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Re: Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?

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Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?
August 21, 2017 07:10PM
My wife and I will be making our annual trek to Yosemite and plan to be in the park from 9/1 to 9/7. The last 2 (possibly 3) nights, we'll be at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge but we'll be in Yosemite West for the first few nights (currently booked in there for 4 nights but may be able to head up to TM a day early). We'll be doing day hikes (on average 8-12 miles but maybe something a little longer...depending on amount of elevation change and roughness of trail). Obviously, we've been watching the fire situation very closely. Given the danger to Wawona, it doesn't surprise me that there seems to be more going on with regards to the management of the South Fork fire but I'm just seeing the same status repeated for "updates" on the Empire Fire so I really don't know what we're heading into. While in the Yose West, the hikes we were most focussed on doing were

Mono Meadow TH -> Panorama Trail -> cross Illouette Creek and continue on Panorama until the trail (don't know if it has a name) heads south along the east side of the Creek -> back out at Mono TH
alternatively, start down the Panorama Trail at GP, do the same loop around the Illouette Creek and back out at GP

Westfall Meadow -> down Alder Creek to Deer Camp Road -> head east to Deer Camp -> the trail that starts south and then loops west to connect back to the trail going back up to Deer Camp Road -> then heading back out through Westfall
alternatively, coming up Alder Creek Trail from Mosquito Creek or Wawona -> Deer Camp Road -> complete the loop heading south & west from Deer Camp -> back out the way we came
plan C: start at Henness Ridge -> Deer Camp -> do that little loop and head back...that's longer than my wife's usually comfortable with but I've done most of that stretch and now that the elevation change is very gradual on the vast majority of the trail) (in case it's not obvious, that's a fairly long hike in any of it's variants, all to check off a tiny part of MY Trail Quest (specifially that little stretch from Deer Camp south & west back to the Alder Creek trail)


It sounds like they're working to contain but not necessarily extinguish the Empire Fire (or am I wrong about that?). Even if it they DO put it out, I'm guessing that anyof my Deer Camp alternatives are still going to be smoky at best and downright unpleasant at worst (especially coming in through Westfall Meadow which is the shortest version of that hike).

Any thoughts on that? Are we going to be gagging even trying to stay at Yose West?

How about the Illouette Creek loop? Does it seem like that will be an OK hike with fire suppression proceeding at the current pace?

Other alternatives are to explore some part of the OCR between Little Nellie Falls and Hazel Green (although I don't know how much of that we'll be able to do as an out-and-back...especially since my wife had some pretty major surgery a few months ago and is still not fully recovered) and/or head up to Hetch Hetchy (although that's a pretty long haul from Yose West and I don't want to spend half the day in the car).

Lots of options for the high country and I don't think any of them will be impacted by fire (except possibly views) or have I missed something up there?

One quick question about high country...is it still very wet up there? If we headed down the GC of Tuolumne to Glen Aulin or a little beyond (probably the extent of what my wife can handle right now)...are the waterfalls still flowing nicely? Are they flowing TOO nicely (i.e., major water crossings on the way)?

I know that a lot of factors come into play with both the water and especially the fires but for those of you who have been to the park in the last couple of weeks and have the experience to guesstimate some of this stuff, your opinions are very welcome.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/21/2017 07:18PM by DavidK42.
Re: Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?
August 22, 2017 02:14PM
We just returned from 6 days in the high country - Cathedral Peak area. All water crossings were fine. Mosquitos were variable from one place to the next, but more like what I'd expect in July than August.

The South Fork fire (I believe) heavily impacted our trip -- when the wind blew from the south. For three days we had to deploy the tent rain fly for protection -- not from rain, but from the ash that fell from the sky. Monday, in particular, the air quality was so bad that our lungs were burning after a long day of strenuous hiking.

On the days with favorable (from the north) winds, things were much better, with almost no smoke in the vicinity. Still, looking down into the valley, the air quality there looked awful -- maybe even approaching unhealthy for some people.

I'd say that unless the fire is extinguished or greatly diminished, it will be like the mosquitoes - right time and place, things will be great. Otherwise...
Re: Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?
August 22, 2017 04:20PM
Thanks for the smoke update. I'll be in the Mono Meadows area over Labor Day as well. The smoke is becoming more of a concern than the altitude for my group now.
I am contemplating seeing if there are other trail heads with space available when I get my permit that may be farther from the smoke. I'm doubtful that moving a few miles would make that big of a difference though.
Re: Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?
August 22, 2017 11:55PM
Quote
DavidK42
My wife and I will be making our annual trek to Yosemite and plan to be in the park from 9/1 to 9/7. The last 2 (possibly 3) nights, we'll be at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge but we'll be in Yosemite West for the first few nights (currently booked in there for 4 nights but may be able to head up to TM a day early). We'll be doing day hikes (on average 8-12 miles but maybe something a little longer...depending on amount of elevation change and roughness of trail). Obviously, we've been watching the fire situation very closely. Given the danger to Wawona, it doesn't surprise me that there seems to be more going on with regards to the management of the South Fork fire but I'm just seeing the same status repeated for "updates" on the Empire Fire so I really don't know what we're heading into. While in the Yose West, the hikes we were most focussed on doing were

Mono Meadow TH -> Panorama Trail -> cross Illouette Creek and continue on Panorama until the trail (don't know if it has a name) heads south along the east side of the Creek -> back out at Mono TH
alternatively, start down the Panorama Trail at GP, do the same loop around the Illouette Creek and back out at GP

