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California Odyssey 3--Leavitt Meadows to Hetch Hetchy part 1

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California Odyssey 3--Leavitt Meadows to Hetch Hetchy part 1

Postby oldranger » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:13 am

Sept 9-12


Sept. TR- Leavitt Meadows to Hetch Hetchy

This third Odessey began with a trip south from Bend to Bridgeport on Sept. 9, 2010. Before I even started I made a critical error—I forgot to pick up a suitable book to cover “downtime” i.e. extended periods in the tent due to inclimate weather. No worries I thought, pick one up on the way. Well I blew it by not looking for a book somewhere in the Reno/Carson City area. Figured I could find one in Bridgeport or Lee Vining. Wrong! Ultimately I bagged a couple of used books at the small store in Mather during my vehicle shuttle but what a disaster (more to come).

At any rate I stopped for my usual coffee shake at Walker Burger. This time getting a large rather than the usual regular size. I managed to finish it by the time I drove into Leavitt Meadows pack station where I confirmed my reservation for a oneway spot trip to Tower Canyon and spent a half an hour discussing SEKI packers we knew in common.

Arriving at Bridgeport with a full gut, I drove directly to the FS office and picked up my permit for a leisurely 10 night trip. A little exploratory trip to Twin lakes filled some downtime. The mixture of development and high country ambiance didn’t set well with me.
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Sawtooth Ridge/ Lower Twin
By the time I got hungry all the eating establishments were closed so I walked down to the local store and picked up something I could cook in the microwave. A search for a book of adequate length proved fruitless. Later that evening my cousin Gary and his house mate arrived. They would facilitate the shuttle of my vehicle to Hetch Hetchy.

On Saturday we drove to TPR for breakfast then joined the weekend tourist trek across Yosemite on the Tioga Pass Road and then to Hetch Hetchy where I left my wife’s Prius and hopped in my cousins Jeep. On the return trip to Bridgeport it began to rain, then it really rained. It was a good thing we were high on the Tuolumne/Merced divide, otherwise I would have had my eye out for an ark! As soon as we started across the open slabs past Porcupine Flats I yelled at Gary to Stop! Clouds Rest had a white cap and at the same time water was cascading down the north slopes—a sight I had never seen.
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Clouds Rest

We stopped again at Olmstead to view the cascades.

We had an early dinner at, you guessed it, Whoa Nellie Deli. That evening Gary and his friend headed up to the hot spring but I stayed in to get my last football fix for a while—the exciting Michigan/Notre Dame game.

Sunday morning was cloudy and brisk. We arrived at the packstation a little early but the stock were almost ready giving me time to balance my loads and pay Craig (a friend of our own Bad Man). My wisdom in getting packed in became evident as soon as we escaped the frosty meadow bottomlands and gained just a little elevation.
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On the trail
The previous days Rain in Yosemite did not get this far north and the first 5 or 6 miles were as dusty as a trail can get. Most of the backpackers at Roosevelt and Lane Lakes were still asleep as we passed. We soon met a hiker with a University of Michigan ball cap and I told him he missed a heck of a game. He said he had his wife tape it! Pretty soon it became clear that a few drops of rain had hit the area the previous day. By the time we hit Lower Piute Meadows the dust was gone. Just before Piute Cabin we donned our raingear as it began to sprinkle.
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Upper Piute Meadow, Just above Piute Cabin
Entering Tower Canyon it began to rain harder than a cow pissing on a flat rock. Neither the packer nor myself had been here before. He was following directions from Craig. Soon after crossing Tower Creek I spotted a flat spot on a slight ridge to the s of the trail that looked level but would not need ditching to stay dry. “Stop!” I said, This is good enough!” “Are you sure? I can take you further.” Thanks but I don’t want to chance not finding a good campsite and I’m not hiking in the rain to find one. As the packer unpacked my pack and tied up my saddlehorse I took off my jeans and threw them in the packbag, telling the packer he could throw them away or if he could find someone with short legs, give them away. (I was wearing my wonderful dirty orange hiking shorts under my jeans). Soon he was off and I was busy setting up my new Big Agnes, Flycreek UL1, a little heavier than my Contrail but much quicker to set up. It was quite a feat to pump up my downmat in the tent, but with mission accomplished and gear under cover (despite forgetting a large garbage bag that I use as a pack cover in camp) I chose to read the biggest and heaviest of the two books I brought. Now remember I really had no choice but what I ended up with is one of those damn teenage girl in love with a vampire and friends with a werewolf books. OMG! After 4 hours of reading/sleeping the rain stopped and I worked my way down to the creek for water and then made dinner. My first camp of the year without a frozen daiquiri!

Clear crisp air greeted me on Monday morning and as soon as I could get things dry I was on the trail. It turns out the only suitable site short of Tower Lake was just a couple hundred yards above where I camped so I felt good about my decision to stop.
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First Snow
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Up Tower Canyon
What prevents the packers from getting all the way to Tower Lake is an area where there was a rockslide. Given that there are no longer fish in Tower Lake there is little demand for stock to get up there anymore. While it took a little figuring I made it past the rockslide pretty easily and it wasn’t much longer before reaching Tower Lake. My first view of the pass to Mary Lake made my jaw drop!
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Oh sh-t!
It was Sept. 12, the pass was barely 10,100 ft. and a snow tongue licked almost down to the lake! At the bottom of the snow someone had etched in the sand, “some fun.” Either they did this late the previous day or they had just come down and then headed nw toward Lake Helen and I had just missed them. The tracks in the snow were clearly visible so they had to have been made after the storm had passed.
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Steps in snow on right side
I chose a different way up than the person came down by keeping to the left. As I got higher the cornice seemed much less steep to the left as well.
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Tower Lake
Near the top I skirted a rock outcropping and between the rock and the snow found what looked like a constructed trail. My guess is that in the early days of the park the Cavalry used to escort sheepherders and their flocks out of the park this way. Any one step as I worked my way up was well within my comfort range but the cumulative impact of the distance and the firmness of the snow made me pucker up just a bit. If there had just been 10 feet of exposure I would have nonchalantly walked over the snow but with the risk of sliding several hundred feet if I slipped my feet were carefully planted as were my trekking poles—three points firmly planted at all times! Mary lake greeted my eyes as I topped out but what they really saw were big fat golden trout! Unfortunately it was rapidly clouding up and it was several hundred feet down to trees and a site where I could legally cook my catch over coals.
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Mary Lake and glimpse of Tilden



to be continued

mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!



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oldranger
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Re: California Odyssey 3--Leavitt Meadows to Hetch Hetchy part 1

Postby paula53 » Fri Feb 17, 2012 9:44 pm

Thank you for posting this trip report. I am enjoying your trip. This is one trip I want to make soon. Only from Leavitt Meadows to Toulumne Meadows.
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