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Visalia (Bear Can / Resupply Questions)

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Visalia (Bear Can / Resupply Questions)

Postby ltm01 » Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:19 pm

What a great resource you have here. Group of 4 planning an eight day loop walk beginning at Lodgepole in Sequoia National Park. This is where we intend to get the permit and bear canisters and would appreciate your opinion on the feasibility of our initial planning. First time in the Sierra Nevada, flying in from Australia second week of August.

Plan is to land in Los Angeles 6.30am and get the bus to Visalia. These questions are really about the suitability of Visalia as a place to get our supplies. We’ll spend a couple of nights there sorting ourselves out. We’ll have all of our gear but no food. We’ll need eight days’ worth of food and want to get the packaged freeze dried or dehydrated dinners.
I have done some googling and can see there are a couple of sports/camping shops in Visalia but they don’t advertise the freeze dried food. Is it available in Visalia, could you recommend a shop? I am assuming that a town of this size so close to the ranges that there will be a few to look around?

Are bear canisters available for hire in Visalia? My research so far suggests they are only available at the ranger stations? We are thinking of the shuttle transport from Visalia to Lodgepole ranger station. It appears they only have the six day canisters, we want to be on the trail for eight days. So can we hire the nine day canisters in Visalia? Otherwise we’ll just get an extra one between us or start in Mineral King where the nine day ones are available.
Thanks in advance.
Last edited by ERIC on Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: modified subject line for clarity



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Re: Visalia

Postby maverick » Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:06 pm

Hi Itm01,

Welcome to HST!

You can rent larger one here: http://www.wild-ideas.net/

For the food, purchase them on line from the manufacturer or REI, then have them sent to the Lodgepole Post Office (if they are still open, call to confirm), or have it sent to a post office in Visalia and have them hold it for you, but make sure to call them or e-mail them about their procedures for doing this, may be different then the ones along the PCT.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: Visalia

Postby cslaght » Wed Jan 06, 2016 8:59 pm

Visalia is a great place to stay for a couple of days, as I've been a resident for most my life. Unfortunately, it isn't the greatest resupply hub for extended trips. The only place I can think of that comes to mind that would sell enough dehydrated food would be Sport Chalet. They aren't bad, and you can rent the Garcia boxes there as well (though I'm not sure the size and price for 8 days would fit for you guys). There is an REI in Fresno, but the fact you guys are taking public transportation would complicate matters in getting there. HOWEVER, there are new routes that are starting to take shape and the feasibility of getting to Fresno from Visalia and then to the park is getting easier. There is a brand new shuttle that goes from Visalia to Fresno for $10 a person (round trip I do believe) that hits the big areas (Airport, University, downtown) which gives access to the meager bus lines in Fresno. (I would not recommend, but in a pinch it can work). As Maverick suggested, the best would be to order online and have it shipped to the Post Office. If you're staying downtown, major amenities are all close by, as is the shuttle to the Park. It is a little surprising a town (city?) of ~130,000 people is a little short on the amenities, though I guess I'm used to it.
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Re: Visalia

Postby franklin411 » Wed Jan 06, 2016 9:18 pm

If it were me, I'd say spend your initial few days getting settled in LA and not Visalia. Visalia in August is going to be miserable (100-105 F during the daytime), especially when LAX is going to be 25 degrees cooler. Not to mention the fact that there's a lot more to do in LA than Visalia. If you're paying for a hotel room either way, why not get settled in LA for a few days and then take the bus to Visalia?

Also, I'd consider renting a car for all or part of the trip. LA is not an expensive market for car rentals (Denver is horrible), but it depends on your insurance situation since you're an international traveler. Usually it costs me $100/week including tax to rent a car in LA, and once or twice I've gotten one for $60/week. You can often get cars on the weekend for $10-$20 a day plus tax, so maybe rent a car for 2 days on the weekend, hang out in LA/shop for supplies, and then take the bus up to Visalia.
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Re: Visalia

Postby limpingcrab » Wed Jan 06, 2016 9:35 pm

Sports Chalet has stuff, as mentioned, but they also sell it at either of the wal-marts for cheaper. Lot's of freeze dried backpacking meals there.

