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Trip Advice: Fish Creek Trail

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Trip Advice: Fish Creek Trail

Postby alichtenheld » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:54 am

Hello, I'm hoping to get some advice on trails and conditions for a backpacking honeymoon I'm planning this summer. New to this board so apologies in advance if I'm not following correct protocol here.

Background info:
- Trip is late July to early August and we're planning on 12 days
- We've done a lot of backpacking and are ok w/ some x-country but would rather avoid long, brutal, exposed, waterless climbs
- We're looking for a leisurely pace w/ layover days, day hikes etc
- We're interested in big views, lakes and trees but especially solitude and avoiding high-use areas

With all of that in mind I've been looking at putting together a loop up the fish creek trail, fish valley, peter pande lake, purple lake etc. Here are some questions I have:

1. Blowdown - I know this area was affected by a recent blowdown but it's been tough for me to find current conditions. Mammoth visitor center was not a lot of help. Anyone know recent info for this area?
2. Heat/Water - We've never backpacked in this area before and I don't have a sense of how badly the lower elevations are baked out at this time of year. Is it totally miserable? Will we have trouble getting water?
3. Other ideas - Does this area seem like a good idea for our goals? Is there something better/obvious that I'm missing?

Any advice or info you can provide to these 1st time Sierra backpackers would be very much appreciated! Thank you!

Andy



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Re: Trip Advice: Fish Creek Trail

Postby tim » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:29 am

I haven't been back to this area since the blowdown, but a lot of work was done on clearance last summer, so I doubt there will be too many problems. On our trip in summer 2010 (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5344), we went in at Duck Pass and came out at Reds Meadow - the shuttles in Mammoth work well to get between the trailheads. That means you don't have to spend so long in the lower elevations.

I would definitely recommend a stop at Pika Lake (good option for the first night). You'll probably then want to head along the JMT to Purple Lake and perhaps Ram Lake (good for getting off the beaten track). There's plenty to see in the Fish Creek headwaters and lakes on the north side of the Silver Divide and once away from the JMT its very quiet. I'd come back down the Minnow Creek trail and definitely spend at least one night if not two at Iva Bell Hot Springs. It can be busy there, so try to plan this for a weekday not a weekend. From the Hot Springs its not a bad hike out to Reds Meadow in one day (we split it over two, but I wouldn't consider that necessary).
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Re: Trip Advice: Fish Creek Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:48 am

My husband and I did it a few years back, at a slow pace. We went in Duck Lake trailhead, dropped to Fish Creek (full of mosquitoes), Olive Lake (our favorite), x-country to Ann and Peter Pande, trail to Lake of Lone Indian, Virginia Lake, cross country to Ram Lakes, down to Purple Lake, back out via Duck Lake pass (Pika Lake has the best camping). It is a good fishing route, but there are areas of more spectacular scenery if you are looking for more high alpine country. I am not fond of Purple Lake - way too many people - it is a PCT grand central station and I do not like the trails out of Devils Post Pile/Reds Meadow! The Duck Lake trailhead worked out well for us.

We also did the middle section of the Sierra High Route (Roper's route) from North Lake to Reds Meadow. I liked this route more, but it is a lot harder, with more off trail and a few difficult passes. We dropped off the crest past Crystal Lake to Lake George. The remainder of the route down to Reds Meadow is full of walking through burned areas.

"Better" is a relative term. One of my favorite place to go is the Ionian Basin, but many would not appreciate it. Same for South Lake to Dusy Basin, Barrett Basin, Palisade Lakes to Lakes Basin and Dumbell Lakes. There are a lot of trip reports in this forum. You may want to read some to get ideas. I am not sure any one is "better" than another - just depends on what you want.
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Re: Trip Advice: Fish Creek Trail

Postby cgundersen » Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:47 am

Hi Andy,
I often find myself seconding Daisy's comments, so here goes again: I have only done the Devil's Postpile access to Fish Creek once, but have accessed the Fish Creek drainage several other times via Duck Pass or McGee Pass. In my book, McGee wins hands down. The diversity of the scenery, especially on what will be your hardest day (the first!), is great. My wife and I did a slow, high loop through this area earlier this summer, and it was fabulous (a TR was posted, but I've been slow about adding more photos; still it should give you some ideas). Anyway, there are a lot of ways you could tweak this route, and even stretch it out to include some of the lakes in the western Silver Divide. Plus, there is a use trail all the way up Hopkins Basin to Hopkins pass and down the McGee side, so by returning via Silver Divide Pass and Mono Creek, you can turn the whole thing into a loop. Since there are plenty of lakes through this whole area, you won't get stuck for water, and by late July the bugs should be nearly gone.
But, since this is a honeymoon trip, you could consider the Honeymoon Lakes over Piute Pass or up the Pine Creek trail...............
cg
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Re: Trip Advice: Fish Creek Trail

