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Trip advice for Blue Canyon

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Trip advice for Blue Canyon

Postby rlowgren » Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:35 pm

Hi all, I love route planning and staring at topos but i need some help with a trip that may go late September (my main trip this year is to the upper Kern). I've read a lot on this forum about Blue canyon and Tunemah Lake. It looks incredible and I'd like to check this area out. Problem is I only have 4 nights for the trip and a layover in Blue Canyon seems like a must so that we can daytrip over to Tunemah for fishing. All the itineraries I can come up with have big miles which are ok but are more or less an out and back. Goals of the trip would be Tunemah, great fishing and big scenery (yes i want it all). The most sane itinerary I can come up with is:

Day 1: Hoffman Mtn (read Dave and GiantBrookie's post) to Crown Lake
Day 2 Crown to Blue Canyon via mantle pass
Day 3: layover day hike to Tunemah
Day 4: Blue canyon to Maxon basin or Sceptor Lake
Day 5: out

I am flexible with trailheads and creative routes and prefer off trail travel but know its usually much slower. Our experience level is 4 and we're old rock climbers so pretty comfortable with steep terrain (perhaps less so with packs). We're young and dumb so our knees can handle mileage up to about 15 if need be but short days just mean more fishing time.

Some alternatives...lake 10232 looks incredible and would be fantastic to visit since we'd be so close. I read that Blue Canyon is doable but challenging in a day. With a layover the following we could then camp at Lake 10232 on day 3 cross the white divide to Maxon basin on day 4 and out from there. Or leaving from Courtright we could go to Maxon on day 1, Tunemah on day 2, lake 10232 on day 3, over Reinstein pass to Horseshoe lake on day 4 and out on day 5. Maxon seems like a convenient stopover but I'm not sure about fish and scenery. Any experience on this basin? Pearl lake looks nice but difficult to reach in a day fitting it in probably means no layover day.

I imagine the answer is I need more time or less ambitious goals. Can't do much bout the first one but
I can work on the latter I suppose....perhaps someone with experience in this region can come up with something interesting!



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Re: Trip advice for Blue Canyon

Postby rlowgren » Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:03 am

Perhaps my post was too specific? I tend to overplan a bit but to me that's part of the fun right?

Maybe someone could answer me this...should I save a trip to Blue canyon/Tunemah when I have more than 4 nights? There's plenty other places in the Sierra I need to visit!
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Re: Trip advice for Blue Canyon

Postby TehipiteTom » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:39 am

rlowgren wrote:Perhaps my post was too specific? I tend to overplan a bit but to me that's part of the fun right?

Maybe someone could answer me this...should I save a trip to Blue canyon/Tunemah when I have more than 4 nights? There's plenty other places in the Sierra I need to visit!

That would be my advice. Of course, I'm not generally a high-mileage backpacker (I like to have most of the afternoon off), but still: I think there's enough fantastic stuff in the area that a longer trip (6-10 days) would be a lot more rewarding.

Lake 10232 (and the valley below it) is magical, and I would call it a must-see if you're in the area. The basin north of Blue Canyon (west fork of Goddard Creek) is also worth spending some time in. And I've never been to Tunemah Lake, but it looks amazing.

My suggestion for a (minimum) 6-day trip would be 2 days in to Blue Canyon, layover dayhike to Tunemah, head over Blue Canyon Pass to west fork Goddard basin, dayhike to Lake 10232, over Finger Col to Maxson Lake or thereabouts, and out. More than 2 layover days would give you time to explore Blue Canyon or hike to more nameless lake basins...or would allow for schedule slippage. It's a remote, spectacular area, and my advice (for what it's worth) is to give it the time it deserves.
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Re: Trip advice for Blue Canyon

Postby lostcoyote » Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:10 pm

if you decide to fish at tunenah, and land a BIG one, please consider returning it.

this lake was planted many moons ago and i think the big ones that i have seen reported are leftovers from days gone by. the lake is high up and i do not see how it can sustain many trout as it does lack ample food sources with the esception of yearly mosquito die offs.

the guys who posted the "big catch" at tunemah ended up returning it to live on.

