Peninsula Fly Fishers

Southern Yosemite (7/14 – 7/18/2011)

July 27, 2011 5:14 PM | Deleted user

I was up and out of the Bay Area by 5 am on Thursday, picking up my wilderness permit from the NF office in Oakhurst.  Based on the reports they gave me, I half expected to be wandering around aimlessly in the snow for the next 5 days.  As far as Sierra winters are concerned, this last one was no less than epic and many places which would normally be easily accessible by mid-July are still under many feet of snow.  As it turns out, the timing of this trip was nearly perfect.  Early enough to beat out the mosquitoes (and the crowds) and late enough that most of the terrain was free of snow.  I was on the trail out of the Chiquito trailhead before noon on Thursday, as I was told that the Quartz Mountain trailhead was still inaccessible by car.  The hike through the Chiquito Lake area was an unpleasant combination of snow, standing water, and aggressive mosquitoes.  Luckily, the conditions improved significantly from that point on.

Chiquito Pass... Underwater

The only creek crossing which I felt might be cause for concern was the SF of the Merced, and it ended up being no trouble at all.  From the South Fork, the trail was completely free of snow until about 1 mile from Johnson Lake.  It was at this point that I ran across the only other group I would meet on the trail during my trip.  I saw one other group from a distance on Friday, but other than that it was complete solitude.  I realize this is a less popular part of Yosemite, but I was quite surprised to seemingly have the whole place to myself during a beautiful weekend in July.  After chatting with the group for a while concerning the conditions, I crossed the Johnson Lake inlet creek and found a great site on the southern side of the lake.  There was still appreciable snow in the wooded areas around Johnson Lake and up towards Buena Vista Pass, but the south side of the lake gets good exposure and provides a number of nice sites. 

The South Fork

I stayed at Johnson Lake for 3 nights, taking day hikes to many of the surrounding lakes on Friday and Saturday.  At one point on Friday, I was very near Buena Vista Peak but didn’t bother to climb the extra ~300 feet to the summit.  I was slightly annoyed with myself afterward, but seeing as the day was slightly overcast, I am not sure how Buena said Vista would have been.  I imagine that on a clear day one can see over the San Joaquin Valley, possibly even to Mt. Diablo.  Friday night was a full moon, but I was too exhausted to stay up very late and enjoy it.  I did see two shooting stars in the sky (and thousands on the ground) over the course of the trip.

Shooting Stars

Royal Arch Lake

Sunday morning was a warm one and I was easily up, packed, and on the trail by the time the sun made its way over the ridge.  I was headed towards Merced Pass.  The trail was mostly clear, although at times it looked more like a small creek than a trail.  Before reaching the pass, I found a nice campsite with a beautiful view.  The topography which afforded me that view also ensured a steady wind all day and into the evening, which kept the mosquitoes at bay.

The View from Camp

Monday morning I contemplated whether to head over to Chain Lakes for one more night or call it a trip and head back to my car.  I am fairly certain that the trail to Chain Lakes would have been mostly snow free, but I didn’t feel like chancing it and to be honest I really wanted a hamburger.  I decided to pack up and head back to the trailhead, followed by a stop at the Pines bar for a cold beer.  The drive back to the Bay Area was made all the more pleasant by a beautiful sunset over the Diablo Range and the KNBR broadcast of a Giants victory over their rival Dodgers.

I did not run into any bears; however, I did run across some fresh tracks in the mud at Chiquito Lake.  On Saturday at Johnson Lake I was joined by a bald eagle.  I think that we may have had something in common, in that we were both principally concerned with the healthy population of rainbow trout in the creek.  The Mosquitoes were worst at Chiquito Lake but otherwise tolerable.  I did not notice one mosquito at Johnson Lake; however, that will change quickly.  With all the standing water that I witnessed on this trip, I expect that the mosquitoes will be out en masse for a good portion of the summer.

My Only Company on Saturday Afternoon

While I have saved it for the very end of this report, the primary purpose of this trip was to chase some sizable fish.  As I am sure many of you will agree, true fisherman are known to be quite vague when it comes to the details of their best fishing experiences.  That being said, the inlet creek to Johnson Lake is filled with a healthy population of nice sized rainbows.  I have to imagine that the spawn was over by mid-July, but they sure looked as if they were competing for spawning territory rather than the best feeding lies.  Royal Arch is a great spot to toss dry flies at some beautifully colored and very eager brook trout.  The biggest brookies of the trip were not easily fooled and topped out at an honest 16 inches, if I had to guess.



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