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Advice: Twin Lakes area

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Re: Advice: Twin Lakes area

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Sep 06, 2013 9:08 am

DLeikam wrote:For the first time ever, I looked at a map of Desolation and started planning the route in to lakes around Aloha, that seems doable and looks beautiful. Unfortunately, I miscalculated and did so badly: since school has started, we aren't able to leave Thursday night, we're stuck with a Friday evening departure and Sunday morning return. That's hardly time to do anything unless you hike in Friday night in the dark which probably won't fly. Regarding Waca or lakes around that, what trail would you take in this time of the year with the water taxi not running at Echo? Looks like a good initial climb but would it be the trail head out of Twin Bridges (Ralston?).

Just as a heads up most of the lakes out of Echo are fishless, as a result of cessation of air dropping or gill netting. Although this isn't a bad spot to hike around, I know one of your priorities is fishing, so I don't think this would be a good choice. Avoid the Twin Bridges entry, by the way, for it is an off trail route that can actually get you into class 3 if you take the wrong ledge or use trail. In early season, when some of the slabs are wet and slippery, there have actually been slip and fall deaths on this route.

With a Friday eve. departure I'm guessing you'll car camp somewhere up there. Fallen Leaf campground might work, if you go in out of Glen Alpine, Eagle Falls, or Meeks Bay. Since this is essentially an overnighter, one option would be to go Glen Alpine to Susie Lake, the go with your daypack to there to your choice of Heather, Half Moon, and Gilmore. Susie and Half Moon will have the best rate of return, whereas the other two may be off and on but hold the promise of some nicer fish. On Sunday, if you inspect the topo map, you may see that the terrain between Heather and Grass Lake is pretty mellow and you can make a little loop with a mellow off trail route to Grass Lake and then go out to the trailhead.

For the Eagle Falls trailhead options, I'd suggest beelining it for Lower Velma, which is a pretty destination with quality fishing opportunities (brookies, rainbows, and browns, of decent size). Middle Velma can be interesting (but is more of a hit or miss), and Upper Velma has the quantity brookies to bail you out if you're pulling a skunk on the more premium lakes. The hike to Lower Velma is a bit shorter than going to Susie (I think it's about 4.5-5 mi and Susie is about 5.5, but I could be wrong); they're pretty comparable in terms of degree of hiking difficulty.

The scenery at both Susie/Heather/etc. and the Velmas is nice. Lower Velma is dominated by massive granite slabs, whereas Susie/Heather/Half Moon/Gilmore is reds and grays of metamorphic rock that are reminiscent of East L. but not quite as rugged.

There are Desolation west flank options out of Wrights Lake, too, but, although easy hikes, many of the lakes there are smallish to medium sized brookies and there are fewer lakes with big fish there.

Have a great 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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Re: Advice: Twin Lakes area

Postby oleander » Fri Sep 06, 2013 4:50 pm

Do you live in northern CA? I live in the Bay Area, and have found that two-day/one-night trips to Desolation are perfect for the limited two-day weekend. Honestly, I usually return feeling as if I've been out for 4 days, when in reality it's only been one night.

The key is the short drive. And getting a very early start on Saturday. I leave home around 5-5:30 a.m., and am on the trail by 9. (I've found that method superior to driving up Friday night and camping somewhere. You avoid driving in traffic; driving in the dark; and getting up early in the freezing cold on Sat. morning. Usually my Saturday hike does not start any earlier if I've camped up there as opposed to just driving up the day of!)

Agreed that Twin Bridges is not a great trailhead for beginners, or anyone scared of heights. The use trail is sketchy, paralleling the waterfall up the hill. I'm pretty sure most of my backpacking friends, the ones who have only tried easy cross-country, would refuse to go up it with me. Which is too bad, as that is the very nearest Sierras trailhead to the Bay Area.

Wrights Lake or Echo Lake trailheads are second-best, in terms of drive time.

Fallen Leaf Lake to Susie Lake, or Eagle to the Velmas, adds a surprising amount of drive time. I like both those hikes a lot, but if I have only two days I think hard about whether I can tolerate the extra 45 minutes or so driving each way.

There are also trailheads off the I-80 and Donner Pass that are quick drives from any northern CA location. I haven't backpacked there in a long time, so can't help there.

Again, can't comment on fishing anywhere.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Advice: Twin Lakes area

Postby SweetSierra » Fri Sep 06, 2013 5:23 pm

I can't speak to the Lake Tahoe area but when I lived along the south-central CA coast and we left to drive to the eastern Sierra very early on the day the trip began, it's worked well for the same reasons you outline. Alternatively, if you crash somewhere in the desert at 1 am or later the day before and have to get up early, it's pretty exhausting. But leaving early on a Saturday avoids the traffic and though you're tired, you just have to drive to the trailhead and start hiking.
It's so true how a couple of days or even one night can seem like much more.
I felt that recently on a two-night hike through the Convict Canyon lakes. It didn't seem long enough for the hours spent driving but time seems to slow way down once you're out. I felt like I'd been out much longer.
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Re: Advice: Twin Lakes area

Postby DLeikam » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:27 pm

It's amazing that I had almost scrapped the trip because of the shortened schedule, come here and read, and now I am super excited to go :D It's funny where the thread went because I experienced this exact thing on our last trip. We lugged up to East lake, had three days, two nights planned. Ended up coming back after the first night because of thunder storms but felt like we had been out for much longer than just one night. Thank you all very much for the suggestions and observations. Right now I'm not sure where we will head to this next weekend, but we will definitely be sleeping under the Sierra stars somewhere above 9,000 feet. Thanks for breathing life back into our weekend!
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