as for the area, it's well worth your time to visit... but i agree with tom, that you'd want to spend more time in the area and possibly visit lake 10232 and it's valley below (one of my all time favorite sierra locations)

post edit:
i did a long loop trip which included this area a few years ago and the write up can be found here along with pictures:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5514&start=12
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Re: Trip advice for Blue Canyon

Postby rlowgren » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:43 pm

Lost coyote: thanks for the link. Truth be told, your images in Google Earth are what inspired my desire (obsession?) to get to Tunemah. The TR was a great read it sounds like trip of a lifetime and amazing that you completed it solo! And don't worry...I have much respect for all trout - especially larger ones that I might find in such a special lake. I like eating trout in the backcountry but have a tough enough time eating an 11" golden let alone a lunker.

It seems that both of you agree that this trip may best be saved for when I've got more time. I'm still hopeful that someone can come up with something that'll work but I appreciate the responses.
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Re: Trip advice for Blue Canyon

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:16 pm

rlowgren wrote:The most sane itinerary I can come up with is:
Day 1: Hoffman Mtn (read Dave and GiantBrookie's post) to Crown Lake
Day 2 Crown to Blue Canyon via mantle pass
Day 3: layover day hike to Tunemah
Day 4: Blue canyon to Maxon basin or Sceptor Lake
Day 5: out
I am flexible with trailheads and creative routes and prefer off trail travel but know its usually much slower. Our experience level is 4 and we're old rock climbers so pretty comfortable with steep terrain (perhaps less so with packs). We're young and dumb so our knees can handle mileage up to about 15 if need be but short days just mean more fishing time.

Some alternatives...lake 10232 looks incredible and would be fantastic to visit since we'd be so close. I read that Blue Canyon is doable but challenging in a day. With a layover the following we could then camp at Lake 10232 on day 3 cross the white divide to Maxon basin on day 4 and out from there. Or leaving from Courtright we could go to Maxon on day 1, Tunemah on day 2, lake 10232 on day 3, over Reinstein pass to Horseshoe lake on day 4 and out on day 5. Maxon seems like a convenient stopover but I'm not sure about fish and scenery. Any experience on this basin? Pearl lake looks nice but difficult to reach in a day fitting it in probably means no layover day.

I imagine the answer is I need more time or less ambitious goals. Can't do much bout the first one but
I can work on the latter I suppose....perhaps someone with experience in this region can come up with something interesting!


I sympathize with your limited time slot. This is the main reason I did my "Tunechuck" trip in 5 days. It was quite a bit of hiking in 5 days but I wouldn't say it was an outright death march, nor did it seem overly rushed. Your itinerary is fairly similar to Tunechuck. Note that Maxon is nothing special, either from the standpoint of fishing (skinny brookies) or scenery. Going out of Hoffman Mtn versus Courtright, Wishon, or Rancheria will save you a lot of time, so as long as your route finding is good. Putting 10232 into the mix is a bit of a stretch if you want to do both Tunemah and vicinity (the basin downstream of Tunemah is very special and worth visiting and it would be a shame to pass that up). If you go to 10232 you'll have to reduce the amount of time you spend in the Blue Canyon/Tunemah area and you'll have to deal with a long day 4 or day 5 depending on how you decide to divide the hike out.

The cross country travel from Hoffman Mtn to Tunemah is fairly gentle, with the primary issue being navigating in wooded terrain with a limited line of sight and somewhat subtle topography. When I did it I originally planned to make Blue Canyon on day 1 but had to stop short of Hummingbird Lake owing to having some stomach problems. That made for a rather leisurely day 2 that included a short move of the back to Blue Canyon followed by a climb of Finger Peak and some relaxing exploration of the some of the lower lakes in the Blue Canyon basin. Day 3 was similarly a semi layover in that the pack merely moved over Mantle Pass to Hummingbird, following a dayhike to Tunemah and the enchanted basin below it. Day 4, like day 1 was a long one, at least on paper, going all the way to Woodchuck via Maxon, Scepter, and Crown. The overall game plan maximized the time spent in the Blue Canyon/Tunemah and the Crown/Woodchuck area (hence the nickname for the trip).
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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