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Bucket List trip

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Bucket List trip

Postby Weasel » Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:20 pm

My recent trip into Tehipite Valley was 40 years in the making. In the early 1970's, Wally Molina told Rich Stuart about Tehipite Valley. It was supposed to be like Yosemite, without the people. Wally said that he wanted to go there someday. Rich put it on his list of things to do. Rich is now my brother-in-law. Last summer he asked me if I would be interested in backpacking and flyfishing with him. I immediately answered yes because I usually end up going out backpacking alone, and sometimes it is nice to have company. I had never flyfished before. That was the first time I had heard of Tehipite Dome. We planned for a year. In June, after a family wedding in Sonoma, we headed to the Trinity Alps for a trial run, staying three days at Tangle Blue Lake. We were planning on going to Little Bear Lake and Wee Bear Lake, but there was still a chance of snow blocking the trail, so I had not entered all the data into my GPS for our destination, so we hiked up Horse Canyon and over a saddle to get to Tangle Blue, a six hour detour, off trail.

In getting ready for the trek to Tehipite, I found HighSierraTopix, reading Jimr's 5-part report of his experiences with his son. Rich and I talked about canceling. Instead we just brought extra stuff. We had bear bells, an extra GPS, extra food for ourselves, extra food for the other person, a personal locator beacon, and my gear is old and heavy as well. So, I was with a 55 pound pack before adding on some water, and Rich was at 45. I'm 59 and Rich is 69. We left the Rancheria Trailhead at 9:30, and barely made it to Rodgers Creek, moving at about 1 mile per hour. There were several comments from Rich about "A lot of hell for a little bit of heaven". He was more interested in the flyfishing than the backpacking. The second day, we left by 8:30 and made it to Hay Meadow for a late lunch. After making it over the saddle above Hay Meadow, we followed a trail down toward the stream, and lost the trail. We should have backtracked to find the trail, but we used the GPS and wasted some time going off trail to the BM on the ridge. We got to the ridge at 2:45, and started down a little after 3. I helped ferry Rich's pack on a couple occasions, and we arrived in the valley at dusk. We again lost the trail on a path toward water, and found a flat spot to pitch our big, old, comfortable 4P tent. As we sat having a late dinner in the dark, we were visited by a skunk. We must have camped on his turf as he circled our camp five or six times before disappearing into the darkness, leaving us only smelling like we had hiked two long days to get to the valley. I'm not sure that our socks would have smelled worse if the skunk had sprayed them.

The next morning, we headed up to Crown Creek and made a new camp. The gnats were horrible, attacking our faces whenever we were away from the water. The heaven then started as we flyfished the creek up to the falls as well as the Kings River. Rich was very happy with the fishing and the scenery. We only caught rainbows, with Rich catching about 30, and I had about 5. We ate a couple and released the rest. We had a bear walked down the trail past our campsite. We saw no rattlesnakes despite the many other reports.

It took us 8 hours and 5 liters of water for the two of us to get from the valley floor up 2.5 miles to the ridge. We took two comfortable days to get from Hay Meadow out. Great trip.



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Re: Bucket List trip

Postby Weasel » Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:30 pm

I know that pictures should be included, but they are all saved as files over 2 MB so I can't load them. I need help with two things: 1.)How do I reduce the size of my files, or get highsierratopix to get my photos posted?
2.) Rich and I are talking about doing this again next year. Any suggestions on remote sites with lots of classic flyfishing holes? PM me if it is a secret you don't want to share. I enjoy the backpacking and Rich enjoys the fishing.
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Re: Bucket List trip

Postby windknot » Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:51 pm

Thanks for the report! This sounds like it was a wonderful trip, especially with the long buildup.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Bucket List trip

Postby Weasel » Wed Sep 19, 2012 9:15 pm

Here is Rich's report:

TEHIPITE 2012
 
Where to begin.  Where to begin.  The meaning of Tehipite (Tuh-hippity) is unknown.  It’s probably an American Indian term, maybe meaning “something very difficult”, since that’s exactly what it is to get to the valley of the same name.
The valley is often referred to as “ Little Yosemite Valley” or “Yosemite without roads”.  Good description.
The famous landmark of the valley is Tehipite Dome, rising some 3500 ft. above the valley floor.  I’ve read that the south face is a more difficult rock climb than El Capitan in Yosemite. It’s certainly harder to get to the base -- about a 17 mile up & down hike from the nearest 4x4 road.  The Dome from the valley floor actually looks somewhat like a giant granite sculpture of Darth Vader.
I’ve wanted to go to the valley since I heard about it back in the early 60’s.  At that time a backpacking buddy told me about it.  This was just about the time Doug Tompkins opened a little backpacking & rock climbing shop in North Beach San Francisco called The North Face.  Tompkins, I believe, scaled the south face of Tehipite shortly thereafter.   He went on to found “The North Face” outdoor wear & sports equipment empire among other achievements..
So now we’ll speed up to 2012.  My brother-in-law Mark, who lives in Cleveland, began talking about backpacking at a family visit in 2011.  Weas (Mark’s family nickname) asks if I’d like to go backpacking with him. I say sure.   I haven’t been backpacking In 42 years!
Weas & family return to CA in the summer of 2012,and he and I plan a small backpacking trip during that visit. If all goes well we will discuss the possibility of taking on Tehipite Valley.   All goes very well on our 3-day backpacking trip to Tangle Blue Lake in the Trinity Alps, so we decide Tehipite is a go (at Weas’ enthusiastic urging).   After all, I’d told him it was on my bucket list.
Well now, Weas is not your ordinary backpacker. He’s logged hundreds of miles all over the world-- New Zealand, Peru, Ecuador, Fiji,  the AppalachianTrail. He wants to also hike areas in Nepal, SE Asia, and Europe. He’s not exactly extreme, but difficulty is a challenge he relishes. He’s in very good shape (and almost 60, for god’s sake.)
So here we go.  Three months  after our little trial trip I pick him up at SFO & we head to Margaret’s (my wife) & my farm to pack gear etc. and spend the night.  This “packing gear” is no simple matter, mind you.   We’ve been planning and talking regularly for months about meals, equipment, weight in our packs, GPS waypoints, maps, etc. Naturally, even with all the planning, our packs are overweight.  With water added at the trailhead, Mark’s pack is over 60 lbs. and mine is about 50.
We leave the farm on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, and head out for a motel at Shaver Lake CA., where we spend the last night with comfy beds, ensuite bathroom, and refrigerator,  before our big trek.
We begin at the Rancheria trailhead at about 9:30 AM headed for Kings Canyon National Park.  It’s a big trek all right.   We start out with way too heavy packs and after about a mile of slightly uphill I’m pretty tired. Eventually I get my second wind and we carry on.  I’m very slow.  Water availability at fairly frequent creek crossings isn’t a problem.  We, however, carry a little too much weight in water so we’re on the safe side.  It takes us about 8 ½ hours to get to a campsite at Rodgers Creek with good water.  It’s about seven miles from the trailhead.  I told you I was slow, but it’s a climb too.  Good campsite with a bright half- moon at 2am.
Next morning we break camp and are on the trail by around 8:30.  It’s about 6 miles to the rim of the valley where the steep switchbacks begin the 2.5 mile, 3200-ft. descent. It takes us until 3pm to get there.  We lose the trail at a somewhat dry meadow and have to cross country for a while, losing about 45 minutes or so.  Weas locates the USGS benchmark at the rim with the help of his GPS & iPhone.  So we start down --and down and down.   My toes are jammed up against the toe box of my boots so much that I’m sure I’ll lose at least 2 toenails.  The views are spectacular  (we’ve got lot of photos).    Weas does some time/daylight calculations & figures at the pace I was going that we wouldn’t make it before dark.  That’s not good.  Not only is there no water until you reach the floor of the valley but there’s nowhere to camp.  So, Weas kicks into high gear.  He goes ahead of me on several occasions, drops his pack, comes back, gets my pack, carries it to his pack and goes ahead again.  We make it to the valley floor a little before dark. Seventeen miles.   He’s amazing.
We hike upstream along the middle fork of the Kings River until we lose the trail in the waning light.  We make camp in the most level spot nearby.  We’re beat.  Weas sets up the tent.  I’d just as soon go to sleep then and there since it’s dark, but Weas boils some water for our dehydrated dinners.  A curious baby skunk keeps coming in close to us to see what’s going on.  We’re afraid we’ll be sprayed but we aren’t.  After hanging the food pack in a tree out of reach of bears (a nightly ritual), we crash.
Day 3 morning we decide to look for a good campsite.  We know there’s one at the confluence of Crown Creek and the Kings River at the base of Tehipite Dome. We find it about a half mile up river from our current campsite, so we go back, pack up, and move. Our new campsite is perfect. It’s close to water, level, has both sun and shade, with a nice fire ring, a few big rocks to sit on (which Weas makes a fantastic bench of with a big piece of cedar) and a floor of crushed granite that is very clean (no  dust).  We relax-- actually recuperate -- most of the day.  About 4pm I set up the fly rods.  Weas goes upstream along Crown Creek and I go fish a nice pool just below camp at the confluence. The fish are very cooperative.  All dry flys:  Initially a hopper, but then Royal Wulff & and Parachute Adams. Usually there’s a grab every 3 or 4 casts.  I keep a couple of nice fat rainbows for dinner,  one 12” and one 11”.
