A Week In The John Muir Wilderness

On this trip in to the Sierras we decided to enter at one trailhead and exit at a different one. By doing this we were able to cover just under 65 miles trail and only retraced our steps exiting lakes we visited. In order to do this we needed a ride from Crown Valley Trailhead where we dropped the Jeep off to Courtright so we can take Maxson Trailhead. Fortunately, since John wasn’t making this trip, he agreed to be our shuttle.

Day 1 Courtright Reservoir to NF Kings River 14 miles.

It was around 10:30 when we started up the trail. Not long after we started we came across members of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew taking a break alongside the trail. We ended up hiking with the trail crew until our junction after crossing Post Corral Creek.

Following the creek crossing we had lunch at a nice little camp above the creek. After lunch we headed towards the Kings River. Within a couple of hours we were on the Kings. We hiked up river a couple of miles before we found a nice spot to camp on a granite slab just above a snow measuring station.

Just below camp the river provided a nice little pool to soak our tired bodies and clean up a little. Feeling refreshed we headed back to camp to make some dinner, which consisted of what I like to call backcountry pizza. All you need is a cheese bagel, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, pepperoni and string cheese.

Since we wanted to get started early in the morning, it was bedtime after dinner.

DAY 2 NF Kings River to Pearl Lake 10.8 miles.

Today we got up at first light to get coffee going and pack up camp. We just about finished getting our packs loaded, when we heard a group of hikers admiring the river below our camp. About the time the group moved on, we were ready to follow the trail up river.

The trail was heavily covered in trees and you can hear the sound of water running in the river, which made for a very relaxing hike. Around 9 o’clock we came across 2 hikers on their way back to the trailhead and they would be the last people we see for the rest of the week.

Not long after seeing the other hikers, we entered Big Maxson Meadow. The meadow had a tinge of yellow in it. At the south west end of the meadow there is an old forest service camp, which consisted of a cabin, tool shed and a pretty cool fire pit. It didn’t look like this camp had been used in years.

After a little breather, we headed back up the trail a couple of miles to a spot on the river where we could wash our clothes and have lunch.

With our bellies full and our wet clothes tied to the outside of our packs we headed up trail to our destination for the day. This section of trail was by far my favorite part of the trail for the week. Walking through pines and firs listening to river water flow while admiring the granite peaks around you. Right when you think the trail couldn’t provide anymore beauty it opens up to an amazing upper elevation meadow.

We worked our way through the meadow and up a steep climb to Portal Lake and then up to Pearl Lake. We arrived at Pearl close to 3. Didn’t take us long to drop packs and get started fishing. While we were fishing, a thunderstorm was a brewing. With each of us having a couple of nice size fish on the stringer and it looking like rain, we go up to set up camp.

Unfortunately, it started to pour before we had the tent set up. As we were placing tent stakes, rain turned to hail. By the time we got the tent situated with our gear inside of it, the rain stopped long enough for us to have a little trail guacamole and a watermelon lime margarita.

Almost immediately after we finished our appetizer/cocktail it started to pour again and we headed in to the tent to take cover. I’m not sure exactly how long we were in the tent but, I do know we were in there long enough for Nathan’s mug to collect almost a half a cup of rain water.

Just before dark the storm stopped and we went to cleaning fish and cooking some dinner.

Day 3 Pearl Lake to Halfmoon Lake 9.6 plus 3 miles touring Battalion and Division Lakes for a total of 12.6 miles.

We woke up to frigid temperature and frozen rain drops on the tent. That is when I noticed I had lost my thermometer I had clipped on the outside of my pack. After retracing our steps to where we first took our packs off at Pearl, Nathan found my thermometer. At 8 o’clock it was 39 degrees.

Since the tent needed to dry, we headed for a little hike up to Division Lake, First Battalion Lake and Second Battalion Lake. Each of these lakes were easy on the eyes.

