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Topic: High Sierra Trail< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 04 2013, 12:41 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hello!

I have begun planning for a 7 day backpacking trip to cover the High Sierra Trail next July with my wife.  We plan to start in Sequoia National Park and end at the Whitney Portal.

Has anyone done this hike before and have any advice?  I would consider ourselves pretty experienced backpackers along the east coast, but never on the west.

My primary concern is travelling by air with our backpacks.  Has anyone done any travelling with their packs before?  We are fairly light backpackers (her's is usually around 25 pounds, mine around 35), but I worry about bringing certain things such as our stove top (PocketRocket), food items, and a few others.  I am considering putting together a small package of items - stove, knife, food items, etc - and shipping it to the ranger station in Sequia where we would get our permit.  Any suggestions?

Afterwards, we plan to travel up to Oregon to visit some friends and I am thinking that we will just ship our luggage for after our backpacking trip to a hotel in Lone Pine.

Thanks so much for any help you can provide - it's greatly appreciated!!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 04 2013, 2:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

For air travel you need to pay attention to the TSA website:
http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items#5

For an easterner the big thing to look at is the altitude gain/loss and the overall elevation of the route: the gain/loss adds up to miles not feet and at the high elevation of so much of the route the sunlight is intense, the air dry (so you need to watch your hydration by drinking consciously) and thin, so effort, especially those first crucial days over Kaweah Pass up from Hamilton Lakes will be a gasper even for those in good physical shape. Portions of the trail up from Hamilton Lakes is quite narrow on a vertical cliffside (there's even a tunnel to cut through a vertical ridge...) and some find the exposure an issue.

Overall it's a very nice route, with additional time beyond 7 days I'd have suggested detouring up via Milestone Creek to Lake South America and back south on a short stretch of the John Muir Trail, but that'd be a rush within your schedule and that country is too pretty to jog through blindly.

The one puzzle for that route is travel to and from the trailheads: being on opposite sides of a big unbroken by roads mountain range causes challenges. Public transportation is sparse and wastes chunks of time and shuttle services cost quite a bit. but do, at least in the past years, exist. Throwing money at the problem and flying into a different airport (say, Sacramento) than the one you use at the exit (say, Reno) does open up some options: taking CREST bus service to Reno is straightforward and AMTRAK to Sequoia (well, Visalia where there's a Sequoia shuttle) is doable.

When I air travel I stick questionable items in my bear canister and ship it via USPS Priority Mail to the nearest post office, in national parks there's usually one in the park itself (Sequoia's website should give an address or call them). Ranger stations /  wilderness centers don't store things for people, there's no provision for such storage in the volumes that would be necessary. The Bearikade lightweight carbon fiber canisters are rentable and would allow you to pretest your packing before you go were you to rent it a bit ahead, then simply reship the thing to the USPS office in Sequoia (Giant Forest?).

ETA: Oh and your exit out through the "Whitney Zone" has some extra issues as I understand it: imposed since I was through there. Sequoia's webpages on the route might get into the current stuff. Well, they seem to duck it.
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/high-sierra-trail.htm

ETA2: "Hiking the High Sierra Trail and Mineral King area to the summit of Mt. Whitney AND exiting Whitney Portal, the ONLY permit you need is from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Use the application form below."
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wilderness_permits.htm
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 04 2013, 2:38 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The Bearikade canisters:
http://www.wild-ideas.net/what-is-a-bearikade/
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 04 2013, 7:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Put your packs in separate large (enough) duffel bags.  Take the pack you plan to carry down to your local sports store and size the packs to the bag.  It should be a fairly even fit so that you can stuff in a few things (extra socks, clean pants/shirt, etc) and pointy things  that you will need.  Best to remove the hip harnessing if you can remember how to put it back on and fold it to fit into the duffel last.  A separate duffel for each of you. The main idea is to contain all of the straps and protect your bag from abrasion or accidental (theft) rips.  When packed, duct tape an equator or two around the duffel to take out the slack if there is lots.  

