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Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't

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avatar Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
July 29, 2013 09:36PM
Here we go! Proof that a short three day, two night trip can lead to an interesting trip report (hopefully).

Some of you may remember me asking about the availability of water in Rafferty Creek about two weeks ago. This was going to be our second backpacking trip of the year and my wife and I had planned to do the Lyell/Vogelsang/Rafferty loop over four days. Instead it turned into a three night out and back, but we had a wonderful time anyways.

We made the drive in from the valley and picked up our reserved permit at the Big Oak Flat Ranger Station, where I refrained from answering “what do you do with your used toilet paper” with: “Set it on fire and throw it in the creek?” which I've always wanted to say.

Soon enough we were loaded up and hiking. The first stop was at the double bridge to take a quick photo.

As we continued our hike we saw clouds gathering and noticed a few sprinkles every once in a while.

We stopped to eat lunch on the trail at a beautiful spot where I could fish for a few minutes. While there a friendly Ranger asked to see our wilderness permit, which we quickly produced.

After a few fish we were back on the trail admiring the non-piscatorial wildlife and listening to some distant thunder.

Shortly thereafter we were passed by two Rangers on horseback that were on their way out and they warned us we were walking right into a storm. Before the rain reached us however, there was a bright flash of lightning followed by an immediate BOOM that caused my wife to stagger backwards several steps. What had seemed to be distant thunder and lightning was right on top of us.

Having never been caught in a High Sierra storm, I couldn't remember exactly what to do but remembered that we shouldn’t take shelter under a tree. Maybe it’s a solitary tree or a few trees………..otherwise what do you do in the forest?

We headed out into the meadow, discarded our hiking poles and my fly rod, stayed away from the creek and tall trees and bushes, sat down and tried to present as small a target as possible. It worked (obviously) but I’m not sure if it was the best choice. Feel free to offer advice.

We sat there enjoying the lightning show despite being nervous, watching the wall of rain approach.

I took a short movie from which I snagged two still images, the first one a faint streamer:

Followed a frame or two later by the main bolt:

Of course we got soaked from the waist down. Our rain shells did an admiral job and the pack covers worked beautifully. We weren’t really cold other than our hands and even those warmed up after the storm passed and we started hiking again.

Just past the trail junction heading to Evelyn we set up camp and then headed down to the creek to explore. I saw this little red headed bird while filtering water. Anyone know what it is?

My wife reading while I’m chasing trout

Potter’s Point and mist in the evening

A deer checking out my wife (you can just see her next to the tree trunk on the right)

The weather the next morning was beautiful, so we ate breakfast, packed up our gear and headed towards Evelyn and Vogelsang.

Unfortunately, this is where a number of things conspired against us. After hiking three miles the evening before in wet clothes I was chafed like you would not believe, and that took some of the fun out of hiking. I was already thinking about the ‘longer than planned’ hike out via Rafferty because of water issues. And finally, we hadn’t been hiking much or exercising in preparation for this trip so our fitness was lacking.

When added all together, we were about half way up the climb when we decided to head back down and spend another evening in the canyon.

We were both pretty disappointed, mostly in ourselves for not preparing better, but we tried to make the best of the situation by enjoying the scenery in the canyon………..

………………….and catching fish of course.

That evening I had an audience watching me cast from across the stream.

This photo sort of reminds me of a Bierstadt painting.

At the end of the day we headed back to our tent, which was cleverly disguised as a granite boulder.

Saturday dawned as beautiful as the day before and although I wasn’t looking forward to hiking out with my chafing issues, at least I had nice views to distract me.

We stopped to admire the river at different points.

And we would occasionally look back where we had been and would vow to get in better shape for the next time.

I tried to do my part and moved this little guy off the trail where he would be safer.

And we finished the hike out; bummed at having not done the loop we planned, but happy at having a good trip anyways.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to offer any advice on lighting, chafing, or anything else that strikes your fancy!
Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
July 30, 2013 01:10AM
I hiked through Lyell Canyon up to Ireland Lake on 7/13. The weather then was sunny with clear skies. It's nice to see pictures of the same area I walked through in different weather conditions. You should definitely try that trip again; the views are well worth the hike up the hill. I've posted some pictures from that trip. Here is an article about lightining on the NPS website: Backcountry Lightning Risk Management

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/30/2013 01:12AM by juanitoBanana.
Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
July 30, 2013 08:07AM
Nice TR. I will be crossing through there on Monday. I spent 20 years working a job that was chafe intensive. Best defense is dry pants and underwear. If it is hot and you sweat allot, baby powder can help. Once you get chafed thighs, few things can help you walk without tears.

