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Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry

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3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 07, 2014 03:28PM
Hey all, I’m new to the forum but have been reading it for quite a while and found all kinds of great info. Thanks for the resource! Despite my perusing of the forum threads I still had a few questions I was hoping you could help me with regarding my upcoming backpacking trip in Yosemite.

Our proposed itinerary is as follows, starting July 24th:
• Day 1: Start from Mono Meadow, sleep before we get to Little Yosemite Valley (between flags 4&5) or march on to camp in Lost Valley (between flags 10&11) 11.5 miles, 1800’ total elev gain
• Day 2: Hike to Merced Lake, sleep near base of Clouds Rest (flag 22) (10 miles, 2000’ total elev gain)
• Day 3: Hike to top of Clouds Rest, descend and sleep near base of Half Dome (flag 30) (5 miles, 700’ total elev gain)
• Day 4: Hike to top of Half Dome and descend to Yosemite Valley (9.5 miles, 1800’ total elev gain)
• A map of our trip with distances and elevations can be found here.

Now, the areas where I could use some advice:
1. Feedback on the proposed itinerary. Too much? Better options? Anybody suggest a different itinerary?
2. We plan to leave our car at Mono Meadow, but would rather descend to the Valley (so we can experience the rest of the trail down, and get an easier hike down to the Valley rather than up to Glacier Point?). Official shuttle options won’t work for our timeline, so only option would be to hitchhike from the Valley or have one of us (or both) go up to Glacier Point rather than down to the Valley. Thoughts?
3. Campsites: are there flat areas to pitch a tent and water near the proposed locations? Anyone have GPS suggestions of better locations?
4. What are the trails like along our route? Rocky? Packed dirt, etc? It’ll make a huge difference to whether the 2 yo can hike or not.
5. How are the mosquitos towards end of July (repellent needed, repellent enough?)
6. Kids recommendations (Yosemite specific and in general)

A bit of info on us: My wife and I backpack a couple times a year in Northern and Southern Utah but have never been to Yosemite. We’re not in amazing shape but a couple thousand foot gain over 10 miles is doable in a day. We are taking two of our kids: the 24 month old can hike up to a mile at a time and we’ll use a carrier for the rest. The 5 month old will be carried with an Ergo-type front carrier. We’ve backpacked with them a couple of times but would welcome age-appropriate suggestions.

Thanks in advance!
Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 07, 2014 04:48PM
The map link isn't working for me, but based on the posting:

I don't recall there being any great camping in Lost Valley (maybe at its head where there is a nice cascade?). Instead, consider stopping short in LYV (the "Moraine Dome" camping area), or going past Lost Valley to the area where the trail crosses the Merced River, below Bunnell Cascade.*

Water will be an issue camping near the base of Clouds Rest--the only reliable water in the area, especially this year, will be Sunrise Creek and the creek ~3 miles north of Clouds Rest that flows from Sunrise Mountain. Ditto for camping near the base of Half Dome. I'm not sure I'd recommend two dry-ish camps in a row with kids. (Yes, there is a spring near the HD trail that is on most maps that seems to be reliable--provided you can find it... This year, it may be more of a seep than a spring, and I don't recall any great camping near this spring.)

The trails will be a mix of rock (granite), rock with sand on it, rocky steps, sand, and dirt/duff. My hunch is that most 2 year olds would find much of the trail challenging.

* I've seen this area called "Twin Bridges", which would be the third or fourth so-named place in Yosemite, the others being 1) the bridges that cross Lyell Fork near Tuolumne Lodge, 2) the bridges that cross the Tuolumne just below Little Devils Postpile, and 3) the two bridges in Pate Valley.
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 07, 2014 06:57PM
With Mono Meadow start I believe they are not allowed to pass thru or stay at LYV on first night
anymore. Regardless... going all the way to Lost Valley on day 1 is a good trek. Z Old Doodie
and I and the wifie do that once... and I'm pretty sure they not too happy with me.
(as duly noted... not a whole lotta camping there)
By Bunnell Cascade would be nice but... the trail is just right there and well.. not really legal afaik.
(Bunnell Cascade is on the east end of Lost Valley)
"Twin Bridges" (I think they must be fraternal) area is nice... but way too far for day 1 that's fo sho.

There won't be any mosquitos end of July... well... I'd bet on it... Water will be low too ...

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 08, 2014 09:53AM
Cool...I spent years when my kids were little trying to figure out when and where I could get them out to Yosemite. I will say that you are more (pick your adjective) aggressive-optimistic-brave-foolish than I was wink

My thoughts...your being from Utah you may have done the Angel's Landing Trail in Zion. I find both Cloud's Rest and Half Dome to be somewhat similar to Angels Landing with regard to exposure and technical nature (read "Danger " ) Clouds Rest somewhat less technical than Angels Landing, Half Dome definitely more technical...basically a Class 5 route with a cable and widely spaced 2x4's for protection.

chicagocwright had a very good trip report that included the up and over of Clouds Rest and Half Dome ...the report is here. Be sure to check out the pictures and videos, they will be informative.

