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Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

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Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby kpeter » Wed Jul 11, 2012 10:21 pm

The last time I took my daughter backpacking she was 12 and we went from Sabrina to Blue Lake, but cut the trip short due to oppressive mosquitoes. We did manage a day hike from Blue Lake past Dingleberry to the falls on the Moonlight outlet, and she enjoyed playing in the water and around the falls. But even without the squeets that trip pushed the edge of her limits.

I thought I had lost her from backpacking forever until--to my complete shock and delight-- she asked me tonight if we could go on an "easy" trip together this summer. She is now 14 and I would say she is a "2" on the posted hiking scale. She is strong but small for her age but not used to a lot of discomfort so I don't want to push her.

Here are our limitations:

1. Trip length: four days. A relatively "easy" hike in--say six miles or less and less than 2000 feet elevation gain, set up a base camp, opportunities for day hiking for a couple of days, then out. Similar to Blue Lake on the east side or Kibbie Lake or Round Top Lakes on the West side in difficulty--or just a tad harder given that she is older.

2. Trail hiking on the day in and the day out.

3. As mosquito free as possible for July 27-30.

4. Probably West side--it has to be accessible from Palo Alto in a half-day drive. We might be able to do a trip from the east side if it were relatively close and accessible to whatever highway pass we need to cross.

5. Not impossible to get a permit at the last minute.

6. We don't fish or have a dog. Ideally there would be spectacular scenery and some very interesting places to explore with her for a couple of days, Due to other activities on her schedule the trip has to be a Friday-Monday trip.

I'm not too interested in going back to Kibbie or Round Top although at this point those are the only places I know that somewhat fit my criteria. I guess I'd love to magically discover a Sabrina Basin without mosquitoes on the West side less than four hours from my house! Since that is not going to happen, I'm hoping the rest of you have some creative ideas to expand the list of choices.

Many thanks in advance!



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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby windknot » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:19 pm

Spectacular scenery is typically at least 2 days in from most west-side trailheads, at least in the big mountain/granite/above treeline perception of spectacular scenery. It's also usually at higher elevations, which may still be infested with mosquitoes in late July.

Keeping this in mind, as well as your other logistical criteria, I'd say your best shot at finding a trip that would work best in this format is the west side of Desolation. Something like Wrights Lake to Doris over Rockbound Pass on day 1 (or Maud if you want to take it even easier), then a day trip north to Lois, Schmidell, Leland, McConnell, et al. on day 2, then a day trip south to Mosquito Pass and Lake Aloha on day 3, then back out on day 4. The trailhead is only about a 4-hour drive from Palo Alto, the relatively low elevation means the mosquitoes will probably be gone by the end of the month, I think this is one of the most scenic areas in the Northern Sierra, and there aren't nearly as many people hiking in the western portion of Desolation as in the eastern half. There are also ways to turn this into an interesting loop if you/she are willing to do some cross-country travel. Permits shouldn't be a problem. Sure, it's a popular and overused wilderness area, but I think it's popular for good reason.

Other options which may also work:

-Kaiser Wilderness east of Fresno. It's a bit small for a 4-day trip, but if you hike into George Lake and set up base camp there, you can do day hikes along the Kaiser Loop Trail for the next two days, walking up to the top of Kaiser Peak, checking out the scenic little lakes like Jewel, Campfire, and College, and going over to the other side of the ridge to visit Bobby/Bonnie Lakes if your daughter is up for more of a challenge. 4.5-hour drive from Palo Alto, pretty scenic (I find Kaiser to be more wild-looking than any of the other wilderness areas in the vicinity like Dinkey Lakes, Jennie Lakes, western parts of the John Muir). Permits are no problem.

-One of the west-slope Emigrant trailheads. I don't have any experience here, but these might be the closest Sierra backcountry trailheads to Palo Alto. The downside is that Emigrant is notorious for its mosquitoes, and there's also a lot of forest in the first several miles in.

-Something along Tioga Pass in Yosemite. 4-hour drive from the Bay Area? Check. Great scenery? Check. Lots of options for a base camp <6 miles in plus cool day trips? Check. Permits? This is the tough one, especially in a weekend format.

Hope this helps.

