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Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

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Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby oleander » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:19 pm

My friend and I got onto a yarn about places we've been in the Sierra that surprised us in one direction or the other. Either they exceeded our expectations by a mile; or they were a disappointment, compared to what they had been built up to be.

What are yours?

Some off the top of my head: (My main criteria is just plain scenery)

EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS:

1. Mineral King. I'd developed into a snob for the east side, and simply did not expect MK's grandeur.

2. McGee Pass: An eastside pass that is freaking gorgeous, from start to finish, top to bottom, both sides. Sunset from above Tully Lake. I delayed going to McGee Pass for years, because I had never heard anyone at all talk about it.

3. North Fork Big Pine Creek, to Palisade Glacier. There are not enough superlatives to describe this otherworldly trip. The Sam Mack Meadow, viewed from above, is the most beautiful meadow I've ever been to in the Sierra. And that is just one feature along this walk. Yes, you do hear this is a pretty hike, but backpackers talk about it a lot less than places like, say, Thousand Island Lake. (Why is that? Maybe because Palisade Glacier is associated more with climbers than with backpackers?). I think Palisade Glacier is one of the top 3-4 trailed hikes in all the Sierra; certainly in the category of trips lasting just 2-4 days.

4. Baxter Pass. Going down that pass is just such a thrill. From the top peering down the east side, it's like you're topping a roller coaster, about to smash down the downhill side at 100 miles per hour. (I have a friend who saw, from that same perch, a helicopter flying directly BELOW her.) People have described it as a grind, but I just get a happy-kid grin when I recall it.

5. Bonnie Lake, and surrounding lakes, border of northern Yosemite. Maybe not quite as big-pop-WOW as the above four. But I bring it up as a nice example of a random place that surprises you when you encounter it, just because nobody ever seemed to mention it.


DISAPPOINTED:

1. Tahoe Rim Trail, eastern section. This was talked up to me as a sterling stretch of the TRT, I guess mostly because it has Harlan Point, which is admittedly pretty. But this 24-mile section of trail did nothing for me. I seem to not get along with Tahoe, in general (with the exception of a few specific places in Desolation Wilderness.)

2. The JMT between Forester Pass and Guitar Lake. I like Forester itself, and like everybody I love the Bighorn Plateau. But I admit I was disappointed in this section overall, especially directly following the striking grandeur of the JMT through the entirely of Kings Canyon NP.

3. The trail to Pear Lake (Sequoia NP). I loved the Tablelands beyond Pear Lake. But I don't get why the trails to Pear Lake have been described as superlative; it's okay but nothing memorable. (Well, okay, the exposure at the Watchtower is something I remember!) I'll bet it's more interesting as a ski trip, though.

4. Kennedy Meadows Resort, the trail south from there into Emigrant Wilderness. That was just horsepoopville, and it took just about all day to reach anything interesting. (The other Emigrant trailheads have all been much better, for me.)

5. The main trail to Ten Lakes, and the trail to Ostrander Lake, in Yosemite. Westside Yosemite at the 8000-foot level and I do not get along, unless I can see directly down from the trail into Yosemite Valley. I'm remembering hot, exposed ridge slogs, lacking in the kinds of views that can get me excited. The lakes themselves were also completely unmemorable, except I do remember extreme skeeterz. I encountered a backpacker on the way to Ten Lakes who told me he returns there every year as his one single annual backpacking trip. I wanted to ask WHY?? but didn't want to be rude or undermine his experience. I do want to ski to Ostrander Hut in the winter, some day.

Hmmm, I guess my examples are all on-trail ones. But feel free to mention some of your off-trail surprises, too.

- Elizabeth



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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby balzaccom » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:31 pm

"The more a man judges, the less he loves. "

Honore du Balzac
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby quentinc » Wed Apr 04, 2012 7:56 pm

Well, B, now we know the quote that inspired your name!

