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The Dayhike That Refused to End

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The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:19 pm

On Tuesday (30 July) I dragged a very athletic student, Josh Marroquin on my second long dayhike of the summer, hoping to follow up on the very successful fishing expedition 3 weeks earlier, and building on the "Do the backpacking trip as a dayhike". The target this time was to climb Spanish Mtn. to get views of Kings Canyon for geomorphology studies I'm doing--ie some "custom" oblique photos better than I can do from Google Earth. Also on the list, of course, was fishing the Geraldine Lakes, particularly the upper one and a nearby unnamed lake. I considered attempting the Spanish jeep trail in my Pathfinder, which, if run to the end, would have shortened the trip considerably, but mixed reports about the degree of difficulty caused me to err on the side of caution and start off from Forest Road 11S07 south of the jeep trail. My rationale was that if I got stopped at the first hard spot I had heard about on the Spanish trail, I'd be farther away from the target than launching from the high point on 11S07. What I didn't realize at the time was that 11S07 is very inaccurately positioned on the JMW topo map and our true kickoff was about 400' lower than that shown on the JWM map (about 7200 versus 7600). In any case, I figured an off trail hike up the skyline (W) ridge of Spanish Mtn. would have great views, so it would be worth a shot. Similar to the previous "dayhike of dreams" the kickoff seemed to go seamlessly, for we left Fresno at 6 am and were hiking at 8 am.

Compared to the previous offtrail "backpack in a dayhike" trip to a great west flank fishing lake nearby, I figured this trip would be physically harder, owing to more elevation gain, but would be easier route finding because of following a skyline ridge. As it turns out the mapping error on the JMW map caused me to make a series of routefinding errors that chained together and cost a lot of time. In a nutshell the 400' difference on the ridge top at the start caused me to "shift" the identity of all the bumps on the ridge downward and westward. This would have not been so bad, had I not tried to sidehill point 9295 in order to save 500' of gain. I didn't realize that my takeoff point for the sidehill traverse was 300-350' lower than I thought and along a different "bump" than the one I thought I was traversing around. I thus wandered into this meadow thinking I had successfully walked around 9295 and arrived at Garlic Meadow. The wooded and rather low angle nature of the surrounding area, further compounded matters. After some ascending through trees following a very long and sinuous walk through the wooded flats--thought I was wandering around E of Garlic Mdw but was not--I rounded the shoulder of the real 9295 to the real Garlic Mdw thinking I was rounding a shoulder of 9368. Of course I mistook 9368 for Spanish Mtn., an error not realized until topping out on 9368. We reached 9368 about at the time I had thought I'd reach Spanish Mtn. After thinking about it for a bit and briefly considering aborting things for some fishing at the Spanish Lakes, we trudged on to the summit of Spanish Mtn. Could I have avoided this error if I had GPS or even a compass? Yes, but part of what makes off trail hiking fun for me is making myself do it with topo only. As it stands, if I had more checking my topo more regularly I should have been able to figure things out properly. Returning to the hike itself, the start was especially grueling off trail, for it was steep, had some moderately thick brush in places, and had an annoying amount of down timber. We reached the summit a bit after 1230 pm.
SpanishMapReconcileCrop.jpg
overlay of Sierra NF roads and JMW map; registry isn't perfect, but this indicates the actual position of the kickoff point compared to where the JMW topo had us. Approximate hiking route in purple.


The Spanish Mtn. summit views were not quite as good as I thought because it does not drop off into Kings Canyon directly from the summit. Various trees also block views into the canyon. Nonetheless it is a nice vantage point. For peak baggers who want to do this peak more "conventionally" from Spanish Lakes, it is a class 1 walk up, except for the summit itself, a low-angle pile (ie no exposure) of car sized boulders/blocks that is class 2. The register is in standard aluminum cylinder, although the book is a calendar book, which has caused some confusion among some of the neophytes who have signed in, for they signed on the appropriate page for the date of the year, rather than in sequence. This leads to some signatures that are way "out of sequence". What is striking is the lack of visitation for such an accessible peak. The small book in the cylinder was placed in 1997 and there look to be an average of a half dozen entries per year.
Geraldines2886FrSpanish.jpg
Geraldine (L) and Upper Geraldine (R) from Spanish Mtn. Skyline includes the Palisades and Split Mtn.

