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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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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby tim » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:55 pm

If you want to go early (say before July 4) then I would consider going out and back to Iva Bell hot springs starting from Devils Postpile (though last summer Devils Postpile didn't open until mid June). It is an easy 2 days to get there (12 miles) and a really wonderful destination. Midweek/early season it is likely to be pretty quiet as well. The trail stays low (all below 8000ft) but has great views and mountain scenery. There aren't any major unbridged stream crossings on that bit of the trail either (though you might get your feet wet once or twice).

We did the loop via Duck Lake last summer - another really good trip, but probably one for mid-late July at the earliest: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5344



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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby East Side Hiker » Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:34 am

If you wait for the snow to clear, Horseshoe Mdw has many opportunities. Start high. But there are a lot of people. Like Mosquito Flat - lots of opportunities, start high, but a lot of people.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby bigcountry951 » Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:44 pm

So I guess, since we have concerns about the skeeterz, we should wait until June when the skeeter thread starts before we decide on which trail to take. All of your ideas sound great!
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby East Side Hiker » Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:44 am

If you don't mind people, consider one of two places, if you can get a permit - Mosquito Flat (out of Tom's Place) or a trail out of June Lake (like toward Thousand Island Lakes). If you do Mosquito Flat, a meal and beer at Tom's Place can't be beat (but there's a lot of people). And think about Leavitt Mdw, off Hwy 108 - though dusty and sometimes hot, there's really a lot of opportunities from that trailhead.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:44 am

I went up the Gem Lake trail last year. Here is a photo of Waugh Lake June 29. There will likely be more snow this year than last year, unless we get a very warm spring that melts it off. To get to Thousand Island Lake from the Silver Lake entrance you have to go up a lot of north facing terrain that will be very snowy. If you want to go to Thousand Island Lake, it is better to go in from Devil's Postpile, River trail. Last year there were plenty of dry campsites on the north shores of Gem and Waugh Lakes but the trail was often very flooded. It was not hard to find, just had to wade through water and mud- if you do this route you will "just get your feet wet" into backpacking in more ways than one!

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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby East Side Hiker » Tue Mar 29, 2011 6:59 pm

Mosquitos will be a problem for a long time this summer.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby bigcountry951 » Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:46 pm

East Side Hiker wrote:Mosquitos will be a problem for a long time this summer.



We are starting to realize that, and may be drastically changing our expected hike dates. So it seems the skeeters typically are bad between June and August? How about September or October?
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby Mike M. » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:33 pm

Skeeters like standing water. Generally speaking, skeeter season follows the receding snow line. This year, we're likely to see skeeters at least into early August in the high country, depending of course on high quickly the snow melts. I would not hesitate to plan a trip due to mosquito concerns -- come prepared and plan to camp in areas with good drainage, thereby minimizing the potential to be pestered by the ornery critters. High water is another matter, but my bet is that most stream crossings will be manageable by early August, if not before.

September, especially after Labor Day, is a great time to visit the high country. Although the days are shorter, you will see some fall color, there are very few people on the trail, and the nights are usually cold enough to kill off any mosquitoes.

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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby whrdafamI? » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:54 pm

Another thing that you might consider would be to rent or borrow the equipment. If you or your wife find that backpacking is not your thing you are not left with a lot of gear that you can't recoup all your money on. I have seen this very situation happen with other people so it is a possibility.
Better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it!

Get busy living or get busy dying.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby East Side Hiker » Sat Apr 02, 2011 4:17 pm

You could just do the South Fk of the Kern. If you just want a first taste of backpacking, and don't care about beautiful lakes (which will be snow bound early on), and it has to be early, go up the PCT from Walker Pass.

You could also consider hikes in the Inyo Range, or Panamints, or somewhere out there - Piper Wilderness.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby SPeacock » Sun Apr 03, 2011 7:14 pm

Mosquitoes should not be a trip breaker as they are only a temporary problem even on a trail. For camping with fewest encounters, stay well away from water (which means you may have to lug it farther to camp - get a BIG collapsible water container); camp higher and exposed where you might get more wind. They can't land in over 4mph breeze. That is why Casablanca fans are so popular - not to keep you that cool, but to discourage mosquitoes. I've been told that a blue tent or bivy is better as they are attracted to it than you...untested local legend I suspect.

The wind blows a lot of the time in the Sierra.

DEET will absolutely keep them away and it only takes a very little bit to cover your entire body, clothed or not. But some still die being inhaled or dive bombing your cup of hot chocolate.

Hooded fleece or parka and long heavier socks (they like my ankles) for sitting around in the morning and evenings. They are most active in evenings and mornings. Not so much at night or during the day. I use dab from a small tube of Preparation H for bites. Reduces the swelling and itching - just as it is advertised. Just don't mix it up with the toothpaste or get it in your eyes.

Even so there are some unpredictable dense pockets of them. For those times a 1 oz mosquito hat might be just the ticket until you get out of the area.

