Where is Everybody?

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Harlen
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Where is Everybody?

Post by Harlen » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:00 am

Six of us just returned last night from 9 days in and around the headwaters of Rush Creek, and the Middle and North Forks of the San Joaquin River. We set a personal record of 6 full days and nights without seeing another soul, even though we moved camp every night but one.
This suited all of us just fine, in part because it allowed us bunch of naturalists to really focus in on the wildlife around us. But, with notable exceptions, this became more a matter botanizing and birding, and sadly, less time spent watching mammals.
Bench Canyon 403.JPG
Our 3 dog companions explain the dearth of animals near to camp, but we poured over the miles around us with binoculars, and usually came up empty. We found old bear scat, and recent coyote scat, but only met up with only one very vocal coyote, who either loved or hated our little dog pack. In the fairly lush Bench Canyon, we encountered only about 8 marmot, and 5 or so alpine chipmunks, 0 deer, 0 Belding ground squirrels, 0 hares, and we only heard a few pika, but couldn't find them to look at. The animal highlight was a phenacomy that our friends saw scurrying from one creek bank burrow to another. We have only encountered this stream-loving rodent once or twice before.

The bird life made up for the lack of furry critters. We saw a bald eagle for the fourth time in the Sierra, and it circled beautifully around the lower Blue Lake in Bench Canyon before perching first on a ledge above the lake, and then later, it passed by again and landed high in a lodgepole pine, close enough to admire and photograph. A osprey flew by and circled us, showing off its catch of a trout, and redtail hawks visited us several times too. Our ornithologist buddy first heard, then located the wonderful lemon yellow Wilson's warbler. With this friend we always locate many of the local birds, and thanks to his fine ear, we get to see other less common birds- this time the highlights were a spotted sand piper, and a pair of western tanagers. The American dipper is an obvious, but very welcome old bird friend. We saw it multiple times high up in the North Fork of the SJ River, before we crossed Marie Pass back into Rush Creek watershed. We had a shocking encounter with a blue grouse who flew right up from under our feet in the forest below the southern Twin Lake. She left her flightless chicks flitting all around us and our rapidly contained dog trio. We found, and avoided finding more white-crowned sparrow nests, which due to the the many alarm calls he heard, Carleton assured us were to be found all around in the willows north of 1000 Island Lake, and up toward North Glacier Pass. The most common birds up high were the colorful rosy finches and juncos, and we did see a lot of them. One of Lizzie and my favorite birds is the mountain bluebird, and we were lucky enough to find a couple of them too.

On the way back across the Tuolumne Meadows, we luckily spied a few deer, and pulled over, since we had only seen two deer while backpacking. It turned out to be the most bucks I've seen all together in the high country- it was 12 or 13 bucks, some with very nice velvety antlers, all grazing and resting together. Oh, and we also heard some chorus frogs, and saw a few of them, and also one striped snake.

We think the people may have been so scarce due to the small forest fire west of Mammoth Lakes that had begun just days before we went in on June 24th. Is it likely that many backpackers cancel their trips when there is fire nearby? It was indeed hazy at times, but thankfully the smoke lifted during most days, and we were not burnt up at all.

I will get around to producing a Trip Report soon to cover other aspects of this fine trip we had. Good luck to you all, the Harlens.
Bench Canyon 413.JPG
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Last edited by Harlen on Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:55 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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rightstar76
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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by rightstar76 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:41 am

Harlen, I think it was the Lions Fire. When people were asking for suggestions on where to hike, I purposely left out the area because I didn't want them to be hiking in smoke, or worse, flames. Looking forward to your trip report and pictures. :)

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bobby49
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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by bobby49 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:11 pm

I think that is a good-looking canine regiment.

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maverick
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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by maverick » Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:23 pm

Who took the second picture Harlen? Was it on a tripod and timer, or have you taught the third dog how to take group photo's? :D

Still have not gotten out, have had several trips to different areas planned out, but the weather has not co-operated, have been waiting for some thunderstorm activity and/or the monsoonal flow, sunny, blue skies (nor are smokey skies) are not conducive for my type photography. :(
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, an HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by cgundersen » Thu Jul 05, 2018 8:03 am

Hi Harlen,
I'm guessing it's a combination of the fire, the relatively early season and the fact that you were in a fairly remote area that generally only gets folk doing the High Route. But, the dearth of marmots on our recent loop around Brewer was also unexpected. We anticipated many more marmot calls on the grassy hillside ascending toward Longley pass and seldom heard a chirp. And, a lone pika made an appearance one evening along with a few deer. Still, I'm sort of glad we missed the bear who left a calling card in the upper reaches of the Sphinx basin: an impressive scat! But, like you guys, there was no one to be seen once we left the trail. Still, it's usually like that in June. Looking forward to the TR! Cameron

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fishmonger
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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by fishmonger » Thu Jul 05, 2018 11:00 am

great choice of boots, Harlen - I've been wearing those Trangos since 2008 on every Sierra trip except for April snow, and will do so again later this summer.

There are days when you find yourself alone even on busy trails. I recall in 2009, we saw absolutely nobody for the entire day while heading over Mather Pass on the JMT southbound. It was really strange, but on next day we saw a lot of people to make up for the quiet day.

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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by SSSdave » Thu Jul 05, 2018 12:50 pm

Would expect most people into Bench Canyon and Blue Lake see no others. Obscure trailhead down a long west side road that becomes 4WD. Also destination requiring cross country with a lack of trails. On many of my trips, I see no others once reaching zones beyond trails or popular lake shores. The vast majority of backcountry visitors concentrate along trails, popular lake edges, fishing lake use routes, and peak bagging use routes. Beyond those are vast areas one will see little signs of others much less actual people with landscapes that today much like they did 1000 years ago.

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Obsidianpumice
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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by Obsidianpumice » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:17 pm

I had Palisade Basin all to myself which I found shocking. I mean, it is cross country over Thunderbolt Pass, but still...

July 4th on a Wednesday of course is different than if it were a Friday or Monday.

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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by giantbrookie » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:16 pm

6 days! Wow. I haven't done too many trips of ≥6 days but that is pretty top end. I think on a Tablelands-Glacier Ridge-Cloud Canyon-Triple Divide-Lion L trip (2002) I think may have had a stretch of around 6 days without seeing some one outside of my crew (would have been from when I left the trail downstream of Pear L. to when I got to Tamarack Lake). The encountering no folks I think went from near Pear L. to the Tablelands then to Ferguson Creek, then back over the Tablelands to Big Bird then Deadman Cyn and over Glacier Ridge to Cloud Cyn and Colby then over Colby Pass then over Triple Divide Pass and then to Lion Lake before encountering people at Tamarack L. The only uncertainty in my mind is whether in fact I ran into someone while passing through Big Bird, which would cut the "not encountering other people" days to 5.
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Harlen
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Re: Where is Everybody?

Post by Harlen » Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:53 am

rightstar writes:
Harlen, I think it was the Lions Fire. When people were asking for suggestions on where to hike, I purposely left out the area because I didn't want them to be hiking in smoke, or worse, flames.
Great work rightstar!

Giantbrookie, that sounds like an awesome trip, both for area, and for the solitude. John, it sounds as though you enjoy quiet trips just like us; do you reckon there's a more sure way to arrange these sort of trips.... small, smokey fires strategically placed right where we want to go, then rightstar warns everyone off, et voila, solitude!
There's probably a regulation against this sort of thing though. ;)

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