Great article on lighting...not many good places to be near lake Evelyn!
avatar Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
July 30, 2013 08:22AM
Kewl. Just keep going.

What do they say?
No Pain, No Elevation Gain?

smiling smiley

Tanks for Sharon

I dunno if heading out in the meadow was the right thing.
I would think you are pretty safe and safer under the trees
a bit.. if you look I would bet that you not see many, if any
trees that have been clobbered by lightning in Lyell Canyon.
Next time you are out and about... keep an eye in the trees
for signs of lightning strikes. There's a map somewhere
where it shows lightning strikes in Yosemite over a year..
need to find that.

Anyway, have fun and just keep going... make some easy goals
and then go from there. And, if necessary, keep off the Twinkies

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
July 30, 2013 10:11AM
Generally, solo trees are bad for lightning, meadows are bad for lightning, groups of trees particularly of similar height are better.

Definitely check the nearby trees for lightning damage. I remember a campsite I was considering in the Wind River Range with cumulus building up, I changed my mind when I looked around and saw several nearby trees with lightning damage. Similar-height trees aren't as helpful if many are being hit...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/30/2013 11:40AM by ttilley.
Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
July 30, 2013 11:04AM
We love that loop, as you can tell from previous posts by Basilbop. I'm rushing so won't paste links... Search site if you are interested...

But on lightning safety, will add NOLS' article to reading list. Shows probably safest lightning position, but most practical, and still much safer than standing in open is to sit on pad and wrap arms around legs (try to minimize contact with pad/ground). But squatting as they depict will get tiresome before too long for most.. so sitting with minimal points of contact ok. : http://rendezvous.nols.edu/files/Curriculum/research_projects/Risk%20Management%20Reports/NOLS%20Backcountry%20Lightning%20Safety%20Guidelines.pdf

BodyGlide was recommended to me by many of my ultra-runner and tri-athlete friends and I use it on my feet for preventing hotspots especially for our long hikes and hikes where we walk through water. I use it before every hike as a rule, so I never forget.

BackpackingLight used to recommend Hydropel for situations where you knew you were going to get soaked. I haven't tried yet, BodyGlide has worked well for me even when I walk through water all day. YMMV. These are anti-friction products. Useful for skin chafing issues all over.

And I loved the shot of the red bird (hopefully someone will identify) and the lightning strike... and all of it. I love the Sierras in storms (when I'm prepared) and your photos brought me right back there! Thank you!!!

Loved the narrative, and I appreciate the judgment call to change the original plan, but still have a great time! Excellent!
avatar Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
July 30, 2013 02:31PM
Thanks for the trip report and the wonderful photos. Glad that neither you nor your wife were seriously hurt being caught in a lightning storm.

Loved that you were able to catch a frame with a lighting strike, not an easy thing to do. (Are you going to post the video though? That would be nice!)

Even when things don't go as planned, most visits to Yosemite still turn out to be a wonderful experience.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/30/2013 03:47PM by plawrence.
avatar Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
August 05, 2013 09:23PM
Thanks for the comments and feedback everyone. It took me a while to get it done, but here's the short video from the storm. The lightning strike is at 0:25.

You can tell we were nervous, I sort of giggle at the end and you can hear my wife say "Oh man......"

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/05/2013 09:25PM by JasonS.
avatar Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
August 06, 2013 12:31AM
Neat video of the lighting strike. It sounded like (the delay between the lightning strike and thunder) that you were about a mile away from it.

avatar Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
August 06, 2013 10:17AM
Cool to see the video. Reminds me of a few close encounters with lightning that I've had.
Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
August 16, 2013 12:29PM
Thanks for sharing your relaxing (aside from the lightning storm bit) trip smiling smiley Loved the moth rescue!

Looks like chance for thunderstorms have increased for my trip to Ten Lakes... thanks to JKW and juanitoBanana for the timely and thorough articles. Great resources thumbs up.
Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
August 19, 2013 09:24AM
Little red guy is probably a Cassin's Finch.
avatar Re: Lyell Canyon Trip Report - The loop that wasn't
August 21, 2013 09:38AM
Little red guy is probably a Cassin's Finch.

Cool! Thanks for identifying that little guy. I've never seen one before.
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