From Second Battalion Lake you can look over the edge and look down on to Pearl Lake. Not only did we enjoy the view of the lake but we spotted a steep drainage we could follow back to camp.

All packed up and ready to go, Nathan spotted a cloud off in the distance and jokingly mentioned there was another thunderstorm brewing. We head off trail down to the meadow below where we picked up the trail and down the Kings River to our junction. We were on trail about about 2 hours before it started to bang and boom in the sky, followed by light rain. We had off and on rain most of the way to Halfmoon.

Rain let up while we set up camp and got a fire going. With trees all around our camp, we were able to stand under them while keeping warm next the fire.

Around 4ish the storm started to break up so we went to fishing. Halfmoon is full of 5 to 6 inch Brook Trout. It took about an hour to catch enough brookies for our trout stew.

After dinner we sat around the fire until we were ready to call it a day.

Day 4 Halfmoon Lake to Elizabeth Lake 9.8 miles.

Since today was supposed to be a short mileage day, we took time for a couple cups of coffee and a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon (powdered eggs and hormel real bacon bits). We even did a little laundry.

All packed up, we left camp around 9:30 and headed to Crown Lake for the lunch. Leaving Halfmoon Lake you immediately start climbing Crown Pass. You can pretty much see Halfmoon Lake through the trees all the way up to the pass except for the last little bit.

At the top of Crown Pass, we took a break and then headed down to the junction for Crown Lake. Crown Lake has roughly a hundred yards of grass all the way around it with small groves of trees. As we approached the lake, we came up one of the better spots I have seen on trail. Unfortunately, it was an illegal spot since you can’t have a fire within a 1/4 mile of the lake. We proceeded through a small grove of pines and headed to a little spot on the lake where we decided to have lunch. While eating, we took notice on how quick the clouds were forming.

My plan was to jump in to Scepter Lake when we got there but with the sky turning dark gray, I decided to clean up in Crown Lake.

With a little over a mile to go to get to Scepter Lake we got back on trail with a mission to got to Scepter before the clouds opened up. Somehow someway we missed the unmarked junction to Scepter Lake. Neither of us wanted to climb back up the trail a 1/4 mile so we looked how far it would be to the next water source since we only had enough to get us to Scepter.

According to the map, we had a couple of creek crossings approximately three miles away. We reached the first crossing and spotted a spot to camp. At that point, I looked at my GPS to mark this area when I noticed that just under a mile further was Elizabeth Lake.

Since Elizabeth Lake was not on the map, we were taking a chance there was even water in it. Fortunately, Elizabeth Lake turned out to have everything we needed, fresh water and a spot to pitch a tent. A walk around the lake revealed some recent bear activity.

Since Elizabeth Lake didn’t contain any fish, it was Idahoan Mashed Potatoes and summer sausage.

Day 5 Elizabeth Lake to Upper Geraldine Lake 9.2 miles.

We got packed up and headed through Crown Valley around 8:30. The trail ended up going alongside a beautiful meadow, which is where Johnson Cow Camp is located. What a beautiful location for a summer ranch with cabins, tack room and corrals.

After passing the cow camp, we followed cows down the trail for about a mile or so before they decided to go off trail. Not long after the cows ditched us the trail turned to complete shit, there was down trees and overgrown brush everywhere, which made it difficult to follow the trail. Fortunately, someone put out marking tape every so often. In addition to humans marking the trail, a resident bear also did it his way.

We finally make it to Lower Geraldine Lake where we took in a swim and had some lunch. Since clouds were rolling in, we headed up to Upper Geraldine Lake.

Once we had camp set up, we set out to catch some fish for dinner. The first spot we tried, Nathan caught a couple and tossed them back since the last time we were here, we caught bigger fish. We moved to the other side of the lake where we caught some brookies that varied in size from 6 to 10 inches.

Day 6 Upper Geraldine Lake 0 miles.

Today was a scheduled relaxation before our hike back to civilization. We spent the morning catching fish. We both turned back more than we kept.

