can spend one night before and one night after the trip at any of the approved backpacker campsites in the park. This seems like a good idea for us because: (1) We're coming from sea level and (2) neither of us have much experience with high country backpacking. Seems smart to sleep a night at 8000' before attempting to go higher.

So my question is: Is this necessary? Could we skip it and just go slow? What's your experience with such things?

Many thanks.



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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby balzaccom » Wed Jul 21, 2010 9:14 pm

Are you kidding? Why not take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to get there a bit early the day before, do some wandering, see some sights, camp in the backpackers campground, and then go on your hike?

Now--Young Lakes isn't the hardest of longest trail you can take, and you can probably hike it without a day to acclimate....but why would you want to?

Just my two cents. My wife would add that she needs a day to acclimate before any hike, or she gets a bad headache. No fun on the trail or in the tent!
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jul 21, 2010 9:23 pm

I would stay at Tuolumne Meadows and talk to the hikers - there are going to be folks coming off or going on the JMT, the PCT, and any number of other trails who have a ton of experience. I've run into hikers and hit it off and made backpacking companions that way. Great to hear stories from folks who have been hiking for years and get a look at their gear, which is frequently how you learn about some great stuff you never would have heard of otherwise.

Also great fun to go to Soda Springs, walk around the meadows, climb Lembert Dome, and walk down/up the river - hike the short Elizabeth Lake trail, hike to Dog Lake, all kinds of opportunities to see things around the campground. Or drive down to the Tioga gate and do the short hike to Gaylor Lakes - fantastic place to wander around, great vista of the peaks of Yosemite and gorgeous lakes. You can't camp there but it is an excellent dayhike - do the side trip to Gaylor Peak while you're at it. Having that extra day (if you can get there in the morning) to explore short stuff is very worthwhile.

And yeah, you'll be able to acclimate some while you're at it. :wink:
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby adam » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:34 pm

In agreement with the other posters, there's lots of fun stuff to do around T. meadows if you can hang around for a day before/after. However because everyone with a wilderness permit can camp there, the backpacker site's often packed. the last time I was there it was ~3 parties per "site". It wasn't bad-- everyone was friendly and there was (barely) enough flat ground to go around-- but it wasn't a nice "camping" experience in it's own right. So just think of it as a means to enable more time at the meadows, or an early start/late return, rather than an end in itself.
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby bps999 » Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:03 pm

totally unnecessary. altitude is not an issue. backpacker camps are not likely to be the most scenic locations you could spend your time in, I would not go to one. If you have extra time then do other day hikes in the park on those days and either get permits for relatively shallow but nice backcountry sites, or else go down to lee vining and stay in town.
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:14 pm

You can say altitude is not an issue for you. I have hiked with people who have had difficulties at 7,000 feet. Some people do, whether you want to believe that or not....
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby bps999 » Thu Jul 22, 2010 6:50 pm

while its not impossible to be affected by altitude hiking out of TM, planned aclimatization would be absurd.
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby rlown » Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:04 pm

I have to go along with AlmostThere on this one. Altitude is real and does have an impact. I know i've have felt it's affect, and I know my wife feels it at 7k. I don't really like the backpackers campground, but, it is true that if you're a people person, you can have a great time there meeting a wide diversity of folks.

When going to TM, I stay outside the park at the Tioga Campground the night before. I can check all my gear, fish, and they have a nice bear locker in every campsite. I like that one because it's only about 16 sites.

We used to do the drive from the bay and then hit the trail after the 6 hr drive. Hurts, and going slower just makes the agony last longer. One night at altitude before the hike helps, in my opinion.
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby adam » Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:56 pm

regarding the backpacker campsite at T meadows, If it were me, the last thing I'd want to do after a day hike is drive somewhere if I could avoid it. What I've done in the past to avoid hanging out at the backpacker sites is take stove, food, warm clothes, headlight and a couple beers to somewhere nice that catches the evening light (lembert dome picnic area, one of the bridges or rock islands in the middle of the meadows) and make dinner there, watch the sunset, and then go back to the campsite after dark to crash.
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby balzaccom » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:44 pm

bps999 wrote:while its not impossible to be affected by altitude hiking out of TM, planned aclimatization would be absurd.



Sorry, but you are just wrong about this. Lots of people have trouble going directly from sea level to 8600 feet, particulary if they then engage in physical activity. It may not be an issue for you, but it is certainly a very real issue for lots of people--and if you do a little reading on the subject, I think you'll change your attitude a bit. Altitude affects different people different ways...to suggest otherwise is not helpful to other hikers.

and my point about the campgrounds is that they give you an extra two days in Yosemite...who wouldn't want that? The OP suggested just running up, doing the hike, and heading home!
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby rbaldini » Sat Jul 24, 2010 7:57 pm

Thanks for the input everyone.

We'll probably stay a night before our trip in the backpacker's campsites (most cost-effective), and use the extra day to acclimate, climb Lembert Dome, see the sights, etc. I'll try my hand at some photography for your pleasure.
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Re: Yosemite Backpacker Campsites: A good idea?

Postby oldranger » Sun Jul 25, 2010 3:43 pm

My two cents.

Spending a night at elevation is a good idea. If you are entering Yosemite from the east side you might consider spending the night in one of the campgrounds in Lee Vining Canyon. Set up camp then go down to Whoa Nellie Delli and have an outrageous dinner and a couple of brews and watch the tourists. Did that a week and a half ago and found it a good option for me.

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