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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whrdafamI?
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Post by 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

Post by 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

Post by 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

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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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maverick
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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Post by maverick » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:28 am

Bigcounrty951 wrote "We are starting to realize that, and may be drastically
changing our expected hike dates."
There are several threads that you can read about dealing with skeetrz on this
site.
Some of the prettiest times coincide with skeeter season, and it is definitely
not a reason to cancel or avoid!
The best wild flower times are in July and August, and waterfalls, cascades, and
rivers are at there mightiest in June, and July.
Just be prepared with clothing and chemicals (when needed) and do not let them
mess with your mind, which a lot of folks unfortunately allow them buggers to do.
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, an HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Post by bigcountry951 » Wed Apr 06, 2011 6:08 pm

More excellent advice ya'll! Thanks so much. I will keep the board informed of what happens.

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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Post by SPeacock » Thu Apr 07, 2011 9:53 am

There are a couple more books you would want in your library. Both of these cover from basic to very extreme. Skim it all for a good read.

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills Probably the 'go to book' for most techniques and things to consider. Many consider it the 'bible' for backpacking.

The Mountaineering Handbook, Craig Connally ISBN 0-07-143010-5 It is a good companion to Freedom of the Hills. Connally puts forth a good, reasonable approach to getting ready for and doing any kind of hike. You will save more than the price of the book just on gear, clothing and time it takes to get ready for a hike. It is nicely organized so you can just read a chapter at a time in any order.

All of these would be at REI.

If you take back packing trips (and hikes) on the east side, you will be at high altitude quickly...perhaps from the start. Don't let your enthusiasm get away from you. Take if very slowly to start - you have all day and you have your house on your back. You can stay almost anyplace when you have to. Just follow the open fire rules.

By slow, it could be that you will be making head way at just over a 1.5 miles per hour. That will still get you to most first camp spots before evening, even if you don't start until noon. Many more seasoned hikers plan on 10 mile days. Even that at a slow tread is less than 7 hours. Get up early - don't waste sunshine. Practice how to pack, eat, cleanup and be on the trail quickly. Take a leisurely lunch. Snack on hi energy stuff all day long and make an early day of it at camp so you can explore a bit. The plan is to beat any thundershowers in the early afternoon and to get over any passes and exposed parts early.

I leave how far we go up to my wife. Near the end of the planned day, she usually adds an hour or so more because she doesn't want to do the next day's hard part early in the morning, or she wants to make it to a better spot to camp, or she is just putting miles in the bank. Or just because she knows she has more energy than I do left over and wants to rub it in that women are the stronger gender.

Work on the step-breath method. Inhale as the right foot is moved forward, exhale when the left one is moved forward. If you need more air, take smaller steps. Any forward motion is good. This will reduce the number of breaks you take during the day - and speed you along with a lot less wear and tear on your body. But don't forget the breaks. This is supposed to be fun too, ya know?

If you manage your respiration, you manage your heart rate. You want to compromise on a rate that will allow you to continue forward progress but not leave you gasping and your heart trying to strip a gear. You still might not be able to talk a lot on trail, other than to grunt out an UH HUH or UH UH. Monosyllables between pants work too... such as: look, water, food, slower, help, rest, stop, dying.

To reduce the use of the last two, you should plan on being fit. The best conditioning is a mixture of gym work pumping iron (check with a trainer on what to do - you can get gyms for $1 a day and no long term contract if you shop around), and jogging. Sorry, but you just have to get the feet and leg bones and tendons used to being abused. Here is a good plan:

http://exrx.net/Beginning.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

and look at the "jog/walk program" under CARDIO. But first read about reducing injury while jogging. Moderation as in all things is the key.

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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Post by bigcountry951 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:11 am

@ SPeacock....

WOW! Thank you so much, I really enjoyed reading your advice, as I did so many others in this forum.

I will take every word to heart! I think my biggest problem right now (in relation to your advice) is that we havent been hitting the gym yet. My wife and I have a lifetime membership to 24 Hr Fitness, so the option is there...I just need to get over my daily routine and get in there!

Thanks again!

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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Post by SPeacock » Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:43 am

Everyday we give an hour or so to those we know to help them; or to our employer when it is needed; or to family members we love. But seldom do we take an hour a day for the most important person you will ever know. Yourself!

Hiking, carrying a too heavy pack, walking up hill all day (that surprises many who get in the Sierra) and trying to enjoy this relatively expensive trip will be made CONSIDERABLY easier if you both plan on an hour day doing strenuous exercises at the gym and taking a walk in the neighborhood at night. Include resistance (weights) and not as much cardio at the gym. You will need to knock off a few pounds too. Quit eating all that junk and sugar.

The more fit you are the better you will enjoy the trip and appreciate what you have gotten yourself into. You will be expending between 400-600 calories an hour for 5-8 hours a day. You should get on a machine at the gym that will show you how many calories you are expending...and see how you feel after an hour of it...and that is not at 10,000', up hill, on rocky trails, with steps made by the trail crews for what seems an eternity, in the sun (don't forget the sunglasses, hat and UV lotion, lip balm) unimpeded by atmosphere.

This is beauty you really have to work for. And it is exhilarating if you are ready for it.

Besides, you know it and every physician you are aware of and ads on TV are telling you that you should be doing it.

Well, only if you want to have a better quality life for longer. You know you are in trouble when you can't fit exercise in because too much is going on.

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Re: Eastern Sierras First Time Backpacking

Post by oldranger » Tue Apr 12, 2011 7:37 am

SPeacock

Well put! :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!

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