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tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

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tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby lostcoyote » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:43 pm

okay, i finally got down into tehipite valley for the first time. one of my long time goals. yay!

anyway, i set the solo trip up as a loop starting and ending at south lake as follows:

sept 2'cd
i drove up and secured my permit at the lone pine interagency center. then proceeded up to bishop and headed directly to south lake. while in lone pine, i picked up a subway sandwich and a soda for my quick dinner and energy boost before starting out at 4pm from the south lake parking lot. all of the sugar in the soda must have given me a boost cuz i arrived at long lake in record time!

sept 3'rd to sept 4'th
getting up early, i proceeded for an uneventful climb to bishop pass and ended up camping below dusy basin in the little valley which seperates the two sets of switchbacks at around 9400'. the next morning, i continued down the final switchbacks passing the beautiful cascade of water along the dusy branch. it was not too much longer that i arrived at grouse meadow.

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continuing on, i passed a trail crew that was camped at palisade creek doing work to rebuild the bridge. the rest of the afternoon, i continued downstream where the middle fork becomes a wilder river. a great little campsite was found just past the observation creek junction about a mile or so above the devils washbowl.

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sept 5'th to sept 7'th

the next morning, i made it to the devils washbowl and spent a little time there just looking at it, wondering what it might look like during early spring melt. i also wondered what it would look like to see people in kayaks go over it.

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it was around the 6500' level that i noticed a few knats and the lower that i got towards tehipite valley, the more numerous they became. by the time i got to tehipite a day later (camped at dog creek one night), i was using my hands like windshield wipers to get the knats away from darting into my eyes. what i discovered was that when i sat still while resting, the knats would leave me alone. so it seems, well, i confirmed that they are attracted to moving targets. the deet that i applied had no effect on them either. at least they did not bite me - thank goodness.

not far below simpson meadow (i did the river ford at the east end of the meadow where the sign points to a trail that leadsto a ficticious bridge - i think it has not been rebuilt yet?), i met i guy named damien who was doing a trip from yucca point up the middle fork to simpson and then out over granite pass. what an awesome trip... and then right here in this forum, i find his link. i had not seen anyone for a day now and i was the first person he had seen in several days. of course, this was just the beginning of my isolation.

arriving into the upper part of tehipite valley, i was greeted by smoke from the sheep fire. at one point, the smoke was so thick, that i could barely see the opposing cliffs where the gorge of despair enters the valley. i was hoping for the smoke to clear out the next morning... and it did... come and go that is betwen mornings and afternoons. here are some pictures i took in the valley including giant jeffery pines with bearclaw marks, waterfalls, some old pictographs painted on an overhanging rock along the river, and of course, the dome:

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i also discovered what stinging nettle feels like when you brush up against it. there are a few small plants just past the campsite just west of crown creek that the trail passes right by. i was not aware what the plant was or looked like but this one had shiny leaves and so i left them alone by being careful to step around them. i'm still not sure if these plants with shiny leaves (pictured below) are stinging nettle but since they had a really shiny surface to the leaves, i left them alone. further along the trail to where the trail junction is located, there is a small patch of muddy trail with a log placed in the middle. stepping on the log, i definately brushed up against a stinging nettle plant as i discovered a few minutes later, that the back of my hand had a slight prickling feeling to it... but it went away after 15 or so minutes. no big deal.

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while in the valley, i didn't see any rattlesnakes - but i wasn't actively searching for them either. one thing that was really weird was that at night, the black ants came out by the hundreds. i had my tent pitched on top of a bed of pine needles. i saw no ants during the day... but when i got up a few hours after the sun went down to go pee, i noticed some bites occuring at my ankles. i thought they were mosquitoes but when i turned on my headlamp, i discovered the ants crawling all over my groundcloth by the hundreds. the next morning, they were gone. hmmmmm, nocturnal ants. i wondered if thay have adapted for the summer heat? also at dusk, there sure were a lot of bats having a mosquito fest - perhaps a dozen bats were swooping above my tent engaded in their feeding frenzy. it was neat.

on my layover day in the valley, i did a short hike to silver spring falls and then went on to find the painted rock. after spending an hour just sitting at the pictograph panel on an overhanging rock by the river, i headed back to move my camp from the east side of crown creek to the main campsite west of crown creek. i took a short nap atop pine needles and oak leaves and while playing with the oak leaves, just sorta daydreaming away, i noted that the pictographs look just like oak leaves... and so i wonder if that is what they had in mind when thay painted them? the largest pictograph itself is perhaps 18 inches long.

sept 8'th
the next day, my climbout day, i slipped on that log where the stinging nettle was located and did a face plant into the mud...landing atop the mature nettle. it got onto my arm and leg... and the effect lasted around 24 hours - on and off sorta. it felt like minor muscle spasms and pin pricks going on... but i had no rash or blisters. i didn't know what that plant was until a week later when i described it to a couple of guys i met in ionian basin and they told me.

anyway, as far as my climbout went... i started at dawns early light and made it to the top at poopout point around 10am or so. the climb wasn't really all that bad as i had feared. although the switchbacks are steep, the altitude gain does come fast and by the time i got to the top, i still had 3/4 of a spare water bottle full of water left. there were also some clouds forming, which helped keep things cool. the switchbacks are also in really good shape... but i was glad to be going up instead of busting up my aging knees going down.