My wife and I are pretty adventurous, having done a lot of backpacking and bike-camping, and having raised 3 kids who enjoy all of it. With all due respect to your backpacking and parenting abilities, our reaction to your plan is that it would be more work than fun, and I don't see the Half Dome and Clouds Rest parts as do-able with the kids. I would recommend more of a base camp/day hike trip where you could have some nap time. etc. dialed in. The Sawmill Walk in camp off of the Saddlebag Lake road (just a couple miles east of the Yosemite boundary is one of my favorites, with hiking from there or short drives to Tuolumne Meadows or the 20 Lakes Basin has to offer.

Hoping some other forum comments come in from those with the younger kids.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/08/2014 09:55AM by Bearproof.
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 09, 2014 07:06AM

With all due respect. If you guys can carry your kids on that trek you outlined.
Then... can you carry me too? Please.

Even for most adults what you have outlined is .... a bit much.

I hope it works out for you and you can do the entire trek. But if you don't
I hope you at least make it to The Illilouette and back. Even to there is a
memorable trip imo.

Have fun and best of luck

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 09, 2014 08:36AM
Excellent advice from the Chick-on here. That's an aggressive itinerary. I'd like to point out that a couple of thousand feet over ten miles is not that much. But a couple of thousand feet in two miles, followed by eight miles of more or less level hiking, is a much harder task.

The real nut to crack for you is starting at Mono Meadows and then trying to get over the LYV....It's not as easy as you might think. I agree with Chick-on that they don't allow you to do that the first night. (And if there is ONE place in Yosemite where there is likely to be a ranger checking your permit, LYV is a good bet!)

Why not just stay on the southwest side of the Clark Range, and hike up Illilouette Creek to the Ottoway Lakes. Easy itinerary, many fewer people. Better fishing, easier hiking.

Then day hike CLouds Rest...

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 09, 2014 09:18AM
Yikes. Um.. you did read they are taking a 2 year old and a 5 month old?

No way would I send them to Lower Ottoway. From Illilouette crossing... it's 3200 ft. up to Lower Ottoway.
They are FAR better off heading to LYV for many many reasons...

My best advice to them if they are set on taking infants backpacking and keeping to what
their original plan was.. is to try to get to Illilouette on day 1... on day 2 get to LYV.
Then from there one of them can go up HD ... then they go back down to the valley on day 4.

But what the heck do I know? I don't have kids.

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
August 19, 2014 09:45PM
Not that I'm an expert or anything, but altitude sickness is an issue that shouldn't be overlooked. Kids might not be able to communicate how well they are feeling. I've heard stories of young kids were turning blue, so parents should be watchful. Found some links on this topic:


Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 09, 2014 09:30AM
Great feedback from everyone. Thanks!

Based on feedback we are considering leaving the youngest home and looking at 'bail' options to make a smaller loop and less total miles. Or maybe just go up Illilouette as Balzaccom suggets. Though I was confused about the 'challenge' of getting over the LYV, from the topo I looked at it was only 500ft from Illiloutte to the high point on the trail, and then a bit over 1000ft from where the trail hits LYV floor up to Lost Valley, am I missing something!?!

I failed to ask about sleeping bags, what type of temperatures should we expect at elevation late July? We were planning on light 30 to 50 degree bags, sound about right?

Also, any camping spot suggestions anywhere along our route, with water nearby? We are considering cutting out the loop to the lake and working slowly towards Half Dome instead (maybe day trips to Clouds Rest and/or Half Dome).
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 09, 2014 09:42AM
50 bag might be ok... but I'd suggest taking the 30 bag.
Unless you camp in a depression... then it will prob. get down to 50 at night. That's about it.

I said my piece about the route. I will say no more.

Best of luck. Hope it works out for you.

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 09, 2014 11:34AM
More thoughts...
Given the dry winter and southern exposure of much of your route, I would say that the only decent stream flows will be in Illilouette Creek and the Merced River. Sunrise Creek might have a trickle at the lower elevations...I would check out the trip reports that might show up for the area. The spring has no camping nearby, and would be a drip-drip-drip at best. I would not expect to find any water between points #20 and 31...and even 20 might be suspect. Lots of afternoon thunderstorms, if they happen between now and then, might help the situation.
You might consider going a bit our of your way to the Sunrise Lakes area...plenty of water and camping there.
I assume Balzac was referring to either the Clouds Rest or Half Dome climbs, not the route over from Illilouette Creek over to LYV.
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
July 09, 2014 12:44PM
I think possibly you can do day 1 & 2 (without the youngest along) but be flexible regarding days 3 & 4. The object is to enjoy, not just survive the trip.
Also, I notice you have a tendency to diminish the effort required on descents. At least, that's the impression one gets when you measure each leg in terms of total ascent only. Some of us actually find descending tears us up more than ascending. When going up we by necessity are much slower and deliberate with each step. When going down we are faster (often too fast) and are not as discerning where and how we take each step. It's a different kind of exhaustion and strains different parts of the body but it's still exhaustion and the miles add up. Your day 4 includes a 4,800' descent almost 8 miles long with backpacks plus carrying a 2-month old part of the way. All one can advise is to be flexible. Your hiking plan is not written in stone; it just covers a lot of it.
Best of luck and enjoy your trip.
Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
August 04, 2014 10:36AM
Thanks again for all the advice. A follow up for any that are curious:

Based on some great advice, and especially water availability we made a few modifications to our trip. We decided to skip the whole loop idea and leave the infant at home. We took the 2 year old and the gDiapers worked great as we were able to put them in the compostable toilet found at the LYV backpackers campground (BTW, the ranger told us we need not pack the diapers in a bear can, but that we were responsible for any cleanup if a bear were to get to them). Our itinerary ended up as follows:

Thursday: Left the car at Glacier Point and Hitchhiked to Mono Meadow. Lazy start and easy hike from Mono Meadows to Illilouette creek. Played in the water and slept there.
Friday: Early start in order to set up camp at LYV and then on to Half Dome. My wife and I took turns waiting at the top of sub-dome with the toddler. On the way down we saw a bear on the trail. This was the only time the toddler saw an animal and didn't say "rawwwwrrrrr". Got back to camp just before dark.
Saturday: Had considered Clouds Rest but the toddler needed a break and I had twisted my ankle on the way up to Half Dome, so we played in the river until 3pm then did a quick trip down to see both Vernal and Nevada falls. Came back up to LYV via the (much more pleasant) John Muir trail.
Sunday: Packed up and took the Panorama trail to Glacier Point, arriving at 1:30 pm.

Overall I think I added up that we did about 25 miles, only half of which we had full packs on (though even day pack weight added up to about 45lbs including the toddler). Packs totaled about 110 lbs when we started (including food, water, and toddler). I probably had 60 of that while the wife had 50. Once we got rid of food and carried less water, we got down to about 90 total on the way out (25 of which was the kid).

Also, the toddler did not hike as much as expected, even though the trails were easier than he's used to. I think he's more and more interested in rocks and sticks, and has figured out we'll carry him if he refuses to walk.

A few observations: We felt GREAT after the trip, and almost regretted not doing more. That said, we loved our itinerary and felt we were able to see quite a bit without working too hard. Yosemite is incredible, it lives up to the hype. Taking a toddler (in a pack) up to the top of sub-dome was no big deal for us, and after I did Half Dome I don't think it would have been a big deal for me to take him up and down Half Dome (in a pack).That said, for many people we realize taking a toddler even to the bottom of sub-dome would be a huge feat. It totally depends on the persons experience and the carrier (we have a very comfortable and very secure Osprey kid carrier). For the record, Rangers have no problem with kids on Half Dome (you are responsible for your own safety, what a great concept) but they do care if you have a permit for said child.

Elevation was never a problem. Our biggest problem on the trip was getting the toddler to fall asleep at night, he was just too excited--we resorted to looking at cell phone picture with him to avoid disturbing the neighbors, something we are normally against. We had minimal Mosquito problems but did have bears mess with our bags both nights at LYV--one managed to find an empty granola bar wrapper we had used months ago but couldn't find ourselves.

The toddler loved playing in the water and did great about not getting in too deep or wandering off. We kept him cool while hiking with the shade protector on his carrier and with a squirt bottle we always take with us. Of course, sunscreen was frequently re-applied.

We took 30 degree bags and needed them the first night. LYV was quite warm though. Two bear canisters ended up working great, with a LITTLE room to spare.
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
August 04, 2014 11:14AM
Bowing to his greatness

Thanks for coming back and saying what you did!

Berry kewl
Berry Berry kewl

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
August 04, 2014 10:54AM
It sounds like you did about the right amount/type of mileage. It's always better to feel you could have done more than to feel like you barely made it! Especially with a 2 year old along.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/04/2014 10:55AM by Hitech.
Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
August 04, 2014 11:05AM
I agree with Hitech! Best to have that great happy feeling! And wanting more... always fabulous! Come back when you can - so much to do and see with kids! We have fun taking our friends 2, 4 and 6 year olds out for walks. They are excellent campers already. I think they could backpack soon, but parents need/want to get there too... Though the mom is the one we took to El Cap earlier this year for her maiden trip - and she was fabulous! Soon... love to hear the tips and tricks! gDiaper? gotta look that up. And thanks for coming back and posting your trip report! BTW, playing in Illilouette is now a huge favorite of mine! Glad you guys had fun!
Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
August 04, 2014 11:44AM
And Kudos on carrying the kid and all that weight.

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
August 04, 2014 04:26PM
Thanks so much for getting back to all with the trip report. Great to hear that it all worked out fine, and I do hope you get back. Sometimes I think that parents need to be practically superhuman these days to have two young kids, jobs, etc. so I am glad you go to enjoy a little relaxation during the trip. Good stuff!
avatar Re: 3 Nights in the Backcountry
August 10, 2014 07:40AM
So glad to hear everything worked out great for you folks. Cudos to you for seeking and taking free advice from those who are familiar with the rigors of Yosemite trails, especially with a youngling along. Now your are hooked!grinning smiley
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