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Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

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Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby Silverfox » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:50 pm

I recently began a backpacking class at the High School I teach at that meets once a week. I have 29 students in my class, and seven are very interested in applying what they have been learning. So I am pursuing the logistics of taking a small group of novice backpackers to the Sierra's this summer. I have enlisted the help of two other adults as chaperones and wanted your input or suggestions for a trip no longer than 5 days including travel to and from San Diego. General plan is to hike out of Agnew Meadows on the river trail. Goal is to create memorable trip with reasonable distance and elevation gains for newbies so they will desire to go again.

Day 1 travel to Mammoth Lakes - Short hike to Olaine Lake, roughly 2 miles
Day 2 hike river trail to 1000 Island Lake, roughly 6 miles
Day 3 hike to Garnet Lake, roughly 3 miles
Day 4 hike to Ediza lake or Rosalie Lake, roughly 5+ miles
Day 5 hike back to trailhead and drive home

Questions:
1. Is there room to camp at Olaine Lake, I'm sure most people do not stop at this lake?
2. At Garnet Lake, is the North or South side better for camping, consider group 10 or less?
3. Need input on Ediza or Rosalie Lake for last night, consider group 10 or less? I understand there are some camping restrictions for Ediza, will size of group fit?

Thanks for your input,
Silverfox



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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby Scouter9 » Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:54 am

Awesome!

I have some suggestions, and I've led youth trips from San Diego that trailhead out of Agnew Meadows. I won't tinker with your # of days, other than to say: add two and you'll be happier. :nod: I say this because I strongly suggest you do not drive on days you hike, for two reasons -- upon arrival, you and your crew will benefit from acclimation time and, upon departure, your crew will benefit from hot showers and deserve drivers who aren't tired before the 8-hour run home.

So, before I get to what you really asked about, let me suggest you add a day on each end, and that you use the Mammoth RV Park tent camping area for the shoulder days. It's cheap, you can walk to breakfast and the hot showers and pool are "free with camping". Make Saturday/Sunday your drive days, even though everyone else will, too.

Oh, and BUY YOUR PERMIT NOW. They're already available and sell out quickly for this trailhead.

Okay, to your route...

Day 1, I think Olaine Lake is too short for your entry day, and you're not supposed to camp there. If, instead, you continue up the River Trail a few more miles, you'll find great campsites on your side of the river from the outfall of Garnet Lake, just past a trail junction. I can send you some maps if you like. My suggestion is that you use the bus from the lodge to get to the trailhead (plan 1 hour from the time you park until you get off the bus) and then use Olaine for your first stop, a "boots-off" break at the lake, before heading up. This will allow you to do some of the climbing on Day 1, but easily so, and still give plenty of time to explore the river after setting camp. Day One Mileage, 4.5.

Day 2, I think the ascent to Thousand Island will be an eye-opener for the effect of altitude, but it's a beautiful climb and there are great places to use for group-stops that won't block the trail. Add two miles to the point where you reach the end of the lake and you'll be happy-- you can't camp within 1/3 mile of the tip of the lake and the further west you go, the further you get from Bear Central, which is the zone with all the cool campsites and clustered groups of campers starting right at the 1/3 mile mark. Follow the coast west until you reach the fleur-de-lis shaped cove (check it on the map) and you'll have camping and fishing to yourselves. In the morning, you can giggle over the terrified screams of those campers who were savagely mauled by Yogi Bear and...well, you can chuckle when you leave and campers near trail tell you they had a visit in the dark. Either way, you'll be in camp before the afternoon rains and will have time to relax and take in the beauty of the lake and the sunset on Banner and Ritter. Day Two mileage, 6.0 .

Day 3, I will suggest you give the yoots a "zero mile" and Thousand Island's a great place for it. Spectacular sunrise, easy fun fishing, wading or swimming, great day hike routes, etc... But, if you want to hit Garnet that day, consider this a 5 mile day and appreciate that you'll be taking them up over the magic 10,000' foot mark on the topo --pretty cool. Ruby and Emerald lakes are beautiful and Garnet is fantastic, but you're going to have to look carefully for great, legit campsites. Unlike Thousand Island with its vast capacity for camping apart once you move westerly of Bear Central, Garnet has less shore and well-defined limitations where you can camp close to the water. Consider siting up-slope and sending teams for water. Advantage: the overlook sites on the east end give stellar views.

Day 4, if you punch over to Ediza, a beautiful and often crowded place, you'll be popping over another 10k' pass and then you will need to hunt/seek among the very limited camping areas at Ediza. Rosalie Lake will afford more available spaces, if only because Ediza is the more likely stop for more groups.