We fried fish and had another bag of mashed potatoes for lunch. After lunch, we grabbed our sleeping pads and took a nap around our small fire. It felt good just to sit back and enjoy our surroundings.

Day 7 Upper Geraldine Lake to Crown Valley Trailhead 8.6 miles.

After a long week, we were surprisingly up and ready to leave camp by 8. It took us about an hour to get to the other side of the canyon where we had a snack next to Fin Rock over looking Lower Geraldine Lake.

Ready to tack on miles, we headed towards Statham Meadow and down to Statham Creek where we had some lunch. Refueled and ready to call it a trip, we completed the last couple of miles pretty darn quick.

This trip ended up being 7 days, 6 nights and 65 miles. The lower section of the John Muir Wilderness was definitely a great choice for our last trip of the year.

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It Wasn’t A Disappointment

A few months back Nathan came across a blog where this guy made it to Disappointment Lake in a day. 15 miles and roughly 3,000 feet in elevation gain would make for tough day. So we came up with a plan. The plan was to get in to shape and lose some pack weight so we could hike to Disappointment Lake the first day then on the second day we would take a short hike down to Dale Lake and then hike out on Sunday.

Friday evening Nathan and I drove up to Courtright Reservoir so we could take the trail up to Disappointment Lake, which is just below Hell For Sure Pass. We arrived at Maxson Trailhead at a quarter to six. There was rumblings of a thunderstorm with some light showers as we began our trek. The thought of putting on rain gear crossed our minds but we chose not to.

With just a little over two hours of daylight left we hit the trail and we hit it fast. Within three hours we were at Post Corral Creek , which was 7.6 miles in, filling up our water bottles. At that pace, we could have made it to our destination by midnight. We knew that was not realistic since the steep section of the trail is the last half of the trail.

With our headlamps on, bottles filled and a little Chris Ledoux we headed up the trail towards Fleming Lake where we had plans of taking a late dinner break and fill up our water bottles before our final push for Disappointment Lake. Walking a steep rocky trail in the dark slowed our pace down quite a bit. We had several breaks to catch our breath and admire the star lit sky above us. On one of our last breaks before Fleming Lake, we actually discussed how bad the trail was kicking our asses.

We finally arrive at Fleming Lake around 11:00 p.m. Walking in to Fleming Lake we saw the reflection of our headlamps off a couple of tents so we just stopped at the opposite side to have our dinner and filled up our water bottles. It wasn’t long after we took our packs off that we realized how cool the temperature was. As I reached for my beanie, I looked at my thermometer which read 39 degrees.

After our well deserved dinner break, we felt rejuvenated and hit the trail again. Within a few minutes we were crossing Fleming Creek. Shortly after crossing the creek, we started another section of steep switchbacks. Once we made it through the switchbacks we came to a familiar junction that leads you up to Devil’s Punchbowl or onward to Hell For Sure Pass. I pull out my phone for a quick picture and noticed it was already 1:55 a.m. Boy time flies on the trail. Our legs were feeling the toll of the strenuous trek.

Knowing we had less than an hour to go, we were motivated to climb the steep granite slabs to get to Disappointment Lake. The trail got a little hard to follow in the dark but once we started to hear the lake slapping it’s banks we knew we had completed our challenge at 2:29 a.m. Just under nine hours after we started our hike. Within minutes of arriving at Disappointment Lake, we had our tent set up. However, we didn’t crawl in to our bags for a couple of hours.

Saturday morning we woke up to some fellow hikers walking by our tent threatening to throw rocks at us. Apparently, Nathan and I were a little loud when we arrived, oooops.

After some coffee and breakfast, we explored Disappointment Lake. I agree with everybody else that Disappointment Lake is not properly named. It is far from a disappointment.

Once we were done admiring the lake, we grabbed our gear and headed to Dale Lake. We followed the trail back towards Fleming Lake until we hit a little used trail that led to Dale Lake. On this section someone was playing some sort of trail game, so we decided to participate.