Check with the airline on what you are doing and tell them what you are planning to put in there.  Stoves are usually ok, but any fuel canister is not.  I've shown liquid fuel containers full of water that passed without a hitch as well as empty new ones that had no smell of fuel.  Regulations change daily so check.  Pick up fuel at your flight destination.  Lone Pine's sport stores carry a variety of fuel canisters.  Call ahead and ask if they have one for you.  I have never had any problem with food being shipped in my pack or as a separate box. You can give partially full canisters you will not be able to fly home with to the ranger at Crabtree Meadows or at the Portal.

If coming into LA, Las Vegas, Reno or San Francisco  there are several large outfitting stores (REI, SportChalet, etc) that would have what you need or have forgotten.

I was waiting for a bag to show up and after a delay of 30 minutes and all of the other passengers having left, I was frantically toting up the cost of the bag and contents that were not insured.  BIG $$.  Didn't occur to me to check the heavy item counter.  duh!

We left plenty early on day one (end of July) to drop a car off on the west side and then traveled past Lake Isabel to get to the East side.  It is a FULL day plus to stage the cars.  Another FULL day to recover them.  The time and cost of public transportation (see HSF above) probably would become less of a hassle.  

I'd be more tempted to leave the car at my exit point and thumb or pay for a ride to my starting point.  Backside to that is you don't have a convenient way out early on if one of you needs to.  It is nice to get off the trail and into a car for quicker drive to a wash and a big green salad. Another option is to load up with new supplies at Sequoia catch a ride to Kings Canyon road end, then hike to Rae Lakes over Glen Pass to Kearsarge and down to Bishop.  Easy hitch to Lone Pine.  You will be in such great shape by then you could run from the west side to the east sode at that low altitude.  :p

There was a hiking group of 3 women (50's) who did a round trip in 12 days picking up supplies in Sequoia PO for the return to Whitney Portal and their car.  They were the stuff of curiosity and wonder for the entire trip. Everybody was asking if we we had met them.

The last time we did the trip we started at 10,500' at Horseshoe Meadows trail head over Army Pass. We couldn't get a permit for Whitney when we wanted to get there.  We live at sea level (as do 99.99% of all hikers in the Sierra) and the first few days were slow on purpose.  

Our camp sites going east to west were: Cottonwood Lake 4/5; over Old Army Pass to Lower Rock Creek PCT trail crossing; Crabtree Meadows (Whitney day hike), Crabtree Meadows (reprise); Big Horn Flats for a recreation day and day hiking (HSF and we agree on that area); down the western side of the plateau (along the Kern) to Junction Meadow; bath at hot springs below Rock Creek falls (best view in the Sierra from an outdoor toilet) then to Funstun Meadows near river (best luxury camp spot of the trip with rustic chairs and table courtesy trail packers); top of Chagoopa Creek; Top of Big Arroyo (weather delay); 9 Lakes Basin for a rest day and recreation (don't miss the over looks from the passes); Bearpaw Meadows; Fresno for dinner.  

We wished we had more food and would have spent more time on side jaunts and perhaps extensions into Wallace and Wright drainage and even Mt Tyndall.  All that effort to get there and didn't really get to see that much more than most people.  Take your time on the trail there will heaps of flowers along the trail.  Interesting 'islands' of flowers and butterflies at places where the trail on the west side cross the creeks.  You spend a lot of time undulating the first day to Bearpaw Meadows...with little overall altitude gain.

The part from the Arroyo down to Hamilton Lakes was awesome and we were so glad we were going down hill and able to enjoy it without trying to keep the respiration rate below the heart rate.  Spectacular either way you go on that portion of the trail.  

Best to plan early days as you might catch an odd shower in the afternoon.  The days could be very hot (plodding from tree to tree to get some shade) and you could have nights in upper 20's above 10,000'. Carry 200 fleece (equivalent) to slip on when you stop for resurrections and return to normal breathing.  Stopping even for a short time at high altitude with a slight breeze and almost single digit humidity will get cold.  A Precip jacket on top of all that worked for the cool nights in camp Whitney and a rain shower.  20F bag should be plenty and you may spend a good portion of the night on top of it.  In the very bottom of the pack, we each carry a very compressed down vest just in case.  DEET and a hood and heavy socks over ankles kept skeeters at bay in camp in evenings and mornings.  

