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Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Backpacking and camping basics and other general trip planning discussion for the uninitiated. Use this forum to learn where to look for the information you need, and to ask questions, related to the beginner basics of backpacking and camping, including technique and best practices.
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Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby bigcountry951 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 1:27 am

Okay, I did read the suggestions before posting, so here is my info.

Level of backpacking experience = ZERO
Terrain Im comforatble with = Easy as possible
Main Interest = Lakes, Scenery, Photography, Fishing, Experiencing the outdoors beyond normal camping.

We plan for our hike to last anywhere from 2 to 4 days.
Miles per day? = I have no idea how far we will be able to do per day.
Loop or out and back? = We dont really have a preference.
Area most interested in? = My experience of the Eastern Sierras is based solely off of fishing trips, so Im sure I dont know what the easy hiking areas are, but the one that Ive read about is the trails leading out of Rock Creek, and after seeing pics and reading about that area, this is the only place I really know about, and think that we might be able to do.

We are planning on going the first weekend of June, pending weather. Is that a decent time for that area? What Im asking for is recommendations as to what trail to hike, and any other tips for a beginner like myself and my group.

Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to become a contributing member of this forum.

Mike



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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:59 am

My experience with the east side is fairly limited - unrepentant west sider here. But it seems to me Cottonwood Lakes would be a great first time - hike in, camp, hike around the lakes, pack out. Short miles, great scenery, fishing, and potential to challenge yourself a little if you want to climb New Army or Army Pass.

Another great scenic area is the Saddlebag Lake loop just outside the Tioga gate near Yosemite. The permitting there is fairly easy and it's a great area for hiking and fishing. Lots of lakes and open alpine hiking off the 8 mile loop. If you are tired coming out and don't want to hike the last 3 miles around Saddlebag there is a ferry that runs back and forth on the lake.

If you can keep the miles reasonable and the pack relatively light, pretty much anything is within reach. Even if it takes all day to plod up a high pass... if you are only going four miles, you have all day! Plod. The average person walks 2 mph. Plan for 1 mph with breaks. If you have 9 hours of daylight, take an hour lunch break to take off the shoes and rest, take 10 minute breaks on the hour, that gives you 7 hours to hike and 1 hour of camp setup time, so 6 miles of moderate hiking or 4-5 miles of steeper hiking would be my suggested target for a first timer.

BTW, there are some great articles at backpacking.net to read on how to have a light pack without a lot of sacrifices, if you have not already settled on gear and pack and all.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby oldranger » Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:31 am

Big

I agree with all of almost there's observations and advice. I want to add a joker to the calculations. If you and those in your party are new to the high country you will not know how you react. Some people feel lethargic when they start doing activity as low as 6,000 feet. At progressively higher elevations altitude can have much more serious effects. Your fitness at sea level has no impact on this effect. My wife takes 2 days to acclimate any time she gets much over 8,000 feet and we live at 3,600 ft. My advice before you head up to start a trip at high elevation is to car camp at a high elevation location or even hotel it in Mammoth and do some day hiking at higher elevations first to know how you will react or take a backpack trip that is much shorter than you think you can do comfortably . Nothing is worse than to be in a beautiful spot with a splitting headache and puking your guts out. Except for some special circumstances (e.g. when the hike is down hill!) I always spend a night at elevation before starting a hike at a high elevation trailhead. Not everybody has to do that but you never know until you first go to elevation.

Welcome to the wonderful world of backpacking. This is a great forum to pick up information and there are many people more knowledgeable than myself that will provide more good advice.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby gregw822 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:20 am

The trouble with the east side is that most of a passes are high and challenging, and the easier east side trips are often crowded. You could go out of Lake Sabrina to Emerald or Dingleberry Lake via Blue Lake. I did that trip with my daughter when she was 8. She had a ball catching little trout with a bubble and fly on Emerald Lake. Rock Creek is a good notion on your part. A short out-and-back trip through the Little Lakes Valley to Lower Morgan Lake would be a gentle introduction to backpacking on the east side in an absolutely gorgeous setting. However, the trailhead is at 10,000'+, and as oldranger says, you don't know how the altitude will affect you until you get there. McGree Creek to Grass and Steelhead Lakes is another option. Get a copy of Sierra South. It makes great bathroom reading. Just go.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 03, 2011 12:03 pm

I think your biggest problem is that you plan to go out first week in June. With spotty snow hiding trails, beginners can easily loose the trail. The way things are going so far, there will be few east side trails that are free of snow first week in June. If at all possible, I suggest you delay this trip for a month.

Although it may be snowy, an easy trip is a loop out of Sabrina Lake into Hungry Packer Lake. Aboslutely stunning. Or out of South Lake but stay east of Bishop Pass. These areas are used a lot and others likely will have already made footsteps on any remaining snow. It is also a short hike up to Third Lake and then you can day-hike around the basin. The suggestion of Cottonwood Lakes is also good. Pick well used trails that others have already used (made tracks through the snow). Only go about 4-5 miles the first day and go slowly. I have not done this route - but I think there are some lower elevation hikes out of Devil's Postpile that go down the San Joaquin River.

