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Sierra Water

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Sierra Water

Postby maverick » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:39 pm

Would be interested to hear peoples input based purely on their personal
preferences/taste, and not about pH balances of the water, water treatment, or
any scientific reasoning that may influence them.
Which do you prefer to drink from, lakes or rivers (streams or creeks)? And why?
Do you enjoy the very cold waters of the higher regions or prefer the less cold
waters of lower elevations?
Any particular lake or river that comes to mind that you have enjoyed the taste
of consistently over the years?
Are their any places which you avoid getting water from because it just doesn't
taste as good as other areas? Ever set up camp near a particular water source
but would hike a ways for a different water source because the water did not taste
right or maybe was just to warm?
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby sparky » Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:42 pm

I prefer moving water. It is all just psychological but I tell myself it is naturally filtered. For the last 6 years I have used a steripen when I feel I need to treat the water. When I get water at a lake I prefer the inlet, or the outlet if it is more convenient. When I am drinking from a tarn or direct out of a lake I zap it no matter what.

As for taste, I do notice slight differences here and there, but I would say 80% of the water I drink tastes pretty much the same.....damn good. Best water ever.

I do feel the water tastes a little better earlier in the season, but that might be psychological as well.
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby Troutdog 59 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:22 pm

My backpacking pre-dates filters, so in the old days we always got water from streams if possible. Just was taught that that was better. Never really knew if it was true, but it seemed to work better as far as our eyes could tell. Only drank from lakes a few times in those days and it was either as is, or if we were worried, we carried those tablets (halazone????). Yuck!!!!! Only did that twice. Did use an old T shirt once, but doubt it did very much other than makes us feel better about it. As I carry a filter now, I drink directly from lakes often, but still fill my water bucket at outlets and the like if possible. I still drink directly from streams when in the high basins that are off trail or in remote areas. Just me I guess.

As far as taste, dont know if Ive ever had bad tasting water in the backcountry, but the colder water always seems better. Warmer water just didnt seem as refreshing. Alaways love it when you find a spring. On several adventures in Northern Cali, weve found springs where ice cold water emmits from the side of the rock or out of the ground and it seemed the absolute best ever. Probabbly just in my head, but have always loved the little springs Ive happened upon. Did drink from a natral "soda" spring once (t Soda Springs on the Middle fork of the San Joaquin of all places) and that seemed pretty nice as well.
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby SSSdave » Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:46 pm

Taste has not been much of a factor in how we choose water in the Sierra. Sometimes one can taste pine needles in early summer snow water that drains through pine needle forest landscapes. That pine needle taste or no taste is what we are happy with. Sometimes when other sources are not available we've pumped from small warm ponds and that tends to have a taste. When I was a twentysomething if I saw other groups drinking directly from lakes I sometimes filled up a small clear glass bottle from the lake shore and then amused other groups of all the squirming stuff floating about one can see when putting such a bottle up in the sky against the sun. Most mid forest elevation Sierra lakes by mid summer have abundant translucent lifeforms squirming around. Higher elevation waters, especially above timberline are often rather clear.

Most water we obtain unfiltered is from small streams or seeps which do not have ponds, lakes, or trails above them but I would need to write a couple pages to describe all the various situations. At highest elevations in remote areas all water is good, even in ponds and lakes. But I will readily use a filter to pump water when I'm in a situation I don't trust the source like last early August where we camped below Graveyard Meadows which has lots of late season cattle grazing. In early season when snow is melting I will drink water unfiltered directly from large streams regardless of what is above them. For instance directly from the Merced River below El Portal. Such water is quite cold and if there are any toxic chemicals or microbes in it, such is immensely diluted.
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:27 pm

For me it's mixed. Of course my favorite place to get water is straight out of a nice spring. Other then that I don't really care that much. As I understand the lakes are cleaner because most stuff sinks and the sun is one big steripen but then you have to deal with stuff that swims around. Most high altitude lakes especially the ones with no fish are swarming with water fleas and Red Copeopods. It's bad enough that without filtering through something it's impossible to not get any in your water.

As for avoiding water sources I mainly avoid stagnant ponds and locations with a great deal of people swimming in the river.

