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Baxter Pass trail conditions?

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Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby jackie_s » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:06 am

We're planning a trip from Kearsarge Pass to Baxter Pass/Oak Creek rd. in early July and was wondering what the trail is like on Baxter Pass. I've heard that it is primitive, unmaintained, and disappears in places so it may be hard to follow. Also, since we've had a pretty dry winter this year, I assume snow won't be too much of a problem?

Any information on the trail conditions would be greatly appreciated. I don't have a lot of off-trail experience so I'm trying to decide if maybe I should make other plans but I hate to throw the towel in without having enough info. Thanks for reading!



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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby rlown » Fri Jun 22, 2012 11:45 am

Welcome to the HST!

Look at the thread for SUGGESTIONS FOR REQUESTING TRIP ADVICE

found here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby jackie_s » Fri Jun 22, 2012 12:27 pm

Sorry, here's more about me and my level of hiking experience:

============================================

level of backpacking experience:
Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails


What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
Comfortable with Class 1 terrain/trail hiking

no experience with:
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country
- Class 3 terrain/pass/x-country
- River crossings
- Snow travel/Glacier crossings

What is your main interest?
- Big Mountain scenery
- Lakes
- Forests



How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead? 3
How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers? 11-12, no layovers
Did you prefer a loop or out and back trip? Loop
Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in(Yosemite, SEKI
western sierra start or eastern start ect.)? Eastern Sierras
Will you be hiking with a dog? No.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby cgundersen » Sun Jun 24, 2012 12:03 pm

Hi Jackie,
Baxter is one of those monsters, and even going down will be a grind. It's been 6 years since I was last on that trail. The good news is the road to the trailhead is paved and has always been in good condition on my visits. The bad news is that the Baxter trail has a well deserved reputation for being a bit of a challenge to follow and the bonus is that shortly after the second creek crossing (on the way up) there is a healthy patch of nettles ready to sting the unwary. Also, it can be a bit tricky to find the start of the Baxter trail as you head down the JMT from Rae Lakes. The trail is very clearly carved in the hillside, but my recollection is the trail starts much closer to Dollar Lake than it shows on the topo map. Ignoring those caveats, the one reason to go that way is Baxter is one of the few places I've seen bighorn sheep. But, if you have the time and inclination, Sawmill, a few miles to the North might be an "easier" exit option. The Woods Lake basin is prettier and the trail is in great shape (I was there 2 years ago, so it cannot have changed much). Either way, be careful with water. With the low snow, sources will be fewer than usual.
cg
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby jackie_s » Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:11 pm

Thanks for the info, cgundersen. Still haven't decided whether or not to take Baxter Pass but I'm not throwing in the towel just yet.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby KathyW » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:22 pm

I've only been up in that area in early season when there was snow above 10,000', but they did some trail maintenance on it after the fire a few years ago. Snow shouldn't be a problem. I've been up in that area for Mary Austin and Diamond Peak climbs; so I've headed in a different direction before the pass, but Baxter Pass does melt out early from what I've seen - Here's a view of it in April one year:

http://kathywing.smugmug.com/California ... 6&lb=1&s=L

Anyway, the fire damage in that area was pretty extensive, but it's still a beautiful area. It can be hot at the trailhead; so keep that in mind when figuring your starting time. You can always camp the first day before the sandy switchbacks that go up to the pass and then tackle them on the morning of the second day.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby rkelty » Wed Jun 27, 2012 8:36 pm

It's a great hike - do it! From Dollar Lake spend a few minutes finding the trail on the hillside and you will be fine. It disappears for very short sections near the bottom but gets better high on the hillside. I don't remember if there was much of a trail after the hillside portion until you get to the upper lake. This section is very pretty and you can't go wrong. From the upper lake (where I camped on the east side) the trail is visible all the way to the pass. From the pass down there only problems in a couple very brushy areas. It is a long way down. Make sure you leave a car as there is very little traffic to roads end. Have fun.
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby jackie_s » Thu Jun 28, 2012 6:44 pm

Thanks for all of the wonderful advice! From what cgundersen said earlier in this post, the creek crossing is pretty intense and that there is stinging nettle to watch for. Since we didn't get too much rain/snow this year, I'd imagine the creek won't be so bad. What are your thoughts on the creek crossing?

I figure it's worth a shot so I'm planning on exiting Baxter Pass instead of just going to Rae Lakes/Sixty Lake Basin and returning the same way via Kearsarge.
I'll update my post with my experience upon returning just in case anyone else is interested! Can't wait!
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby cgundersen » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:53 am

jackie,
Based on my recent Taboose exit, I'm guessing the water flow in Baxter canyon will be comparable, and the Creek crossings will be no problem at all (ankle deep in Taboose). But as I said, as the trail makes the right turn to swing down to the creek for the first time (going down), just be wary of any vegetation in your path. If you're wearing long pants, not a problem with nettles, but still good to be cautious with any exposed skin.
Yes, and as I think back to the issue of finding the Baxter trail below Dollar Lake, my sense is that you're best to aim for the Dollar outflow and look across the creek for a big rock (boulder) with a few rocks stacked on it. If you cross there and bang around a bit, the trail will pop out, and it remains a prominent feature across the hillside and well into the canyon. As noted by others, the trail is easy to find from there to the pass, but it's on the downslope where it will fade in and out. It's not all that hard to follow, but the extra concentration needed on a ~6000 ft descent adds to the fun (and, makes it harder to look around for bighorn sheep!).
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby Cross Country » Mon Jul 02, 2012 11:03 pm

I did the same trip you're planning, with Vidette Lakes mixed in. Mike, 10yo, was with me and he had no trouble at all. After the trip I was told there is a warm spring on the creek close to Baxter Lake. I can believe it because we found this giant cairn very near the creek. It must be there for some reason, probably the warm spring.
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Baxter Mike cairn.jpg
Baxter Pass Mike.jpg
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby jackie_s » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:17 am

Thanks cgundersen for the tip on the big boulder with stacked rocks- I'll keep my eyes peeled. Is that the same stack in the picture that cross country posted?
We will have two 13-year-olds with us, too, so that was reassuring to know that your 10-year-old had no problem, Cross Country!

I'm hoping to see some bighorn sheep on our trip down Baxter- that would be awesome.

Thanks again for all the wonderful advice!
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Re: Baxter Pass trail conditions?

Postby cgundersen » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:50 am

jackie,
The "signage" in cross country's photo is up in Baxter Basin; it is not the transition below Dollar Lake, but if you start looking to cross the creek near the outflow from Dollar, you should have no problem. It's just that when I first went that way, the map showed the crossing a bit further down the trail, and that really is not the case.
But, I never encountered a hot spring in Baxter canyon, so if you find one that would be a great reason to go back there (besides the sheep). Please keep us posted & hope the bugs are OK.
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