Matt
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby mediauras » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:33 am

Backing up windknot's advice, Desolation has some good options. Since you're looking to hike in and set up a base camp for day hiking, this might work for you. Lake Lyons/ Lake Sylvia in Desolation. You can bag Pyramid Peak from here. (not my trip report below)

http://www.triporati.com/blog/2008/08/1 ... ra-nevada/

http://www.northerncaliforniahikingtrai ... slakes.pdf
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:44 pm

Forget northwestern Yosemite it will be hot, dry, and not be an enjoyable experience
for her or you. Better to keep that area for early or late season.
Personally I would recommend that you go to Lost Lake out of the Horse Corral area
which I recommended to another poster in another earlier thread looking for a 2-3 nighter.
It's 8.7 miles to beautiful Lost Lake, a little over what you asked for, but the trail starts
at 8000 ft and ends at 9127 ft (Lost Lake), and there are bear boxes.
If Lost Lake is to far for her than Seville lake, which also has bear boxes, is 7 miles and
the lake is at 8408 ft.
From this basecamp location you can go visit pretty Sheep Camp, Ranger or Seville Lakes.
Here are two TR from this area:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7681&p=56967&hilit=lost+lake#p56967
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5154&p=31819&hilit=sheep+camp+lake#p31819
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby Ska-T » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:48 pm

It is hard for me to come up with a suggestion given all the limitations you list. I'm not suggesting that your limitations are not valid. I introduced my kids to backpacking over 20 yrs ago and mosquitoes, extreme hot or cold weather, and too much hiking are important considerations. It is also important to know how to recognize acute mountain sickness and know what to do about it. Finally, consider giving her next to nothing to carry. Perhaps just her clothes in a small day pack.

Is it possible to do the trip later when the mosquito population will be down?
Can you afford to be spotted by mule team?
Would you be satisfied with streams instead of lakes?
Would your daughter be happy car camping and day hiking (especially during mosquito season)?
My daughter loved to fish and clean fish, but not to eat them. Has your daughter tried fishing?

Little Lakes Valley (east side) out of Mosquito Flat (Rock Creek) is an easy hike in to many lakes and beautiful scenery, but it starts at 10,000 ft and may be difficult to get a last minute permit. It is <6.5 hr from Palo Alto. At the end of July that area will probably still have mosquitoes.

Probably too long a drive for you (<7 hrs), but out of South Lake (Bishop) the loop to Bull Lake, Chocolate Lakes, Ruwau Lake, Spearhead Lake, Margaret Lake, Hurd Col, Treasure Lakes, and back to South Lake is a beautiful short trip with an easy cross country "pass". Further, you can shorten the trip by looping back to South Lake after Ruwau Lake, or cutting out the Chocolate Lakes part, or just doing an in-and-out to Treasure Lakes, or going to Treasure Lakes first then over Hurd Col and back to South Lake via Long Lake. Lots of options.
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby windknot » Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:18 pm

Oh yes, I forgot about the Belle Canyon lakes. The links Maverick posted don't seem to be working, so here's my report to this area from June 2010:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5154&p=31819&hilit=sheep+camp+lake#p31819

It's about a 4.5-mile drive from Palo Alto, so not too far. You don't get into the nice scenery though until you hit the trail toward Ranger Lakes, which is a bit farther in than 6 miles.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby kpeter » Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:14 pm

I knew you folks would come up with some thoughtful suggestions for me to explore. Thank you all so much. I will let you know what I decide after I do more research on each suggestion.

The Little Lakes Valley is tempting--she has day hiked there years ago--but permits for overnights are all but impossible. And I have had my eye on the South Lake trailhead as an ideal spot--but it is not really practical for this trip given the short time we have to work with. But we are definitely thinking along similar ability levels.

All of the other suggestions are new to me and intriguing.

Maverick, when you noted that NW Yosemite will be hot--I agree. On my solo trip to Boundary Lake a month ago it was already devoid of snow and getting hot. Were you applying this same critique to the suggestions about western Desolation?

River/stream hiking is certainly viable--it does not have to be a lake. In fact, she has expressed a desire to be around running water.

Let me clarify about the mosquitoes. Two years ago, on the trip I was introducing her to backpacking, I hit some of the worst mosquitoes I have seen in the Sierras on all my trips. While I want to avoid repeating anything like that, I think she could tolerate a lighter dosage of the bugs. I also am hopeful that the year is so dry that they may pass more quickly.
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby wildhiker » Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:21 am

Here's some more ideas, based on my experience taking my kids backpacking in the Sierra from young ages. Search the forums for trip reports.