Postby The hermit » Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:42 pm

I did a similar loop last oct. Started @reds meadow with plans to camp halfway to the hotsprings. Since it was fairly low elevation(im from sea level. slept @the trailhead to acclimate) without much climbing i was able to push it the 13+ miles. So glad i did. I was able to spend a whole day there ( started on a monday). Wed morning i continued south to lost keys lakes. From there I went up past bench lakes to a small tarn @10400(beautiful views of the ritter range to the north). The next day i went up a gentle slope to the east(10600 pass). Then down to 10100 then I followed a bench south for about 2mi. Staying @10000. Beetlebug lake was well worth the effort.the next day I left via the trail andin to wilbur may lake beautiful! (bummed i didn't have time for peter pande, olive, and anne). XC is possible between beetlebug and anne but i had my dog and it was very steep looking.then i followed the jmt north camping @virginia lake and then deer creek on my last night..worked out perfect because i only had enough fuel for one cup of tea before i ran out.Trip of a lifetime until the next trip!
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Re: Trip Advice: Fish Creek Trail

Postby HikeSierraNevada » Sat Jun 29, 2013 12:20 am

alichtenheld wrote:Hello, I'm hoping to get some advice on trails and conditions for a backpacking honeymoon

You've got to visit Iva Bell hot springs if this is a honeymoon trip. It's a high-use area on weekends, hit or miss during the week, but well worth the trip. Way better route than the JMT between Purple Lk and Red's Meadow.

Background info:
- Trip is late July to early August and we're planning on 12 days

Definately check out the Thousand Island Lake area and day hike Devil's Postpile and Rainbow Falls (rainbows in the afternoon sun). Red's Meadow would be a great layout/resupply point between Duck Pass and 1000 Island Lk if you want a shuttle trip.

- We've done a lot of backpacking and are ok w/ some x-country but would rather avoid long, brutal, exposed, waterless climbs
- We're looking for a leisurely pace w/ layover days, day hikes etc
- We're interested in big views, lakes and trees but especially solitude and avoiding high-use areas

With all of that in mind I've been looking at putting together a loop up the fish creek trail, fish valley, peter pande lake, purple lake etc. Here are some questions I have:

1. Blowdown - I know this area was affected by a recent blowdown but it's been tough for me to find current conditions. Mammoth visitor center was not a lot of help. Anyone know recent info for this area?

Was in this area for Memorial Weekend. Lots of blowdown from Nov 2011 huge windstorm, but the trails have been cleared. No problemo.

2. Heat/Water - We've never backpacked in this area before and I don't have a sense of how badly the lower elevations are baked out at this time of year. Is it totally miserable? Will we have trouble getting water?

Weather can be hot at low elevation exposed trails, but Mammoth is at 8,000 ft and a lot of the trails are above that. If it's hot, then there's a good chance of an afternoon thunderstorm and perhaps some afternoon rain. It rarely lasts very long and the thunder is romantic if you're not on a high pass. A lot of the Fish Creek Trail is hot and exposed until you drop down to Fish Creek and get into the forest. Some small creeks might be dry, but major creeks and lakes will have water until late August or longer typically. This was a below average winter but it's not the desert.

3. Other ideas - Does this area seem like a good idea for our goals? Is there something better/obvious that I'm missing?

YES. You picked an awesome area. Other great areas to day hike or do short backpack trips in the vicinity include Rock Creek and up above Bishop. Get a guidebook, drive up to 9 or 10,000 ft and go for it. Lot's of options.

Any advice or info you can provide to these 1st time Sierra backpackers would be very much appreciated! Thank you!

Take time to acclimate - don't push too hard the first few days. Pack light. Start early. Enjoy the afternoons with a nice swim. Oh, and enjoy your honeymoon.

Andy
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