Yosemite North to South 2020

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grampy
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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by grampy » Tue Jan 21, 2020 10:35 pm

Regarding the earlier comment about the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF portion of Hoover Wilderness switching over to Recreation.gov for permit reservations:
potatopants wrote:
Tue Dec 31, 2019 6:12 am
I called the Humboldt-Toiyabe ranger station back in September or October to clarify whether or not I'd need a permit for Leavitt Meadows ... He said permits will still open on March 1 but to go to Recreation.gov for them instead. I'm surprised there isn't anything up on the website yet. Maybe after the New Year?
Here is the announcement from Humboldt-Toiyabe NF confirming what they told you:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/htnf/hom ... rdb5238673








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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by CAMERONM » Wed Jan 22, 2020 9:29 pm

Something to consider: I have done both of the high and low Merced trails, and I like both, for different reasons. The lower trail is very scenic
with the Indian Falls. At the same time, although I have not done the portion running from Red Peak to the Valley, I have always had the impression that it might be stuck the trees and not so thrilling. So you might consider the following: Follow your southern route clockwise all the way to Red Peak (yes all the way to the pass, the rocks are amazing there), and make sure you spend the night at the Red Devil Lake. Then return back and take the lower Merced trail north, across through Merced camp and across west to rejoin your route. No, on the map it does not look so much like a big round circular route, but it will offer a lot interesting experiences, or possibly more, than what you have outlined. Some may know that hike from Red peak to the valley and may differ...
You may also find that it will be hard to get the permit to do the JMT portion from the valley to Tuolumne; they may offer the Cloud's Rest trail instead.

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potatopants
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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by potatopants » Thu Jan 30, 2020 2:24 pm

Cameron, thanks for this suggestion -- I certainly don't mind backtracking if it brings me to some great places. I do have an interest in going as far as Lower Ottoway Lake, and then I think the section west of that, toward the valley, passes through a burn area, so I'm going to have to think on that a bit. Permit wise, my hope is for a Rafferty Creek permit, and if not that, then Lyell, and if not that, then Cathedral... I'm hopeful that as a solo hiker I'll be able to snag a spot. Something will work out, certainly!

Grampy, thanks for sharing the announcement.

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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by potatopants » Mon Jun 22, 2020 7:16 am

Hello! I have permits secured and will plan to head out on July 20. I would usually pepper the ranger with a bunch of questions, but I've heard that the permit talks have over a hundred people in them. So I bring my many questions to you kind folks in the hopes you can help whittle this list down.

North Loop (https://caltopo.com/m/6RP1)
  • I do need to pull one pretty long day, so I’m looking to cover Benson Lake to Pate Valley in a day. Looks to be 14 miles and over 5,000 feet of loss. I’ve read it can be pretty overgrown. How hard is it to navigate?
  • I might be reading this wrong, but this (https://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.ph ... #msg-63142) sounds like there is an opportunity to camp along the Piute Creek about a mile north of the jnctn to GCT. Anyone familiar with this area that can advise on a place to camp before reaching the junction? Or would it be better to just push through to the junction?
  • Is water reliable in mid July in Cold Canyon?
South Loop https://caltopo.com/m/JCEG
  • I’ll be coming in from Mono Meadows over Red Peak Pass to the High Trail, heading north. Is the High Trail Junction signed/clear? I understand this route is not heavily used but is maintained, and there are blazes on the trees along the way. Any particular navigational concerns?
  • Anywhere particularly nice to camp along the High Trail south of the Lyell Fork crossing?
  • What should I expect from the Lyell Fork crossing in late July?
General Questions
  • Overall, are there any water crossings that may be particularly tricky come mid- to late July this year?
  • Any other spots where the trail may be tricky to follow that I should be aware of?
  • Any other trail hazards specific to this route that I should be aware of?
  • Any intel on whether the TM store may end up opening? I will need somewhere to stash my resupply. If I can’t count on the TM store, what would be my best option en route to Mono Meadows?
  • I’m unclear on which backpackers campground is open in the high country. Can anyone clear that up?
  • Where might I be able to take a shower?
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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by wildhiker » Mon Jun 22, 2020 11:44 pm

Some comments on your trip plans (and maybe an answer or two):

On your north loop, you plan to camp at Miller Lake and then hike all the way up Matterhorn Canyon to camp around Burro Pass. I thought the upper basin of Matterhorn Canyon, around 10,000 feet elevation, was a really beautiful open alpine valley and a great place to camp. We had a wonderful sunset show on Whorl Mountain when we were there. If you don't camp there, you have to go over Burro Pass, perhaps to the small lakes below Finger Peaks. Not as spectacular as Matterhorn Canyon, in my opinion.

