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Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?

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Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 10:30AM
My small group is looking for any advice you can offer for a 6 day, 5 night backpacking trip from the Happy Isles trailhead. Although we're interested in seeing the most impressive sights we are probably more interested in avoiding hoards of tourists--at least for the most part and especially at night when we set up camp. We'll start our trip in two weeks and were thinking of heading either towards Merced Lake and then explore the lakes region between there and Vogelsang or take the John Muir trail up to the sunrise and Cathedral lakes areas. Ideally, we'd hike hard the first 2 days to get away from the crowds and then set up a base camp and take day hikes to explore the surrouning back country.

Also, we're wondering what to do the night before we put in: we'll get in the afternoon before our permit starts. I suspect that the campgrounds are crowded and unpleasant. Just how bad are they? Are there any alternative options?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.

Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 10:57AM
You can get the permit the morning before your hike starts. Sometimes when you go to get your permit the morning of or the afternoon before, they are all sold out (especially for the popular spots like Little Yosemite Valley). People line up early when it's busy. You can also stand in line before it opens, but have a group of 10 people ahead of you who snatch up the last of the Little Yosemite Valley Permits. It might be cold in the high country this early in the season, but there hasn't been much snow this year, so maybe it's not an issue. It looks like they just updated the Wilderness Trail Conditions for May, you can read it here:

http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/wilderness/trailconditions.htm

Also, you probably want to call the Wilderness Center in the Valley to get more specific and up-to-date information. Contact info on this page:

http://www.nps.gov/archive/yose/wilderness/permits.htm

You can also check that site to see which ADVANCE permits are sold out. 40% of the permits for the trailhead become available 1 day before (the morning before) your trip. The first thing you might want to do is get a guidebook with suggested trails and hikes in it. I like Lonely Planet Yosemite and Lonely Planet Hiking in the Sierra Nevada. There are also a bunch of hikes in Yosemite in the book "Sierra North" by Winnett, Morey, & Haber.

If you think it is too cold and snowy in the high country this time of year, you can check out Hetch Hetchy and Chilnualna Falls.

One piece of advice, the rangers seem to be a bit more helpful when you ask questions about specific locations and routes, rather than if you ask them "Hey, where should I go?" Generally, the trip route is up to you and then they can answer your questions about your route (maybe have a plan A and a plan B).

I hope that helps! Feel free to ask more questions!
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 11:22AM
Thanks for the response. We have had our permits for quite some time, so that won't be an issue. We just haven't made a decision on where, exactly we´d like to hike. We have the LP guide you mentioned which is why we've sort of narrowed it down to the lakes region between Merced and Vogelsang or the Sunrise/Cathedral lakes regions. Since I´ve never been to Yosemite I´m wondering how crowded those areas are. I suspect that we´ll see a lot of people from the Happy Isles trailhead to half dome area but that things should calm down after that?

As for snow--I wouldn't mind it. We're all originally from the northlands!
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 11:25AM
Are you coming back out the same way? Where is your end point?
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 11:34AM
Yes, we´ll both put in and come out of happy isles.
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 11:44AM
I did the loop around Vogelsang last August. However, I started/finished my trip at Tuolumne Meadows. But if you want to see some pictures of what the loop around Vogelsang is like you can see my pictures on Flickr. The bottom 3 sets in this collection would apply to different areas you're hiking (Vogelsang, Yosemite in Spring, and Summer Backpacking '05). Hiking to Volgesang Pass from the Valley is a lot of elevation gain!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/2carolyn/collections/72157600099220621/

I haven't been to Sunrise Lakes, so I'll leave that to someone else to describe. The High Sierra Camps won't be open until June

http://www.yosemitepark.com/Accommodations_HighSierraCamps_Availability.aspx

so there might not be as much people and mule traffic as summer.
If there is snow up there, make sure you can navigate with a compass & map in case you lose the trail.

Make sure to report back after your trip, I like to see pictures!
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 06:18PM
Thanks for posting those pictures letterknit. I was glad to see Babock lake since that was one area we were thinking of visiting. Did you by chance make it down to Washburn lake?