Plan on ten mile days and extend the day if you are doing well or slack off some if you have picked up miles.  Be up on top of Whitney after leaving VERY early in the morning 3-4AM.  Off the top noonish to miss most thunderstorms.

There are 'bear cans' for overnight food storage at most places you would spend the night - plan ahead.  We managed 8 days of food with our Expedition Berikade (no meals on last day out except for quick breakfast of trail leftovers and we carried the food for first day in our packs)... your mileage may differ. We repackaged everything to fit and very little pre-prepared dehydrated food because of low carbohydrate (only 600Kcal/portion) loading.  Layers of food were tamped in place with a full water bottle (contents in plastic bags).  The full canister was equivalent in density to a large keg of lead.

The rule say you each need a personal container.  It does not have to hold everything so long as you are able to store the remaining food in stuff sacks (colored so you can find them along with the others) in the bear cans at night. Leave your packs nearby your sleeping area with all the pockets open so that inquisitive critters can get in without chewing through pack material to get in. Cleaned pots and pans are not an attractant.  Keep your bear cans in plain site of a hungry bear.  The smarter ones will move on and know it is futile to get food there.

Hat with a brim (and able to secure in a blow), high SPF UV cream and chap stick and sunglasses will keep you from becoming a crispy critter at high altitude's harsh sunlight.  Don't forget the camera with plenty of spare room and batteries.

This is a trip of a lifetime.  You'll love it!


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 04 2013, 8:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

"This is a trip of a lifetime."

Amen to that and hence people's enthusiasm.

One random extra. I recently found some very bright green duct tape and marked the handles of my otherwise completely black truck tarp duffles for easy visibility/identification and it worked like a charm. I could spot my specific bags from across the luggage area and no doubt diverted anyone from mistaking them for theirs. Eye catching in a low key but definite way reduces luggage area angst.

Oh and yeah, it's really bright up there with less atmosphere to filter out UV and all the reflective granite (and possibly snow). Good eye protection is a must. Baseball cap under a mosquito headset is often useful for sanity retention. Some years and locations notsomuch but the wide brim or big bill, is useful for sun anyway and a Sea to Summit headnet weighs jut about nothing.
http://www.rei.com/product/780999/sea-to-summit-head-net
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 05 2013, 5:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thank you all so much for this information - it is all very helpful!  The High Sierra Trail has been on my wish list for a while and I'm really excited to finally be able to check it off!

We are most likely going to fly into Fresno and then hire a cab to take us to Sequoia.  We're going to plan on hitching a ride out from Whitney Portal to Lone Pine (and there's a chance that friends might be able to pick us up).

Great advice on the packing for air travel!  That's been one of my biggest worries.  I've done plenty of backpacking, but always driven to my starting location.

A lot of resources have been recommending an early start up Mt. Whitney.  Our final night will probably be at Guitar Lake.

Looks like my next steps will be to figure out which airline we will be taking and give them a ring on regulations, then calling Sequoia to see where I will be able to ship a few extra items.

I still have a few months, so I'll most likely be back on here as more questions arise.

Thanks for all the excitement, this really is going to be a trip of a lifetime!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 05 2013, 7:37 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I pack my gear in one of those big green Army duffel bags.  You can get one at a surplus shop for around $20.  Backpack, trekking poles, etc all fit inside.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 05 2013, 8:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

That is a heck of a cab ride from a Fresno.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 05 2013, 10:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(EGreno @ Jan. 05 2013, 5:47 pm)
QUOTE
That is a heck of a cab ride from a Fresno.

80 miles or so one way? I'd say so.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 06 2013, 1:38 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I thought there was public transportation from Fresno to Sequoia or does that only go to Yosemite? Almost be able to rent a car in SFO or area and park it at the trail head for the cost of that cab ride... (200 miles round trip for the cabby) and most of a day shot with a lot of 35mph travel on the road uphlll (and down).  You save the cost of the extra airfare to Fresno.  Gas will probably be over $4 a gallon by next summer anyway.  Ah well.

Ahh, the life of the wondering soul.