From the summit we descended to beautiful Upper Geraldine Lake, the most alpine of all of the lakes in this area. The descent began with some scree, some of it suitable for "scree skiing", followed by low-angle friction slabs. Josh, who is a great athlete in terrific shape, is still getting accustomed to various scrambling aspects: bouldering (probably why he didn't tag the actual peak summit), scree skiing (took initial descent off the ridge very cautiously), and friction walking on slabs. This led to a rather slow 500' descent to the lake and added to the "being behind schedule" aspect that began with my huge route finding errors on the ascent. Partway down, Josh had a big rock roll on his ankle which made going painful for him afterwards. I wasn't 100 percent, either, for, at the beginning of the hike, no more than 300' above the car, I had hit my trailing (right) leg on a log during a low-speed hurdling move causing a deep bruise (charlie horse)to the inside corner of my right quad. This made my right leg rather stiff and made things more precarious for my left knee which has been recovering from an injury sustained on the earlier big dayhike.
Geraldine2900_300.jpg
Upper Geraldine lake is the most alpine of the lakes in this area. The fish are rather small, though.

In any case, I don't know exactly what time we reached the Upper Geraldine, but it must have been 230 pm or so. No rises decorated the lake surface and I did not see a fish cruising until I saw a brookie dart in and out of a sunken log near where I was rigging up. It looked reasonably large---12" I thought at the time. I finished the first retrieve and started jigging off the drop off for fun and the fish came darting out again and smashed the lure but was not well enough hooked for me to bring it in. I encountered little action, however, for quite awhile afterwards. As Josh napped, I then started circling the lake to find the optimal casting spot. Clearly the fish were hanging really deep and this was verified when I found a stupendous drop off into deep blue water. I sank the lure all the way to the bottom lifted off, touched down, lifted off, etc. In this way I caught fish on the last 6 consecutive casts (lost one of them pulling it out of the water). The brookies were not impressive, running 9-9.5". What looked like 11-12" down in the water was in fact 9-9.5" in reality. The fish were medium bodies rather than skinny and big headed, so there may be a higher top end here, but I don't think its that much bigger than what I caught. Finally reaching the sweet spot in the lake to fully explore the fishing potential, I realized that it was now time to go--in fact pushing things a bit late. I think I stopped fishing at about 340 or 345pm. There were still matters of filtering more water (had consumed all of the 3L I began the hike with), cleaning the 5 brookies, and putting them in my usual towels.

I would guess we left the lake no earlier than 4 pm. Logic dictated that we should probably forego anymore lake stops and head straight for the car, but there was this unnamed lake nearby that I figured I'd regret if I didn't inspect it. It is fairly shallow and I didn't see a sign of fish life. I took 5 casts, all of which were retrieves from the bottom of the deepest spot. Nada. Fishless? I'm not sure I'd say that. I didn't see aquatic insects or some of the other signs of a fishless lake. A fairly well beaten use trail to the lake may also be an indicator because folks don't visit a lake like this unless it has fish and the trails in this area are pretty faint to begin with, too.

Now it was well after 4 pm and we headed for Spanish Lakes. We soon found that even the trails shown as "maintained" in this area are hardly that and major parts of the Geraldine to Spanish route simply don't exist, or at least they don't exist where the map shows them. The descent to Big Spanish lake was on slabs and talus and this took Josh quite awhile. We arrived at the lake at about 6 pm and stuck off for Little Spanish. It was becoming clear that we wouldn't reach the car before dark, but I figured, if it's going to be dark anyway, I should at least get a few token casts into Little Spanish: 5 casts. One these retrieves had a large fish latch on, but it came off. I also saw a very chunky rainbow rise (probably in the 12-14" range). There wasn't a lot of activity though (no cruisers seen and two rises).