But "judging" is part of the fun, and it's always interesting to see how people have completely different feelings about the same places. On Oleander's list, I have always loved the McGee Pass area and agree it's underrated. Mineral King was my introduction to the Sierra, so I have always loved it. And I agree about 2 & 3 on the disappointed list. Actually, I love the JMT from Forester Pass down to Wallace Creek, but the stretch south from Wallace Creek to the first lake after the turnoff towards Whitney is relatively (and relative is the key word in all of this) dismal.
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:51 pm

It's hard for me to think of a place that disappointed me because that would imply I specifically went to an area because I thought it would be nice and then was disappointed. Although Tehipite Valley disappointed me I think it was due to circumstances at the time.

Places that exceeded my expectations would be Marion Lake with it's more blue then the sky water. It's my favorite place in the Sierra now.

Twin Island Lakes with it's dynamic landscape.

Post Peak Pass with it's expansive views.

To name a few...
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby oleander » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:41 am

I'm excited that I'll see Twin Island Lakes for the first time, this summer.

My point in starting the thread was not to wax all grumpy-grumps about places I didn't care for as much. I have loved EVERY place I have been in the Sierra. It's all about how you enjoy, notice and appreciate exactly where you are.

On the other hand, I have started to realize that I'm not getting younger, and will probably not make it every single place there is to go. I don't have entire summers to wander. So now I'm being very intentional about where to go next. I'd like to explore new places (and return to old ones) that make me cry with positive emotion when I talk about them to other people. Which is why I'm dying of curiosity to know what places (other than the obvious, like Evolution Valley) really blew people away or took them by surprise. Or, conversely, what did not live up to the hype.

Rogue's list of positive surprises, for instance, is interesting to me because he has been to so many places, and by his reports I think he likes a lot of the same kind of scenery that I do. So I find myself paying close attention to things he waxes poetic about.

I know it's all subjective.

Peace out,
Elizabeth
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby sparky » Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:30 pm

I was suprised at the beauty of the table lands. Not to imply I didnt think id love it....was going to pass through and it ended up being a fun destination. I try not to put up expectations, and I have never been disappointed. But pleasantly suprused....yes! Whenever I see a flower growing out of a crack in granite, or a random waterfall springing forth providing water and shade with soft green grass. Or that perfect tarn or meadow. The sierra is just one suprise after another.

There is a certain element of suprise in every enviornment, hidden pockets waiting to unfold before you.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby gary c. » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:14 pm

Oleander, I have to agree with you completely about Sam Mack Meadow. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. Another one that really tripped the switch for me was the view of Banner Peak we had from 1000 Island. An important factor for me and I imagine many of us is the frame of mind I am in when I see one of those places that overwhelms me. I think mental or emotional state may have more to do with it than the actual view or place itself.

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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby SSSdave » Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:45 am

oleander >>>"Yes, you do hear this is a pretty hike, but backpackers talk about it a lot less than places like, say, Thousand Island Lake. (Why is that?)"

Sam Mack Meadow:

http://ts4.mm.bing.net/images/thumbnail ... e4f146a2e0

Looking west towards Palisades one is down in a deep hole and sees talus. Looking east above one sees an uncommon view of the length of the hanging meadow with a nice though not spectacular Sky Haven ridge background. It is not a landscape most photographers would get excited about because there are other meadow landscapes with spectacular peaks as backdrops. For instance views from Laural Creek meadows up towards Red and White Mountain and many others.

As for the perception many hikers and backpackers have about various well know locations, one has to understand to really see many of these places in the kind of scenic glory that people especially photographers talk about often requires visiting at a narrow period of the summer and at narrow times of days. For instance myriad day hikers and equestrian visitors pass by and visit Thousand Island Lake between mid day and 4pm. Because it takes that long to hike from trailheads early morning to get there. By that time of day unless skies are stormy, the light is harsh and or backlit. Generally the Ritter Range is best about 8am during summer and photographers are likely to take a snooze after 10am.