If going from Crescent  Meadows trail head, plan on an hour in Giant Forrest - right at the trail head.  There is a short trail through the big Sequoia trees there.  It will be your last chance to see the main draw of that National Park.  It would be awesome at day break which is the time you should be on the trail if you plan to do this trip in 7 days.  Although the trail shows little elevation gain, the impression that it follows a contour is misleading.  There are 14 miles of little ups and downs.  By end of day with combination of little sleep getting there, the altitude, the heat at low altitudes and the undulations, you will feel like you just climbed Everest when you pull into Bearpaw Meadow.  One thing about BP is that it has a full bar (B&B) with a grand view just by turning around on the outdoor  bar stool.  The thought of a cold beer should help you knock off the last couple of uphill miles past Buck Creek.  Unless you are wasted at Buck you should try to get to Bearpaw that first day.  Reason for an early start and a nice lunch at Mehrten Creek.  Usually a bear camping out around there, so don't leave your pack unattended.  They have little interest in you other than you are noisy and smell.  They would like your food, however.   They are aware of what is in your pack, but they won't hijack you on the trail for it.  

Also the meadows is the last place you can have an open fire.  When we were there on our last HST trip, the winter before had a catastrophic wind storm toppling thousands upon thousands of 300+ year old pines/firs including all the way over on the other side of the Kern 'trench'. When we got into the camp area it was completely covered by 6 foot diameter trees -- like pickup sticks. Campers would stake out a 'log cabin' complete with four walls - each a felled tree.  Spectacular maze.

Since then (a few years ago now) we went up for a few days to catch Elizabeth Pass (Copper Mine Pass, Cloud Canyon Creek, Colby then down the Kern to Rattle Snake Creek, Franklin Pass then across to Bearpaw and out) ,  and there were enormous stacks of wood...hundreds of cords.  All for the consumption of the hiker's first or last night in the wilderness.

Almost immediately after you leave Bearpaw Meadows you will immediately be immersed in the views the Sierra are famous for.  Take your time up an amazing hand crafted trail that must have had the backing of a lot of the 1930's kick start money.  There are hundreds of spent  drilling steels some being used as support for the engineering of the trail that was laboriously chipped out of Valhalla.  If you run out of sunlight and steam once over Kaweah Gap, you can pretty much find a nice place to spend the night anywhere.  That will be another big day back to back.  Except for few minor inclines en route,  it will be mostly  all down hill from there all the way to Whitney Portal.

You should definitely get all the running and stair climbing you can fit in between now and the time you catch that airplane.  (see http://www.exrx.net/Beginning.html - walk/jog program)  Most from the east are surprised that there are trails here that you will walk up hill all day for two days and then down hill all day for two days.  By June, you should be able to trot at a reasonable pace for an hour and able to chat for most of it with your running partner. Singing or whistling is extra points :)

Trek poles, used correctly, (see Pete's Poles) are a good accessory on the trail.  If you can off load 20 pounds each stride, you will have converted 40,000 lbs from your legs to the poles...each mile. Which implies you should pay attention to your upper body strength to be able to pull off some of that . Heck, just taking the weight of your arms on the  treks is a lot over 80 miles or so.  Plan on 400-600 calories an hour under full steam and sweat going up hill, full pack at altitude in the sun.  I suspect you will loose some weight around your middle by the end of the week.

The saving grace is that although we didn't discover the switch back, we certainly use it a lot.   As compared to a LOT of 'straight up that gully' no nonsense eastern trails.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 06 2013, 1:56 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Nope from Merced just to Yosemite (YARTS) the Sequoia access is the Sequoia Shuttle out of Visalia for $15 per person, which is reachable by AMTRAK out of Sacramento.... For $37.50 per person.

http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/publictransportation.htm

"Shuttle from Visalia

Sightsee while you ride to the park from May 24 through September 9, 2012. The Sequoia Shuttle runs from Visalia, through Three Rivers, and up to the Giant Forest Museum, where you can transfer to the free in-park shuttle. A round-trip ride costs $15, and covers the park entrance fee. All shuttle buses are wheelchair accessible.

For details and reservations online see www.sequoiashuttle.com, or call 1-877-BUS-HIKE."
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 06 2013, 2:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sorry HSF, added while you were providing more.