1) The Burst Rock trail from Gianelli Cabin in the Emigrant Wilderness has some good views and a lake every few miles. You can go as far as you want deep into the wilderness and there are lots of opportunities for side hikes and cross-country exploration. There are no trailhead quotas here - so just pick up a permit in Pinecrest. Only about 3.5 hours driving from Palo Alto.

2) For really high country scenery, there are lots of good options starting at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite NP. Most of the reservable quota for these trails is taken, but there are always some walk-up permits and with a group size of only 2, you are likely to get something. You could call the park wilderness reservation number (find it at http://www.nps.gov/yose/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) to see what is most likely to be available, or if you can get to the Big Oak Flat entrance station (about 3.5 hours drive from Palo Alto) before they close at 5 pm on Thursday, you can just see what's available for Friday and grab it. Then it's about an hour drive from the entrance station to Tuolumne Meadows. If you get your wilderness permit, you can camp in the backpacker's section of the Tuolumne Meadows campground Thursday night to acclimate to the altitude ($5/person, no reservations, always plenty of room). Here are some suggestions from memory for backpacks from this area - check the topos:
     a) Ten Lakes Basin - about 7 miles (?) to the first lake, and then lots of lakes to explore.
     b) Young Lakes - about 7 miles to the first lake. I like the Dog Lake trailhead because there are good views along the way. You can explore cross-country throughout this basin. I especially liked heading north to Roosevelt Lake.
     c) Upper Fletcher Lake (Vogelsang camp area). Again, about 7 miles to the lake on well-graded trail through beautiful forest and meadows and impressive views of peaks when you get there. A cross-roads for trails to many additional lovely lakes, views, and passes. Heavily used, but for good reason.
     d) Upper Sardine Lake from the Mono/Parker Pass trailhead. This is my personal favorite in this area, and the place where I take visitors who want to see some spectacular high country but have only a short time. There are almost always permits available here. You actually have to leave the park to camp (this watershed is the domestic water supply for Tuolumne Meadows), but Upper Sardine Lake is just a mile beyond and only a bit below Mono Pass - about 5 or 6 miles from the trailhead, and only 1000 feet elevation gain. There are good campsites on the NE side of this lake - you have to leave the trail, which circles around at a bit of a distance, but the route is completely visible once you see the lake. From the campsite, you walk up about a hundred yards to the top of a rock rib, where Bloody Canyon falls away below in a magnificent gash in the red metamorphic rocks, right down to Mono Lake. Sunset views here are amazing. From this lake, you can explore the old miner's cabins back at the pass, head over towards Parker Pass and then on easy cross-country over dry meadowy slopes to Helen Lake or Spillway Lake, or just walk right up the mountain to the southeast starting from the old cabins. The entire time you are surrounded by the big peaks of Mt Dana, Mt Gibbs, the Kuna Crest, and even Mt. Conness in the distance.

3) Another interesting and unusual option in Yosemite is a backpack trip along the valley rim. I took my kids when they were 7 to 12 on such a trip along the north rim. You shouldn't have any problem getting permits for this. Start at Porcupine Flat trailhead and head first to North Dome, where you look directly at the face of Half Dome, plus see most of Yosemite Valley and high country peaks, and then backtrack on the rim trail toward Lehamite Creek. About 1/4 mile before the creek is a broad saddle where you can camp in the forest. You need some kind of water container, though, because you have to get water from either Royal Arch Creek to the east (if it's running) or Lehamite Creek itself to the west, which is a permanent stream. 2nd day, keep heading west on the rim trail with great views of Yosemite Valley. Yosemite Point is amazing - you are literally grabbing the handrail and looking 3000 feet straight down to the Valley floor. When you get to Yosemite Creek, obey the signs to stay out of the water! Don't be one of the fatalities they have every year in Yosemite when someone slips in a stream above a waterfall and gets carried down over it. Take the side trail down to the Yosemite Falls overlook for another amazing view. Then head up the Yosemite Creek trail to find a campsite. You first hit the creek in about a mile, just past the side trail to Eagle Peak. We did not have time/energy to do this side trail, but it would a great option for your 3rd day, laying over at your Yosemite Creek campsite. On the last day, continue up Yosemite Creek a few miles to the car campground. Here, you take the old Tioga Rd as a trail to the east back up to Porcupine Flat. In my case, my wife and kids hung out in the campground with the packs, and I walked up to get the car and drive around back to the campground to pick them up. Except for the walk from Yosemite Creek campground up to get the car, this trail has little elevation gain.
June 2016 correction: did this hike again. Views wonderful, but old road alignment from Yosemite Creek up to Porcupine Flat now so overgrown with small trees you can't follow it and have to bushwhack up the slope. Probably easier to continue a couple of miles further up the Yosemite Creek trail to where it intersects the Tioga Road and then hitchhike back to Porcupine Flat.

