TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

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mcgenes
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TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by mcgenes » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:06 am

Hi All,
Thanks again for all your excellent trail beta. It made this year's trip epic - I studied Lion Lake info long and hard here.

8/28: Three of us set out from Wolverton trailhead (Alta) in SEKI under clear blue skies. Hit the trail around noon and hiked to Mehrton Meadow. It was not very attractive and there was no bear box. Mosquitoes were 2-3. I had put Dr Scholl’s gel inserts into my old Asolo Fission boots because the Solomon boots were causing a big welt on my left outer calf. This turned out to be a big mistake as the gel inserts had so much cushioning (and my pack was heavy) that I got big blisters on my heels. I had taped them before starting, too. Maybe that also contributed - hard to say. Gratefully, I had the original inserts with me and was able to manage the situation with duct tape and bandages throughout the trip. One of my buddies brought conversation starters - little slips of paper with trivia on them he had prepared for the trip. He passed them around each evening and we would read them aloud. Pretty funny. Here's an example: There are more than 1200 species of bat in the world, and not one of them is blind.

8/29: Hiked on to Bearpaw Meadow. We arrived by about 2pm. No one was there when we arrived, so we chose a campsite nearer the ranger station that was less dry and dirty. The campground soon filled up. There was a work crew there building a new ranger station in the rustic style-stone foundation and logs, truly beautiful. They had chopped up the old A-frame and had it lifted by helicopter in big pieces. That must have been a sight. The high sierra camp never opened this year due to snow damage. The work crew invited our neighbors to a bonfire (burning wood scraps), and we tagged along. It was a beautiful evening - nice view and the crew had lots of stories.

8/30: Our original itinerary had us climbing up to Lion Lake - 3500’ and mostly off trail. We decided to stay at Tamarack Lake, which was short mileage but still 2000’ of climbing. We met the Bearpaw ranger on the trail and she gave us some good information about how to climb up to Lion Lake:
Travel south around the lake and cross the talus field at the east end. Take granite slabs up to the shoulder, then climb up to the green brush area. Get as high as you can so that you are close to the lion paws as you pass them.

She also gave us some advice about the climb into Big Bird Lake later in the trip. Really helpful info. Still had clear skies and pretty warm weather. I was hot most of the day. Saw (smelled) a work crew camp on the way to Lone Pine Meadow, but never saw the crew. Maybe they were working on Elizabeth Pass.

8/31: It took us 6 hours to climb up to Lion Lake. What a haul! Lots of talus. There was a field just under the lower lion’s paw that was table-sized. We were in a lot of cliffy situations during the day. Had to stop and treat one of my heels...grrr. I also broke a pole. Hiking with an engineer and an IT specialist has its benefits - they used Tenacious Tape and two tie wraps to fix it and it held the rest of the trip! We camped on the single appropriate area on the approach to Lion Lake with a view west to Visalia (look east instead). I found an old Mason jar hidden in some rocks. The lid and seal were still intact. I left it in place, which turned out to be the right thing to do, per Ranger Cindy at Roaring River. She said the old park instructions were to bury garbage or stash it in rocks. Now the park service is treating these items as artifacts and asking people to leave them in place.