On the other hand a hard core dry fly fisherman is likely to enjoy the experience as well as the view more when they see lots of fish making rings on the water regardless of the time of day. Everyone has their unique perspectives.
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby Jimr » Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:17 am

I'm with sparky, I keep my expectations low and find myself always pleasantly surprised. I do understand your motive of getting older and being more particular about how and where you expend your efforts.
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby SSSdave » Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:57 pm

As a fisherman in my younger days, I judged places on how good fishing was. On that level for the person that explores, there are continual surprises and disappointments to the extent one is often surprised when a body of water lives up to its reputation. Now as an old landscape photographer, I tend to put value on locations based on frameable aesthetics. Some locations that are very impressive visual experiences being there would not make very good frameable images. For instance shots where one cannot eliminate awkward shadows or shots up on the side of cliffs that would require extreme wide angle.

I've never put much aesthetic value on the assessments read in hiking, climbing, or backpacking guide books. But instead in the old day I could pretty much look at a topo map and size up what potential a location had. In some cases, small scale elements one can only know about by visiting will raise my value considerably, but that is not really a surprise but rather one knows spectacular groups of wildflowers or spectacular trees occur and one can expect to see such say 5% of the time if one explores a lot. And conversely sometimes a map may have looked promising but when I got there, a bunch of ugly dead snags at waterline ruined whatever frame I might have taken. Again one can expect say 5% of the time even places that look promising on a map may end up futile. And between the two 5% extremes are an array of other situations that make a given location more or less aesthetic. If one gets out enough and pays dues exploring, one will come across enough good scenes to balance the effort.

But there are still places I have had rather high hopes for from map views that upon experience did not look too interesting. For instance I expected a more enjoyable view of Half Dome from Mount Watkins than I found it to be. Likewise once I climbed thrashing through unpleasant brush up on Bunnel Point from the east side for a view of Half Dome but again did not find that birds eye view that interesting. In this age I can use Google Earth to size up perspective better than a map alone allows however the value of GE views need to be taken with a large crystal of salt, so photographers short of looking at someone elses pictures really still need to actually see unknown frames before they really know their value.
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Apr 09, 2012 11:58 am

Season makes a difference. For me, lingering snow really makes the mountains look spectacular. Mosquitoes can make any place miserable. Some areas I prefer early season for the green and wildflowers (Farewell Gap, for example). Weather also makes a difference. Ionian Basin exceeds expectations when skies are blue, and disappoints on very gray days. Edison Lake is absolutely ugly when it is half full.

I also am mostly disappointed with Tahoe area. North of I-80 does not interest me much because I really am a more of a high alpine terrain person. I dislike the JMT, because I simply do not like the crowds on the trail. The country adjacent to the JMT is spectacular but I have to get half mile or so away from the trail before I appreciate it.

Big Brewer and Sphinx Lakes exceeded my expectations.

On blue sky days, Ionian Basin is magic.

Enchanted Gorge is a challenging hike, but not particularly scenic.

Having seen and walked on real glaciers, I must say that Sierra glaciers are pretty pathetic.

Taboose Pass exceeded my expectations- I really like the scenery and it is not the "bear" that many say it is. I love the instant entry into the High Sierra.

Either side of the Palisades exceeds expectations. I really like the west side for the alpenglow.

I was a bit disappointed in lakes south of Yosemite boundary, north of Besears Road.

Humphrey's Basin is a bit over-rated to me.

I was disappointed in Kern Canyon below Junction Meadow. The map indicates a much more spectacular canyon than it is.

Keweah Basin was a disappointment. I think it was because I went there late season, of a dry year, and most of the little lakes were dried up and it just looked very "tired". Smoke in the air from recent fires did not help either.

But like Rogue said, most of the Sierra is wonderful and seldom disappoints. I really like to go to an area with a clean slate- open to see what is there without too many preconceived ideas. That way you can appreciate some aspects that you would overlook if you went only for a specific type of scenery.
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Re: Places that exceeded your expectations - or disappointed you

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:49 pm

Most places have exceeded my expectations, some more than others, and none have been disappointing because being out there is better than not being out there.

I do have some favorites: Deadman Canyon's Ranger Meadow, the Minarets, Marion Lake and that whole drainage, Bench Lake, Woods Lake Basin, Big/Little Five Lakes, upper Kern River Basin, Le Conte Canyon seen from Dusy Basin, Ottoway Lake at sunset, upper Peter Panda Basin, and on and on and on and on. Some of the 'first day' hikes are not much, but at least you are out there.
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