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Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night

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Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 08:28AM
Hey Guys,

At the peril of looking like a Sierra amateur, I am seeking advice from what seems to me to be the best and most frequently updated Yosemite forum out there. Thank you in advance for your time and thoughtful responses!!!

The trip:

I have been preparing for months and have 4 permits (plus half dome permits) for a 3 day 2 night trip from the Cathedral lakes trail head mid-July. Assuming Tioga road is open and the hiker shuttle schedule has been released, the plan is to leave the car at Happy Isle early, take the hiker shuttle to Tuolumne, start hiking about about 10:30am and spend the first night at sunrise lake #2 which is about 10 miles and the longest day distance-wise. Day 2 we will go over Cloud's Rest and camp at CR/JMT junction (I have read there is a great campground and fresh water there). Day 3 we will get up bright and early, leave our big packs at camp and take our day packs, hit Half Dome (we have gloves and are all prepared to not do it if it is wet or too crowded), and then hike down the mist trail to Happy Isle, pick up the car, and head home.

Background and hiking ability:

I am hiking with 3 other people. 2 are advanced Sierra hikers that have done all sorts of crazy hikes in California and around the world at high altitude and I am really not worried at all about their hiking ability or preparedness in Yosemite. I am an experienced AT and East coast hiker with dozens of week long trips under my belt. I have not experienced this type of elevation but am confident in my ability. I am 6 ft 180lbs DI athlete and I only say that so you can be sure I have been weight training and endurance training for this hike. The last member of our trip isn't exactly an outdoors woman, however she has hiked the presidential traverse with me over 3 days and 2 nights hitting every peak along the way for about 24 miles. It was tough, but she did it.

Questions:

Feel free to give me any comments or advice, but I guess I still need to be clear on the following and don't have the Sierra experience to draw on.

I understand that mid-July it will still be very wet, should I be concerned about flooding and mosquitoes on that route? Are the sunrise lakes the best place to camp the first night? Suggestions are welcome I just chose that place because it looked pretty, split up the hike to three proportional sections, and seemed liked a good place to filter fresh water.

Do you have an honest assessment of the difficulty of this trail?

Is coming down the mist trail on a Monday mid-afternoon in peak season a good idea?

Will snow cover still be an issue?

Thank you all so much.
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 10:13AM
Quote
Shmeid
I understand that mid-July it will still be very wet, should I be concerned about flooding and mosquitoes on that route? Are the sunrise lakes the best place to camp the first night?
You're hiking the JMT from Tuolumne... until Sunrise HSC ... so there should be foot prints
and such to help... though you should have map and all that jazz and know where you
are going and where you are and how to get where you want to go without HAVING to have
someone else's track.
Flooding shouldn't be a big issue. Just embrace the water baby! (I'm serious)
Mosquitoes will probably be out... just use DEET baby!
Sunrise Lake #2 is off trail... so you need to know that. Someone else here recently said
they liked #3 (closed to HSC ... highest) the best. I dunno. I only have a favorite on account
we have been boating all the named lakes in the park and #2 has islands and those are
always fun... honestly I don't think it matters... personally I'd camp close but not at with
a view ...

Quote
Shmeid
Do you have an honest assessment of the difficulty of this trail?
From what you have said... you and your group should have no issue with the trail difficulty...
Conditions can make it harder...

Quote
Shmeid
Is coming down the mist trail on a Monday mid-afternoon in peak season a good idea?
You will probably regret it. It just gets too crowded. I'd recommend taking the JMT down.

Quote
Shmeid
Will snow cover still be an issue?
Sorry I don't know. We hiked around Mineral King last weekend and snow wasn't until 9K or more.
Ran into a group of backpackers whom seemed to have had zero fun. I have no
idea why they went if they didn't have an idea of the snow camping involved.
"Trail is covered in snow ahead" "uh... yeah... that's ok"
"Have fun with that" "uh... yeah... that's why we are here"
smiling smiley
So... snow cover is only an issue if you make it one I guess. I suspect there may be a bit left.
But I would think that the trail will be follow-able... though I could be wrong smiling smiley
If you look at the webcam you can see snow on Tressider, Echo Peaks, etc... which means
there is a LOT of snow still up there...

Anywho...

Have fun and be safe



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 10:30AM
Thanks Chick-on! This advice is just what I needed.

Maps and compass thumbs up, Ability to actually use maps - compass - landmarks thumbs up, Deet thumbs up, Not being worried about getting wet or snowy thumbs up.

