September in the Sierra BP Trip
September 20-24, 2004
September in the Sierra ~ A Backpacking Trip across the Tablelands of Sequoia & Kings
Canyon National Parks ~ September 20-24, 2004 ~ Ol-Zeke, HikerDuane, Andrew, and
Last Saturday evening I drove up to Fresno to pick up my best friend Andrew who flew in
from Colorado for this trip. We decided to drive straight up to Sequoia & Kings Canyon
National Parks afterwards even though we did not arrive there until after midnight. We
saw a bear running along the road on the drive up then car camped at the 4th unit of the
Big Meadows Campground in the bit of Sequoia National Forest that lies between the
On Sunday morning we woke up to some sleet falling on the tent. A fast moving storm was
predicted to move through the area and move out on Monday. It was certainly cold but it
cleared up as we packed up the tent and then drove over to Horse Camp to meet
Hikerduane and Ol-Zeke, two friends from Backpacker.com. This was a day to just do a
few day hikes and prepare for our trip. So we drove a short distance to Buck Rock, a
manned (womanned?) fire lookout on the forest. The wind up there was bitter cold but
the views attained were worth it! I marveled at the fast moving clouds and the high
altitude hummingbirds that were braving the wind to fly up to the feeder. We schmoozed
a bit with the lookout then headed down.
We then headed over to Grant Grove and Andrew rented his bear canister from the
market. We hiked the Â½ mile paved loop trail to see the General Grant Tree then ate
lunch at a picnic area nearby. Hikerduane had never seen giant sequoias before and I hope
he enjoyed the many big ones in that grove
Then we drove out to a remote area of the forest where the Kennedy Grove is. We hiked
about 3 miles into and out of the grove and saw many more big trees. We got a little bit
of snow falling on us as we were hiking but it was just enough to make for a pretty walk
and it did not stick. I have now been to 26 giant sequoia groves!
Then it was back over to the Big Meadows area of the forest where we stayed in the Big
Meadows Guard Station for the night. It was a bitter cold night so Iâ€™m glad we were
in the cabin! We roasted hot dogs and marshmellows and told stories â€˜round the
woodstove. The cabin rents for $100/night but I got a free night's stay for winning a
wilderness photo contest last year.
|Looking up to the Tablelands from the Lakes Trail
In the morning we packed up and headed to Lodgepole to obtain our wilderness permit.
Hikerduane also needed to buy a toothbrush and Andrew some tea. Then we were off to
the Wolverton Trailhead, elevation about 7,400â€˜. From the trailhead we headed up
the Lakes Trail which climbs steadily to a rock outlook called the Watchtower then it
heads back into three glacial basins and past three lakes finally terminating at Pear Lake.
The trail was dusted with snow and it was a chilly morning as we set out. Ol-Zeke set the
pace up the trail and Andrew followed him then me and Hikerduane. About 3 miles up the
trail Andrew realized he had forgotten his rain/wind shell! At the Watchtower he
decided to turn back and retrieve it. Ol-Zeke offered to wait for him while Hikerduane
and I continued up the trail.
|Posing on the steps that lead up to Buck Rock Lookout
|View of the High Sierra from Buck Rock
|High Altitude Hummingbird
|Andrew, Hikerduane, and Ol-Zeke pose
next to the General Grant Tree
|A cluster of giant sequoias in the Kennedy Grove
|How one obtains such a photo as seen above!
Despite spending two nights at around 6,000â€™ before the trip and dayhiking I think I
experienced a few symptoms of altitude sickness during the trip. At times I felt dizzy
and nauseous but nothing too serious so I just took it slow and stopped to drink and eat
snacks more often. At Pear Lake, elevation 9,510â€™, Hikerduane and I chose a
campsite just as snow began to fall again. We hurriedly put up our tents and just as they
were up Ol-Zeke and Andrew showed up. The snow then let off and we were treated to a
clear but cold night. That was the last of the weather that we would experience on the
|Hikerduane on the Watchtower
|Ol-Zeke and Hikerduane on the Watchtower
|Hikerduane on the Cliffy Watchtower Trail
Not for those afraid of heights!
|A mist was floating over Heather Lake as we hiked past
We got a pretty early start the next morning and left the trail to hike cross-country up
to Moose Lake. This involved spotting a route through, up, and around granitic boulders
and slabs. The route is not hard to find, however, you just hike up to the saddle east of
the lake and then aim for the lone tree on the horizon. We took a break at the lone tree
then continued around a couple of small lakes then up up up to the ridge above Moose
Lake. I told the guys to prepare themselves for a spectacular view to unfold up there!
