amaxoxo wrote:This sounds like a great loop!
The only problem is the distance you'll need to drive from Santa Cruz. All the east side THs before Bishop, like Horseshoe/Cottonwood, can be reached in under 5 hrs from SoCal. (Under 4 if you drive like a maniac ... ahem.) If you're coming from the Bay Area, you'll need to either go over 120/108, or drive all the way down to Bakersfield and loop back up the 395.
A couple of popular west side hikes you might be interested in are either Rae lakes or High Sierra. If you're really ambitious, you could take the HST and exit @ Whitney. Getting back however is a b!tch.
My brother is in the same boat as you; what he typically does is spend a night around Tioga to both acclimate and break up the drive. It's only 2.5-3 hrs from Tuolumne/Saddlebag to Cottonwood @ that point, so it makes for a real pretty early morning cruise.