Ryan, don't know what you would want to ship that you wouldn't put in that duffel. I've had crampons, ice axes and hammers without a peep from them. So long as they are packed so they don't poke a baggage handler.   They might want to take a peek.

There is a USPO in the villiage that you can mail things to General Delivery in your name. Most things you can't carry in the cabin of an airplane are also discouraged in the mail system.

Guitar Lake, if you get there early enough to find a place to settle in, is a good spot to start the hike the next day.  It will just be a long slog up to Trail Ridge to drop your packs and make the final dash to top Whitney (don't miss out bagging Mt Muir on the way down).  You don't want to be on the top during any lightning activity.  It IS the tallest place around.  Be a shame you have to skip the summit because of a late start and early afternoon thunderheads.  Besides it will be one of your most strenuous and longer days.  Very early start (alpine start) is a good idea.

There will be a lot of aggressive varmints at Trail Ridge.  Best to have your personal canister well stuff with goodies.  I suspect there hasn't been a theft of personal goods by humans reported there in years.

Lightweight headlamps are a great tool for walking in the dark, and reading in the tent.

If this is first time at altitude for you there is an interesting experiment to try.  If you fan your face with your hand near sea level, you will feel a breeze.  Try that on the top of Whitney.  It takes a large wide brimmed hat to move the few molecules of air around up there.  Gives some WOW! to the mighty winds they have that roar around up there and put you on your kiester.

My daughter carries a kite she flys from the top of 14rs. Sometimes it works.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 06 2013, 10:46 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The shuttle requirement for the High Sierra Trail is such a huge undertaking I don't know why anybody bothers, especially those flying in from out of state. Loop opportunities to the same or similar scenery abound and you get to spend two extra days hiking instead of shuttling. You wouldn't rather spend an extra couple of days at Rae Lakes, Hamilton Lakes, Little Five Lakes, or Evolution Valley?

I read where you may have friends pick you up in Lone Pine, which would make the whole thing work out. But more for the sake of those who search the forum for "High Sierra Trail" in the future I feel someone needs to say this. I'd rather double back from the top of Whitney than mess with the shuttle. I know a group that had their shuttle fall through and had to cough up $1500 to get a ride back.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 06 2013, 1:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I ran the numbers once for a semi-loop that after joining the Kern turned back west and went over Colby Pass and out at Waksuchi Lodge but I can't recall how the distance compares with Crescent mdw to out at Whitney Portal offhand. Much of the same country and lot off the path of most.

OTOH the OP doesn't have to go "back" from my impression making the one-way a lot simpler. My solution to that had friends come with me to Hamilton Lakes and I simply grabbed a bus in Lone Pine while they returned home with the car. I've done a couple of different trans Sierra routes that way.

A Reno origin would work similarly for flyers: Amtrak from Reno to Visalia, Sequoia Shuttle from Visalia to Giant Forest (internal Sequoia nps shuttles as needed), the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority CREST service from Lone Pine to Reno and out home ya go. Carrying a lightweight duffle to shroud your pack on the plane wouldn't be all that burdensome and there's USPS in Lone Pine and or Reno to get rid of items that might be an issue for TSA.

Eastern Sierra Transit for public transport up and down the Owens Valley:
http://www.estransit.com/CMS/

Guitar and the Whitney environs are quite wonderful....

ETA: just a planning FYI, IIRC the published mileage for the High Sierra Trail stops on the summit of Whitney, meaning its a severe understatement of the route's actual total since it discounts the mileage from the Summit out Whitney Portal. Which would be significant even without that 97 switchback drop from Trail Crest to Trail Camp....

ETA2: yeah absolutely having to get back to the TH by road rather than just a loop (hit Whitney and head back West over the aforesaid Colby Pass) poses some problematic challenges.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 07 2013, 1:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks, everyone, keep the advice coming!!  It's all very helpful and I'm trying to learn as much as possible!

I considered flying from Philadelphia straight to Visalia, but it requires multiple flights and can range anywhere from a 12-25 hour travel time, so going into Fresno gives me a 7-9 hour travel time instead.  Do you think it would be best to get a cab from Fresno to Visalia, then jump on the shuttle into Sequoia?  I'm not too worried about spending $100-$200 for a ride because we'll be staying with friends after the trip, so I won't have much of an extra expense for lodging.