As for taste it's pretty rare to get a source that does not taste good. Temperature there is such thing as just being too cold unless I am making a flavored drink then ice cold is great.
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby lostcoyote » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:36 pm

pretty much what rogue says goes for me.
i will add that i do not filter or treat water - unless it's stagnant and i need to get some - then i got for the iodine tablets. also, for creeks which cross trails, i will take it on the uphill side - especially if horses use the trail.

+1 on spring water. nice n' cold.
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby Snowtrout » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:48 pm

This might sound a little weird but for some reason, water to me from the river/streams of the GTW and south seems to have a dry taste to it. For some reason no matter how much water I drink from there, it leaves my mouth dry. :confused:
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby lambertiana » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:23 pm

I don't have a preference toward stream or lake. I don't treat, so I get the real flavor. I prefer cold cold water.

The best tasting water I can recall drinking was from Lake 11,682 on the west side of Pyra-Queen Col. It was cold and just plain delicious. I don't know if the local geology was the primary reason, but it could be. The east side is dominated by the Granite of Kaweah Peaks, which has a lot of pyrite (which probably also lowers the pH of the lake because the product of pyrite weathering is sulfuric acid). The slopes north and south of the lake are chiefly mafic metavolcanics and silicic metavolcanics (including the crystal-lithic tuff of Black Kaweah). Somehow this combination makes for very tasty water. Now every time a picture of that lake pops up on my monitor's background rotation, I get thirsty.

Second place for best tasting water for me is a spring on the Franklin Pass trail a little below Franklin Lake. That was some good water. That is karst country, so the spring is probably coming out of a cave in the marble there.

I have encountered water with a bad taste twice. The first was the stream at Outpost Camp (the one from Mirror Lake). It had a strong taste that obviously came from the fragrant bushes along the stream. The second was at Horseshoe Lakes in Kings Canyon. We camped at the lowest lake, and the water just had a strong funky taste, hard to describe. It was so bad that I walked to the next lake up to get water; it was still funky, but not as bad.
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby cloudlesssky » Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:40 am

Snowtrout wrote:This might sound a little weird but for some reason, water to me from the river/streams of the GTW and south seems to have a dry taste to it. For some reason no matter how much water I drink from there, it leaves my mouth dry. :confused:


Not weird. I had this exact same sensation with water I collected just north of Selden Pass near Rosemarie meadow.

On the broader subject: I love the water in the Sierras. I try to collect from running water because someone told me to when I was young, but I'll use lake water if that's what's available. I always filter now, but I used tablets when I was young along with lots of drink mix to cover up the taste (I like plain old water these days). There generally isn't a temperature choice at hand, but I like it when it's cold.

I pack a 10L collapsible pail (~3 oz) to collect water for camp rather than use a bunch of bottles. One trip is often all I have to make and that lets me conveniently camp farther away from a water source so I can expand the choices and also get away from the skeets.
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby SweetSierra » Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:11 am

I like the water from springs and swift running creeks and rivers. For me the best is the sweet, cold water of springs and the way they sometimes has a hint of soil taste. I used to treat Sierra water but haven't for about the last 10 years. Water from lakes is pretty good, as long as I can get it a little distance from shore and any signs of possible pollution. The only water that I didn't care for was out of Smedberg Lake. I took it from the surface (as always) but it was warm and tasted a little funny to me. The next day, I didn't feel well until far up the trail in Matterhorn Canyon. I'm not sure if it was the water or I was just fatigued and had altitude problems but I've always linked the two in my mind. The best lake water in my opinion are lakes in high basins where few people go, the ones that are crystal clear and taste (to me) like spring water.
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Re: Sierra Water

Postby oldranger » Sat Feb 23, 2013 4:24 pm

Rogue's first paragraph pretty much sums up my understanding. It is also my understanding that spring is the time with the most nasteys in the water because of the overground runoff. finally if the main source of giardia is domestic animals then water quality must be much better than in the past when sheep and cattle "mined" the vegetation in the Sierra. If it is worse now then it must be related to human use!

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Re: Sierra Water

Postby Pietro257 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:00 pm

I like the cold clear pure water from a high-elevation arctic lake nearby a glacier. This water is only recently removed from the sky. It's heavenly.

My father used to insist I bring home a quart of water from Powerbox Springs in the San Jacintos when I went backpacking there. He claimed this water was perfect for mixing with Scotch.

I am grateful to live in San Francisco and get tap water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the western Sierra. Not only am I grateful, I'm privileged.
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