9/1: We climbed up to Lion Lake Pass in two hours. More talus, and a little bit cliffy. Crossed a very small patch of snow on the way. At this point, I started making peace with talus. It can make climbing very quick (stairs). We reached the top of the pass at 11:00am. Later would have been better so the snow was softer, but we had a long day planned into Cloud Canyon. Still, we passed the time for an hour at the top waiting for the snow to soften. At noon, we descended on talus about halfway to the tarn below the pass, then entered the snow. I had on YakTrax for the first time. They helped a bit, but I need to do some reading on how best to use them. I slipped twice, but my buddy was spotting me, so all was good. The snow was maybe 20 yards long. Once off the snow, I was very cheerful - the hardest parts of the trip were now behind us...or so I thought. The descent into Cloud Canyon (1800’) wasn’t technically hard, but it was long and we spent an hour descending the green part of the mountain (least steep). I jammed my big toe and will lose the toenail. Still cloudless and hot. We were really glad to reach the creek at the bottom of the canyon. Traversing the canyon was pretty easy and it was beautiful. When we could finally see down the canyon to the point where we would meet the Colby Pass trail, my buddy suggested we stop and camp. We made camp on granite. That night, we saw three shooting stars, and one was pointed directly at us so it looked like a star explosion. Really cool!
Lion Lake and Lion Rock Pass.jpg
9/2: As I awoke, I kept seeing “explosions” through my closed eyelids and wondered if it was still the meteor shower. Turns out it was lightning. I didn’t hear any thunder, but it started to gently rain. It quickly cleared up and we hit the trail around 8:45. The last cross country bit in Cloud Canyon started easy and ended with a couple of talus fields. I’m getting much better at talus, but my quads were so fatigued from ascending to Lion Lake and descending in to Cloud Canyon that it felt really hard to climb. I was glad we didn’t try to reach the trail the day before. We crossed the creek just before meeting the Colby Pass trail and stumbled upon the Grand Palace Hotel campsite. There was a work crew stationed there and we talked to one of the young crew members. They had made good headway on repairing the north side of Colby Pass. Their camp was...impressive - a cord of wood was stacked, there was a roaring fire (despite the warm day), a water line, and a pink flamingo pool toy was tethered in the creek. Mexican music was playing and there was the scent of bacon in the air. It was Labor Day - a holiday for the crew. I think there were bear boxes, but they may have just been for the crew (think they were green).

Big Wet Meadow lived up to its reputation, but I didn’t find Shorty Lovelace’s cabin. Ranger Cindy says they are preserving it and have restored the roof with sugar pine, which is what Shorty originally used. The cabin is tucked back into the shadows and hard to see. Seems the park service likes it that way.
Big Wet Meadow.jpg
We reached Roaring River at about 4pm and had a long chat with Ranger Cindy, even though she was on holiday. She encouraged us to visit the Barton-Lackey Cabin from 1910, so we made a trip back over the river to see it. Cindy also told us about Stewart Edward White and how Elizabeth Pass was named.
Lackey Cabin.jpg
9/3: Into Deadman Canyon, which was also very picturesque. We stopped and checked out the shepherd's gravesite in Grave Meadow. Ranger Meadow was beautiful and long. We camped at the moraine in the canyon, which is the jumping off point for the traverse to Big Bird Lake. We made camp at 1:30pm and had thunderstorms in the afternoon, but they cleared by dinner. Had a campfire for the first time, which was very enjoyable.
Ranger Meadow.jpg
9/4: We made the short cross country trek to Big Bird Lake and arrived by 9:30am. Rather than continue on, we decided to take a layover day. The rain started at 12:30 and continued off and on with big breaks in between. Cool and overcast for the most part. The mosquitoes showed up late - 6:00pm and continued until I went to bed at 7:30. Nice lazy day in a beautiful spot.

9/5: We started hiking at 7:30am under cloudy skies with impending rain. The rain started at 8:00am and stayed with us for most of the hike into the Tablelands and on to Moose Lake. The views above Big Bird Lake looking east and south were amazing. The climb out of Big Bird was easier than I expected - there is a long saddle at 10,400’ not to be missed. The Tablelands were easy traversing and interesting terrain - granite slabs everywhere. You can see Moose Lake as soon as you crest the ridge above Big Bird Lake. After we made camp, we walked around the east end of Moose Lake to an amazing vista point over Buck Canyon. The ranger at Lodgepole had recounted terrible mosquitoes at Moose Lake and the Tablelands just before our trip. We saw mostly male mosquitoes. Overall, the mosquito situation was constant at 2-3 everywhere we went. We watched thunderstorms to the east all afternoon. As dusk approached, the clouds descended like fog, but did not quite touch us. Cool, damp weather in general.
Above Big Bird Lake.jpg
9/6: Today we hiked out of Moose Lake through the Tablelands to Pear Lake. All of us were dreading the crowd there, as it was Friday night. We arrived at Pear just before noon and there was one other group camped. We selected the highest campsite and enjoyed the lake views, which were dramatic under cloudy skies and with the large granite features at the back of the lake. We hiked to the Ranger Station, which is a beautiful example of backcountry architecture. Ranger Annabelle was away for an indefinite period. There are composting toilets and bear boxes at Pear Lake. The crowds arrived throughout the afternoon, filling up the lake. Everyone went to bed at nightfall, a definite benefit of campfire prohibitions.

