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Re: trip report: Cherry Creek Canyon + Kibbie Lake

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avatar trip report: Cherry Creek Canyon + Kibbie Lake
August 23, 2017 12:33PM
Hi everyone, I was in the Yosemite area in mid-July and wanted to give a trip report. Two TRs actually, I’ll break the trip up. This is the first segment, Days 1-4, in the Stanislaus NF at Cherry Creek Canyon and Kibbie Lake Thu-Sun 7/13-16. The other trip report on Days 4-8 is found here.

For this portion of my trip I was joined by Mr. and Mrs. chick-on and basilbop.

Day 1, Thursday. We started with an early morning drive up from the South Bay area. We turned off 120 onto the road to Cherry Lake, driving all the way to the lake and over the dam. We arrived at the Lake Eleanor trailhead parking at around 10am. Having to start from here instead of Shingle Spring meant an additional climb of about 1,200’ and 2.5 miles just to get to what we had hoped would be the starting line at Shingle Spring, but the road up was closed.

The climb up to Shingle Spring and continuing on to Lookout Point was nice, a steady climb that is mostly forested with partial views back to Cherry Lake. We met this old man’s face on the way in (and again on the way out):

We flirted with Yosemite’s far northwestern boundary before veering west and away from YNP into Stanislaus:

Passed an aerial snow dept marker:

It was a fairly hot day, tolerable for the others but I started feeling the heat right away. Everyone else said they were hot, but I was the only one soaking wet and dripping profusely. If you’ve read any of my previous trip reports you may remember that pretty much every trip of mine to YNP has started out this way, me not adjusting well in the first couple of hours and days to the combination of heat, dry air, altitude and exertion. This trip would be no different, even though this was very low in elevation compared to the high country of Yosemite, the high point this trip being only 7100’ at Lookout Point, on the SW end of Kibbie Ridge where our climb finally ended.

About 2,200’ total climb so far. Now came the down part. In looking at a topo of this area ahead of time I couldn’t see how there would be a way down the western side of Kibbie Ridge, it’s very steep so I was picturing rocky cliffs, which it is further north but coming down from Lookout Point it is very steep but forested, so it was simply a matter of picking a track carefully busting through some shrubbery, sliding through some duff, downed trees, a few tight spots and backtracks, etc.

I didn’t have my trail legs yet, so I was slipping and sliding down the steep descent much more so than the others. My legs were starting to strain, and I landed on my butt a dozen times or so. Views down into Cherry Creek Canyon started to open up:

After about 1,000’ drop or so the steep face of the ridge ends and the terrain transitions to a mix of forest and open granite with domes and slabs:

Our destination was a spot down in the canyon where Cherry Creek runs a teacup cascade that empties into a large pool:

From the above photo the pool was maybe 600’ below us, but there was some up and down to get there. And I was completely beat at this point. I had trained hard leading up to this trip so I feel I was in shape for it, and I had done a much better job of hydrating this time, nonetheless I had to stop and rest quite a bit, and chick-on hung with me.

Finally made it to camp, a large flat clearing in a shaded area just the right distance from the water. Only about 8-9 miles on the day but a total of about 2,400’ of up and close to 2,000’ down.

The pool at the bottom of the teacup cascade is beautiful, and the water was moving pretty swiftly:

The water from Cherry Creek had a distinct taste to it, I would call it a mineral or metallic taste but truly I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly. I would run into this taste in a few places during my trip.

Day 2, Friday. Our plan was to head upcanyon, following the creek all the way to Lord Meadow, but I had a tradition to maintain – yep, I got sick.

That morning I had tried to avoid the dehydration part of the equation that I’ve suffered with in the past, so I had pumped in a good amount of liquid for breakfast.

We broke camp and started upstream:

Fresh off a night’s sleep and the day was just starting to warm up, but it still did me in. I had to rest after the first 100’ or so of climbing. I felt worse, not better, and then up and out it came. All that hydrating earlier that morning didn’t help.

