Snowshoeing Among the Giants
February 19-21, 2005
|All of us at the base of the General Sherman Tree,
the largest tree in the world,
Sequoia National Park
Who in their right mind would go out into the woods with a forecast like this?
SIERRA NEVADA FROM YOSEMITE TO KINGS CANYON-TULARE COUNTY
A HEAVY SNOW WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE SOUTHERN
SIERRA NEVADA NORTH OF KERN COUNTY UNTIL 1000 PM THIS EVENING.
SNOW LEVELS WILL FALL FROM AROUND 6000 FEET TODAY TO NEAR 5500
FEET THIS EVENING. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 14 TO 18 INCHES
WILL OCCUR ABOVE 7000 FEET...WITH 3 TO 6 INCHES AT 5500 FEET.
THOSE TRAVELING INTO THE SOUTHERN SIERRA NEVADA SHOULD
PREPARE FOR WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS THROUGH 1000 PM THIS
EVENING. STAY TUNED FOR THE LATEST WEATHER UPDATES ON NOAA
WEATHER RADIO...OR YOUR FAVORITE MEDIA SOURCE.â€�
Why, me and 5 other crazy backpackers, of course ;)
I organized this trip and despite sketchy weather forecasts, 5 friends that post
on thebackpacker.com (Calipidder, DrunkenMarmot, Songbyrd601, Ladymaritel, and
RobertR) showed up to have fun in the snow with me :)
I left my house on Saturday morning around 8:00 am. We had agreed to meet at
Potwisha Campground which is only at about 2,800' in elevation before we
attempted the drive up to higher, snowier elevations. At Potwisha it was only
dripping rain now and then so we caravanned up to Giant Forest, elevation 6,500'.
As we approached snowline a Park Ranger was there to make sure everyone had
chains, which we did. So up we went. As we entered Giant Forest the rain turned
to snow. But it was only snowing softly so the drive to the General Sherman Tree
Trailhead wasn't bad at all.
At the trailhead we met RobertR who had driven down the day before. We geared
up and then hiked first up to see the General Sherman Tree. I set up my camera
to take a group photo then we headed out on the Crescent Meadow Ski Trail.
Myself, Calipidder, Songbyrd, Ladymaritel, and RobertR were on snowshoes and
DrunkenMarmot decided to cross-country ski. The snow wasn't too deep on the
first part of the trail and was packed down pretty well by other
snowshoers/skiers. It was snowing lightly for the first hour or two we were out
there. We took our time stopping to admire a waterfall, the President Tree (3rd
largest in the world), the Senate, House, and Founders Groups of trees, and then
pretty soon we were at the point where we had to go off trail in order to get to
the Washington Tree. I did pretty well finding the tree even though I'd never
been out there in the wintertime.
The Washington Tree used to be the 2nd largest tree in the world. Part of it
collapsed in a fire two summers ago and then another 150 feet or so came down in
recent winter storms. I had seen the tree a couple of times before and I was
saddened to see most of it gone.
We stopped near the Washington Tree for lunch. By then it had stopped snowing
and the skies cleared. The Washington Tree grows near a ridge and we could see a
ways into the pastel sky beyond.
I had brought along a home-made sit pad so I could rest and eat and I set this down
near where the others were in a giant sequoia tree hollowed by fire. My sit pad
then suddenly morphed into a sled and down I went sliding into the pit of the
After lunch we made our way back to the Alta Trail. We lost the trail once but
found it again near the Cloister, a close grouping of 4 huge sequoias. We then
paused next to the McKinley Tree to take pictures then soon enough we were back
at the trailhead. I think we trekked about 5 miles or so...
We then headed over to Lodgepole Campground which in the wintertime is free.
There is about 7-8 feet of snow there right now so the Park Service basically
plows out a big parking area and the camping area is anywhere you want to in the
snow. We found an area that someone had camped in, one spot was already
flattened for a tent and a bear box had been dug out. RobertR claimed the flat
spot for his tent and the rest of us began stomping down tent platforms and
putting up our tents. DrunkenMarmot was also nice enough to dig us a snow kitchen
That evening it snowed/hailed off and on and there were a few really exciting
moments when lightning flashed and thunder crashed. I was the only one who had
been out in such a storm in the wintertime before, for everyone else it was a new
experience. We made dinner and stayed up to chat a while but when it started to
really come down and get cold we decided to head to bed.