We departed Little Spanish at 630 pm or a bit before. We planned to follow the trail to the Spanish jeep trail, then decide what to do. We reached the jeep trail end at about 705 pm. I figured it would take two hours off trail to reach the car. If we headed off trail back to the car we'd be an hour from the car when it got dark. I remember vividly how difficult it was to navigate off trail in the dark from a dayhike in 2011 that intercepted the Topix fishing crew at the Chain Lakes (then went off trail to Spotted Lakes). And the off trail hiking coming from Spotted Lakes to the trail was childs play compared to the rough off trail down to my car at 11S07. Considering the navigational problems (really bad trajectory could even end up heading into Kings Canyon) and the possibility of injury in the dark (huge number of tripping hazards), we figured the best move would be to hike out to 11S07 on the jeep trail. That way, when darkness fell we'd be on the jeep trail and could find our way out. The 5-mile jeep trail seemed endless. We were walking by flashlight the last hour or less on it, followed by an additional hour walking up 11S07. After the never ending jeep trail, the last bit of road walking also seemed without end. We reached my car at exactly 10 pm and Fresno at a bit before midnight. The hiking distance looks to be about 16-17 miles, of which half of the distance was off trail, with 5200' or more of elevation gain.
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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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby SweetSierra » Wed Jul 31, 2013 5:06 pm

That's a very ambitious day hike. I enjoyed reading your account of the day. I've wondered about the Spanish Lakes. One of my first backpacks was on a trail (still there on maps) which traverses a slope thousands of feet above Garlic Falls and well below the Spanish Lakes. I think many of those trails (to Spanish Lakes-Garlic Meadow) used to be maintained (or more heavily used) in the past but because they haven't been used as much in recent years, have become difficult to follow.
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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 31, 2013 6:45 pm

SweetSierra wrote:That's a very ambitious day hike. I enjoyed reading your account of the day. I've wondered about the Spanish Lakes. One of my first backpacks was on a trail (still there on maps) which traverses a slope thousands of feet above Garlic Falls and well below the Spanish Lakes. I think many of those trails (to Spanish Lakes-Garlic Meadow) used to be maintained (or more heavily used) in the past but because they haven't been used as much in recent years, have become difficult to follow.

Yes, it is odd that this area seems to see so little use compared to nearby basins. Spanish Lakes, by the way are a study in contrasts. Big Spanish lake is large, deep, and attractive, whereas, Little Spanish is shallow, with a brown water color, and fringed be reeds and mosquito infested swamps. Both have rainbow trout, but the fish appear to be bigger in Little Spanish, which is why I took my 5 token casts in there instead of the big lake. Without use of the jeep trail, they can be reached from the Crown Valley trailhead about 6 miles away. One thing that cuts visitation in some years is the fact that a stream crossing early on (1 mi or something from car) can be impassable well into the summer (not this year owing to the light winter). I recall being turned back at the crossing in July(?) 1995.

For those with the vehicle and skill, it is all of a short mile from the end of the Spanish jeep trail to Little Spanish. Perhaps it was because I was walking down the jeep trail, but it seemed to me that this trail is not as hard as has been written. The few Mitchell class 4 moves look to be low class 4/high class 3, there are long stretches of sub class 3 (ie stretches where 4WD isn't necessary) and I saw only one "tight fit between trees" move and this had an alternative bypassing it. The brush growing in from the sides on the lower parts of the trail (ie scraping paint as you go by) are still there, though.
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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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby canukyea » Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:18 pm

You guys didn't stop by Twin Lakes? They look very small but do they hold any fish?
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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:59 am

canukyea wrote:You guys didn't stop by Twin Lakes? They look very small but do they hold any fish?