Backpacking is more than walking - you have to know orienteering, first aid, staying dry and warm in foul weather, how to select a safe and appropriate campsite, cook, safely cross streams, and please, learn all you can about "leave no trace" practices.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby Troutdog 59 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 12:54 pm

There are lots of good first time trips on the east side, but as WD said, early June is likley a bit to early in the season during most years. Not always, but especially this year with the way the snow pack is looking. Definitley do some research on what to bring, gear checklists, etc. If you have speific questions, you can post here again as well and I'm sure you will get some assistance. My advice would be to start with a shorter trip (both duration and miles), see how you like it, and go from there. If your like many on this site, your addiction will have just begun :D .

The Rock Creek area is a good choice. There is the Little Lakes Vallley, and thats about as easy as it gets. Lots of pretty lakes and views, but alot of use due to its easy access (I saw folks carrying in an ice chest in the 70's). The hike into the nearby Hilton Creek Lakes is a good starter hike as well to a beautiful chain of lakes. Ive been there twice, and it was my sons first walking trip at age 5.

The basins in the Bishop Creek drainage (above South Lake and Sabrina) have some pretty easy access and are just gorgeous as well. I really like the hike out of South Lake to the lakes above (Chocoate Lakes, Long Lake, etc). Not too far, but enough to let you feel like your away from the road and the scenery is just plain gorgeous. You could camp at Long Lake and dayhike to the surrounding lakes. And if you choose to fish, that basin is pretty good as well.

Good luck with your adventure. Take pics and let us know how it went!!.
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In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby maverick » Thu Mar 03, 2011 1:24 pm

Hi Bigcountry951

Welcome to HST!
I think with the ways things are going right now June will be to early to head
up two most of the places recommended.
For intro backpacking 20 Lakes Basin (Saddlebag Lake) area, and Little Lakes Valley
are all ways on top of my list to recommend, but both being near/above 10000ft you
will need to wait till later in the year to visit.
When snow is present your trip becomes a cross country trip since there will be
no trail to follow, and that is definitely not what you want as a intro to backpacking.
If you are locked into when you can go, than maybe Rancheria Falls out of Hetch
Hetchy is an option or maybe even something out of Yosemite Valley.
But if you can wait than go later in the season, preferably the end of August or
September so you avoid the skeetrz because they can makes ones intro a very
unpleasant experience if you are not prepared.
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: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby bigcountry951 » Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:42 pm

Wow, thanks for all the great information! I picked up my copy of Sierra South today, and another book on backpacking basics.

I didnt realize June was going to be too early. We only have June or July to go since that is my summer break from school. Would July be too early also? Skeeterz are definitely a concern, as I am the type of person who gets completely attacked by them. So what months are they a problem up there?

As for the altidude, everyone in my group has spent plenty of time up there fishing, but not hiking too much, so we will take that into consideration.

I dont mind the trails being crowded, considering it is our first time, I think I would find the crowds to be a safety net.

But as a few of you stated, snow covering the trails is definitely not something I want to deal with, because I have no experience reading topo maps or whatever else is needed in finding my way in the wilderness.

Anyways, Im loving all the responses, and paying attention to each and every one of them! Thanks so much!
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby maverick » Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:59 pm

Skeetrz will start up in June and probably go strong till August especially with
a higher than average snow pack this year.
We have a skeeter alert posting that runs all thru the summer each year, where people
chime in with there experience while out on a trip in a particular area so you
will be able see what the activity levels on a scale of 1-5 in the area you may be
interested in visiting or some at least some where near it.
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: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby East Side Hiker » Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:55 am

I would wait until July. Before that, you may be headed for disappointments. If its your first time, think about Lundy Canyon, which is just north of Lee Vining. The vegetation is fantastic and there aren't that many people. Its the backside of Saddlebag Lake.

Or the South Fork of the Kern River. Or the Sonora Pass area - Leavitt Mdw.

Unfortunately, many of the best places on the East Side are full of people, like Mosquito Flat.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby bigcountry951 » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:55 am

East Side Hiker wrote:I would wait until July. Before that, you may be headed for disappointments. If its your first time, think about Lundy Canyon, which is just north of Lee Vining. The vegetation is fantastic and there aren't that many people. Its the backside of Saddlebag Lake.

Or the South Fork of the Kern River. Or the Sonora Pass area - Leavitt Mdw.

Unfortunately, many of the best places on the East Side are full of people, like Mosquito Flat.


Yeah, we are taking the advice seriously, and very well will be changing our date from June to July, but as far as crowds go, we really dont mind. Its our first trip hiking anywhere, so we just want to get our feet wet. Believe me, if I were confident in our abilities, crowds would be an issue, but for now, we just want to do it, and have a nice story to tell with spectacular pictures. Like I told my wife....after we buy all this gear and prepare for this trip...we will then be alot more prepared for more trips, and soon be able to take our kids with us and teach them. I have no doubt that this is something we will fall in love with.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby LMBSGV » Sat Mar 05, 2011 2:36 pm

I just wanted to add another yes vote to WD's Sabrina Basin suggestion. We took our son there when he was 6. We spent the first night at Dingleberry, then up to Midnight the next morning for a couple of more days. Midnight, Hungry Packer, and Moonlight are all close together so you could hike up to one and then explore the basin on day hikes.
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