TR: Johnson and Givens Lake (7/14 – 7/19/2011)

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TR: Johnson and Givens Lake (7/14 – 7/19/2011)

Post by ChasingRainbows » Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:17 pm

I was up and out of the Bay Area by 5 am on Thursday, picking up my wilderness permit from the NF office in Oakhurst. Based on the reports they gave me, I half expected to be wandering around in the snow for the next 5 days. As it turns out, the timing of this trip was nearly perfect. Early enough to beat out the mosquitoes (and the crowds) and late enough that most of the terrain was free of snow. I was on the trail out of the Chiquito trailhead before noon on Thursday, as I was told that the Quartz Mountain trailhead was still inaccessible by car. The hike through the Chiquito Lake area was an unpleasant combination of snow, standing water, and aggressive mosquitoes. Luckily, the conditions improved significantly from that point on.
The only creek crossing which I felt might be cause for concern was the SF of the Merced, and it ended up being no trouble at all. From the South Fork, the trail was completely free of snow until about 1 mile from Johnson Lake. It was at this point that I ran across the only other group I would meet on the trail during my trip. I saw one other group from a distance on Friday, but other than that it was complete solitude. I realize this is a less popular part of Yosemite, but I was quite surprised to seemingly have the whole place to myself during a beautiful weekend in July. After chatting with the group for a while concerning the conditions, I crossed the Johnson Lake inlet creek and found a great site on the southern side of the lake. There is still appreciable snow in the wooded areas around Johnson Lake and up towards Buena Vista Pass, but the south side of the lake gets good exposure and provides a number of good sites.
I stayed at Johnson Lake for 3 nights, taking day hikes to many of the surrounding lakes on Friday and Saturday. There is still appreciable snow in some areas, but as long as one is comfortable with cross country navigation, it is quite easy to find a snow free route in this area. At one point on Friday, I was very near Buena Vista Peak but didn’t bother to climb the extra ~300 feet to the summit. I was slightly annoyed with myself afterward, but seeing as the day was slightly overcast, I am not sure how Buena said Vista would have been. I imagine that on a clear day one can see over the San Joaquin Valley, possibly even to Mt. Diablo. Friday night was a full moon, but I was too exhausted to stay up very late and enjoy it. I did see two shooting stars in the sky (and thousands on the ground) over the course of the trip.
Sunday morning was a warm one and I was easily up, packed, and on the trail by the time the sun made its way over the ridge. I was headed to Givens Lake, taking a detour to Givens Meadow on the way. The trail to the lake did have some patches of snow, but was easily traversed. The mosquitoes had a taste for blood at Givens, but the topography pretty much ensures a steady wind all day, even into the evening. The wind wasn’t nearly as much of a nuisance as the mosquitoes would have been, so I was happy to have it. I found a nice campsite with a beautiful view on the south side of the lake.
Monday morning I was contemplating whether to head over to Chain Lakes for one more night or call it a trip and head back to my car. I am fairly certain that the trail to Chain Lakes would have been mostly snow free, but I didn’t feel like hiking on snow and to be honest I really wanted a hamburger. I decided to pack up and head back to the trailhead, followed by a stop at the Pines bar for a cold beer. The drive back to the Bay Area was made all the more pleasant by a beautiful sunset over the Diablo Range and the KNBR broadcast of a Giants victory over their rival Dodgers.

I did not run into any bears; however, I did run across some fresh tracks in the mud at Chiquito Lake. On Saturday at Johnson Lake I was joined by a bald eagle. I think that we may have had something in common, in that we were both principally concerned with the healthy population of rainbow trout in the creek. The Mosquitoes were worst at Chiquito Lake and annoying on the hike both up and down the canyon of the South Fork. I did not notice one mosquito at Johnson Lake; however, that will change quickly. With all the standing water that I witnessed on this trip, I expect that the mosquitoes will be out en masse in the following weeks.
While I have saved it for the very end of this report, the primary purpose of this trip was to chase some sizable fish. As I am sure many of you will agree, true fisherman are known to be quite vague when it comes to the details of their best fishing experiences. I will simply say that the fishing in this general area is very accurately described in Beck’s guide. The inlet creek to Johnson Lake is filled with a healthy population of nice sized rainbows. I have to imagine that the spawn is over by now, but they sure looked as if they were competing for spawning territory rather than the best feeding lies. Royal Arch is a great spot to toss dry flies at some beautifully colored and very eager brook trout. The biggest brookies of the trip were not easily fooled and topped out at an honest 16 inches, if I had to guess.
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Re: TR: Johnson and Givens Lake (7/14 – 7/19/2011)

Post by maverick » Wed Jul 20, 2011 4:39 pm

Great TR, and pictures Chasingrainbows to an area not very frequented.
Hopefully next time you'll get to visit Chain Lakes next time, which is probably one
the highlights in this extreme southern part of Yosemite.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, an HST member:

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Re: TR: Johnson and Givens Lake (7/14 – 7/19/2011)

Post by calipidder » Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:33 pm

Thanks for the report. The only bad thing about all these reports is that they make my 'todo' list longer... :wink:

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Re: TR: Johnson and Givens Lake (7/14 – 7/19/2011)

Post by TahoeJeff » Wed Jul 20, 2011 9:12 pm

Nice Brookie!
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Re: TR: Johnson and Givens Lake (7/14 – 7/19/2011)

Post by windknot » Thu Jul 21, 2011 12:40 am

Looks like it was a great trip, thanks for the report!
You can read a few backcountry reports here:

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Re: TR: Johnson and Givens Lake (7/14 – 7/19/2011)

Post by DriveFly44 » Thu Jul 21, 2011 8:08 am

Great report. Brings back memories of stories an older friend of mine would tell me about his adventures to this area 40 years ago. Johnson, windy, royal, etc. Thanks for the TR.


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