Not long after repositioning the dinosaur, we headed cross country to Dale Lake. Once we were on top of the ridge going in to the lake, we were greeted with some gorgeous views. From the ridge we picked the area we would like to go explore to set up camp. Tucked up in the trees approximately a 150 yards from the lake, Nathan found the perfect spot.

Sunday morning we got up and started our cross country journey to Fleming Lake. Since we were making good time and the fish were jumping, we broke out our Tenkara rods. After a couple of bites and Nathan nearly landing one, we continued on our journey back to Courtright.

From Fleming Lake we went non-stop to Post Corral Creek where we had lunch and filled our water bottles. Lunch consisted of a peanut butter, honey and trail mix wrap.

Going in to this trip, we were worried about the smoke from the Ferguson Fire in Yosemite. Thankfully, smoke was not an issue and we were able to complete our challenge.

PETER PANDE LAKE

On July sixth Nathan and I headed up Kaiser Pass to Mono Creek Trail out of Lake Thomas Edison. After a three hour drive, we arrived at the trailhead . It didn’t take us long to get our packs on and get started on our long day on the trail.

The first mile was fairly flat and had thick tree cover. Just before mile two we came across an Ansel Adams Wilderness sign, which also was the first of many pictures I took on the way in.

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Quick drink of water and away we went towards Graveyard Meadows. The tree cover thinned out a bit as we started to climb and we started to see a variety of wildflowers.

 

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At about mile six it was time to take a snack break and fill our water bottles. After a 30 minute break, we headed up the trail towards the junction for Graveyard Lakes where we made a left and started heading Northwest through a series of switchbacks up to the lakes.

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3rd Graveyard Lake

As we trekked past the first of the lakes in the Graveyard area, we slowed our pace down a bit to soak in the views. After five hours on the trail and a little over eight miles, we decided to take a lunch break and soak our feet in the cool lake.

After lunch we headed to the third and largest of the Graveyard Lakes where we hiked around the shoreline to get to a spot where we could start climbing up to a saddle that I have seen called Pande Pass. From a distance the pass looked very intimidating but once we started making our way up it wasn’t to bad. It only took us an hour from lunch to reach the top of Pande Pass and the views did not disappoint.

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After we were done taking pictures from Pande Pass we down the other side to Peter Pande Lake, which was very difficult boulder hop through patches of snow. Once we reached the bottom of the pass, it was a fairly easy two and half mile trek to the lake.

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We reached the Peter Pande Lake around 6 and since you are unable to camp within a quarter mile of the lake, we headed towards the outlet and found ourselves a flat spot next to the creek.

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Once camp was set up, we were to tired to fish so dinner consisted of a packet of mashed potatoes and some jerky. Shortly after sunset, we checked ourselves in to our sleeping bags for the night.

Saturday consisted of relaxing around the lake and soaking in the creek.

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Sunday morning we got up and had our coffee while we broke camp. We hit the trail at 7:30 and instead of going back the way we came, we decided to take the scenic route towards Goodale pass.

It didn’t take us long before we came to Grassy Lake. We didn’t spend to much time around Grassy due to the heavy mosquito population. In fact, they were so bad we had to put on our nets.

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From grassy lake we headed to Lake of the Lone Indian where we stopped to fill up water and snack before we made the trek up Goodale Pass.

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Between Goodale Pass and Lake of the Lone Indian there is a junction to the Sierras popular trails, John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

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Half way up Goodale Pass we saw a fellow backpacker who was coming out from the Silver Divide. After some small talk we continued up the pass. At the top of Goodale Pass, we took a refuel break and enjoyed the breathtaking panoramic views.

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I could have stayed on top of Goodale Pass longer but we still head a little over 9 miles to get back to the trailhead. Fortunately for us it was mostly downhill the rest of the way. Going down the pass to Upper Graveyard Meadow was slowing going through a steep set of switchbacks.