It just wouldn’t be a JR trip to Yosemite without some good old fashioned upchucking! Like the ad says:

I don’t know what it is with me, I’ve had problems at the start of just about every Yosemite trip. It feels like altitude sickness, and on past trips I believe it, but this time it was after sleeping at 5,500’, heck that’s a hotel room in Denver. Whatever the cause, I can’t question the outcome.

So we did make it as far as the Observation Deck area, which looks down into the (or “a”) Cherry Bomb gorge. This is a world-class whitewater kayak run – wow:

And even though this area is outside YNP and much lower, it still has an endless sea of luscious granite, with the flux and motion of millennia frozen in time for the brief moment we are here to see it:

So after less than a mile going up the canyon, the decision was made to return to camp at Flintstone and abandon me – er, I mean, let me rest – while the others dayhiked upcanyon and back. So I spent most of this day lounging around, napping, etc. Definitely helped, that afternoon I was feeling much better, and in fact I did not get sick the rest of my 8 days total in and around Yosemite.

Before I knew it, everyone was back by around 3:00. There was a “hot tub” near our camp and I hung out there for a while with chick-on and basilbop. Also was not a bad place for a 5-minute nap:

While I did not get sick the rest of this trip, I did continue to have some resistance to eating, which has plagued me on some past trips. Not as bad this time, but still didn’t have a strong appetite. (This trip I probably ate on average about half of each meal. And yes I carefully planned and prepared and portioned out each meal).

Day 3, Saturday. I was feeling worlds better this day, and I had no further problems the rest of my trip with hiking, overheating, dehydrating or over-exertion. Maybe for future trips I need to tack on 2-3 extra days so I can start with a moderate trail day, then a rest day, and then I’ll be OK by day 3 (that’s what seems to happen anyway so probably should just build it into the plan).

So at this point of our trip there wasn’t enough time to continue our original itinerary to go upcanyon to Lord Meadow and then visit some of the lakes up near Styx Pass (basilbop had to drive back fairly early the next morning), so we decided to exit the Cherry Creek Canyon by heading downstream. Again, my apologies to the others in the party for once again messing up the plans…

There is a route the experienced in our party had picked out in the past that followed high up the domes and ridges below and onto Kibbie Ridge, they call it “The Ramp” route. This is not for the faint of heart, with two questionable spots: first there is a traverse across steeply sloping, highly polished granite on the edge of a cliff (the actual “Ramp”), and shortly after that is a short stretch of tiptoeing along a ledge less than a foot wide with thick heavy shrubbery overgrowing it so no place to actually walk on the ledge but rather requiring you to hang on to shrub branches as you swing your weight out and over an open expanse to reach the next toehold. I knew it was going to be “interesting” when both chick-on and basilbop wanted to check the tread on my shoes before hitting the trail that morning and then giving me reminders about placing feet firmly, short steps, etc. But it wasn’t bad at all, just be careful and it’s fine.

Looking back to where we had come from:

Heading down “The Ramp”. It doesn’t really show in this picture, but the granite slopes steeply down to where the others are, while it’s also sloping sharply to the right where there is a drop-off just a few yards away:

Looking back at The Ramp:

As we continued on we climbed higher along the western flank of Kibbie Ridge, heading for its southern end. After loping through colors of green and brown flora and grey granite we came across this explosion of opposing colors high on a granite clearing, where water was streaming down the rocks and these golden flowers and crimson moss had laid claim:

It also was a great place to plop down for a few minutes and to nab a group photo:

We continued on, up and over even more granite:

We stopped at a small stream near the top of Kibbie Ridge, to rest in the shade and tank up. This water had the same metallic/mineral taste I had noticed down at Cherry Creek, and I mentioned it to the others. They said they had not noticed the taste the last couple of days but had been drinking mostly or all flavored water. Basilbop mentioned that he had picked up on this taste when rinsing from brushing his teeth down at Cherry Creek. So the others in the party tasted my water, and the reaction was – yuk. At first speculation was that my water filter might be full of mold or something, but then they drank plain water from the creek from their bottles and using their filtration/purification, and they got the same taste. So it was the water not my filter. The consensus was that all four of us had been drinking it now for over 48 hours and no one had gotten sick (not from the water anyway), so it must be OK.