Our trip on the High Sierra is one way.  We are planning on starting at the Crescent Meadow trail head. When we are done backpacking, we will be heading up to Reno and then Oregon, and then flying out of Oregon when we return home. That's the only thing stopping me from renting a car to get from Fresno to Sequoia.

I'm glad to hear that it's not a problem to bring backpacks along - I just didn't know the regulations since I've never flown with one before.  We have an army surplus and a few sporting shops around, so I'll check in there to see what I can find.  I think I'll scrap the idea of shipping any of our backpacking items, though we are still planning on shipping "real" luggage to a hotel in Lone Pine (clean clothes to last us the rest of the trip and a few other "luxury" items - my wife will want her blow dryer after a week in the mountains).

I've been working out a bit for this trip, though I know nothing will truly prepare me for the altitude and the long days of all uphill and the others of down.

Any suggestions on a pair of reasonably priced trekking poles?  I don't normally hike with those, but multiple sources have suggested them now.

Thanks again, everyone!!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 07 2013, 3:38 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Your local REI can help you with hiking poles...they are essential in my book.  

We did the hike last September and flew from Houston into LAX and connected with Great Lakes Air into Visalia and stayed at the Holiday Inn that is two minutes from airport (and their shuttle will pick you up).

We flew United and they have large plastic bags in Houston (and LAX) to put your pack in.  Normally I will use a large duffel bag for my pack but since this was a one way hike I didn't want to hassel with mailing/shipping it to other side.  Some of our group did UPS their duffel bags to Ridgecrest CA and had no issues.  They had a prepaid label and attached it to one of the duffle bags and put everything else inside of it and sent it that way and had no problems.  Visit with your local UPS store to get their input.  Just a lot easier to go with plastic bag if your airline has one.

Also all of my food for the trip was inside of my Bearikade.  The guy that makes them will custom make you one whatever size you want.  I got a 12" which is in between his standard 10" and 14".  If you and your wife always travel together you might get away with two 10" cans.  I split my evening meals with a friend so the 12" was fine for a week-long trip.

We did send a set of clothes from home to Ridgecrest for the trip home.

For fuel, you might call the general store in Sequoia at Lodgepole to see if they are carrying cannister fuel.  One of the guys in our group shipped fuel to Visalia - which is a no no, so I didn't look at the store in the park.  My guess is that they would have to have it, but just call to be on safe side.

We took one of the first shuttles (mentioned in one of previous posts) up from Visalia and it picked us up at front door of Holiday Inn - make sure you have reservations!!!!  It will drop you off in the park and you can catch a park shuttle to Lodgepole to get your permit.  Spend some time at General Sherman tree and Moro Rock (it is definitely worth climbing to top of it).  

We probably didn't get started until around 2:00pm on our first day and only made it about 7 miles in.  We stopped around 6:45 or so at a creek and we were glad we did because we did not see a lot of places to camp between there and the High Sierra Camp.

The second day we hiked to Hamilton Lake, third day into Nine Lakes Basin, fourth day to Kern River (we would have been much better off grinding it out to hot springs to camp).  Make sure that you don't miss the hot springs.  The fifth day we hiked up Kern River to the obvious campsite a mile or so before you start the trudge up Wallace Creek to where it meets John Muir Trail.  Sixth day to Crabtree Meadows, then seventh day summited Whitney and camped at Trail Camp just below saddle.  Then 3 hours out the final day.

Guitar Lake would make a great final night and it is doable to get out from there.  The climb up to Whitney is just fabulous and just not to be missed as we did when we did JMT several years ago due to weather moving in.  If bad weather moves in try and wait it out a day or so at Guitar Lake - an early morning start should help you out as the weather sometimes will move in as the day goes on.

You will not have trouble hitching a ride out from Whitney Portal.  We stayed at Whitney Motel and it is reasonable.  I can't remember the name of the restaurant we ate at in Lone Pine, maybe the Merry Go-Round, but it was upscale for Lone Pine and very good food.  It is on the east side of the main drag.

