TR: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

TR: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs

Postby Flamingo » Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:01 pm

Hi All,
I just returned from a seven-day trek through the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness. We started at McCreary trailhead and followed mostly abandoned trails to reach Iva Bell Hot Springs from the west. This route is challenging, but it provides early-season access to the Iva Bell springs while Reds Meadow and other eastern trailheads are closed. Most people reach Iva Bell from the north (via Red’s Meadow), but the route I describe here is lower in elevation and allows you to access the hot springs early in the season, starting at the McCreary trailhead in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Trip Statistics: Approximately 25 miles one way. About 6000′ total gain one way. McCreary trailhead is located at 6774′. The low point is Cassidy Bridge at 4400′, and the high point is the saddle north of Pincushion Peak at 8622′. Iva Bell Hot Springs are at 6450′.

Our Trip:
Small snow patches lingered on the Minarets Road, but we successfully drove a sedan within one mile of McCreary trailhead. We parked our car alongside the road, left a note in the window (and crossed our fingers) [edit: this parking arrangement worked fine]. The trail from McCreary to Cassidy Bridge was completely snow-free and easy to follow. We encountered a dozen poison oak patches at the bottom of the San Joaquin river canyon. The poison oak was difficult to avoid; pants and a long-sleeve shirt are highly recommended for this short section. Past the poison oak, there are many excellent campsites near Cassidy Bridge.

The switchbacks east of Cassidy Bridge were in great condition, and we easily found Rattlesnake Lake — which is mostly a marsh these days. The ascent to Rattlesnake Lake offered several nice places to pause and enjoy views of Balloon Dome. Although Rattlesnake Lake lacks the majesty of higher alpine tarns, it nonetheless felt extremely wild and lost; it seemed like no human had visited this area in a long time. Beyond Rattlesnake Lake, we sometimes struggled to follow the trail to Heitz Meadow. The cross-country walking was easy, fortunately, so we followed what clues we could find: sawed logs and occasional water bars. We found Heitz Meadow with its collapsed cabin, destroyed outhouse, and broken horse corral. It was apparent that no human had lived here in decades.

East of Heitz Meadow, the trail disappeared under fallen trees and forest litter. Views were minimal, so we took a compass bearing and tried our best to stay on course. The cross-country walking wasn’t bad, but there were seemingly endless downed trees to negotiate. We found hints of the trail several times, and that was reassuring. Eventually the sun started to set, and we camped near a creek at snowline (~7500 feet).

The next day, we hiked on solid snow over the saddle north of Pincushion Peak, past String Meadows, and into the Silver Creek drainage. We used the compass to hike directly to the saddle, but — if you get lost — you could just as well follow the counters around Pincushion Peak and find the saddle. In my opinion, a topo map is 100% required for this section. We dropped to Silver Creek, and checked our GPS; surprisingly, we were only 100 feet away from the "trail." This early in the season, Silver Creek was a raging white stallion -- totally not safe to ford -- but luckily we found a wide log spanning the creek. This log seems to be a permanent fixture, and it should be easy to find for anyone hiking through this area. (Hint: the log sits in alder bushes on both shores). From Silver Creek, the switchbacks down to Fox Meadow were easy to follow, but they were overgrown with manzanita and huckleberry oak. This is another section where long pants are recommended to protect your legs from sharp branches. At Fox Meadow, we rejoined the well-maintained trail that connects Reds Meadow to Iva Bell, and we cruised upstream to the hot springs in luxury.

Iva Bell Hot Springs are scattered across a meadow hillside; we found at least seven pools, but there may be more (?). I strongly suspect we were the first people to soak in the springs this season. The meadow pools were covered in algae, but we easily scooped away the mess and enjoyed soaking in clean water. The pool in the open meadow against the boulder is probably the hottest and cleanest, but the pool under trees by the campsite has built-in seats and little towel hooks and other nice features. The highest pools are perched on a shelf, about 200′, above the meadow. Unfortunately, the high pools were filled with hundreds of tiny leeches; I think these pools are unsoakable until the leech problem is solved.

We camped near the meadow pools for two nights, and it was heavenly. A duo of hikers briefly passed through — apparently they entered over Mammoth Pass — but they seemed to be arguing with each other, and they departed without ever soaking. The shuttle to Red’s Meadow was not yet running during our trip, so I’m not surprised that Iva Bell was basically empty. Over the next three days, we returned to McCreary trailhead following our footsteps along our original route.

A note about navigation: We carried topographic maps, a compass, and an iPhone with GPS. We relied on the map and compass to navigate the cross-country northeast of Heitz Meadow, but we also used the iPhone a few times to validate our decisions. The iPhone GPS, surprisingly, worked very well in the wilderness.
The route map is shown here:
http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=208 ... 27,0.55481" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I made a short video about the trip, here:
Last edited by Flamingo on Tue Mar 21, 2017 4:35 pm, edited 4 times in total.



User avatar
Flamingo
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:18 am
Location: Santa Clara, California
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Trip Report: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:18 pm

Impressive trip and nice TR. Thank you.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
User avatar
Carne_DelMuerto
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 296
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2010 11:43 pm
Location: Auburn, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Trip Report: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs

Postby Shawn » Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:25 pm

Great TR, but I really enjoyed the video. Good thing it wasn't four hours long or I'd never get anything done. Thanks for posting!
User avatar
Shawn
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 811
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:56 pm
Location: Paso Robles, Ca
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Trip Report: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs

Postby Shawn » Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:36 pm

Okay VHS, now I just watched your SEKI TR from last year; again great stuff. May I ask what type of camera you're using? I noticed that the video taken while walking doesn't appear to have the usual "herky-jerky" movement in it, making it much nicer to watch.

I almost have to wonder if you're a professional video dude (after all "VHSVHS")?

Thanks again -
User avatar
Shawn
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 811
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:56 pm
Location: Paso Robles, Ca
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Trip Report: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs

Postby Flamingo » Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:43 pm

@Shawn - I use a pocket-sized Canon Powershot digital camera that also captures video. There's nothing particularly special about it. The trick to smooth video is to the hold the camera firmly and breath slowly.
Last edited by Flamingo on Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Flamingo
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:18 am
Location: Santa Clara, California
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Trip Report: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs

Postby Shawn » Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:27 pm

Ah, very good - thanks for the kind reply. Your stuff was truly enjoyable to watch.
User avatar
Shawn
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 811
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:56 pm
Location: Paso Robles, Ca
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Trip Report: Squaw Dome to Iva Bell Hot Springs

Postby maverick » Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:29 am

Very nicely detailed TR, and cool video, the only thing is when your hiking
in you video it sounds like someone eating cereal next to the microphone, crunch
crunch, crunch.
Thanks for posting it.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination, and where the trail ends is where our adventures begin.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8343
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 4:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Hulkman, imtomfritz, robow8 and 10 guests