We continued back down the other (eastern) side of Kibbie Ridge, crossing into Yosemite, regaining views down to Cherry Lake and occasional distant views to the southeast and the more familiar peaks and domes of Yosemite:

We headed cross-country to Kibbie Lake:

At about 6,500’ we still were quite low by Yosemite standards. Great spot to camp close to the water with our own little private beach. The flotilla wasted no time in launching:

Beautiful reflections off the lake at sunset:

Day 4, Sunday. We awoke at Kibbie Lake for an encore performance of lake reflections at dawn:

And BTW, water from Kibbie Lake did not have that metallic/mineral taste.

This was the final day for the group. As noted before, basilbop had to head back early. Mr. and Mrs. chick-on and I headed out before 9am back to the cars. The drive back out of Cherry was punctuated with a few roadside stops where chick-on pointed out distant landmarks such as Mt. Hoffmann and Volunteer Peak. Here’s Hoffmann, the “thumb” very distinct from this angle, zoomed in about 30x:

The three of us then headed to Camp Mather for lunch, and the food was pretty good. My first truffle-infused hamburger. I seemed to have no problem eating “real” food.

From here Mr. and Mrs. chick-on headed back to civilization, while I drove into Yosemite and continued my journey, as described in my other trip report on Days 4-8. I’ll leave you with a couple of random flower pics from this trip:

- Billy Joel

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 08/25/2017 08:44AM by JRinGeorgia.
Re: trip report: Cherry Creek Canyon + Kibbie Lake
August 23, 2017 03:50PM
Wow! Another amazing trip report! Glad you were feeling well by Day 3 and was able to enjoy the rest of your 8 day trip.
The Ramp...I went down to Cherry creek last year using the "route" just north northeast of Lookout point. Is the ramp the slope to left of Lookout point? I eyed it on my climb back up to Kibbie Ridge but wasn't sure so just backtracked.
avatar Re: trip report: Cherry Creek Canyon + Kibbie Lake
August 31, 2017 01:16PM
Glad to hear your body finally let you enjoy your trip, JR!

Do you have any idea what could have caused the metallic taste in the water? Low pH? Presumably you didn't get too sick from drinking it, since you had time to write up this lovely report for us smiling smiley
avatar Re: trip report: Cherry Creek Canyon + Kibbie Lake
August 31, 2017 07:50PM
Thanks. No idea what caused the taste. I don't think it made me sick, the others drank it and were fine.

- Billy Joel
avatar Re: trip report: Cherry Creek Canyon + Kibbie Lake
September 03, 2017 10:27AM
Is it possible your Sierra nausea issues are associated with heat exhaustion? You're presumably used to hot weather in Georgia (per your nym), but at altitude and with dry air there will be a bigger difference between "the temperature" (which of course means in the shade) and how it feels in the sun. From Chick-On's comment on my "Granite Lake/Emigrant Wilderness" post it appears this was the same weekend I hiked from Crabtree trailhead to Granite Lake. I remember it seemed fairly warm at Crabtree, 7K feet, with trees. You were lower and surrounded by heat-reflecting granite.
avatar Re: trip report: Cherry Creek Canyon + Kibbie Lake
September 03, 2017 06:14PM
^I think it's very possible. The heat, or maybe more specifically the dry heat, combined with altitude and overall exertion level. When I hike in the mountains of north Georgia and N. Carolina I face elevations in the 3-5k range, very hot but also very humid. I can do 12-16 mile days with total elevation gains of 3k or more up and down and not have the same problems.

On that first day hiking in to Cherry Creek I was absolutely dripping with sweat, whereas the others, while saying they felt hot and sweaty, weren't dripping like I was. Chick-on commented that I was sweating a lot more than him. Interestingly, a few days later when I potentially had more time to become acclimated I was hiking up Rafferty and felt very hot but was not sweating nearly as much, as if my body had adjusted at that point to the conditions.

I'm still surprised that altitude would be a factor on those first couple of days into Cherry Creek, as you said it's fairly low there, but maybe that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I'm serious that I may need to start planning my Sierra trips with two slow days at the start.

- Billy Joel
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