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Once down from the pass, we continued through Graveyard Meadow down to where we had a snack on Friday on our way in and soaked our feet and had some lunch. In addition, it was a good time to let our shoes and socks dry out in the sun.

Rejuvenated and looking forward to finishing off the longest mile day my brother and I have ever done, we headed for the trailhead. After 10 hours and 18.83 miles we arrived back to Nathan’s truck.

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WHEW, WHAT A HIKE

John, Nathan and I went out on an overnight trail revenge journey the Friday before Father’s Day. You see about a year ago we attempted to check out Spanish Lake via Crown Valley Trailhead; however, due to the abundance of snow the Sierras received in 2017 we were left pitching our tent on a dry piece of dirt on top of knoll surrounded by snow. (If you missed that blog, you can catch up here Crown Valley Trailhead June 3-5, 2017 ) This time the weather was perfect, creek crossings were manageable and we were determined to make it past Spanish Lake and up to Upper Geraldine Lake.

According to our map, it is supposed to be roughly 10.3 miles to our destination. However, it was like a maze getting around all of the dead fall, which added an additional eight tenths of a mile for a total of 11.1 miles.  In addition, to the 22.2 miles we gained just under 2,700′ in elevation from the start of the trail to Upper Geraldine Lake.

We hit the trail at 9:30 Friday morning and immediately started making a gradual climb on a dusty trail. After just under mile we came to our first junction in which we headed southeast to continue on towards Spanish Lake/Crown Valley. Shortly after the junction we cross Rancheria Creek for the first time. After crossing the creek the trail gradually gains elevation with the roar of the creek to our left. Looking down through the pines, we noticed this nice waterfall on the creek.

After the waterfall, the trail continued to climb until the creek leveled off and we had to cross it for a second time. Trail started to open up a little bit after the water crossing and we started to see wildflowers consisting of blue, purple, red, white and yellow colors.

Due to the abundance of mosquitoes, we didn’t take a break until mile six where we were able to sit on a sunny rock overlooking cabins at Statham Meadow. According to a gentleman that we saw riding his Buckskin, Statham Meadow used to be an old cow camp. However, nowadays it is a dude ranch.

Once our snack was done we cinched up our packs and proceeded onward. At that point, we made the decision that we were not going to go out of our way to Spanish Lake and that we would fill up our water at the next spring or drainage that had water in it. Fortunately, for us it was only mile before we came across a little creek flowing through a nice little meadow.

With full water bottles we got back on the trail. Unfortunately, this is where our hike slowed down due the trail being difficult to follow due to all the down trees but we managed with my GPS to stay the course. Literally this part of the trail looked like a giant brush pile.

Around 4:30 we came to an area where you can look down in to the Geraldine Lakes area. At that point, we knew we were going to down and then back up again to reach Upper Geraldine Lake.

It took us right around an hour and a half to climb the granite switchbacks up to the lake. When Nathan and I met up at the top we both mentioned the rough climb and that we should have planned for two nights for this trip. First words out of my mouth was what a magnificent place we were at.

After admiring the lake for a few minutes and realizing it was 6 o’clock, we break out our lunch consisting of summer sausage, cheese and crackers. Yup, I said lunch. After lunch, we got our fishing rods rigged up to catch some dinner. 30 minutes of fishing yielded us stringer full of brook trout.

Since dinner was caught fairly quickly we still had sunlight to set up camp. John and Nathan set the tent up while I gathered wood, got a fire going and filled up our water bag.

The rest of the evening was spent cleaning fish, eating dinner, sipping whiskey and relaxing around our little fire.

I crawled out of the tent around 6:30 to soak up the amazing morning views. I took a little walk out to a granite ledge where I could take a picture of the area we hiked up the previous day. WOW! Pictures with my phone do not do this amazing place justice.

The fish were jumping all over the lake as the sun hit it for the first time so I decided to walk around the lake and try my luck. After an hour of catching and releasing fish, I decided to go back to camp for some coffee and a granola bar.