-Phil
Last edited by wildhiker on Mon Jun 27, 2016 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby Troutdog 59 » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:07 am

Lots of great ideas, but I dont think I would discard the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness considering your constraints. There are numerous lakes reached by a relatively short hike (I think its about 3.5 miles to First Dinkey) with very moderate elevation gains, and the the area is actually really pretty. Lots of good rock stuff in the area. Banded marble at the Willow Meadow (main) trailhead and rumors of smokey quartz on Dogtooth Peak. The Three Sisters above Island lake are an easy scramble to the top. Island and Rock lake are gorgeous. Mosquitoes can be a problem, especially at First Dinkey which is surrounded by a large meadow, but the others should be fine with this dry year. Typically August is fine and with this dry year, I think the end of July will be fine as well. I would suggest hiking to South Lake via First Dinkey and make camp there. I think its less than 5 miles to South Lake. From there you have numerous options for day hikes. Here are a few pics from a trip last year with my 17 yr old daughter who sounds alot like yours. Fit and willing, but just not used to the big mile days and doesnt like bugs.


Little Fingerbowl Lake
Image


Rock Lake
Image

Camp at Island Lake

Image

Sunset from Second Dinkey


Image

Also, heres a link to a web site about the area. Its more of a fishing site, but it has some good pics and descriptions of the area. Wherever you choose, I do hope you and your daughter have a great time. I feel very priveledged to have a daughter that will backpack with me. Good luck and I look forward to a TR!!!

http://www.wix.com/flyflinger78/dinkey- ... _the-lakes
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby maverick » Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:16 am

Kpeter wrote:
Were you applying this same critique to the suggestions about western Desolation?


No, but I do not particularly care for the Desolation area.
If LLV is something your considering than 20 Lakes Basin should also be added to the list.
Very easy access, multiple lakes, and great scenery.
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby windknot » Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:21 am

Several of the east-side entry options would provide the best trips in terms of all criteria except driving distance to the trailhead. If you do want to stick to a drive of shorter than 5 hours, LLV, 20 Lakes Basin, and others are ruled out, unfortunately.

I'm a fan of Desolation for non-backpacking related reasons, but I do believe that the west side of the Crystal Range is attractive (at least provides the most wild, alpine scenery for the greater Northern Sierra area).
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Trip advice: 4 days, west side, for my 14 year old

Postby kpeter » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:59 am

Wonderful advice all around.

And the winner is...Windknots's suggestion of Wright's Lake to Doris, with day hikes North and South from there in Desolation. A five mile hike with less than a couple of thousand feet elevation, and all of it close enough to drive and hike there in a day--is just the ticket. My only concern is whether the mosquitoes have tamed down since a July 8 report that said they were a "5" on Rockbound Pass. Any skeeter info that comes in would be welcome--I'd rather cancel or move the trip than turn her into a pincushion for a second time.

I was all set to choose the Lost Lake trip since the more I saw of it the better it looked. But reservations have to be made two weeks in advance, and it is a longer drive and a longer hike. If my daughter has a good experience and wants to go back, Lost Lake will be on top of the list. In fact, even if she doesn't, I think I will find a way to get there in the future.

Twenty Lakes Basin also looks very nice, and quite appropriate. It will be the fallback if Rockbound Pass is reported to be swarming with skeeters.

The other suggestions also look good and will move onto my list for excursions with my daughter, if I'm fortunate enough to convince her to do this regularly.

Many thanks all. I'll give you a report in a coupld of weeks.
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