We are aware Sunrise #2 is off-trail and have chosen it for the seclusion. Any opinion on using the lakes and the streams coming from the lakes as filtered water sources? I know there is a creek nearby close the the HSC so maybe we should camp there instead? The camps are supposed to be closed this year so there should be an issue with setting up nearby right?

Thanks for the advice on the Mist-trail, I think the JMT may be the way to go since we don't want to end a trip in the wilderness with crowds of tourists, despite the fact that we are tourists. Oh the irony!

Any opinions on camping below Half-dome at the CR/JMT junction?

Any opinions on an extra bear canister full of Twinkies?

Thanks again!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/19/2017 10:32AM by Shmeid.
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 11:10AM
As for "filtered" water sources... I'll assume you want to just dip and sip.
There will be water flowing all over the place. There are just so many people
in the backcountry... I would be leery of dipping and sipping...
Yeah, it's PROBABLY ok... but we nearly always use some sort of filtration for
drinking water when backpacking. Though I've been more lax lately.

JMT/CR trail junction is mostly wooded. There are not many views there unless you
go further west of the junction and south of the JMT.

There are places nearer to the subdome but you have to carry your water there.

The moar Twinkies the butter.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 12:13PM
If you camp at the JMT/CR junction, there are a couple sites perhaps 100 feet elevation above the junction from where you can see the back side of Half Dome. Scramble up the hillside NE of the junction and scout around, you should be able to find them. I like them better than the lower sites plus fewer folks go up there. Also, most folks get water near the junction. From the higher campsite, you can easily walk NW and dip from the small stream higher up. It's spring fed, so quality should be relatively high.
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 12:29PM
Quote
chick-on
There are places nearer to the subdome but you have to carry your water there.

^This. As you approach the subdome there are slabs off to the right that look out into Tenaya Canyon and some of Yosemite Valley, or just as you reach the subdome go to the left about 20 yards and there's a great spot looking straight out at the Clark Range. Views from that campsite:




Or, view from the slabs towards Tenaya Canyon:


Wake up in the morning and be on the HD summit first thing. Not only that, the xc hike across the saddle from CR to HD has great views, you can take in the Quarter Domes and other spots along the Tenaya Canyon rim. Could be wet/snowy though.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 01:17PM
Yes! Awesome, so it seems like the best thing to do would probably be to water up and head to the sub-dome. Great advice!
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 01:41PM
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 02:10PM
WOW! Any chance you would be willing to specifically mark this place on a map? grinning smiley
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 04:46PM
Will you promise to not build a fire ring there?



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 04:48PM
Our trip is going to be a gas stove trip. My home mountains of NH have a leave no trace policy just like the Sierra, and We plan on doing the same for this trip.

You won't even know we were there. I promise!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 06:25PM
Separately, since there have been so many awesome suggestions on where to set up camp, does anyone have any great spots near sunrise lakes? I'm worried the mosquitoes might be a bit of an issue.
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 09:15PM
I'll PM you the coordinates along with some for Sunrise Lakes that we scoped out.
Sadly imo.. due to abuse a few around Middle and Lower Sunrise ... sigh...
Let's just say LNT is just not in everyone's vernacular.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 22, 2017 11:19AM
Quote
chick-on
Let's just say LNT is just not in everyone's vernacular.

Ain't that the truth! I'm sick of the proliferation of rock piles and fire rings. We should leave each area as untouched as possible so the next person visiting gets the same wilderness experience.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 24, 2017 06:59PM
+1 ^That
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 11:21PM
Quote
chick-on
Quote
Shmeid
Is coming down the mist trail on a Monday mid-afternoon in peak season a good idea?
You will probably regret it. It just gets too crowded. I'd recommend taking the JMT down.

As usual you've been given excellent advise and this forum is a goldmine for information. smiling smiley
However I slightly disagree and "recommend" to take the Mist Trail on your way down IF you haven't done it before.
Yes, the JMT will be less crowded and won't crush your knees. It's slightly longer and the final part has many switchbacks.
The switchback part can be pretty boring.

Vernal Fall should be still spectacular in mid of July thanks to the record snow levels this year. It's something I wouldn't want to miss.
Yes, you'll be sharing the trail with lots of other people and those pesky tourists (me being one of them...it takes me 12-15 hrs. flight time plus the drive from SFO or LAX to get to Yosemite).
But the landscape, the raging water and the sight of the rainbow at the base of Vernal Fall will make up for those annoying creatures. winking smiley
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 05:58AM
Also great advice! I guess I need to weigh my tolerance for crowds vs. unbelievable sites I have yet to see, and I think I'm leaning towards seeing the falls. Any other gems that you love? I am always looking for inspiration for trip #2!
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 06:40AM
Half a dome hika,
No worries. I hear you. Definitely missing out on a bit if don't do the lower portion of The Mist.
Lots of peeps complain about all the steps with a backpack on. So that weighed into it ever
so slightly (I actually love going down the Mist with my pack btw)
(but I only do that early in the year and late in year when crowds are way down)
... Anywho... let's take a lookie:

I think that the red portion from top o Nevdada to Clark Point is superior to The Mist from
top o Nevada jct to Clark Connector (the brown porshun).
Blue dot by Nevada ... the railing... with looking down at Nevada should not be missed...
Along with Clark Point.
From there... either take Clark Connector (rest of red) to top of Vernal and down...
and DO NOT MISS Blue dot with Vernal View (I think my favorite view of a waterfall in the entire park)
My biggest issue with the Mist from Vernal down is the pink and orange portion...
the pink part is the top railing and the first set of steps which are in woods... that set
is very narrow and with lots of people can be a pain to go down... and may take
an excrutiating amount of time...
the orange part is particularly spectacular as you pointed out...

So yeah, it's a difficult call... maybe do best of all and just go red/pink/orange/black
and hit it later in the day when hopefully the crowds are down.

They probably will anyway since they are going up Half Dome that day.



Chick-on is looking at you!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/20/2017 06:41AM by chick-on.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 06:55AM
This is an awesome breakdown Chick-On, and exactly the kind of sound advice needed to make the right call having never been there.

Time won't necessarily be an issue because we would have started our hike by parking at Happy Isle and taking the hiker shuttle to Cathedral Lakes, so our car will just be waiting for us whenever we are ready.grinning smiley

We are going to do Half Dome early in the morning after we come up and over Clouds Rest, so by the time we get to the Mist Trail it could be pretty crowded...

Perhaps the best of both worlds is to go:

Red -> Pink -> Orange -> to get the views and then flip back over to the JMT on the southern side of the Merced to avoid crowds headed up the mist trail?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/20/2017 06:56AM by Shmeid.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 07:26AM
I think you got a perfect breakdown from chick-on. smiling smiley

Personally I'd go Red -> Pink -> Orange if I were you. The "orange" part is part of the Mist Trail and once you've finished that there's no need to go back the JMT.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 07:28AM
Thanks! Ok good to know that once I pass the log jam below the falls that we are probably good to go. Oh man, you guys are great for taking the time to give me your advice smileys with beer



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/20/2017 07:28AM by Shmeid.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 07:24AM
As usually you laid it out perfectly. smiling smiley Nice breakdown with all the options. Thumbs up!

I personally don't mind going down with a backpack or heavy daypack (sometimes when I carry my photography stuff my daypack weighs in at approx. 60lbs.)
For me it's much tougher going up. But a good friend of my who's running circles around me when we are hiking up he's having more trouble going down.
Chick-On, thanks for the detailed breakdown.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 10:30AM
I'm stealing this for my trip too! Thanks again Chick-On.
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 11:46AM
No Problem.

Hopefully you guys can do your trips.

Tioga Road gets open and your adventures are fun

I think you mentioned about TM Backpacker CG.
TM CG won't open until Aug so I dunno about that aspect of your start.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 02:13PM
Yeah, my back-up would be to stay at the BP Campground in the Valley when we arrive and shuttle up to Tuolumne in the morning. Was hoping to get some acclimating in, but if not we will just have to hope for the best.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 19, 2017 12:03PM
Many years ago, our party camped close to the CR/JMT intersection. It was a drier year and the water source was just a trickle. I understand with the heavy snowpack this year that this source should be in good shape. Yes there are no views in this area, but the purpose of staying there is of course the proximity to HD. We had HD to ourselves for 2+ hours on the morning we went.
Enjoy!!
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 12:39PM
Hi,
My only two cents would be to avoid camping close to any of the Sunrise Lakes or any water supply. Mosquitos are definitely an issue this time of year if that is an issue with any of your group. If you can settle down a good 200' from a lake or river you will be much better off. This is why I always preferred mid-August. Otherwise, you are in for a great trip! Enjoy.
Jim
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 20, 2017 01:59PM
Thanks Tomdisco! Noted. I'm thinking somewhere back behind lake #2. If you have any specific suggestions please let me know!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 21, 2017 09:47PM
"flip back over to the JMT on the southern side of the Merced to avoid crowds headed up the mist trail"

Correct me if I'm wrong, folks, but I think something got overlooked here. @Schmeid is talking about the pack-animals-only trail. There is only one trail up to the footbridge over the Merced. It is pretty wide, though.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 21, 2017 10:53PM
Quote
iivvgg
"flip back over to the JMT on the southern side of the Merced to avoid crowds headed up the mist trail"

Correct me if I'm wrong, folks, but I think something got overlooked here. @Schmeid is talking about the pack-animals-only trail. There is only one trail up to the footbridge over the Merced. It is pretty wide, though.

iivvgg - i think you understood Schmeid.