I think we'll decide between the North Rim of the Yosemite Valley or out to Merced and then on to some smaller, near-by lakes.
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 04:20PM
One thing to keep in mind is that when Yosemite is "crowded" it's not like going to Disneyland on a busy Saturday where it's shoulder to shoulder people. In my experience, "crowded" means there might be a few slower people in front of you on the Mist Trail stairs and a couple of minutes wait to be at the front of the railing at Glacier Point. And even in those cases, it's still one of the best places I can imagine visiting.
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 06:53PM
Nope we didn't go to Washburn Lake. I think that would have meant losing too much elevation before going up to Vogelsang Pass, and we couldn't add anymore distance to the trip. There is quite a bit of elevation change between Babcock Lake and Merced Lake (Merced is lower) so we didn't go down to Merced. Babock Lake is very beautiful and not very crowded (although we missed the trail to Babcock Lake and had to go back to find it).

I use Flickr a lot to look at other people's pictures of places I'm going. You can do a search of Washburn Lake and see a couple pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=washburn+lake+yosemite&m=text
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 08:42PM
RTSchmitz wrote:
> Also, we're wondering what to do the night before we put in:
> we'll get in the afternoon before our permit starts. I suspect
> that the campgrounds are crowded and unpleasant. Just how bad
> are they? Are there any alternative options?

I didn't see this getting answered, but there's a backpacker's campground behind North Pines Campground, which is close to your trailhead. You can unload from a car or whatever from the North Pines campground itself, all the way to the back, take the stuff over the bridge, and then the car has to go as it's an unloading zone.

I've never seen that campground crowded, and it's in a good location for where you're going.





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 08, 2007 06:01AM

Sierrafan wrote:
>
> I didn't see this getting answered, but there's a backpacker's
> campground behind North Pines Campground, which is close to
> your trailhead.

> I've never seen that campground crowded, and it's in a good
> location for where you're going.
>

Thanks Gary,

That's exactly what we were thinking of doing... we just weren't sure about how busy it was there or if we needed to get there by a certain time to ensure getting a spot. Do you think that even on a Saturday afternoon there will be spots open?
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 08:50PM
By the way, with your Wilderness Permit, you can stay in the Backpackers campground the night before and the night after your backpacking trip. You can ask the rangers about it.

I don't know where you live, but you should make sure you are well acclimated to the high altitude before hiking up and up and up. At the very least you will have a hard time breathing and at the worst you will get bad headaches or feel sicker if haven't spent a few nights up high. Yosemite Valley is around 4,000 feet elevation and you will gain more than another 3,000 feet to get to Merced Lake. The first time I went to Yosemite I felt headachy and icky just sitting around the Valley on the first day.
avatar Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 11:26PM
RTSchmitz,

Be aware that if you have a permit reservation for entry into the back-country from Happy Isle then that is the only way you are allowed in using that permit. You cannot say go up the Snow Creek trail to the north rim or start your hike from Tuolumne Meadows. Each of these starting points requires a specific permit. Usually your permit will require that you list the locations of each night spent in the wilderness area.

First Night - Backpackers campground

First Day - Hike from Happy Isle to Lost Valley 8 miles and +2300 feet. You could also stop at the eastern end of Little Yosemite Valley or if everyone is up to it you could continue on to Merced Lake. All the way into Merced Lake would be about 13 miles with about +3200 feet.

Second Day - Hike to Merced Lake and pitch at backpackers campground at High Sierra Camp area or go a little further toward the ranger cabin and find another spot. I don't think the High Sierra Camp will be in operation yet but there may be some activity getting it ready. 5 miles and +900 feet

Second Day - Day hike to Washburn Lake and back in the afternoon. 6 miles round trip and +400 feet and -400 feet.

Third day - Day hike to Babcock Lake (el. 8900'). 8 miles round trip and +1600 feet and -1600 feet.

Fourth Day - Day Hike to Bernice Lake (el. 10200'). about 11 miles round trip and +3400 feet and -3400 feet. This will be a tougher day but you will have been in the high country for a couple of days by now and are probably youngish.
There may be a lot of snow at this elevation still.

