Day 3 - 4 days Hike in the Hoover and Yosemite Wilderness
Introduction: Day 3
What? : This Blog part of a 4 days, 60 miles, backpacking hike in the Hoover and Yosemite Wilderness, 2022.
My friend and I start our eastern Sierra loop hike from Twin Lake near Bridgeport (highway 395), from there we went up the mountains into Hoover Wilderness in the direction of Yosemite National Park. We hiked on some sections of the PCT and after 3 days we finished our loop hiking back down to our starting point.
Early spring can be challenging with snow covered trails.
Late summer, as anywhere in the Sierra, you can have smoke or even closures from fires. There is no problem of water availability along this hike. We hiked here late dray year (2022) and we can find water in many places along the hike.
Due note 1:
You need Hoover wilderness permit for this hike; the permit is also good for the Yosemite NP sections.
This is a bear country, so food need to be carried in bear-resistant container.
Due note 3:
Follow wilderness regulations and do not leave trace. Do not camp within 100 feet of any lake shore, stream, or trail. Do not leave toilet papers please pack them out with you (Ziplock plastic bag).
17.3 miles, Total Ascent 2,120 ft climbing, 9 hr
Dorothy Lake to Rancheria Creek
We woke up before sunrise to a cold morning, the rainstorm has passed, and it was a perfect day for hiking. When we were packing our gear, we saw one hiker heading west on the PCT. This was the first time we saw anyone else for the last day, we expect seeing other hikers on the PCT but this is probably after peak season so there are a lot less hikers in this remote section of Yosemite Park.
We start with our day hike going west on the PCT, gradually descending Falls Creek valley floor. This section is 9.1 miles long, following the creek on it right side (losing 1,500 ft of elevation). After fast and constant walk, with only few stops, we arrived at the trail junction where the PCT cross to the east side of the river.
I was in this place few years back….
Back then, I hike straight, in one day, from Hetch Hetchy 20 miles all the way to this point. At that time, early July, due to a lot of snowfall during winter and hot summer the Falls Creek was overflowing with running water. It was too dangerous to even try crossing the river, the fast flow and the river depth will carry me down. I slept here for the night and in the morning, after reassessment and short what/if self-thinking, I decided to hike back the same way I arrived and not to attempt crossing the river.
This time, end of a dry year summer without a lot of snowfall the stream was only a faint remaining of the river I remembered from 4 years ago.
We easily cross the stream and walked to the nearby large lake, Wilma Lake. This was exactly 10 miles into our day hike, up until this point all was downhill.
It was around noon, and we decided to have here a short break, filling back water and eating lunch, we knew that from here the first climbing starts.
After the break we kept hiking on the PCT east (south) and after 1.5 miles of climbing, we pass few small lakes and reach a trail junction, here the PCT keep heading up the mountain ridge.
Additional steep climbing and several switchbacks brought us to the ridgetop, we hiked 2.3 miles with 900 ft elevation gain from Wilma Lake.
As we were hiking up the weather changed, to the east smoke covered the mountains, it was not clear if the smoke is from the not so far local fire or from the large Mosquito Fire far in the north.
At the same time, it got colder, the wind starts to pick up, and we saw clouds approaching from the west. Strangely, even with the wind it was still smoky with poor visibility.
The landscape in the other side of the ridge was impressive but the visibility from the smoke was not good. The exposed gray granite mountains were dotted with trees that manage to grow in the cracks and between boulders. The pine trees in this area were unique, some were very big, others are bent and twisted, with rugged looking personality. I do not know the exact pine trees type but looks like the winter wind and snow, the lack of deep soil and nutrients enable the growth of only the strongest among trees.
We saw our next planed rest stop in the bottom of the creek, few miles down, and start to hike down the trail.
After walking down for half an hour, we saw few deer in front of us, female with 3 cabs. They saw us but once we stopped, they saw us but did not care so much that we are there, the cabs got closer to their mom, and keep on eating.
After 5 minutes we keep hiking down, the clouds moved into the mountains, and a light rain starts falling.
After another 20 minutes of hiking down the ridge I saw a black bear few hundred feet from our location, walking on the rock above us.
We stop and look at the bear, he was not so far away and if he wants, he can cover the distance between us by a short run.
I think that at this stage the bear saw us but decided that we are not a threat to him.
He went and lay on the rock above us.
We waited for almost 20 minutes in the rain and all that time the bear was just sitting on the rocks above us, we decided to keep walking.
After additional 30 minutes we reach the lower section of Thompson Canyon gorge, here at the flat valley we entered a deep old, tall, pine trees forest.
We looked for the best place to cross the river and stopped for a short afternoon break.
Although we were just before a steep climb (900 ft in 1.2 miles) we filled our water because we were not sure where will be the next spot that we can find a good water source.
We start to hike up the steep mountain ridge, the climb was brutal, both because it was steep climb and also because we were already after 15 miles of hiking.
At the top of the ridge pass the rain stop but the visibility was still low, the deep canyon and mountains in front of us were covered with haze, part smoke part fog/clouds.
After 1.2 miles of hiking down on the PCT into Rancheria Creek deep canyon we reached the trees near the creek.
We arrived to the creek crossing and found it dry.
We did not expect this, this is a large creek and I thought that we will see running water in the creek even late fall, apparently in this dry year the creek dried out.
We had to think what to do…
On one hand we still have almost 2 more hours of light so we can keep walking for few more miles, on the other hand we saw that the trail is climbing on the ridge slopes far from the creek.
We found here a good, protected campsite located under large trees and as we were debating what to do the rain start to get stronger.
After short rest under the tree, we decided to camp here for the night. We took a shelter from the heavy rain and waited until it ended.
Once the rain stopped, we went back along the dry river and start to walk up the creek, there we saw running water.
Apparently, there are running water in the creek, but the stream is not flowing strong and, in some gravel, sandy sections the water are flowing underground.
We set our tant in a good flat spot and found a high point on a large rockpile, from there watch the sunset going down and the valley getting covered with darkness.