Scmeid, the trail south of the merced that ends up at the Happy Isles Nature Center is NOT the JMT. You won't end up at the official trailhead with the official trailhead sign or the sign with the mileages ending at Whitney. You won't pass the old gauging station. If you haven't been there, just tune out the crowds and walk the JMT to the end! My two cents...



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/21/2017 10:54PM by JustKeepWalking.
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 22, 2017 09:05AM
Hey iivvgg and JustKeepWalking,

Thanks for picking up that part of it; you have cleared up any confusion I had about the animal pack trial and the Mist Trail. I now see that my only option was walking on the North side of the Merced on our way down anyway.

I think I am still going to face the crowds and check out the falls and viewpoints though, I have never been to this part of the trail and it may be my only chance to get a glimpse of the rushing water that has made Yosemite so famous. grinning smiley
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
June 24, 2017 04:31PM
I've camped a few times in the backpacker's campground at Tuolumne Meadows right after 120 opens over Tioga Pass when they are still preparing the campground for drive in visitors. It's nice and quiet because there are just a few other backpackers in the campground and the campground host is camped near the drive in entrance.

Chick-on described my favorite scenic route from Happy Isles to Nevada Fall. However, I'll never take another 60 lb pack down the Mist Trail after doing it twice in my younger days. The granite steps are much too big for my knees and feet to take that kind of pounding anymore, plus most of the day hikers don't have the courtesy to step aside and let you through. This year a large section of the Mist Tral will be very wet and slippery, so your pack will get soaked well unless you have something waterproof over the outside of it. However, you can't beat the view you'll get anywhere else!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 05, 2017 07:28AM
Hey all!

I hope everyone had an amazing 4th of July. For anyone that visited Tuolumne area and/or High Sierra, what were the conditions like? What do you imagine they will be in 2 weeks?

I would love to hear what you guys think. @Chick-On, it looks like you went to the High Sierra?

I've heard the snow line has receded to about 9k.

Thanks!
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 05, 2017 07:37AM
If The Sierra could talk it would say

"I'm melting.... I'm melting.... "

Look here man:
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?17,89825



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 05, 2017 07:54AM
Thanks Chick-on! I can see that there seems to be a thin layer of snow at Cathedral pass from your photos. I am not sure what this means for a July 15th hike of the area...but I'm optimistic that the Sierra melt is ON!
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 05, 2017 10:36AM
Not so sure it's thin....



I'd expect Long Meadow to be a Long Soupy Messy Meadow/Lake/Yum/Yum/Nom/Nom



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 05, 2017 10:55AM
Wow, amazing photos Chick-On!

What type of gear were you using for those sun cups and long stretches of snow?

Also, should I have water shoes prepared for stream crossings going from Tuolumne down to HI? I have micro spikes and trekking poles for the snow just in case.
avatar Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 05, 2017 12:07PM
Hiking Poles (I use hiking poles all the time thank you)
Katoolahs... (less slippage) (though u could get away with nothing)
(the snow was melting enough where you didn't need really)

I don't know what route you are taking... I'd just expect ur feet to get wet...
If taking JMT ... then... there's no real water crossing imo .. which should
require water shooz per sey...



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 12, 2017 06:31AM
Flying out tomorrow for my trip, I just have one last question!

Has anyone seen the Cathedral pass and Sunrise mountain area recently? Postholer.com seems to show that the snow is gone, but people from the JMT still report snowy but warm conditions although it is unclear when they were on the trail. Would love to hear any last minute suggestions!

Lastly, I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who contributed their thoughts, secret spots, experience, and sage advice. You all are amazing, and thank you for helping make a Yosemite dream a reality for this humble East Coast hiker. sleeping in tent
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 12, 2017 08:43AM
From what I've heard from other forums (JMT Yahoo, Facebook JMT, etc.) and speaking with a ranger yesterday, there is still plenty of snow in the forested areas and navigation is super important. He said definitely be up to speed on map and compass skills, but GPS is a huge help. Being extra cautious, I have downloaded 3 separate apps and made my husband download one in case my phone goes wacky. I'll be out there on Tuesday, so right behind you. Have a great time!
Re: Cathedral Lakes to Happy Isles 3 day/2 night
July 12, 2017 02:19PM
I will be out in the same area in just over a week, an update after the trip would be appreciated and be a big help.
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