Also, depending on your route choice, you do not need bear cans in Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park with the exception of a few specific spots. Learn how to hang your food and you'll save weight and the packing/renting hassle. People on here will probably be mad at me for telling you that but bear cans are annoying and heavy to carry and the worst part is that most park rangers will lie and tell you they are required (just say you have one and be on your way, easier than arguing).

Here's where they are required:
Bear_Cans.jpg
map


PS: Visalia is great and will have anything you need! I have a pretty open schedule and may be able to give you a ride, although the park does have a shuttle from Visalia to lodgepole in the summer now.
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Re: Visalia

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jan 06, 2016 9:58 pm

Because freeze dried prepack meals are barf-a-rama, I highly recommend Packit Gourmet for backpacking grub that actually has food in it, instead of pretend food. Another great resource is the grocery store... hard cheese and hard salami, Justin's nut butter packets, string cheese, whatever kinds of nuts you like, exist in stores like WinCo, which has awesome bulk bins that include dehydrated hummus, instant potatoes, etc. Trader Joes is my usual first stop for backpacking food - love the nut and dried fruit section for variety. And if you absolutely must have Mountain House ( :shakefist: ) WinCo has had those for far less than you will pay at a sporting goods store. Good To-Go meals from Amazon are superior to MH - it's just food, no dubious chemistry. Also on Amazon - dehydrated refried beans, cheese sauce powder to add to couscous to make easy and cheap mac-n-cheese, other freeze dried veggies and fruits - look for brands like Harmony House and Mother Earth. There are better foods to be found for cheaper and don't require a ton of prep work to pack. You will want to repackage those foil packed meals anyway - best to do that the week before the trip, into freezer bags, so you can better pack the bear cans. The packaging that stuff like that comes in is too bulky or needs to at least have a pinhole in and the air space squeezed out -- a well packed bear can involves choosing food that flows, in bags tough enough to take cramming in there to use up all the space in the can. Not vac sealed food bricks, or sealed bags that are half air, that blow up even bigger at high elevation trailheads.

If you intend to be above 10000 feet at any point overnight, carry the #%$^&&% can, and love it. The bears will follow you up there, and the marmots are worse there about wanting to carry off stuff. One of us had to stand guard and throw rocks at marmots in the Tablelands - they were circling like little vultures.
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Re: Visalia

Postby limpingcrab » Wed Jan 06, 2016 10:54 pm

Ha! Ya, marmots are way worse than bears. They'll also chew apart anything salty from sweat like shoes and trekking pole handles (and so will the deer in some places).

Good suggestion for WinCo, probably the best place in town to stock up. They sometimes carry peanut butter tubes with one serving, perfect for trail snacks with some sweet crackers.

I still hate bear cans :) A guy from Visalia invented them and then pushed through the rule so he could sell more... I carried a bear can once. Never again!
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Re: Visalia

Postby ltm01 » Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:11 am

Thank you all for your prompt responses, a lot of ideas to think about over the coming months. A couple of nights in LA is on the agenda either before or after the walk. The weather, we get some 100F days most weeks in summer here, even hotter, it requires a bit of planning. Californian wine and craft ales, what could we expect to encounter in Visalia after a hard morning's shopping in the heat?
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Re: Visalia

Postby kpeter » Thu Jan 07, 2016 6:47 am

We all hate bear canisters. However, before the canister rules went into effect a couple of decades ago, I had suffered three bear attacks in SEKI, on two separate trips. Later I made a friend who is a biologist who studies bears in Yosemite. She gave me some insight.

Our first bear attack was near Charlotte Lake after we discovered the bear boxes completely packed by a group of horse packers. I learned that you cannot count on the bear boxes being available. We counterbalanced our food by the textbook instead--it took us a lot of time to set it up. A mother and a cub came by, and the mother sent her cub up the tree and out the branch to cut the line and dump the satchels to the ground. We saw it happening, flashed our lights, made noise, threw rocks, etc. and nothing completely deterred them. There is a limit to how aggressive you really want to be for fear of either injuring the animals or enraging them. So we were up all night long trying to protect our food, only semi-successfully.

One attack happened just west of Kearsarge pass. There we could not counterbalance because there were no trees or branches high enough to use. We thought bears would not travel so high above treeline--but they certainly did. In fact, being that high in a breezy pass area just made it possible for the delicious aroma of our food to waft over the valley below and attract ursine companionship--their noses are some 7 times more sensitive than a bloodhound. That is how bears survive--they are essentially olfactory creatures. They can smell through plastic and over great distances.