I have a very nicely shaped female hiker friend who wears runners bra and shorts under, skeeter net tops and pants. Meeting her on the trail is a surprise. Looks like she is down to her last two veils. Always draws a crowd.
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Postby SPeacock » Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:36 am

For many years with our kids (7/9+), Father's Day at Cottonwood Lakes was a tradition for the start of the season. And it was closest to get to, even though it is the highest trail head in the Sierra. Usually everything from Long Lake up (South Fork Drainage) was snow covered, however.

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.4748 ... &type=topo

Horseshoe Meadows out of Lone Pine is about a 5 hour drive from Pasadena area...includes breakfast at Denny's in Mojave. Check where the best prices are (probably Mojave) to refuel on the way home. If you leave early (EARLY!) you can be at the trail head to Cottonwood lakes around 9AM. It is a relatively easy trail starting at 10,500 (or so) with the lakes near 11,000' about 6 miles later - perfect day hike too. Within a few hundred feet notice the trail coming up from the left. Remember NOT to take this on the way back. The early part of the trail goes down hill for a considerable distance. You don't notice it until your return. So this trail is up hill both ways. You get a nice rest spot when you cross the creek on an old log. Good lunch spot just above the old Golden Trout fish camp (now offering retreats). Just bring DEET and use it sparingly.

From there you mosey along the side of a meadow and pass a trail junction to New Army Pass and the South Lake drainage. Stay to the right to Cottonwood Lakes. After a mile of climbing up the remnants of a glacial head wall and the moraine at the end of the Cottonwood Lakes drainage, you enter a spectacular alpine view of lakes, high ridges and the 1/2 mile almost vertical face of Mt Langley in front of you. You have a choice of many places to camp out, our favorite was Muir up to the north a bit out of the way, but popular. We preferred the area closest to the outlet. Not sure that is available to camp at now.

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.4957 ... &type=topo

From Muir, if you stay close to the trees you will find a use trace that you can take up to abeam of what is shown as Lake 5 and then cut west at the 11,200 contour over to the trail. You have to stay high near the trees to avoid the marshy area on your left. Access to the Old Army Pass trail is from here and hugs the north of Lake 5. If you are tempted best to know that it is no longer maintained and is an abandoned trail.

http://www.summitpost.org/route-up-old-army-pass/7987

But more experienced (or adventurous) use it routinely. Just understand that it will incur some route finding. Best to stay off if covered in snow.

Between Lake 1 and 2 is a trace of a trail to get to South Fork drainage and Long Lake. From here on (it is better in late July or early August) up a well engineered trail up NEW Army Pass and Mt Langley - one of the easiest 14r in the Sierra to get up. Another adventure for another time. It is a long walk up and back and for the most part is waterless. The pass is a nice comfortable day hike from Muir Lake. So is Cirque Lake. Cirque Peak is best assaulted from the south via Cottonwood Pass, but the ridge from the top of New Army is a long walk picking your own best route.

Another adventure is to find your way to the highest lake in the Cottonwood assemblage. Another is to find the trail down from South Fork Lake to the intersection with the trail you took up. It too is now abandoned and takes off on the left (north side) of the discharge from the lake, directly down hoping from rock ledge to dirty, gravelly dirt ledge until you get to the meadow below. Not for the faint of heart or inexperienced hiker. But it is an arguable short cut and makes a 'lollipop' loop out of the Lakes trip. Just remember to take the trail to the right when you intersect the one you came up - it seems a long walk. Oh, and don't forget which way the cars are and not to the equestrian parking lot and lower Horseshoe Meadows - the trail you passed on the way up. The way down will seem to take most of forever and surprisingly uphill.

A long week end excursion this summer (July/Aug) would be to park yourself at some place central (perhaps the rustic Winneduhma Hotel in Independence - used to have good evening meals -- depends on who the cook is now). From the 'basecamp' do day hikes to Cottonwood Lakes, Bullfrog Lake (over Kearsarge at Onion Valley), Long Lake (Bishop, out of South Lake) or perhaps as far as the Pass, even up the Shepherd Pass trail as far as your legs will take you on a day hike (Symmes Creek trail head from dirt road exit on way up to Onion Valley- a late June/early July dayhike). You get a nice bed, a good hot bath and somebody else doing the cooking. Or you could rough it staying at any one of the many car camp areas between Lone Pine and BIshop. This would give you an indication of about how far the first day would be for an overnight. Each of these trails, given another day of hard work, would put you into some of the best the Sierra has to offer.

Make sure you have a rain protection with hood, 200 fleece or better, a hat, sunglasses, UV protection, lip protection with UV, and DEET in the pack. Plan on getting off the higher and exposed places to nearby shelter before 3 or so in the afternoon. Thunderstorms are fun to watch but not be in. You don't have a lot of time once the clouds start consolidating.
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