While drinking coffee we slowly packed up camp and began talking about journey back to the trailhead. What we thought was going to take us two hours to get across to the other side of the canyon only took us an hour.

When we got to the other side, we went out on a ledge that overlooked Lower Geraldine Lake, Crown Valley in the distance and fin rock to the left us. We sat on the rock for a good 45 minutes before we continued down.

The rest of the way out was uneventful since we were just retracing our steps we took the day before.

A Journey Through Dinkey Lakes Wilderness

A quick trip to Rock Meadows via the Dinkey Lakes trailhead at Tamarack is what was planned but while we were going back and forth on what time we were going to leave we decided to change it up and visit a few lakes.

It was close to 9 a.m. by the time we set foot on the trail. It didn’t take long before it was time to take a break and view a pretty good size waterfall on Dinkey Creek.

Just after the waterfall, the trail splits to either continue onward towards First Dinkey Lake or up to Mystery Lake. By going up towards Mystery Lake, we would be able to visit at least four lakes on our way to Rock Meadow. Naturally we chose to go up and to do some lake hopping. After a half mile up and a couple water crossings, we made it to Mystery Lake.

Mystery Lake is pretty shallow but we did see a couple guys fishing it. However, they weren’t having any luck. We decided to let them have the lake to themselves and move up the mountain a half mile to the next lake, Swede Lake.

The view was so great we decided to drop our packs and have a little snack. Since fish were jumping, we also decided to try our luck at fishing. Swede did not disappoint.

We could have stayed at Swede Lake and I don’t think Nathan nor myself would have minded but knowing we had more to see and a ways to go we got back on the trail and headed up to South Lake. It didn’t take much to get to South Lake, the trail was fairly level for the just under a mile trek.

South Lake was pretty impressive too so we decided to find a rock and chew on some jerky while we soak it all in.

Instead of following the trail across the outlet of South Lake, we followed the creek down to First Dinkey Lake.

Once we got closer to the lake, we crossed the creek and proceeded around the meadow at the east end of the lake and met back up with the trail to Rock Meadow. We stuck to the trail for about a mile before we headed down a drainage that we knew would lead us in to our destination. It didn’t take us much time to find a spot to camp tucked in the pines along Big Creek.

After a 10 mile hike it felt good to know I didn’t have to put it back on for the day. Before heading out to catch dinner, we had a little trail guacamole.

After a bit of a break, we headed off to do some serious fishing with our Tenkara rods.

While waiting for our fire to create enough coals to cook our fish, we had a little cocktail and admired the views.

After a good night’s sleep we awoke to a cool crisp morning that left Rock Meadow covered in frost.

We ate breakfast, packed up camp and had a discussion on where we should explore on our way back to the trailhead. We opted to go a little further into Rock Meadow before we hit a junction to Long Meadow.

The trail out of Rock Meadow eventually runs into the Dusy Ershim OHV trail. We stayed on the OHV trail for a half mile before we hit a junction that would lead us to Long Meadow. This section of the trail had a little snow and run off water flowing through the trail.

From Long Meadow we took our time walking through a heavy forested area that opened up to Rodeo Meadow. Entering Rodeo Meadow we had a pretty good creek crossing.

Rodeo Meadow was a good spot for some jerky and trail mix. After fueling up the body, we started our trek up to First Dinkey Lake. Not to far up the trail we came across an old cowboy camp.

Shortly after leaving the old cabins, we were presented with a good view of a snow covered Dogtooth Peak.

Up to this point, it was obvious that this particular trail didn’t get much use since it was hard to find it in places. So when we came across junctions it was a little disappointing to find out we still had two miles to First Dinkey Lake.

The next two miles had a couple of good climbs and some great views as we made our way up the pass.

By the time we got to First Dinkey Lake it was definitely time to take a break and refuel for the final three miles out.

The trail from First Dinkey Lake to the trailhead was steep and rocky and pretty darn rough on a tired body.