I had received an earlier report that those lakes have small brookies, so I bypassed them, given how late we were running leaving the upper Geraldines.
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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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:12 am

Sounds like a fun adventure GB which those of you who live close enough to the Sierra
can do. Living 5-6 hrs away the drive is long enough to prevent me from doing
these kind of trips. :(
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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:35 am

maverick wrote:Sounds like a fun adventure GB which those of you who live close enough to the Sierra can do. Living 5-6 hrs away the drive is long enough to prevent me from doing
these kind of trips. :(

Yes the driving distance is a big advantage. As a Bay Area native (lived there for first 46 years before moving out late spring 2005), I really miss living there, and I find every excuse to go there, be it for teaching or research purposes. The proximity of the High Sierra is a huge perk of living here, however, and there is no way I could do dayhikes like this from the Bay Area. The past summers (since 2008) I have crammed with research activities that severely limited my High Sierra time. This summer I resolved to take back some of my summer and get in a bit more time in the mountains. Next summer, I hope to continue this trend and add back the "annual deathmarch backpack trip" that I haven't done since the Tunechuck trip in 2008. I figure I need to take better advantage of where I live, especially since I'm still young enough that I've seen very little slippage in my hiking speed and off trail agility. I can't take that for granted, because my dad went from death march capable at age 63 to mild trips only at 64.
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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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:47 am

GB wrote:

This summer I resolved to take back some of my summer and get in a bit more time
in the mountains. Next summer, I hope to continue this trend and add back the "annual
deathmarch backpack trip" that I haven't done since the Tunechuck trip in 2008.


Great to read this GB, maybe now there is a chance for us to have a meet up in the
backcountry! :nod:
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby SSSdave » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:57 pm

gb, instead of filling your bag full of 14 inch brookies to bring home to make your cat happy,
think you ought to be taking your little hammer out,
chipping away some good chunks of your favorite rocks,
in order to put them into your bag instead til tis properly full,
so you can do some proper chemical and spectral analysis back at your lab,

that will take care of your notion of any more death marches
:wink:
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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:37 pm

SSSdave wrote:gb, instead of filling your bag full of 14 inch brookies to bring home to make your cat happy,
think you ought to be taking your little hammer out,
chipping away some good chunks of your favorite rocks,
in order to put them into your bag instead til tis properly full,
so you can do some proper chemical and spectral analysis back at your lab,
that will take care of your notion of any more death marches
:wink:

Yes, and you know those rocks sitting in the pack always have their corners oriented just right to dig into one's back.
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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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby canukyea » Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:38 pm

giantbrookie wrote:
canukyea wrote:You guys didn't stop by Twin Lakes? They look very small but do they hold any fish?

I had received an earlier report that those lakes have small brookies, so I bypassed them, given how late we were running leaving the upper Geraldines.


Ah ok, I often wonder if there is any correlation between lake size and fish size. The downside of dayhikes is that the number of lakes you can fish thoroughly goes down dramatically. I have sometimes thought "oh yes, let me try here" at the risk of stumbling back to the trailhead way past sunset. Saying no is hard.
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Re: The Dayhike That Refused to End

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:49 am

canukyea wrote:
giantbrookie wrote:
canukyea wrote:You guys didn't stop by Twin Lakes? They look very small but do they hold any fish?

I had received an earlier report that those lakes have small brookies, so I bypassed them, given how late we were running leaving the upper Geraldines.
Ah ok, I often wonder if there is any correlation between lake size and fish size. The downside of dayhikes is that the number of lakes you can fish thoroughly goes down dramatically. I have sometimes thought "oh yes, let me try here" at the risk of stumbling back to the trailhead way past sunset. Saying no is hard.

Actually, I've encountered a number of small lakes with big fish, just as I have a number of really big lakes with small fish. What governs fish size, so it seems, is the balance between the available food in a given lake and the number of fish. The latter is governed by spawning habitat and/or (if applicable) air drop fingerling allotment. More or less, the lakes with bigger fish have a lower population density than those with the small fish.

As far as dayhikes versus backpacks is concerned you are absolutely right. The hiking time to fishing time ratio tends not to be optimal in many cases. Of course if the hiking is super efficient as it was for the earlier Woodchuck Country dayhike then a large amount of fishing time can be had (5.5 hours in that case versus about 6.5 hours of hiking). In contrast I figure I had a total of 1.5 hours of fishing versus 12.5 hours of hiking on the last trip. Next time will be better.
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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