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Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

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Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby packelf » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:39 am

I am planning my first trip to Sequoia National Park from Sept. 5 - 8.

Because I'm asking for advice, here are the vitals:

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails

What terrain are you comfortable with?
- Class 1 terrain/trail hiking
I've gone off-trail, but generally on terrain that was not much different from being on trail. Taking this as the definition of Class 2: "More difficult hiking that may be off-trail. You may also have to put your hands down occasionally to keep your balance. May include easy snow climbs or hiking on talus/scree," I'm probably somewhere around 1.5. I'm okay with a not-so-great trail or occasional scrambling, but I'd stay far away from a scree slope. Or maybe the definition means a scree, um, flat? I've never encountered that, but maybe they're common in the Sierras, and that would be fine.

What is your main interest?
In this order:
1. Not seeing other people
2. Seeing wildlife
3. Finding a lake to swim in
4. Avoiding mosquitos
Not interested in: peak bagging, racking up miles; I want to experience a place and like to meander and explore.

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead?
Reach trailhead around 2pm Thursday, leave by 6pm Sunday

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers?
No more than 10 miles in a whole day, 5 in a half-day. I would prefer to spend more than one night in a good place to explore.

Did you prefer a loop or out and back trip?
I prefer a loop, but it's not at all a strong preference.

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that you're most interested in(Yosemite, SEKI
western sierra start or eastern start etc.)?

Not really. I'm interested in the west side since I have limited time to reach the trailhead and am coming from the Los Angeles area. I also don't want to go over 10,000 feet since I don't acclimate very quickly. Having said that, seeing Sequoias would be a fantastic bonus on top of meeting these criteria.

Will you be hiking with a dog?
No.

-------------------

Here is the itinerary I've worked out so far, and my questions and concerns about it (I am hiking with one other person who is flying in from Colorado and is a more experienced backpacker than I am, but I'm in charge of planning this particular trip):

Thurs 2pm
Hike from South Fork TH to Garfield Grove. Camp near there.

1. I drive a Prius, and the last 3 miles to the South Fork TH are dirt road. How hard on my car will that road be?
2. It's my understanding that that hike is steep and hot. We will be tackling it mid-day due to my friend's flight schedule. We're in pretty good shape and are comfortable going slow and stopping frequently, and my thinking is that we will be fresh on our first day, but is this just a foolish idea for anyone under the level of super-athlete?
3. Would we be better off hiking Atwell to Hockett to South Fork (we'd like to see Garfield Grove rather than do an out-and-back from Atwell)? The concern there would be how we would shuttle between THs and how long that would take, assuming it's best to park at South Fork and shuttle to Atwell to begin the hike. I've read people mentioning "arranging" for a shuttle between THs, but looking at the in-park shuttle map, it doesn't seem like this particular route is covered. Is there a way to arrange for a custom shuttle?
4. Assuming a South Fork TH start, are there campsites near Garfield Grove? There is a thread on here that mentions going off trail in GG and how it would be nice to camp under the trees. I'm okay with primitive camping: I'm bringing a bear canister, I don't need a fire ring or pit toilet, but it's unclear to me how common or sanctioned dispersed camping is. The rule seems to be 100ft from trail or water, but how many people actually do that, and is it okay in a Sequoia grove? And if it isn't, are there any established sites in that area?

Friday - Sunday
Hike to Hockett Lakes or Meadow. Set up camp for the next two nights. Take day trips to Evelyn Lake, Cahoon Rock, any other interesting areas. Swim in a lake.

1. Is it better to camp near the meadow or lakes in that area?
2. Are there any security concerns in leaving a base camp set up? We would take valuables like wallets and electronics with us on day hikes, but of course in the backcountry, all gear is pretty freakin valuable. I'm more concerned about theft than damage from wildlife.
3. The book I have says Hockett Lakes are 5' - 8' deep, but are they still viable in September, or have they been reduced to mudholes?
4. We have an MSR ceramic water filter. We like to filter from sources that are at least 6" deep, but given where we hike in Colorado, that usually means a river or a sizable lake. Is there any running water of any size in that area in September? Is there a reason to treat water in that area more aggressively than just using that type of filter? We've had a lot of success with that filter, but we've also had pretty high-quality water sources to start with.

Sunday
Hike out from Hockett Lakes to South Fork TH. Leave park by 6pm.

1. Our plan is to stay in a hotel in Bakersfield. Google Maps says that's a 2 hour drive. Is there any reason to believe that Sunday night traffic, or any other cause, would make that drive longer?

Wow. That's a lot of reading you just did. Thanks for your time. And thanks for any advice you can give. This is such a fantastic community. It's already been so helpful in my planning thus far.

If it'd be better for me to talk to a ranger about these things, having read some threads about the sometimes uneven nature of information there, I'd very much appreciate recommendations on which park personnel to talk to.

Again, thanks!

PE



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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby lambertiana » Thu Jul 18, 2013 8:14 pm

I can answer some of your questions. The last part of the road to South Fork is dirt and a bit on the rocky side, but my corolla makes it without any problems. Just take it slowly. From my house in Visalia it usually takes about 65-75 minutes to reach South Fork.

The first week of September it will still be hot at South Fork. The trail to Garfield Grove is steep, and the lower part has a LOT of poison oak.

There are some really nice campsites in Snowslide Canyon just as you reach Garfield Grove. And, if you are willing to fill up your water containers at the creek in Snowslide Canyon, when you crest the ridge east of Snowslide as you get to the main part of Garfield Grove, there are a lot of great places to camp. The only problem is that there is no water at that location. Where the trail crests over it is essentially a large flat area and you can camp under the sequoias. I have been thinking about doing a trip there during spring or fall just so I could camp at that spot.

