Off-Trail Overnight Trips

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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by SSSdave » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:06 pm

One of the issues with overnight trips is actually being able to spend enough time at destinations to make an effort worthwhile. In other words most people are not going to get much out of overnight trips to destinations that although such can be reached in a single day, are so strenuous that a backpacker won't have energy to do anything much more than veg in camp recovering. Though that does not apply as much to peak bagging enthusiasts and trail runners.

Since one is going to return the next day, yes there are a few morning hours when a person will be rested though will be forced to get on the route back early if it is long. So what threshold makes that worthwhile?

A good example of that is Pioneer Basin at 11 miles and 2700 feet vertical going in. Unlike many destinations where it is up the first day and all down on the return, because of the crest one has to climb all the way back up 2k going out. So yeah possible for not much more than a peak bagger's endurance challenge.

Thus for overnight trips which means 2 days, one going in and one coming back out, key requirements are:
  • Not having to drive so far from wherever one lives else possible hours on the road versus on the destination have little balance over just 2 days. For this person that is 4 or 5 hours max.

    Any national park destinations or the still few national forest destinations that demand standing in front of a person for a sermon at a ranger station at 8am or later Saturday mornings on trail departure days make getting enough hours in at destinations for activities rather hopeless. Conversely being able to get a short notice wilderness permit at recreation.gov then having it set up for a night box pickup on the evening of a drive in is ideal. And that can leverage a night hike in too in order to really have a day.

    Mileage and time on the trail is short so after one gets to wherever, they are still lively and have enough time to enjoy themselves both on the hike in day and the next morning. This requirement eliminates a lot of backpacking destinations that are long one day efforts. Of course the more ultra-light the more strongly conditioned a person is, the further that can be.
One of my favorites is 20 Lakes Basin because after sneaking out of work early say at 3pm Friday the drive is 5 hours. Then one can night box pick up at Mono Visitor Center, and be at Saddlebag hiking along the lakeshore by 9:30pm and reach about anywhere in that basin by 11:30pm. Next morning have a whole day to enjoy. Then Sunday morning get in a few hours yet a second morning before departing. And note best photography light and calm waters on its many lakes is early mornings.








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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by schmalz » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:12 pm

SSSdave wrote: A good example of that is Pioneer Basin at 11 miles and 2700 feet vertical going in. Unlike many destinations where it is up the first day and all down on the return, because of the crest one has to climb all the way back up 2k going out. So yeah possible for not much more than a peak bagger's endurance challenge.
Can't say I agree with you here. Last time I was there I was able to pack up camp in the morning, hike out, and I was home by 5PM. 11 miles with 2700 feet gain/loss isn't that big of a hike. If you are only out for 1 night and the weather forecast is favorable, you don't really need to haul in a ton of gear or food either.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by schmalz » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:18 pm

Also, one other random note:

These types of trips really highlight the inadequacies of the permit system. In a nutshell, getting a walk in permit for a trip like this is a huge pain, since you have to wait til 8AM to begin the process of waiting to get one etc. For example, for my Finger Lake example, if I show up in Lone Pine at 8 on a Saturday to get a weekend permit, I will probably not be on the trail until 9:30ish. That is a huge chunk of the day wasted and it can really limit where you can go.

So, I usually only try these trips now if I can reserve a permit ahead of time for a destination that is not in a NP so that I can pick it up in the night drop box. That way, I can hit the trail by 7AM on Saturday and give myself a full day and a half in the mountains, which can really go a long way if you plan the trip right.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by TehipiteTom » Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:40 pm

schmalz wrote:Also, one other random note:

These types of trips really highlight the inadequacies of the permit system. In a nutshell, getting a walk in permit for a trip like this is a huge pain, since you have to wait til 8AM to begin the process of waiting to get one etc. For example, for my Finger Lake example, if I show up in Lone Pine at 8 on a Saturday to get a weekend permit, I will probably not be on the trail until 9:30ish. That is a huge chunk of the day wasted and it can really limit where you can go.

So, I usually only try these trips now if I can reserve a permit ahead of time for a destination that is not in a NP so that I can pick it up in the night drop box. That way, I can hit the trail by 7AM on Saturday and give myself a full day and a half in the mountains, which can really go a long way if you plan the trip right.
This has occurred to me as well. Emigrant will do night box drops on day-before phone reservations, but just about everyone else does it only for advance reservations. So the bottom line is, I'll just have to do more planning ahead to make the most of the little time I have.