Fifth Day - Layover day or start hike out.

Day Six - Hike out to backpackers campground.

Night Six - Backpackers campground or a nice motel room with steak and potatoes.

This suggested itinerary assumes you are planning to pitch in one spot and day hike.

Bears can be very active in the Little Yosemite Valley area and the Merced Lake area. Use bear cans to store all your food or your trip can end up being ruined.





Old Dude
avatar Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 07, 2007 11:34PM
mrcondron wrote:

> First Day - Hike from Happy Isle to Lost Valley 8 miles and
> +2300 feet. You could also stop at the eastern end of Little
> Yosemite Valley

Camping the first night at Little Yosemite Valley out of Happy Isles requires a different permit than camping somewhere else out of Happy Isles. At least it used to last time I looked.

avatar Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 08, 2007 12:12AM
I did a little checking and it appears that you can only camp in the designated area in Little Yosemite Valley. You should continue to Lost Valley to camp the first night on the trail.





Old Dude
avatar Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 08, 2007 02:21AM
Little Yosemite Valley also gets very crowded (both with people and bears).

Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 08, 2007 06:54AM
mrcondron wrote:

>
> Be aware that if you have a permit reservation for entry into
> the back-country from Happy Isle then that is the only way you
> are allowed in using that permit. You cannot say go up the
> Snow Creek trail to the north rim or start your hike from
> Tuolumne Meadows.
>

Mike,

Thanks for the itinerary. We have done a fair share of backpacking in National Parks across the USA so we are aware of the procedures for permits and trailheads. If we were to go to the North rim it would be via Cloudrest and the sunrise lakes and then over to Tenaya lake and on to North dome (via Mt Wadkins)....something similar to what r.moore posted in another thread in this forum. But I think we´ve decided to head towards Merced lake and then make some decisions from there. Our bear cannisters are ready to go! Thanks for taking the time to outline an itinerary--we´ll let you know how it goes.



Post Edited (05-08-07 09:34)
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 08, 2007 07:44AM
And if you can't afford steak and potatoes at the fancy restaurants, I find a Hamburger to be more than satisfying after several days on the trail. Unless, of course, you're vegetarian.

I'm going to take a guess that the backpackers campground won't be too crowded unless there's a large group there. When I was there at the end of June once, there was a group of student volunteers that stayed there. Even still, there were extra spots to camp. Someone came in late at night and pitched a tent on our campsite because he couldn't find a place in the dark. But when you're only there for one night, there's no problem with sharing, really. It's a walk-in tent campground, so it's an open plan with numbers to mark the sites. Since it's "One Night Only!" people are always coming and going. It's also still pretty early in the season.

If you really can't find a campsite in the valley, you could drive try Camp 4. Or even Tamarack Flat (actually may not be open) or Bridalveil Creek (not sure if it would be open either).
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 28, 2007 06:53PM
Thanks to all who offered up advice for our trip. This forum is really helpful. Yosemite was amazing. We ended up hiking along the Merced and then up to Babcock lake. It was day three by the time we´d gotten there and after 20 miles and about 5000 feet of elevation gain we were tired and ready to spend a few days resting and exploring the high sierra. We caught some small trout (threw them all back) and just enjoyed the solitude until dinner time. Our freeze-dried meal was just about ready to eat when I spotted a very large black bear on the other side of the lake. We got a clear idea of his size when he stood up and climbed part way up a pine tree to eat something. Since we were at the south end of the lake he was within a couple hundred feet of us. We made some noise hoping he'd redirect his course, which he did, temporarily turning around. Within a minute or so I spotted him again and he kept on walking with a purpose despite the noise we were making. It seemed to us that he was likely very interested in the food we'd just made and since there were strong gusts of wind he'd likely gotten a good wiff of it so we decided to pack things up and hike back down to Merced Lake before sun down. On the way out we noticed a lot of tracks and scat we hadn't seen earlier (Our guess is that he visited our camp while we were fishing).