Westfall Meadow -> down Alder Creek to Deer Camp Road -> head east to Deer Camp -> the trail that starts south and then loops west to connect back to the trail going back up to Deer Camp Road -> then heading back out through Westfall
alternatively, coming up Alder Creek Trail from Mosquito Creek or Wawona -> Deer Camp Road -> complete the loop heading south & west from Deer Camp -> back out the way we came
plan C: start at Henness Ridge -> Deer Camp -> do that little loop and head back...that's longer than my wife's usually comfortable with but I've done most of that stretch and now that the elevation change is very gradual on the vast majority of the trail) (in case it's not obvious, that's a fairly long hike in any of it's variants, all to check off a tiny part of MY Trail Quest (specifially that little stretch from Deer Camp south & west back to the Alder Creek trail)


It sounds like they're working to contain but not necessarily extinguish the Empire Fire (or am I wrong about that?). Even if it they DO put it out, I'm guessing that anyof my Deer Camp alternatives are still going to be smoky at best and downright unpleasant at worst (especially coming in through Westfall Meadow which is the shortest version of that hike).

Any thoughts on that? Are we going to be gagging even trying to stay at Yose West?

How about the Illouette Creek loop? Does it seem like that will be an OK hike with fire suppression proceeding at the current pace?

Other alternatives are to explore some part of the OCR between Little Nellie Falls and Hazel Green (although I don't know how much of that we'll be able to do as an out-and-back...especially since my wife had some pretty major surgery a few months ago and is still not fully recovered) and/or head up to Hetch Hetchy (although that's a pretty long haul from Yose West and I don't want to spend half the day in the car).

Lots of options for the high country and I don't think any of them will be impacted by fire (except possibly views) or have I missed something up there?

One quick question about high country...is it still very wet up there? If we headed down the GC of Tuolumne to Glen Aulin or a little beyond (probably the extent of what my wife can handle right now)...are the waterfalls still flowing nicely? Are they flowing TOO nicely (i.e., major water crossings on the way)?

I know that a lot of factors come into play with both the water and especially the fires but for those of you who have been to the park in the last couple of weeks and have the experience to guesstimate some of this stuff, your opinions are very welcome.
You can check at this website for updates on the air quality near the fire. Hopefully it will be better by the time you go https://wildlandfiresmoke.net/outlooks/2017/CentralSierraFires#Overview
Re: Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?
August 27, 2017 04:24PM
Stayed in Yosemite West starting Thursday evening and just left after lunch today The patten was it would start getting smoky about ten at night and by mid morning would clear out again. There was never a point where it was horrible to be outside. I have been in Yosemite valley when the smoke from the campfires were worse. We kept windows closed at night except last night and you couldnt smell smoke until about fpur this morning when you could get a whiff now and then. Yosemite valley was smoky in the limos evenings and in the mornings when it would clear out. Was at Glacier Point yesterday morning before eight and it was really smoky while driving past Bridalveil campground and a few miles past that but it was clear when we drove past there later around 1:30. When we first got to Glacier Point you could barely see Vernal and Nevada falls and then it clear so it was pretty clear. When we left it was getting smoky again. BTW I am sensitive to smoke and Thursday was the only time it really bothered me. Unless things change you should be fine in yosemite West



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/27/2017 04:27PM by parklover.
Re: Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?
August 29, 2017 08:03PM
Thanks for the update, parklover. We'll be arriving in the park on Friday morning and have switched our reservations so we'll only be 3 nights at Yose West and the rest of the time at TM Lodge. I've got lots of "plan B" hikes sized up for the first couple of days just in case things are uncomfortably smoky.
Re: Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?
August 31, 2017 11:27AM
YW. Unfortunately, today the cams do look different than when we were there with the increase in the Empire Fire. I hope it will not be too smoky for you. Have a good time.
Re: Thoughts on Empire & South Fork fires?
September 11, 2017 03:15PM
We just got back to NJ this morning (have to head out on a business trip pretty soon so may be a while before I can post any photos). We ended up moving up to TM Lodge a day early and we were very glad we did. We had a good time down south but had to cancel all our planned hikes. Ended up doing the Mirror Lake loop and extending it up Tenaya Canyon to what I THINK is Hidden Falls on Day 1. LOTS of mosquitoes but fairly empty trail until we got about half way back the other side of Mirror Lake where there were dozens and dozens of screaming people diving off rocks into the creek and dozens more coming up the trail.

On Day 2 (which was the day before Labor Day), we followed the Old Coulterville Road from the Merced Grove TH out to Hazel Green, through HG and a little ways beyond. Not a soul the entire way (not even walking through the supposedly private property of HG (I understand that the ranch is private property but can that apply to what is (at that point) a forest service (or possibly a county) road?). Very hot that day but otherwise a beautiful hike.

Driving into the Valley from Yose West each day, Turtleback Dome and Tunnel View were our smoke gauges...on day 1, the usual suspects (Half Dome, El Cap, etc.) were mere silhouettes. On day 2, you couldn't even make out the silhouettes. On Day 3 (as we were heading up to TM), it had improved a bit again. Despite the "scenic degradation" there, smoke on our hikes (and at Yose West and in Wawona where we hung out with Tom Bopp at the hotel our first two nights) was minimal.

Had some wonderful hikes off the Tioga Road the remainder of the trip. All but our last day had smoke roll in for at least part of the day but most of the time was clear.

More details once we get settled back in at home...



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/11/2017 06:01PM by DavidK42.
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