This is when Songbyrd realized her "4-season" tent was collapsing under the weight
of the snow. RobertR offered her the alternate shelter of the back of his Jeep
Cherokee and relocated. It ended up being a good thing, probably, as she got ill
that night several times.
The rest of our shelters held up pretty well. I had my REI Quarterdome which for
a 3-season tent did good. One of my vestibules caved in a little bit but the other
and the main part of the tent was fine. Calipidder and DrunkenMarmot slept in
their Hex, RobertR in his dome tent, and LadyMaritel was the best equipped with
her Bibler I-tent.
We got about 10 inches of snow that night. I got up once or twice to knock the
snow off my tent and we all had to dig out a little in the morning. After eating
breakfast the sun came out and it was a beautiful morning as we set off to
snowshoe from the campground up to Tokopah Falls.
The distance to Tokopah Falls is about 1.7 miles. I've done the trail many times in
the summertime, as I lived at Lodgepole for two summers, but I'd never been up
there in the wintertime. It's absolutely breathtaking when there is snow frosting
the trees and rounding out the granite rocks that make up the many moraines in
Every once in a while along the trail I would hear one of my partners shriek as a
handful of snow (or several handfuls) would drop down from a tree above and land,
usually, right down their neck. Songbyrd especially seemed to get this a lot, lol,
but it happened to me, too, several times.
The last bit of the hike is the best as the canyon opens up into a wide snowy bowl.
The Watchtower Cliff looms above and the falls are peeking through. There are
blue icycles hanging off of dark granite cliffs and the sun at this time starting
peeking in and out of clouds casting beams down now and then. We took a break
here and I took lots of pictures.
Then it was back down the trail. It's a great trail, summer or winter, and it has no
boring stretches as it goes up and down and around rocks and trees and has
beautiful views of the river and the cliffs above.
Calipidder, DrunkenMarmot, and RobertR were faster and made it back first.
They had good reason to be back first, though, as they were packing up to head on
that afternoon. Songbyrd, Ladymaritel, and myself stayed on for another night.
|Ladymaritel poses by a small waterfall that cascades
below a fallen sequoia
|Calipidder, RobertR, and LadyMaritel pose by the
Franklin Tree, the eighth largest tree in the world
|What's left of the Washington Tree
Click here to see what it looked like before the fire and winter
|Where we stopped for lunch and the hollowed out
sequoia where I went sledding, lol
|DrunkenMarmot, Calipidder, LadyMaritel, and
RobertR ahead near the McKinley Tree
|My tent, a REI Quarter Dome
|Ladymaritel strikes a pose next to her Bibler I-tent
|Songbyrd and her tent (which later collapsed!)
|DrunkenMarmot digs the snow kitchen
|Calipidder and DrunkenMarmot
|LadyMaritel made a "snow babe", lol!
|Our campsite in the morning sun
|Snow covered the boulders in and around the Marble
Fork of the Kaweah River
|Ladymaritel takes on the first part of the Tokopah Falls Trail
|I pose along a bend in the river
|The group at Tokopah Falls
|Some crazy person was hiking up the steep bowl near the falls
|Songbyrd and Ladymaritel approach the falls
|Songbyrd and Ladymaritel find a spot to sit and rest and admire the view
|The other side of the Watchtower
The 2nd night was a little colder but less snow fell, only about 4 inches. In the
morning we all packed up and then headed out just as it was beginning to snow
again. I had to put on chains in order to get out of the campground but once back on
the highway the road was well-plowed and I made it back down to lower elevations
with no difficulty. I stopped to take a few more pictures on the way down of the
many little waterfalls coming down the sides of the canyons. This is a wonderful
time to visit Sequoia NP even if you don't want to go up to the snow as the foothills
are green and are starting to bloom!
Overall it was a fabulous trip. Just enough weather to make it exciting but not
enough to really muck things up. I'm so glad I was able to hook up with such great
snowshoeing partners and I hope we'll be able to do another trip again soon :)
|My Eureka Timberlite 2xt Tent which Songbyrd borrowed held
up fine with the snow that fell the 2nd night
|The Sentinel Tree and the Giant Forest Museum