Leaving Babcock was a bit of a bummer since we had worked hard to get up that far. On the other hand it was a truly amazing thing to see. I think if I were in the situation again I would stay put. We were really careful about keeping all things scented in cannisters (we had 4 between 3 of us). What we didn't have, and what I think I´ll carry in the future, is Bear spray--just for the peace of mind. I think we would have spent a horribly restless night if we had stayed on Babcock. Having the spray would probably let us sleep a lot better.

For those of you who have had many back country bear encounters: did we do the right thing by leaving? His behavior--of first turing around and then coming back towards us--seemed to indicate that he did not find our presence to be unsettling... perhaps it was even a blessing for him...an opportunity for food.

avatar Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 28, 2007 07:57PM
Most bears are pretty good about possession being 100% of the law. If you are eating your food they may express an interest but will not come after it. If the bear has a tag on one of its ears then all bets are off. Some bears will lay in wait and when the food is out of the canister they will do a bluff charge causing the people to scurry off leaving the food to the bear. This bear behavior is usually restricted to heavily used areas like Little Yosemite Valley.

I would say that since there were three of you that you would not have to worry about a bear giving you trouble during meal time. If all your food was in the canisters at all other times you had nothing to worry about. Actually I would worry more about bears at Merced Lake than I would at Babcock Lake. Babcock is more remote but not much.

If your food is in canisters at night and say 50' or so from your tents you won't even know bears have been around unless they move the canisters. They are very quiet but can wake you up if they sniff around your tent.

The main thing to remember is that you are not in the bears food chain and the bears are actually very timid.





Old Dude
avatar Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 29, 2007 12:01AM
mrcondron wrote:

> Some bears will lay in wait
> and when the food is out of the canister they will do a bluff
> charge causing the people to scurry off leaving the food to the
> bear.

The trick is to not fall for the bluff charge. Charge back and show them it's your food. (Yes, I have done this and it does work!)

Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 28, 2007 06:58PM
I forgot to add that the Merced River was absolutely gorgeous. The section from around Moraine Dome all the way to the lake was much swifter than I´d anticipated... alot of great falls excellent rapids. We saw the rescue teams searching for the man who fell into the river--did they find the body?

The other views that I most liked were on the hike from Babcock to Merced near sun down... the peaks off in the distance were impressive. Most were snow capped and the crags were really cool. You could see waterfalls everywhere... it reminded me of Norway.
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 28, 2007 09:14PM
I know what it's like being kept awake worrying about bears... I've done it even though I've never had a bear come into my camp. I *was* kept awake by people banging on pots & pans & blowing whistles in the camp next to us as a bear ate *their* food poorly hung in a tree.

But even if the worrying is unfounded, sometimes it's ok to take some action to make yourself feel better (and to get a good night's sleep). It's no fun hiking when you're sleep-deprived. I have slowly begun to sleep better at night with my food packed safely in a bear canister far enough away from the tent that I won't hear a bear walking around. I've been told by a ranger that some bears just walk on by bear canisters because they have learned they can't get them open. The bears are probably active now because it's early in the season and they're hungry. It's a good thing you kept the food away from the bear... that bear would become even more of a nuisance for others if he got your food. Or maybe he would have eventually been killed for being a nuisance (if he had gotten people's food before). Fed bear = dead bear. Did you tell the ranger about your experience? They usually like to know where bears have been active around people.

I'm glad you had a good trip, let me know if you upload some pictures somewhere!



Post Edited (05-28-07 23:19)
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 29, 2007 07:03AM
I'm not sure I'd have much of an appetite after that. heh.
Re: Advice for 6 day trip from Happy Isles?
May 30, 2007 07:55PM
eeek and mrcondron are spot on. black bears (the only species of bear found in yosemite) are curious, but timid by nature. as long as you follow standard procedures (use bear cans, keep them closed, store bear cans at least 100' from campsite, etc.) bears should not be a problem. i understand how intimidating a bear can be when its walking through your campsite at midnight, but if you follow the correct procedures, there is no need to worry. i like to tell the friends i bring backpacking who have little experience that squirrels are way more aggressive when it comes to food seeking behavior. Bears are one of the beautiful creatures we are lucky enough to watch while backpacking. Take the appropriate steps to secure your food, and enjoy them!
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