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Yosemite – North Country IV

September, 2010 | Comments Off

Hetch Hetchy

Another September in the Yosemite Park. And again in the northerly section of the park. I seem to be slowly trying to discover all the nooks and crannies of this area. I like the fact that it seems to be an area of less interest to everyone else and that there are many un-trailed sections within the area. This trip was a seven night adventure with some strenuous off-trail stuff, but also some spectacular high country sights.

The weather started off warm. Hetch Hetchy is at a fairly low elevation and the temps starting off were in the mid eighties. The trailhead is kind of busy… it was Sunday and still tourist season for some. But after a couple of miles the hikers dwindled and after passing a group heading toward the Rancheria Falls campsite, they were the last people I saw until I returned to the Hetch Hetchy area the following Sunday.

Up through Rancheria Creek

Up through Rancheria Creek

A heavy pack and a quick pace (due to a late start) in hot weather pretty much burned me out for the first day. I camped just above Rancheria falls, along the creek, pretty tired and dried up but happy to finally be out.

The next day I started up Rancheria Creek, toward the high country.

Reptile Surprise

Creek hiking at low elevations – below 7000 feet – can be challenging. The brush becomes a problem, leaving you to hike up the creek bottom, which in itself can be tiring. This is especially true when the elevation rises quickly and the rocks become something you have to climb up and over. Thankfully, the water level was low, as there were sections that were tight with lots of creek crossings. My route took me up Rancheria to Deep Canyon and Breeze Creek and then over to Stubblefield canyon.  I spent two more nights in this section. The days were tiring, but the scenery was pretty and seemed untouched. Hardly any fire rings or signs that many people had traveled through here. I could see why. You kind of have to be an expert at spotting the bear trails through the brush – you learn quick. A wrong turn will send you into some dense oak or manzanita or up a draw that is impassable.

Bear Posts

Thompson Canyon

The animals have mapped out the whole area, and it’s up to you to read that map. This whole route was a grind all the way until I reached the PCT trail at Stubblefield canyon.

From there, it was pure heaven.

Now I have to mention the weather… and duly thank the weather gods for bringing what was … boring … weather. The days were perfectly clear and cloudless, warm but not hot. The nights clear and cool, but not cold, and dead calm. Afternoons brought some breeze which died down in the evening. Perfect.

Un-named Lake

The high country seems to start above 8000 feet…  and the traveling is much easier as you’re above the oak belt and the manzanita is smaller and easier to maneuver around. I entered this area up through Thompson Canyon. And this is what the Sierra is all about. Plenty of granite. Smooth glacier cut valleys. Open meadows.

One of the best things about this time of year – September – is of course the weather and the limited crowds. But the meadows can be a little dry… the flowers are a bit tired… the season is winding down and the vibrant summer greenery is past. It’s a trade off… but then again… no bugs either.

High Country

I spent two nights at an un-named lake in Thompson Canyon which was just incredible. Spent a day and hiked up to Ehrnbeck Peak at 11,200 feet with some great views. Unfortunately there were some fires within the park that the Park service was letting burn out, so it was hazy from the top. But still satisfying to climb up there and look around.

Another High Country Lake

The next three days were spent hiking out. I dropped over into Stubblefield Canyon along a very steep drop that required some route finding to maneuver down. Once along the bottom, the canyon was wonderful. And then it was trail hiking back out, pretty much on the shortest route back to Hetch Hetchy. Some pretty stuff along the way though. I did have an interesting experience while walking through the meadows of Tiltill mountain.

Ehrnbeck Peak

I was woken out of the mindless trail trance by a couple of bear cubs scrambling up an aspen tree about sixty feet to my left. This was not good. Where there are cubs there is an unpredictable mother.

Stubblefield Canyon

And so there was. She was big and giving me the evil eye. Figuring that the best thing to do was just to keep moving on – and away… which I did. She got the idea and I saw them no more. But that does get your blood flowing.

The rest of the hike was uneventful but the trip was memorable… another great time in the mountains and the north country of Yosemite.

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