Two of us backpacked into a Tuolumne River tributary stream over the weekend from an obscure unpaved road. We had been planning on Penner Lake off the Bowman Lake Road north of I80 but NWS forecast changed Thursday night from light winds to possibly breezy. Not good for morning reflection pics. So plan B was a cross country road I'd penciled out on a topo into a canyon where down below ridges, wind was unlikely to be a concern. Thus at 3:30pm Friday phoned the Groveland station in Stanislaus NF and just like that had a 2-day permit that we later picked up out of the night box about 9pm. Took such a long time to navigate in the dark up to the parking place (5k>7k)that we didn't get into our bags until midnight with temp a cool 47 degrees. Nicely there were no mosquitoes all night so did not bother with tent or even a headnet.
Saturday July 16, 2011, with sunny skies above, we were out on my route at 6:20am. Pack was only about 60 pounds and bros was maybe 50. Glaciated granitoid mid elevation tall forest, incense cedar, sugar, yellow, jeffrey pine, white fir, manzanita, several ceanothus, with lots of down wood and brush to navigate through, lots of seeping water, but quite dry in sunny flats, very green green everywhere. Some open areas of bedrock granite slabs and gruss flats. Lots of wildflowers especially on the sandy gruss flats and joint cracks. Wildflowers were generally peaking except in sunniest south facing granite where it peaked maybe a couple weeks ago. In wet areas, lots of corn lily and ferns rising. At one point I guessed wrong and we had to thrash through 10 foot brush a ways. At a swampy area thrashed through willow and pine thickets. Saw some snow in forest shade about 6.5k.
At canyon rim tiringly climbed down winding back and forth, a series of exfoliation joint crack ledges, ramps, and cracks often grabbing brush. Lots tricky friction traverses and butt sliding down short brushy ledge drops. Fighting to stabilize standing in dusty knee to chest high brush where one cannot easily see one's feet. About 11am with temp a pleasant 70F degrees, we reached the large stream above 6k that was a typical U-shaped glacial granite bedrock canyon with sparse trees. A beautiful place with big whitewater splashing, across the landscape often in multiple shallow branches with islands of bedrock throughout. Chipmunks, birds, about and deer prints on wet beaches. Maybe one bear paw print. Lots of wildflowers on all the granite sand flats. Only a few squeets happened upon us all day. Saw one lethargic sunning northern Pacific rattlesnake. So was about perfect elevation to backpack into mid July during this heavy snowpack summer though in average years would be mid June conditions. Saw just 3 firerings all day and guessed all but one were a few years old. Might be only backpackers to drop in the zone all summer.
In our weariness took a long hour to select the best camp spot that included shade and was a bit aways from the loud sound of roaring whitewater. Made camp, jumped in stream, layed on smooth warm rock drying, ate big lunch, snacked, napped, rigged fishing gear. Went fishing in swirling pools between big whitewater. And we caught several nice rainbows. Often snagged up on rocks and underwater willows below the high water. Lost two spinners and two roostertails and three times waded into the cold 52F degree water to salvage a lure hung up on branches. Rigged up 4x5 for late afternoon light but a bunch of clouds moved in making light too flat. So more fishing. Bro made delicious trout dinner and downed a couple Coors. About dusk we celebrated a fine day with a wee bit of whiskey sipping and liveliness about one big area of rapids. Then we retired into our tents. I'd left the tent open all day so did a tent check and rousted just 4 black ants and two gnats. Rather few bugs I'd say. Slept soundly.
Early Sunday morning when sun finally got down to the canyon bottom, exposed five 4x5 Provia sheets of the big stream and cascades. Then about 9:30am began climb out of canyon by a different route than we'd descended. All went well till we reached the rim. Twas a better route than the one down. But at the top we had to wade through an acre of unpleasant brush. More tramping through dark swampy forest, small squeeter meadows, and brush mazes. About noon with only a mile to go, our feet were rather sore so we spent a half hour resting about a shady granite slab stream, taking refreshing dunks. Rambled back to Forester about 1:30pm, piled in gear, changed clothes, and we were soon on the road out.
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