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2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

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2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby cairnqueen » Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:41 am

Hi all! I also posted this over on the Backpacker Magazine Forums, so some of you may have seen it over there.

Due to my limited vacation time, I’ve already started sketching out my backpacking plans for 2012. Since July 4th falls on a Wednesday this coming year, I can take 2 days off and maximize my time in the backcountry (probably 4 nights Thursday-Sunday). My dilemma with early planning is where to go. My preference is mountains and alpine lakes (Sierra Nevada or Rockies), but after this year’s late snow melt, I’m worried about making plans that take me to higher elevations. So here’s my question for those of you with knowledge/experience on the timeframe and area – if you were taking a gamble and had to begin making plans this early, where would you target? I know that predicting weather is a *rap shoot and my plans may have to change. General area recommendations would be great; specific route ideas also most welcome.

I am probably a Level 3 backpacker, preferring to stay mostly on trail. I did have to find my way through trail-obscuring snow during an October trip to Desolation. I'm uncomfortable with icy drop-offs. Additional criteria include trailhead access within a couple of hours of airport and total distance around 30 miles (loop or out/back but no shuttle). As another FYI…when I first started thinking about this, I was considering the Ansel Adams Wilderness with entry at Shadow Lake. Would that be a reasonable gamble?

Please let me know if more details would help. Many thanks!



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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:42 am

I would plan out several trips and take the one I felt comfortable doing given the weather at the time.

I have so many potential want-to-do trips on my list, most of the planning is done. :rolleyes:
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby cairnqueen » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:27 am

AlmostThere - Thanks for the reply. That's kind of what I'm trying to do, but I'm coming from Dallas over the July 4th holiday. Because of this, I'd like to pick an airport so I can decide whether I need to use airline miles. And, in some cases, it looks like permit requests for July can be submitted in January. My flexibility (which is not my strong suit) is limited by needing to have some details determined, so I'm hoping for some guidance on where we might generally have decent luck with the weather.
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Nov 04, 2011 2:51 pm

I would plan (if in your situation) to get permits for Hetch Hetchy and for a higher elevation trailhead, say out of Tuolumne Meadows. If the snow melts sufficiently that the road opens and trails are clear, with reservations for the hiker bus you can easily do a 30 mile route between Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles with visits to Clouds Rest, Half Dome, or other spots along the way. If Tioga Rd is still closed or there is still too much snow on trails for your liking, go to Hetch Hetchy - it may be warm hiking along the lake but that can be done early morning while it's cool, and the loop around is about the right length - through Tiltill and over to Lake Vernon and back down to the trailhead.

If you fly into Merced or Mammoth lakes airport you can get YARTS into the park.

If it's SEKI you're looking at, there are options there too but you'd want to fly into Visalia if you need a shuttle. There is one that will take you to the Giant Forest and from there a free park shuttle can get you to trailheads. A good (but strenuous) loop with some cross country navigation is Pear Lake - Moose Lake - Alta Meadow, starting and ending at Wolverton. Then there is Rae Lakes loop... a little longer than 30 miles but absolutely stunning. For a lower elevation option in that region there's the hike out to Redwood Meadow.

All of these will require you to have an approved bear canister - Sequoia rents Bearikades and Garcias, Yosemite only rents the Garcia. For scenery and fewer people I would recommend Pear - Moose - Alta - Yosemite will have great scenery and greater numbers of dayhiking tourists on your routes.

As for actual weather... well, it does not matter what year it is or what the general weather patterns are... you should always be ready for rain or even a light snowfall in the Sierra, no matter when you're going.
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby tim » Fri Nov 04, 2011 6:28 pm

I would think about Cottonwood Pass to Chicken Spring Lake (night 1), Lower Soldier Lake (nights 2&3) with a day hike to Miter Basin/Sky Blue Lake, then out on day 4. We did this the weekend before July 4 this year with no snow problems whatsoever and it can't be any worse next summer!

My trip report is at viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6526

Lone Pine is not too bad a drive from Las Vegas (through Death Valley)
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby SSSdave » Fri Nov 04, 2011 9:24 pm

Those holiday dates are likely to go quickly by early spring for the most popular trailheads so yeah make permit reservations. Request a couple permits in the Yosemite/Mammoth Lakes areas at 2 different elevation ranges for the same dates and swallow the modest double reservation fees. By early June you will be able to gauge from reports which trip itineary will likely be the better choice. Then call the permit office and cancel one permit so that it considerately frees up the quota space. Your travel expenses will be far more than those fees.