On the south loop, yes, the High Trail is very well maintained and signed. You will have no problems finding and following it. You can camp at Foerster Lake, an easy walk off the trail. We crossed the Lyell Fork of the Merced on August 17th of a very wet year (2005) and it was a ford no more than knee deep, although with a good current. You should have no problems early August of this dry year. Here's a photo of my wife crossing the Lyell Fork Merced that year (she only had one trekking pole, so notice the improvised second pole; I also carried her pack across for her):
IMG_8092.JPG
You plan to camp at Florence Falls. If you can push a little farther, the upper part of Lewis Creek, just before it climbs in earnest up to Vogelsang Pass, is a beautiful open alpine valley and would be a much prettier camp.

-Phil
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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by potatopants » Tue Jun 23, 2020 7:59 am

Thanks, Phil, for the advice on campsites and for the photo of the Lyell Fork crossing. That's a great help! Much appreciated.

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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by rgliebe » Wed Jun 24, 2020 11:46 pm

North Loop

Climbing out of Benson Lake is a real bear, and takes me about a half day to get out of that basin to Smedberg Lake. I would never dream of trying to get to Pate Valley from Benson in a day, but I do carry a heavy pack. There are some good places to camp once you get beyond Smedberg Lake, including Rodgers and Neal Lakes. When I went through there I camped in Rodger’s Canyon by the creek just off the trail before reaching the GCT rim. There are no great views there, but it’s very quiet and peaceful. It took me 4.5 hours to get from that campsite into Pate Valley by the bridges over the river. Getting to that Rodger's Canyon campsite from Benson Lake would have been a good 6 hours if I recall correctly. The trail is very well marked until you reach the rim, and then parts of it along the rim are overgrown with bushes here and there until you reach the switchbacks down to Pate Valley. You probably won’t lose it, but you will have to spend some time looking at the terrain to stay on it and make sure nothing is hanging out far from your pack. The drop into Pate Valley is very hard on the feet and takes a couple of hours. When I did it in 1999 I was up against an impressive fire on the other side of the valley that was burning its way down the steep ridge from Hetch Hetchy, so I didn’t investigate any possibilities of camping on Piute Creek. I remember it had water in it late in the season, and the area had a lot of trees with one open meadow with tall grass (over a foot) in it that was perfect for landing a helicopter. The nicest campsites I recall were along the Tuolumne River on both sides of the footbridge, and I’ve camped on both sides. Just remember the area is as hot as hell on a summer afternoon (around 90 degrees F) and loaded with snakes. If the bridge is out, getting across the river can be dangerous even in a drought year due to the strong current. It’s the hardest river crossing I’ve ever done in my life.

Conness Creek and Return Creek should flow all year, but don’t count on any significant water in between them, as the seasonal runoff should be over with by now. There should be some puddles here and there as you go upstream farther along the feeder creek to Conness Creek. I have seen a little water flowing there in August, but it wasn’t a drought year. If you have a pump with a filter you should be fine, and a cup could probably scoop water out. I personally prefer the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, as there are some isolated campsites there are aren’t used often except on weekends, and you have plenty of water in Conness Creek. It’s the only High Sierra Camp in the system that I like.

Miller Lake is a campsite used by mule/horse tours that go down that section of the PCT (complete with fences). I did not enjoy my night there as the stock roamed freely and kicked up dust all the time. Otherwise it is a nice lake. I enjoyed camping in Matterhorn Canyon much more, which is amazingly quiet.

Return Creek is the only crossing you might find slightly challenging, but you’ll probably only get wet halfway to your knees worst case due to the drought. The real challenges are in the Jack Main Canyon area that you are staying away from.