One attack happened at Junction Meadow. Finding a good branch is not easy, and we apparently did not get the food quite far enough off the ground--the branch bent under the weight. A large male bear standing on its hind legs and jumping is not a pleasant sight or sound, especially amidst the confusion of flashlights at night, and eventually he got a claw caught in the dangling cord of a stuff sack and that was that.

For a few years after the canister rule was adopted I saw bears come and investigate canisters fairly regularly. They certainly recognized the smell of backpacker food and would come and play with the canisters. Then for a few years I would see them come, and when they saw the smell was coming from a canister, they would not even further investigate. Now, blessedly, they don't seem to come to the smell. The bears that ate a lot of backpacker food in the 1980s and early 1990s have all died out by now, and so the canister rule has worked well enough to train a new generation of bears not to associate the smell of backpacker food with something edible. Does that mean you can get away without canisters now? Possibly--because today's backpackers may benefit from all the pain of the previous generation carrying those heavy canisters. But if you make a mistake and a bear does get your food you have created a problem bear for the rest of that bear's life. Bears typically live 10-15 years in the wild.
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Re: Visalia

Postby cslaght » Thu Jan 07, 2016 7:24 am

Visalia, as was mentioned, and as what you would know, can be dreadful in August, with the 100+ temps. Having a hotel with a pool helps ;) . As far as restaurants and the like, downtown is pretty good. There are a number of restaurants and bars that are along or just outside a 1/2 mile stretch of Main Street. My personal favorites are Pita Kabob (http://www.pitakabob.com/) which has excellent Mediterranean food and a massive selection of craft beer. Brewbakers (http://brewbakersbrewingco.com/) brews their own beer and their food has improved immensely over the years. Sequoia Brewing Company out of Fresno just opened a restaurant location here within the last year and they have good food and a wide selection of beer. If I'm not mistaken, there's something like 60 different eateries downtown which is remarkable for a valley town. Yelp will be a good resource on this as well; as most restaurants that carry wine will have a great selection of California varieties, as do the grocery stores. Which leads me to another tangent: Best Buy Market has a fantastic selection of craft beer, focusing on the west coast (I'd say about varieties from 40 or so breweries in the 22 oz. sizes, 6 packs and 12 packs from the larger brewers). Their wine selection is good as well. They're a little off of downtown, but not too far away. I think the idea of resupplying in LA or online would work best, but it'd be hard to be bored in Visalia if it's just two or three days.
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Re: Visalia

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jan 07, 2016 8:34 am

kpeter wrote: The bears that ate a lot of backpacker food in the 1980s and early 1990s have all died out by now, and so the canister rule has worked well enough to train a new generation of bears not to associate the smell of backpacker food with something edible. Does that mean you can get away without canisters now? Possibly--because today's backpackers may benefit from all the pain of the previous generation carrying those heavy canisters. But if you make a mistake and a bear does get your food you have created a problem bear for the rest of that bear's life. Bears typically live 10-15 years in the wild.


Typically, but there is an old lady of 30+ years living In Tuolumne Meadows. Habituated bears live a long, long time.

I would not place bets on those bears having died out. I had a mother and cub sneaking up on me one day whilst I was sitting on a log eating a sandwich. It was quite clear she was training that youngster. I stood up and stood my ground, and they walked away. Minutes later a ranger with a chest pack and radios came along - he was following the bear out of Little Yosemite Valley, making sure she was leaving the area, because she was one of the problem bears who sneak up on people while they are cooking in camp and grabbing food when your back is turned.

Never, ever underestimate the drive of habituated bears to get your food, and they will never get it.
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Re: Visalia

Postby cahiker » Thu Jan 07, 2016 1:17 pm

SEKI has bear boxes in many locations, so you might be able to get by with the smaller canister if your first night or two is spent in a location with a bear box. This will somewhat limit where you can camp those nights, but it's probably best to go easy and acclimate to the altitude anyway. Contrary to a previous poster I've found the rangers helpful in determining where bear boxes are available.

Another thing to consider is whether you can have any on-line purchases you make shipped to your hotel. Could be easier than the post office.


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