9/7: All were ready to hike out today - day 11. The showers and burgers at Lodgepole were definitely calling. We hit the trail at 7:30am under clear skies, but they soon turned to the overcast that had become typical on our trip. We stopped at Emerald Lake, which was more beautiful in my opinion than Pear Lake despite a small dam on the outlet-I wished we had camped there. There was a family camped at the lake, but no one else. Judging by the number of people we passed on the trail headed up to the lakes, I’m sure both Pear and Emerald would reach the 50 person quota (combined) that night.

Overall, another great trip in the backcountry.
Marnie
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Re: TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by astrogerly » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:29 am

Hey Marnie! Great trip report! My husband and I met you and the crew in Deadman Canyon on Tuesday. Big Bird is still on our list of places to go, as is Lion Lake now! Glad to hear you all had a great trip!
-Tiffany

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Re: TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by mcgenes » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:37 am

Hi Tiffany! Hope you had a great trip and missed most of the rain!

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Re: TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by astrogerly » Sun Sep 08, 2019 12:12 pm

We did have a great trip... and are ready to be back out again! So much to explore, so little time. :) We missed some, but not all of the rain. I think our shoes finally dried out...

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Re: TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by brownbat » Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:02 am

What an epic trip! I may have run into your group at Tamarack lake - we were a group of one woman and 2 guys and passed another group of 1 woman and 2 guys on the way up to the lake. I saw (probably?) you heading across the lake's talus on the morning of the 31st and wondered if you were planning some epic xcountry :) We did a much shorter trip entering wolverton on the 29th and connected to tablelands via pterodactyl pass on the 31st, existing the 1st out of Pear lake. I studied the tamarack lake terrain a lot thinking about how I would approach getting to lion or over to 9 lakes. It looked like a beast for sure.

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Re: TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by mcgenes » Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:49 pm

I remember you! Glad you had a good trip. The climb up to Lion Lake was a beast, but if I can do it you certainly can!

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Re: TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by tie » Wed Sep 11, 2019 4:22 pm

Very nice. Thanks also for sharing the Lion Lake approach info, I've been thinking about going up there.

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Re: TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by creekfeet » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:55 pm

Excellent report! It's always nice to get some intel on Shorty Lovelace cabins, and information on the tricky route between Tamarack and Lion Lake is always appreciated. Lord knows I could've used it, as the time I did it I descended the north side. Also, the photo of the country around Big Bird is spectacular. Looks very foreboding! If the ranger you talked to about Moose was a tall, handsome dude, with red hair and a calm demeanor, I was with him on that ill-fated, mosquito-plagued trip to Moose. Worst mosquitoes I've ever experienced.

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Re: TR: Cloud Canyon - Deadman Canyon - Tablelands 8/28-9/7/2019

Post by astrogerly » Wed Sep 11, 2019 8:24 pm

We had heard - via the SEKI NPS trail conditions site - that they were bad. That Sunday/Monday (9/1-2) was one of my worst experiences approaching Moose and all evening. Luckily the rain helped at bit Monday morning, but whoa. I inhaled a few I think, but the views (and lack of people) was worth it! :)

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