All in all it was an awesome two day 21 mile trip in an area we hadn’t explored before.

Poopenaut Valley

Last month when Nathan and I were walking across O’Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir we admired the Valley to the west of the dam that had the Tuolumne River winding through the granite. As we drove out, Nathan noticed the trailhead for Poopenaut Valley and that sparked our interest to return to Hetch Hetchy area.

So on Cinco de Mayo John and I headed north to meet up with my brother, Nathan, and my sister-in-law, Kristan, for a little journey to Poopenaut Valley in Yosemite. Since Nathan and Kristan stayed at the Hetch Hetchy Backpacker’s Camp on Friday, the plan was for John and I to meet up with them on the trail.

Fortunately, we lucked out one of the two parking spots was vacant at the trailhead. John and I threw our packs on and prepared ourselves for the mile long 1,200 foot descent. It didn’t take us long before we were saying this trail was no joke. The tops of our legs were quivering due to the amount of pressure we were putting on them going down.

The trail was loaded with oak, pines, fir, wild flowers, poison oak and a ton of down trees. Every so often we would be presented with some immaculate views of the Tuolumne River flowing through the granite below.

After a quick picture and water break, we came around a sharp switchback to a familiar “hey brother”. We had caught up to Nathan and Kristan about half way down our descent. We all had our opinion on how bad it was going to suck climbing out the next day.

We continued our way down to the valley floor. When the trail finally flattened out, we had to cross a small creek and weave our way around a down trees.

Through our research, it seemed that most people head to the west end of the valley to camp, so we headed in that direction. Not seeing what we were looking for Nathan and I both wanted to head east towards Hetch Hetchy. After a couple of small stream crossings, we find a campsite that was ok but not great. Knowing there is always a better site around the corner, we take our packs off to do some scouting around. While trying to figure out if we could get up this granite shelf I stumbled across a pretty spectacular oak tree.

After determining that we could go further up the valley, I let the others know and we headed up the granite shelf. About halfway up, Nathan went ahead to see if there was a spot along the river. Sure enough he found a flat spot just above the river.

After soaking our feet in the river and eating lunch, we set up camp.

Once camp was set up, we set out to a little fishing. Unfortunately, the water was very high and the current was fast that it made fishing a challenge. However, Nathan and I got some good casting practice with our Iwana Tenkara USA rods.

We were all ready to get in our sleeping bags after dinner and some good campfire conversation. Falling asleep to the sound of the raging river was so peaceful. A good night’s sleep was had by all.

Sunday morning consisted of a quick breakfast, some coffee, refilling water bottles and breaking camp. When camp chores were completed, we started back down the valley to locate or trail out.

It didn’t take long for us to start to feel the pain of the 40% grade.

It took just a little over an hour to do the 1.2 miles up. Everyone was happy to see John’s truck waiting for us.

It was an awesome overnight trip, we had the entire Poopenaut Valley to ourselves. There are definitely some hidden gems in Yosemite where you can get away from the masses of people.

Yosemite’s Northern Wilderness

Friday morning Nathan and I set out for a quick trip to explore the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite. The trip from Clovis to the backpacker’s parking lot would normally be 4 hours but do to the Merced River bridge being out on J59 in Snelling, a sign down at the National Forest 12 and 17 junction and a very talkative ranger where we picked up our wilderness permit it took us a little over 5 hours to get to the parking lot.

The whole area was socked in with clouds producing a steady sprinkle. It was close to 1:00 by the time we were ready to hit the trail with our rain gear on.

From the parking lot we headed through the backpacker’s campground down to O’Shaughnessy Dam. Even blanketed by clouds, the dam itself is pretty amazing with the spectacular views from both sides.

On the far end of the dam you see the granite tunnel you have to go through to get to the trail. After navigating through the well lit wet tunnel, you start to pass along several little waterfalls.

It is roughly a mile and half from where we parked to the actual start of the trail. Up to this point, we had seen several groups of day hikers but once we hit this junction, we wouldn’t see anyone else until our way out.