Day 5, ahhh you get to go past Shadow Lake and descend the spectacular singletrack down past its falls. A great day that takes you down to the intersection right at Olaine Lake, before you finish the day with a mile of ascent back to the trailhead. The low part of the River Trail is even more beautiful as you're heading east than it was going west a few days earlier, and you can start conversations about what the crew want to eat in town. This is a fun day, but don't underestimate the climb out in terms of effect on time. Also, plan for 1-3 hours to get a bus back out to the lodge where you left your truck/cars. Hey, you might get lucky and nail the first one to come by (about every 15 min), but you're the last stop up the hill and the buses are often full. The trick here is to chat up a downhill bus driver that stops and ask that s/he radio other busses about you (they do it all the time), so a bus will arrive with space for you. Then, the dayhikers can grimace at your stench while you grip the overhead bars on the bus and vent your pits over the folks that kept their "good seats", ha ha!! Never fails.

Personally, I think the trip deserves a final night together in town to go over what you accomplished and enjoy walking around town/village after the trip, not to mention the hot showers and night of sleep for your drivers, but if you're heading down right away, plan a major stop at Bishop for fuel (20-30 cents cheaper and it's downhill from Mammoth) and load up on Red Bull for the drivers, who will have cars full of sleeping kids.

You've picked a great place to introduce youth to the Sierra. Keep the miles light and you'll hook a few for sure. Either way, you'll change kids' lives with this, so Good On You.
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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby balzaccom » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:19 am

One other option would be to camp at Altha Lake instead of Garnet. It's a short use trail to get there, about a mile or so, and there are only a few campsites. But there won't be anyone else there. And it is stunning.

Plus, the kids would enjoy the steep clambering to get to the use trail.
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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby jfnr » Wed Apr 03, 2013 12:49 pm

That is great that you are doing this.

I 100% agree with everything that Scouter has to offer. The itinerary you have laid out is pretty ambitious and you will be on the move perhaps more than you want to be (mabye not). I can tell you that there is a great place to set up camp with enough room for a larger size group @ the west end of Garnett lake. You will have to bushwack the legnth of the lake to get there (about a mile) I did that on the south side of the lake. I think there was sort of a trail that goes in and out of the brush. This will get you away from the JMT traffic. There is pretty good fishing @ this spot as well (Brookies). This is also a good jump off point for some cool and easy side trips over to 1000 island lakes and you could play around on North Galcier Pass (not sure I would do this with kids). Ediza is beautiful but tends to be crowded. If you go anytime other than late season, be advised that the skeeters @ Agnew are mean and nasty. Have a great trip.
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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby SoCalCPA » Wed Apr 03, 2013 1:37 pm

Wow Scouter - next time I need advive, I know where to go - My 2 cents for what it's worth, you should consider taking the high trail PCT instead of the river trail - That way you will have immediate views the first day in while the river trail is kind of in the canyon - THe PCT high trail is above it looking over the canyon - and I don't think this is overly ambitious - 18 months ago as an out of shape guy who had just turned 50, I took the high trail to Thousand Island Lake and made it in under 6 hours - I was tired by then but it was very bearable - If anything for kids that are HS age, it may be a little too easy - I remember being a preteen and being able to hike much further than the adults on the hike - I do think what you have planned is a perfect introduction and I agree with Scouter's comments on the first night - You may have an easier time finding a campsite on the high trail though - Plus I hear that Altha Lake is very pretty though I have yet to get there - Have a great time!
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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby oldranger » Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:43 pm

Silver Fox

I think your destinations are reasonable but for two suggestions. I agree with others who suggest a layover day or two would be really nice.


I disagree with those who suggest that a short hike the day you arrive is a bad Idea. A couple years ago I drove all the way from Bend, OR to Mammoth with stops at Walker Burger for a shake, the Mono Lake visitor center to pick up my permit (called enroute to say I would be late so they wouldn't give it away), then a steak sandwich at Whoa Nellie Dellie. My wife dropped me off at the shuttle and I just missed the 5 PM one so I had to wait until the 5:30 bus. Then had a delightful walk down past Olaine Lake to the trail Jct. then looked for a site near the bridge. Since the hike is almost all down hill it was easy, even for an old fart. Cowboy camped because there were no bugs (late august) and ate a peanut butter and jam sandwich (iI packed it the night before) before relaxing, reading and hitting the sack. It was a really easy way to save an hour + of hiking the following day. This was not my original plan but my arrival day was the only day a permit was available for reservation and it worked out great. Saved the cost of a hotel or frontcountry campground, too.

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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby tim » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:41 pm

Do check on permits as this can be a popular trailhead. It also seems to me like quite a long journey to then try and hike that afternoon, especially given the added time needed for the shuttle bus. Are you sure your group will be ok leaving at 5am or so, which given the need presumably to meet at school might mean getting up at 3am. More to the point will parents appreciate dropping them off at 5am? So I would agree with the camp in Mammoth night 1 suggestion (maybe in Reds Meadow if in the week so you can drive down - but not at weekends as you can't reserve), followed by a longer hike on Day 2. Perhaps do the loop the other way round to avoid the long hike to Thousand Island?