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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by SweetSierra » Thu Jan 08, 2015 6:48 pm

SweetSierra wrote:
SSSdave wrote:Image

Since none of you answered Oleander's question about Ruby Lake, that gives me a chance to toss out that it often seems like I'm about the only one on this board that uses topo's plus Google Earth much in threads? I'm betting some of you despite the fact we talk about it often have never installed the free Google Earth application?
Thanks Dave. I was the one who mentioned Ruby Lake as a possibility. I'm glad to know that it's more well traveled than I thought I was. It makes sense, considering many would stay after crossing Mono Pass. My impression (wrong) was that it was more of a climb than day hikers (or backpackers) would want to do if the start is Little Lakes Valley TH.

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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by SweetSierra » Thu Jan 08, 2015 6:58 pm

schmalz wrote:
SSSdave wrote: A good example of that is Pioneer Basin at 11 miles and 2700 feet vertical going in. Unlike many destinations where it is up the first day and all down on the return, because of the crest one has to climb all the way back up 2k going out. So yeah possible for not much more than a peak bagger's endurance challenge.
Can't say I agree with you here. Last time I was there I was able to pack up camp in the morning, hike out, and I was home by 5PM. 11 miles with 2700 feet gain/loss isn't that big of a hike. If you are only out for 1 night and the weather forecast is favorable, you don't really need to haul in a ton of gear or food either.
Agree with schmaltz. Our group got there in one day. The next, we climbed to Grinnell Lake. We were tired at Pioneer, but if I took a layover there and then hiked back out, it wouldn't be bad at all.

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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by ERIC » Thu Jan 08, 2015 7:13 pm

I think SSSdave's pack weight might be partly to blame for the difference in opinion here. IIRC, he packs considerably heavier than maybe most on here do.
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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by TehipiteTom » Thu Jan 08, 2015 9:52 pm

ERIC wrote:I think SSSdave's pack weight might be partly to blame for the difference in opinion here. IIRC, he packs considerably heavier than maybe most on here do.
I don't know about that. I would absolutely agree with him that Pioneer Basin, while certainly doable in a day, isn't great for a 2-day trip. With a layover, sure, but that wasn't my question.

ETA: And Dave's point is crucial here: the hike out entails as much elevation gain as the hike in. I've hiked out out Pioneer Basin and gotten home by 5 pm, but I wouldn't have cared to do that the day after I hiked in.

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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by Steve_C » Sat Jan 10, 2015 3:18 pm

Out of Tuolumne Meadows, the Elizabeth Lake trail takes you to Elizabeth lake. From there, you could climb x-c toward Johnson Pk. The unnamed lake there has a sandy beach. I'm not sure it qualifies as to the 4-mile distance from TM, but it would make a really nice place to camp. If one spent two nights, the ridges and peaks would make a nice day hike.

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Looking at the YNP trailheads map, you would probably need a Rafferty Creek permit (24A), since Elizabeth does not meet the distance requirement. But the lake I am referring to is definitely outside the "dispersed camping" arrows of Rafferty and Cathedral Lakes (21).

Some kid, relieved to find the lake. This was a day hike for her.
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Last edited by Steve_C on Sat Jan 10, 2015 4:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Off-Trail Overnight Trips

Post by giantbrookie » Sat Jan 10, 2015 4:07 pm

Steve_C wrote:Out of Tuolumne Meadows, the Elizabeth Lake trail takes you to Elizabeth lake. From there, you could climb x-c toward Johnson Pk. The unnamed lake there has a sandy beach. I'm not sure it qualifies as to the 4-mile distance from TM, but it would make a really nice place to camp. If one spent two nights, the ridges and peaks would make a nice day hike.

gmap 4 link

Looking at the YNP trailheads map, you would probably need a Rafferty Creek permit (24A), since Elizabeth does not meet the distance requirement. But the lake I am referring to is definitely outside the "dispersed camping" arrows of Rafferty and Cathedral Lakes (21).
This is interesting. I thought when I checked last year they had a separate entry for Nelson L. which would be the logical trailhead to lump this into (was considering this as a fall overnighter for my family). Their new wilderness trailhead map and listing does not have this, but when you open the pdf for the details of each trail, the Elizabeth L. trail is listed with the well-known "no camping" designator for Elizabeth L. but then a mileage to Nelson L. As of last year I thought I saw this listed as with a quota (ie "beyond" Elizabeth L.). It would certainly be harder to get below the quota for this with it lumped into the Rafferty-Vogelsang trunk, I would think.
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