This where the trail starts to climb in elevation through numerous switchbacks. The first three miles of switchbacks were loaded with down trees and salamanders. Believe it or not the little red guys were the bigger of the two obstacles.

Where the trail started to taper off and just before the junction to Lake Eleanor we stopped and had our lunch, which consisted of a tuna packet wrapped in a flour tortilla and a handful of trail mix. This is where we started to see traces of small patches of snow. We continue to navigate the trail up to what appeared to be a simple small creek crossing. Nathan tested the log that was lying across the creek and proceeded to cross it. Unfortunately, half way through the log started to give way and he got a little wetter than he already was. I headed upstream to a bigger log, where I saddled it to get across.

After crossing the creek, the trail became more covered with snow but it was still fairly easy to follow the trail up to Bee Hive Meadow. The four foot sign at Bee Hive Meadow for either Lake Vernon or Laurel Lake, where we were headed was buried in snow. It was an easy decision to trek through the seven to eight inches of fresh snow melt flowing on the trail versus walking on the snow that gave way with every other step.

Once on the other side of Bee Hive Meadow, we came to the conclusion that it was getting late and we wouldn’t make it to Laurel Lake so we started looking for a flat piece of snow free land to pitch a tent. This is where Mother Nature really opened up and the rainfall went from light mist to a steady downpour. It is also where we learned you can set up a Kelty Gunnison Tent with 50 feet of paracord and a tarp instead of using the provided tent poles, which were left in my garage.

We get out of our clothes and hop in to our sleeping bags to warm up. After about an hour in our bags, we realize the rain isn’t going to let up so we decided to do the big no no and eat our summer sausage, cheese and cracker dinner in the warmth of our bags in the tent. After dinner and a couple of sips off the whiskey bottle, we called it a night.

The rain was steady through the night. Several times throughout the night one of us would say “hey brother you awake” the answer was always yes. At first light the rain was still coming down and the wind was starting to pick up but we were still dry and warm. Our discussions went back and forth on waiting the storm out or just putting back on our wet hiking clothes and pack out. After 16 hours in the tent and no signs the rain was going to let up, we decided to put on our wet pants and shoes and pack up.

Once we got started, we were ready to hit the trail within 15 minutes. We boogied back through the water filled trail of Bee Hive Meadow, snow covered trail down to the creek crossing Nathan played in the day before down to this flat granite slab where we decided to break out the alcohol stove to make some coffee and have some lunch.

Since rain finally stopped, I decided to take a few pictures of our spectacular lunchtime views.

After lunch and a couple cups of coffee, we headed down the trail to start navigating the steep switchbacks. The views going down of Hetch Hetchy were really enjoyable and made the trek down fly by.

The further we went down the louder the roar of the waterfalls got and unfortunately the more people we started to see. It was a perfect time to take in the waterfalls, so who can blame them.

 

Heading towards the tunnel back to O’Shaughnessy dam, we were getting some strange looks from the mass of people heading in to look at the falls as we blew through all the water crossings as they tried to avoid getting their feet wet.

As we exited the tunnel we saw a ranger who wanted to talk to us about where we had been and what the conditions were like in the backcountry so he could let the Wilderness/Backcountry office know. He was very appreciative of the information we had shared with him and then advised us they had to do an emergency evacuation of a Boy Scout group at Rancheria Falls earlier.

After our chat with the ranger, we proceeded across the dam taking in the sights of Hetch Hetchy on one side and the Tuolumne River on the other.

Once we made it back to the car, we didn’t waste no time changing our clothes. It felt amazing to put on some dry clothes.

On the way out just before the entrance/exit of Hetch Hetchy, Nathan spotted a pretty cool waterfall on the other side of the canyon.

Two days, one night. 18.4 miles and for the most part people free in Yosemite. Not to many people can say that they have had that experience in Yosemite.

First trip of the year is in the books!