If you have time on day 2, as you go through Garfield Grove you should drop packs and check out the Floyd Otter tree, which is about a quarter mile above the trail. See my trip report here:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7738
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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby packelf » Mon Jul 22, 2013 8:09 pm

Thank you so much! That was *very* helpful about the water and heat. We're very willing to haul water around and are just glad when we don't have to do it from the trailhead! And I had already read your TR about the Floyd Otter tree--it was, in many ways, an inspiration for our itinerary. :)

I'll post a trip report when I'm done.

I hadn't realized anyone had replied and was feeling sheepish that maybe my post was too long or that that trip doesn't count as a *high* sierra topic or...maybe it was just because I hadn't set up notifications. D'oh!

Anyway, I get the feeling this isn't a particularly popular route, which actually makes it perfect. Thanks again for taking the time to reply. Off to research poison ivy prevention....

PE
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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby Ken M » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:51 am

I've done the hike from Atwell, and was a nice hike in. Took us two days to get in, but we were dealing with some snow.

South fork is unappealing to me, due to the low elevation start, and the uncertainty of water this year.
Hot, hot, hot. What I call a slog.

Another way in, about the same distance, is from the south, Shake Camp in Mountain Home State Forest. Good roads, probably save an hour driving to/from. Starts hiking at about 6300 feet, so the hiking is cooler. First 7 miles or so are along the Tule R, water should not be an issue, and is gently ascending, many, many places to camp near water.

I work on the crew that maintains this trail, and it is in good shape and easy to follow.

I like the water availability, higher starting elevation, less elevation gain. You won't see many people past the first two miles. You pass through a couple Sequoia groves.
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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jul 23, 2013 8:11 pm

The heat at 6000+ has been horrible, so imagining a hike out of Atwell.... wow. Camp at the trailhead and start at 4 am...

The first quarter mile, as I recall, we were walking through encroaching poison oak - it's nice once you get to the shade of the grove.
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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby packelf » Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:13 pm

Thanks to both of you!

Since we can't start until at least noon, the hike out of South Fork is making us nervous, what with the heat, poison oak, exposed-ness and steep slope. And if the heat has been bad at 6000', well, it'd be that much worse below 4000' at South Fork.

What we'd *really* like to do is start at Atwell and finish at South Fork, but without 2 cars, we can't figure a way to get back to Atwell.

Staying at South Fork campground the first night and striking out pre-dawn has become our back-up plan, but we'd hate to miss half a day just kicking around a campground. Our only hope is that the heat might be less in early Sept. But having lived in coastal California for a long time now, I know that Sept. here is just another summer month.

The Shake Camp start sounds intriguing. Can't argue with cooler temps and water. And the Prius would appreciate some good roads. I'll definitely check it out. Thanks! And thanks to you and your crew for maintaining the trail!

PE
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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby gochicagobears! » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:46 am

packelf,
i did that exact hike last year in september. it was brutally hot the entire way in, the elevation was uphill nonstop and all the water sources we had listed on our map were nearly dried up at each spot. ditto the comments about poison oak. it was everywhere on the trail the first two miles in, and two of our group (out of nine) got it even though they had long pants on. thankfully, i didn't even though i had shorts on.

we saw a juvenile bear and loads of tracks on the trail. exercise good food storage procedures.

note: poor signage to get to Hockett Lake. we missed the turn/spur trail for it and continued walking approx .5 miles until we got to a large meadow (not Hockett Meadow where the ranger station is) and realized our mistake. if you get to a large meadow you've gone too far! from our vantage point, we were unable to see the lake from the trail on the way up and there was no signage. there was plenty of water in september, but it has a really muddy bottom that take a while to dissipate if you're pumping water. great campsites, though.

TONS of brookies in the nearby streams about 2-3 miles from Hockett Lake.

have fun!
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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby packelf » Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:05 am

Wow! Great information! We're thinking about some kind of temporary garbage-bag gaiters for the poison oak section--which will then be removed while wearing latex gloves and all of that stuffed into another garbage bag. Probably overkill, but it would really be a drag to get an exposure while in the backcountry, as I'm sure your fellow-hikers can attest.

We're renting a bear canister from REI. We've never used one before, but seems like it's worth the weight in this instance, especially now that you've mentioned seeing a bear. I'm really hoping not to see any mothers of juvenile bears.

Thanks for the tip on the signage. We'll try to scour the maps for the turnoff to Hockett Lake. As for the lake's muddy bottom, we learned at our last lake to pump before stepping in, but that lake (in CO) had a nice, clean bank at the shore. I'm guessing Hockett is boggy and grassy around the shoreline.

Finally, I grew up in Evanston. Go Bears!

PE
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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby caddis » Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:11 am

If you like hot, steep, torturous hikes with poison oak, I'd advise taking the trip out of South Fork and leaving in the afternoon. The hike from Atwell Mill is a much easier hike. The Hockett lakes aren't impressive I'd recommend taking a day hike to Evelyn lake or the Blossom lakes.
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Re: Feedback on Hockett Lakes itinerary for early Sept.

Postby gochicagobears! » Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:23 am

yeah, we were a bit shocked to hear a member of our group who was at the front yell "Bear!" my head was on a swivel looking for mama. not my idea of a relaxing hike to deal with that up close.
you're right, the lake is grassy and boggy, but because of that it was pretty warm and perfect for swimming.
we left some rocks piled up on the side of trail last year to mark the spur to Hockett (once you're on the spur for about 20 yards the lake is visible) so hopefully they made it thru the winter and are still there, or someone else has denoted the spot with some other type of marker.

have fun out there!

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