The Eastern Sierra Shuttle is a great way to get you from Lone Pine back to Reno or getting you where you can catch a shuttle into Yosemite.  Can't remember if you mentioned going to Yosemite or not, but if you haven't been there you would be crazy to be this close and not go and check it out.

Great trip for giving you a mini view of the JMT.  I was not in very good shape this year and paid for it with the warmer than expected weather.  If you and your wife are in good shape you shouldn't have a problem.  Have fun and take lots of pics.  I'll say it again the climb up Whitney from the Guitar Lake side is just about as good as it gets.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 07 2013, 5:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Amtrak from Fresno to Visalia is a $10.50 per person ticket.

About an hour with a change from train to bus in Hanford.

Otherwise, that's a 45 mile cab ride, 90 round trip for the cabbie.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 07 2013, 8:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The main criteria for trek poles for us was length collapsed, weight, price.  They pretty much all collapse to about a third. Weight variations on current crop of treks is not a significant factor.  The difference of a few ounces won't be noticed so much if you use the treks right.  They are not walking sticks.  The main use is stability (ya gotta gave two) and off loading some weight from your lower body.

We got ours (still do) from SierraTradingPost.com    We usually pay around $50 the pair. We prefer non sprung and cork handles. It is not rocket science. Pretty basic engineering.  FlintLocks (Black Diamond) are best locks but the friction lock on Komperdels have worked for us. We don't put a lot of stress on them when just hiking and keep them clean in between jaunts.  The biggest squander of 'trek' energy is carrying an ice ax by gripping the top of the tee.  BUT it pays for itself when it is needed.

You won't need the ax on this trip

http://www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/poles.htm

and for rant and raves:

http://friends.backcountry.net/m_factor/poles.html


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 08 2013, 1:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Okay, I am rethinking how I will get to the trail in the first place.  Instead of taking multiple means of transportation, it must be less of a headache to just fly into Visalia and stay at a hotel for a night, then take the shuttle to Sequoia.  Would probably be nice to get a decent night's sleep before hitting the trail anyways.

Couple questions once I'm in Sequoia - is it easy to travel around?  I read online that there are shuttles in the park, but I just need to make sure that we can get to Lodgepole for fuel (will call in the near future to confirm) and our permit, and then make it over to Crescent Meadow.  I'd love to be able to hit the trail late morning or early afternoon, which sounds doable according to previous posts.

Thanks again everyone for all the details - I really appreciate being able to talk this stuff out with you all.  I'm really looking forward to making this trip happen!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 08 2013, 1:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The in-park public system is outlined here:
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/parktransit.htm

I've more frequently used Yosemite's and Zion and it's my experience their shuttles work as described so I'd expect Sequoia's to be reliable for getting around. The "Sequoia Shuttle" from Visalia terminates at Giant Forest and from the map it's clear there are internal park shuttles that connect Giant Forest and Lodgepole.

If you can it might be prudent to note the start date for Wilderness Permit applications and act as soon as your timing is finalized:
"Applications for the 2013 summer season will be accepted starting Friday, March 1, 2013, 12:01am - Pacific Standard Time. " since while they do provide some walkups there'd be far less chance of disappointment (especially if you want to start on a weekend) were you to have a reservation in hand: that's a very popular trail.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 08 2013, 2:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You may find better connects to Visalia from Los Angeles/Burbank/Ontario/Long Beach/Orange County airports.  If you need connection help between airports, let me know your schedule.  If I'm in town. I'd be happy to drag you from one to the other.  Won't be in LA 2-9 and 20-27 of July, tho.  Visalia is 4 hours away Sequoia is 6ish driving. :)  Easy to make a 9AM trailhead - heh!

Visalia is a fairly large town that supplies sport fishing in the area.  You will have more of a chance of finding anything you need there instead of in the park.  You can call around for gas cartridges or ask the motel reservation about stores to call that would be close to where you will be staying.  If staying there you might have the fuel delivered to the front desk for you.  It is that kind of town.