If I was going from the south I would think about somewhere like Horseshoe Meadows, to save 2+ hours of driving and avoid the complication of the shuttle bus. The Cottonwood Lakes-Soldier Lakes-Miter Basin-Cottonwood Pass loop is a great 4-5 day trip with much less constraint on permits.
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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby Scouter9 » Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:45 am

On routing with the High Trail vs. River Trail "to" Thousand Island, and on first-day mileage:

--The High Trail is great, but you leave the trailhead with an immediate climb and will continue to do so for about 4 miles, up to 9900' elevation. Now, right up there at that level are a number of great campsites on the low side of the trail and close to running creeks that cross the trail. One overlooks the outfall from Shadow Lake, for reference. (We camped exactly here in 2012, on our way out from an "intro to the High Sierra" trip that looped the opposite way: up River to TI, across to Clark Lakes, out the High Trail/PCT.)

The "catch" with new hikers is that the "climb out of the chute" can freaking nuke backpackers who aren't experienced both with mileage and their packs. Add to this that Day One is your least acclimated day and it can be a risky move. I've gone in this way and it can be great... just saying. (Used this route to TI in 2011, switched for 2012.)

--First Day Mileage on the River Trail. Since our trip leader is taking high school kids with little experience, but presumable levels of fitness, my suggestion to halve the ascent by going a few more miles on Day One is intended to give time for acclimation and, importantly, to reduce the duration of their first extended ascent. From Agnew, it's a descent to Olaine (approx 8100' I reckon) and then a gentle, introductory climb to the camping sites that are at 9000' or so. 4.5 miles in day one should take 5-6 hours with breaks, and that's enough to get some exercise (good for acclimation) without over-exertion (bad, etc...). The next day, it's a punch up over the saddle at 9900' to drop into Thousand Island and I think it's good to have new hikers rested and stoked when they hit the lake at the JMT sign. Cutting the River Trail ascent in half works great to ensure this.

Of course, if one drives 8 hours (even for those sleeping in the car), it may be wise to have less trial time on the first day. The "problem" is that there are few places it's cool and legit to camp a group real close to the Agnew Meadows trailhead. I really, really suggest using shoulder days to drive and getting a night of sleep in town at 8000' for San Diegans who live at 300'... (By the way, forgot some gear, panic time? Nah, walk over to Kittridge and buy what you need on your shoulder day...)

My general goal with youth/new hikers is that, at the end of the trip, they say something like, "that was great, but I'd like to go further next time". This is so much better than, "I was so tired" or "that was miserable"...even if it's only a few. Get 'em to give the first response and you've got them hooked. One of my "tricks" is to make the last day such that we arrive back at the trucks tired from the week, but not wasted from a hard last day. I want my hikers to feel like champions, rather than survivors, and revel in the "complaint" that they could have gone further. (Okay, we can do that, next round!)

Whoever these high school kids are, they've got one helluva teacher that's willing to put something like this together.
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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby SoCalCPA » Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:08 pm

--The High Trail is great, but you leave the trailhead with an immediate climb and will continue to do so for about 4 miles, up to 9900' elevation. Now, right up there at that level are a number of great campsites on the low side of the trail and close to running creeks that cross the trail. One overlooks the outfall from Shadow Lake, for reference. (We camped exactly here in 2012, on our way out from an "intro to the High Sierra" trip that looped the opposite way: up River to TI, across to Clark Lakes, out the High Trail/PCT.)

Here's a picture from the Shadow Lake overlook you mention - It would only take a couple of hours to get to this spot the first day - I understand your perspective but I think these kids would comfortably and easily make it here - I agree in spirit with what you are saying - why go on a death march when it's not necessary but this really isn't too hard to get to - and the initial elevation isn't that bad - Just my opinion but if I were a kid on my first trip, the payoff of the views from the high trail would make me take this route.
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Re: Trip Advice Agnew Meadows for Novice Group

Postby Silverfox » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:21 pm

Thanks for the excellent input, Scouter 9, I appreciate the thorough description and suggestions. I am very interested in pushing to the camp spot 4+ miles in past Olaine Lake. Also, the shoulder days are a great idea, but we are extremely limited in our time frame due to all the various schedules of members of the group. Will definitely push west to camp at 1000 Island Lake, was there in 2010 late June when the lake was still 90% frozen. Looking forward to a little fishing this time. Balzacom, love the idea about Altha Lake, was not even on my radar, very intriguing! Also, will probably bypass Ediza due to popularity. Also, thanks for the shuttle info., I knew that we would need to use but the time estimate is helpful.

Looking forward to a good time and appreciative of the suggestions from all,
Thanks,
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