Next morning, we decide to fish downstream on the Kings together.  It’s great.  We both catch fish and have a great time exploring.  Not a sight of any human intervention or trail trash.  We’re the only humans in the entire valley.  After lunch back at camp, Weas decides to  look upstream for the “painted rock” shown on our topo map.  I decide to nap.  Meanwhile, Weas is warming a black trash bag of water to rig a makeshift shower.  It works wonderfully later.  Around 3pm when Weas returns, we decide to go up Crown Creek to see Silver Spray Falls.  I grab a fly rod just in case there are some good pools.  It turns out there are some great pools,and I catch nice fat ‘bows out of almost every one.  The falls are only about a quarter- mile upstream from our camp, and are they ever beautiful --  two tiers about 150 feet high.  They’d do Yosemite proud.
Returning to camp we discuss the fact that we didn’t put our food in a tree, and I had a couple of fish cooling in a creel where a bear could easily grab them.  Bears have an uncanny sense of smell, something like 40,000 times more sensitive than a human. When we got back, we’re happy to find no damage and no bears.  But sure enough, about an hour later a big black (actually brown in color) bear shows up.   It’s fairly comical since he keeps hiding and popping out (we have a video).  He finally leaves.  
 Speaking of videos, remember Weas’ shower yesterday?  Well, he decides to improve it. Shouldn’t have done it.   More water, fancier pulleys, better spray holes etc.  He wants me to video it.  It’s hilarious!  It could easily make “America’s Funniest Home Videos”.  I’m sure some of you have seen it by now.
O.K. We decide to leave the valley the next morning (Sunday) since I’m so slow and we want to be somewhat comfortable. This will allow 3 days to get back to the trailhead, and our packs will be lighter, too.  I’ve been dreading the climb out.
Next morning we get a 7:30 start. It’s about a mile down the valley to the base of the climb, and thaa’s the last water until about a mile past the rim at the top.  We get a little over 2 liters each off water and start the climb.  Did I mention that I’m slow? We take 8 hours. to go the 2.5 miles to the top of the rim.  It’s pretty leisurely, to say the least, and we’re not tired but out of water and very parched.  Weas heads on to Hay Meadow, our campsite and water destination, at his regular pace.  About 40 minutes later he’s heading back towards me with no pack and fresh water. What a guy!  He’s left his pack at the campsite.
The night at Hay Meadow is very quiet, almost eerie -- no wind and no sound of running water.  This was the first night like that.  Next morning we take off for Crown Meadow, our next campsite, about 7 miles away.  I’m hiking at a much quicker pace now and am very comfortable. I love my trekking poles. We make it to Crown Meadow about 4pm after a leisurely lunch at Rodgers Creek, where there are lots of 8-10” rainbows in very shallow pools – the water is almost too small to fish.  There’s a 3-person survey party camped in the best spot at Crown Meadow, so we camp downhill at a gravesite from 1914. The tombstone reads:  “ Ike Smit ?-1914”  This was our last night on the trail.
Last morning, and Weas gets me off early ahead of him.  It’s an uphill climb and we decide to have a late breakfast at the summit of a saddle at about 8600ft. (maybe 800 vertical feet above where we are).  It’s about a mile and a half to that point and Weas catches up and passes me to have the water ready for my breakfast scramble on tortillas.  It’s all gradual downhill from here.  My plan is to get back to the Yukon (our car, that is!) drive to Modesto, get a motel  with a pool, and relax.  Weas goes ahead.  The trailhead is about 4 or 5 miles from here.  I’m very comfortable now with the end in sight.  My pack is actually comfortable.  I must be in a little better shape now.
About a quarter mile before the trailhead I hear a whistle (our signal to each other).  I whistle back.  Two short blasts.  Weas shows up moments later without a pack and with a Calistoga water in his hand.  He says there’s trail trash along the end of the trail, mostly beer cans. Minutes later I see a Coors Light can in the creek.   It’s unopened and  full and cold.  He’s da man!
We’re almost there.  Soon we are.  What a trip!!
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Re: Bucket List trip

Postby gabe&mel » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:28 pm

Hello there,

First Post here. Excellent Trip report. I was out with a couple of friends from LA and Davis and we did Crown Valley to Tehipite Valley from 9/7-9/12. I'm 100% certain we met on the Switchbacks going down into the valley. It was a long 3 hour descent for us and your advice on keeping a look out for the poison oak was spot on. Glad to hear you guys had an amazing trip.

Gabe
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Re: Bucket List trip

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:20 pm

Wow!

You guys RULE! Great to hear about a trip so long in the making that finally came to reality. Glad you guys endured and made it in (and out)! Forget all of the bears, snakes, gnats, etc. The best part of the story is the achievement of the goal, so long in the making. Truly inspiring.

Cheers!

--F.G. Dave
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." --Jeff Lebowski

Some pics of native salmonids: http://flyguydave.wordpress.com/
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Re: Bucket List trip

Postby Weasel » Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:08 pm

Yes Gabe, that was us. I'm glad I was not so tired and dehydrated from the climb up that I was just giving you bad advice. Three and a half hours is what it took us to get down, so you were making good time down. I'm sure that you did not take 8 hours to hike up to the ridge. I'll write you on gmail as I promised. I've been meaning to but kept looking at my next trip instead.
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