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i ended up passing through hay meadow, and continued on to finally camp near rodgers creek. all along the way, from near the top of the climbout to crown valley, the tehipte fire a few years ago has scortched the landscape. i should also note that the lower 1500' of switchbacks from the valley floor is where you'll encounter poison oak... but i know what that looks like and had no encounters. i only saw the poison oak along the switchbacks. none in the valley... but i imagine there's lots to be found is one were to continue downstream from the trail junction headed towards little tehipite valley, as tehipe tom had indicated on another topic in this forum.

while camped near rogers creek, i got some light rain, mostly after nightfall.... but it was nothing very substantial other than to dampen the ground and that was the end of the rainy season for the rest of this trip - just a bunch of blue skies and boring photographs without clouds.


to be continued...
Last edited by lostcoyote on Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:36 pm, edited 8 times in total.



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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby maverick » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:57 pm

Very nice place, one of the least visited places in SEKI, to bad about the smoke, looking
forward to the next installment.
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby quentinc » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:27 pm

I've always been intrigued by the name "Gorge of Despair." After reading about the gnats, biting ants, smoke, poison oak, rattle snakes and stinging nettle (vicious stuff!), I am starting to understand. :)
Sounds like a very adventurous trip!
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby richlong8 » Wed Sep 22, 2010 8:11 am

Very interesting report. I have a permit to go into Tephite next week from Rancheria, but I think I am going to scrub till next year. My hiking/fishing partner took a look at the map, and dropoff into the valley, and shall I say, he was less than enthused.
And the smoke...I will solo it next year, Lord willing. Doesn't sound like you fished the river. That picture of Devil's Washbowl, and the pool above it had me looking for my pole.
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby windknot » Wed Sep 22, 2010 8:24 am

Great report and beautiful shots. I'm looking forward to the next part as well.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby lostcoyote » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:08 am

richlong8 wrote:Doesn't sound like you fished the river. That picture of Devil's Washbowl, and the pool above it had me looking for my pole.


i didn't take any of my fishing gear. since i may have been out for 3 weeks, i opted to minimize the weight of my pack.

on a previous trip into the upper kern with my son, we did lots of fishing... so i was fine without the fishing this time around.

p.s. despite the bugs & smoke, i found tehipite valley to be beautiful. i do wonder if there is a better time of the year when the knats are fewer in numbers. tho they did not bite, they are sorta irritating when you are moving since they target moving objects and try to get into your eyes for the moisture i guess. do they die off in late october? also, i presume early season like june has lots of mosquitoes?? maverick (or other seasoned tehipite visitors), ya have any comments?

and ya, the smoke was an anomoly for this year. good thing it was not continuous tho. it came and went bertweeen mornings and evenings. i do feel sorry for the john muir trail hikers who had to breathe it along bubbs creek where it was the thickest.

here is a shot when i first entered into the valley (and the smoke was just starting to build up at this point:

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by the time i got to where the gorge of despair enters into the valley, i could not even see it's features, even though it was less than 1/8 mile away - and the air simply stunk of smoke... then the next morning, i could see the gorge of despair and the dome with no smoke at all...

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(((i will post the next section of this writeup tonite when i get home)))
Last edited by lostcoyote on Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:40 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby richlong8 » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:17 am

Looking forward to the rest of the trip report- pictures are great!
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:49 am

Excellent report, great pics. The whole Middle Fork canyon is one of my favorite areas, and Tehipite in particular is a magical place.
continuing on, i passed a trail crew that was camped at palisade creek doing work to rebuild the bridge.

Whoa!!!! They're actually rebuilding the bridge? I thought that one was gone forever. (I think it washed out in 1982 or thereabouts, so we're talking nearly 30 years ago.)
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby maverick » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:15 am

Early season the river is the problem, mid season it will be the skeetrz and black
flies, so there is all ways something.
I would think that Oct with it's cooler temps would eliminate most or all bug problem
but then you have to deal with the weather.
So pick which irritant you can handle the best, and then plan accordingly.
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby lostcoyote » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:34 am

TehipiteTom wrote:Excellent report, great pics. The whole Middle Fork canyon is one of my favorite areas, and Tehipite in particular is a magical place.
continuing on, i passed a trail crew that was camped at palisade creek doing work to rebuild the bridge.

Whoa!!!! They're actually rebuilding the bridge? I thought that one was gone forever. (I think it washed out in 1982 or thereabouts, so we're talking nearly 30 years ago.)


i made an assumption here - maybe they were doing somethig else, but i did not see any signs of trail work being done. i thought i remembered seeing a bridge here when i came down palisade creek from amphitheater lake 4-5 years ago. maybe i am having (and had) a brain fart tho. it's been known to happen proportionally to the number of gray whiskers i am getting. ha.

for you personally, what makes it a magical place?


for me, it seemed magical because it looks like a step back in time with no people. the valley resembles a miniature version of yosemite valley but with less glacial carvings. if tehipite dome was sliced in half, it would rival half dome. i think it looks better than north dome in yosemite.

i liked the old laminated map that somebody left at the western campsite on one of the sawed off seat posts. a copy of solomon's map of the area done in the late 1800's. they actually came down crown creek as their route into the valley - what a hoot!

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Last edited by lostcoyote on Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby richlong8 » Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:49 am

The year before last, they had a trail crew further down canyon from Palisade Creek junction repairing damage due to the Tephite fire, and trail maintenance.
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Re: tehipite to tunemah to ionian - trip report

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Sep 22, 2010 12:18 pm

for me, it seemed magical because it looks like a step back in time with no people. the valley resembles a miniature version of yosemite valley but with less glacial carvings. if tehipite dome was sliced in half, it would rival half dome. i think it looks better than north dome in yosemite.

That's it exactly. I'm sure we've all gone to Yosemite and tried to imagine what it was like before the roads, the tourbuses, the RVs, the fast food and souvenir shops...Tehipite Valley is the closest we can get to that experience.
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