And yes the Ritter Range is a reasonable choice if it is normal year or low snowfall year. Generally with normal snow conditions the Ritter Range and othe eastside and crest areas are best about late July.

David
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Nov 05, 2011 8:54 am

With limited time using public transportation to get to Yosemite Valley from Reno is slow. Yes, you can do it, but it is time consuming. If I were you I would rent a car no matter which airport you use. Trailheads in the Sierra are easy to access even with a small compact car. One-week rental deals on compact cars are really reasonably priced. Most roads are paved. I would avoid driving in Yosemite Valley on 4th of July if this is your first time ever driving in the Valley- it is really crowded and a bit confusing. A spectacular 4-day trip this time of year is Grand Canyon of the Tuoloumne. You can get back to your car using YARTS. This route does require comfort with creek crossings and willingness to get feet wet on some flooded sections of trail. By March it may be clearer as to what kind of year it is. If it is not a high snow year, I think the Minarets are a really good choice- spectacular and easy to get to from Reno. I would get a reservation for the Minarets no matter what, just so you have this option.
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby markskor » Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:21 am

The problem seems to be is that you do not have enough time allotted. Sure, plenty of possible 4-day type trips available, but just getting into the Sierra from any airport takes a day, especially if using public transport - Reno, Sacramento, SF...all a day's journey in itself. Add to that, since you are probably climbing to rarefied air...better to have a day too of acclimatization
Agree, best off to rent a car cheaply for a week - Reno or Sac and drive in, so as to spend as much time at elevation the night before. Stay in Mammoth (1000 Island Trail) or Tuolumne (if open - should be by then) and go wherever floats your boat.
Maybe getting old but that first day, coming from sea level, always kicks butt if you try to hurry too fast. I would rather have that extra day at elevation before starting.
BTW, How many days do you have - airport to airport?
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby oleander » Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:39 pm

Hi,

July 4 weekend is absolutely the *ideal* time to hike the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. The runoff is spectacular in that canyon at exactly that time!

White Wolf to Tuolumne Meadows
~31 miles

It's a shuttle trip. It is very, very easy to hitchhike in Yosemite, and as a single female I'd say it's even very safe. You park your car at Lembert Dome (Tuolumne Meadows), spend 3 minutes selecting someone's van departing that parking lot westbound, and hitch a ride to the White Wolf trailhead. Then hike back to your car over 3-4 days.

In an average snow year, the Rockies will still be snowed in on July 4.

In a big snow year, the Sierra will still be snowed in on July 4 above 9000 feet or so. In an *average* snow year, a lot of the really nice/high parts of the High Sierra (around 11k) will also still be snowed in around July 4. So I would not take my chances on the High Sierra above 10k (except as maybe a backup permit in the case of modest snow?) Tuolumne Meadows is the high point of the Grand Canyon trip, at just below 9000 feet. So it's a safe bet in a high snow year.

Sorry, nothing worth seeing in the Sierra is within 2 hours of a *major* airport. The mountains are high, the airports are low, and the big airports are coastal. From Dallas you could see what flies to Sacramento, Oakland, Reno (though Reno is very north from the High Sierra and also the wrong side if you want to do the Grand Canyon trip), or IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, try the smaller towns (Mammoth on the eastside; Merced on westside is closest to Yosemite). Try Southwest.

- Elizabeth
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:30 am

The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne was not possible until late July - August this last year - it all depends on the snow levels, as noted. The pass may have opened on the 18th of June but the snow hadn't cleared the trails, and the streams were dangerously high for a month. Which is why the OP is trying to get an alternate trip.
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby quentinc » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:13 am

I'd second TIm's recomendation as one of the alternatives. I did the Cottonwood/Miter Basin trip this past summer, 3 weekends before July 4 (I compressed Tim's 4 day itinerary into 3 days). Then, there was quite a bit of snow, but the PCTers had already left a helpful trail of footsteps, except for the Miter Basin part. There are also no dangerous stream crossings -- at most you might have to get your shins wet crossing Rock Creek, but usually one can rock hop.
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Re: 2012 Backpacking Calendar – Looking for July 4th Ideas

Postby oleander » Mon Nov 07, 2011 7:56 pm

"The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne was not possible until late July - August this last year"

Not true. We went through on July 15 this year. The water runoff had already reduced to a level that made the stream crossings safe. And, as you say, this was about the highest snow year on record. So, I'd say in 95% of years, you could get through here on July 4.

- Elizabeth
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