There used to be sleeping/cabin facilities in the park (perhaps Pinewood or maybe Round Meadow - its been a long time - certainly Lodgepole) if you want to be closer to the action and get a few hours acclimatization and play tourist in a very spectacularly forested area.  You will want to reserve those seconds after you get a permit for an entry date  An early start at Crescent Meadows (pre-9ish) is important if you plan to get to Bearpaw Meadow at a decent time (before the bar closes :)  There are a couple of places before the meadow that have water and camping space (unless put off bounds by the Park) if you fall short.

If planing a stay at Hamilton Lake, you should plan on getting there early.  There are only about 5 spots available and nothing else from there until over Kaweah Gap.  Not a lot of flat places in the area. It is a fairly strenuous day from Bearpaw to Kaweah Gap.

Usually reserved for Fitness Forum is getting in shape for the run for Whitney.

While walking around the neighborhood on sidewalks or roads, a little spice can be added with the 'Model Runway' walk.  Using an imaginary (or real) line walk on either side of it.  Place the right foot as far to the left of the line as you can then put the next step of the left foot as far to the right of the line as you can get.  Do this slowly/carefully and usually not loaded with a pack.  Yeah it looks odd and you might get stares but it is effective.

The other half of this is the 'Skating' walk.  Place the right foot as far to the right of the line and then move the left foot up almost grazing the right ankle  placing it as far forward and to the left as you can.

Repeat both as long as you can or should. Trails are not as level and flat as most sidewalks and all of the ancillary muscles and tendons need to be ready for the assault too. As with all forced exercise, if it starts to hurt... don't do it any more like that.

One way of getting someplace at higher altitude is with the 'step/breath' technique.  When it gets to be a competition which is going to be faster your heart rate or your respiration rate, it is time to do something different.  The goal is to maintain your beating heart at an elevated rate that you can maintain for a significant time - say an hour.  Your heart rate and breathing are directly tied to each other.  So, maintaining your breathing at a not so comfortable rate is key to this.  You need to experiment on what your max heart rate is (easy to find out on long flights of stairs) and keep it at some high percentage of that while working your way up inclines (or stairs) all day.  The trails on this trip have been well engineered and are not as steep as you might find else where.  But they have a general, no-nonsense get you there, plan.

Method: Take a step and inhale.  Take another step and exhale.  Repeat until you get there.  

You adjust the length of your stride based on how much oxygen your body needs at the current time.  If you need more air, make your steps shorter but keep your breathing rate constant with your foot falls (therefore your heart just below throwing a rod).  If you see an incline increase coming up, start your plodding step/breathing around 1/2 minute before you start up it.  It takes about 20 secs for the legs to tell the brain to tell the heart that they need more and 10 secs for the oxygen to get to the complainers.  Once you have oxygen deficiency it is tougher to make it up.  

Near the top of Whitney there is a long, seemingly infinitely long  trail going out of sight ahead of you.  Its really only a few hundred yards, but your steps might have the heel of your one foot only just at the toe of the other.  If you can make progress without all of the usual breathing stops, you will be faster than most others at the same level of fitness...and feel better about it.

If you do stairs, come down them two or three (or more) at a time S L O W L Y and with lots of fingers wrapped around the stair rails.  You should be more tired coming down than going up - working all those muscles that only get beat up on a long trail.

There is sooo much to enjoy on this trip that you can make better by doing all the pain at home instead of on the trail.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 09 2013, 12:55 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I know I've said this before, but you all have no idea how helpful this has been!  I've learned more on these forums than my hours of internet searches!

That's awesome that Sequoia offers free shuttles in the park.

That sounds good to check out the Lodgepole market or contact the hotel in Visalia about fuel.  That's the only thing that I should have to pick up at this point.  I'll also give the airlines a call (probably United) to check about the big plastic bags.  I think I'd rather deal with those since I can just dispose of them instead of worrying about a duffle bag.

Thanks for the fitness tips - very helpful!  The highest I've hiked to so far has been the summit of Mt. Rogers in Virginia.  If you're interested in seeing our pictures (from last April): Grayson Highlands Trip Pictures.  I believe it was around 5,700 feet...which is lower than where I'll begin on this trip.  I've been working out for a little while and will continue in the next few months to make sure that we can handle the trail.

I'm working on a trip schedule that I'll probably share once I get a few more details down to see what everyone thinks.
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