South

All trail junctions are clearly marked with the trademark Yosemite signs that the letters are punched through metal. I haven’t done the High Trail yet, but the pictures I’ve seen show it clearly visible. If you have problems with the trail, it will likely be when you come down from Red Peak Pass. I haven’t done it since they redid the trail, so hopefully it is better now. It was one of the worst marked trails in the park and extremely easy to lose in snow by following the wrong footprints. It didn’t follow a logical route in those days. The rest of your route is well used and marked.


General

Downed trees have been the biggest issue for me since the long drought ended, as about 1/5 of the trees appear to have died and they do fall eventually. The park does use a few men with chainsaws to cut the ones across trails, but it takes them most of the summer to get all the trails done. If you go off trail, you may be slowed down considerably by these trees. In forested areas when I’m off trail, I hit one about every 2-3 min, and some require long detours due to their size.

As long as you don’t run into a bridge that is out over the Merced or Tuolumne River, you shouldn’t have any hazardous water crossings due to the drought this year and the time you are going.

My understanding is that all the backpacker’s campgrounds are open for backpackers to use for one night at the beginning or end of your trip - Hetch Hetchy, Tuolumne Meadows, and North Pines (Valley Floor). They are audited by rangers, so have your permit with you. The bathrooms may not be open, but you can get water from the river nearby (Hetch Hetchy might be difficult to do that at) and follow standard wilderness practices.

The TM store usually opens a week before the campground, which is not going to open until August 1 per the latest news. Bear lockers are at all the trailheads, so that’s the only alternative if the store is closed. The closest lockers to the store are located across the street on the other side of the river, along the dirt road that is used for the Soda Springs trailhead parking. It’s a 5 min walk from the store.

I don’t think any place that offers public showers will be open in Yosemite this summer due to their social distancing guidelines. Housekeeping Camp on the Valley Floor is the most likely one, but it’s a long walk from North Pines.

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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:00 pm

Miller is an OK camp if you run out of time, but it would not be my first choice. There are campsites in the creeks both north and south. The head of Matterhorn Canyon, on the bench just below the pass, off the trail, across the creek is a sparsely timbered area that is one of the best camping areas in the Sierra! (photos below). The upper reaches on the north side of the pass also have some nice camping. Down near Slide Creek is pretty miserable.

Those of us with old knees find dropping 3000 feet in a day in addition to 15 miles, is a bit stressing. That may not be an issue for you at all. That drop down to Piute Creek is a miserable, hot, dry, dusty stretch of trail that is full of overgrown brush. Not sure you have thought of it, but a backpacking sun umbrella may be good to have. There is no shade on that entire hillside.

You asked earlier about camping on Piute Creek above Pate Valley- yes there is camping there on a flat after the big downhill. It is very woodsy, but you can find flat ground near the creek. Personally, I would not camp in Pate Valley- too many rattlesnakes and bears! If you could get a mile or so up from Pate Valley, before you go over the hump next to Muir Gorge, you will find some nice camping off the trail. There are wonderful swimming holes all along the Tuolumne!
0337_UMatterhorn_near Camp_edited-1.jpg
0345-47_UMatterhorn_edited-1.jpg
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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by robow8 » Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:37 pm

It says on Yosemite's website that the Curry Village showers are only for those staying at Curry. So, unless you're staying somewhere in the Valley, no showers.

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Re: Yosemite North to South 2020

Post by potatopants » Fri Jun 26, 2020 1:18 pm

Thanks for taking the time to provide this detailed advice. I've spent some time identifying the recommendations on the map. My guess is that I'll be glad I have that buffer day to break up one or two of the longer stretches. Rather than try to get from Benson and into the GCTR, I think I'll plan a night in Rodgers Meadow.

Phil and Daisy, is this about spot you're describing below Burro Pass?
Screen Shot 2020-06-26 at 3.00.40 PM.png
Sounds like I'll have to try my luck with leaving my resupply in a bear box and hoping it doesn't get confiscated or stolen. My other option is to leave it with Lake View Lodge, where I'm staying before I start, but that's a lot of extra driving. At least I could find some ice cream though... very important stuff. And maybe a shower... not as important. Gotta have priorities. :)

One additional question -- what is the water situation between Glen Aulin and Return Creek? I've read trip reports that say there isn't much/any.
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