They were not disappointed with the view of the Great Western Divide as viewed from
the ridge west of Moose Lake.
|After the snow let off the sky cleared but there were
still some clouds hanging out in Tokopah Canyon
We then made our way straight down to Moose Lake, elevation 10,530â€™, and there we
camped. It was not a long day of hiking but because I was still adjusting to the altitude
and Andrew had hiked 14 miles the day before we decided we all could use an easy day.
Hikerduane fished that afternoon and caught quite a few little brook trout. I took a
swim then napped until dinnertime. We heard a coyote and pikas chirping and saw a
kestrel soaring through the air that afternoon. After dinner we sat in a circle using our
sleeping bags to keep us warm and we played a game of Pass the Pigs then talked until we
|Half o' Moon Rising over a
ridgeline of Alta Peak
|Hikerduane beginning the difficult cross-country
ascent up to Moose Lake
|Takin a break at the Lone Tree
On Wednesday we began the trek across the Tablelands to the Kings/Kaweah Divide, or
the border between Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Hikerduane and I saw a
garter snake on this portion of our hike, he seemed to be retreating to shade once having
warmed himself in the sunshine. Once reaching the divide we realized we were a little
west of where we wanted to be; instead of looking down Deadman Canyon we were looking
down on Ferguson Canyon. No worries, we just headed southeast a little and found the
little lake the straddles the divide above Deadman Canyon and the Big Bird Lakes,
elevation about 11,900â€˜. We decided to drop our packs there and dayhike down to the
This was to be our hardest part of the trip. Down down down we went, 1,000â€™ or more
in what couldnâ€™t have been a half mile, down very steep and challenging terrain and
then we had to go up up up again. But oh what a beautiful lake to spend the afternoon by!
This lake above Big Bird Lake sits at the foot of a 2,000â€™ granite cliff and its waters
are a clear turquoise blueâ€¦ The memory of its beauty will never leave me.
We then headed back up to the lake on the divide, the lake that was on top of the world
it seemed. We ate dinner then I headed to bed. The boys stayed up just a little bit
longer and then they too turned in.
|Me on the divide west of Moose Lake
|Makin our way down to Moose Lake
|Hikerduane Fishing at Moose Lake
|Our Campsite at Moose Lake
On Thursday we packed up then headed down to lower elevations. We headed towards the
big lake on the north end of the Tablelands, elevation about 10,600â€™. There we took a
break then headed south into Table Meadows. Hikerduane and I flushed out a pair of
mountain blue birds right before finding a nice campsite at a lake at about 10,100'. The
lake is a beauty and Andrew, Hikerduane, and I decided to go for a swim. Man, that it was
frigid swim! Andrew yelped like a little girl when he swam out to a rock, lol But it was
good to get cleaned up The boys then scouted the route for the next day while I took it
easy at the lake.
That night ended up being our warmest and we stayed up quite a long time playing poker.
It was fun learning to play and we laughed at trying to see cards with the light of just
|Hikin up up up to the Kings-Kaweah Divide
|At the Divide at last! Elevation about 12,000'
|Lake 10,435, 1,000' below us
|Andrew and Ol-Zeke are already there
|Resting and looking at our route back up to the Divide
|Life hangs on in the cracks in the granite
|The Lake on Top of the World
|Me waking up on top of the world
|Andrew eating breakfast on top of the world!
|On Friday we woke up with the sun and packed up and headed down the river. This is
where the Marble Fork of the Kaweah originates. It was about 2 miles of pretty simple
and straightforward cross-country hiking to get to Pear Lake. Ol-Zeke as usual had the
lead and he spotted and watched several mule deer for a while. When we saw him we
crept to where he was standing and we saw the deer as well.
At Pear Lake we took a short break then headed the rest of the way home. We hadnâ€™t
seen a single person nor a trail for 3 days.
The hike back was a hard one, all in all we did over 9 miles and dropped about 4,000â€™.
Right before we got to Heather Lake a blister on my toe forced me to ditch my boots
and I hiked the last 4 miles or so in my Tevas. Oh how my feet hurt when we finally made
it to the trailhead!
We then drove back to Grant Grove, returned Andrewâ€™s bear canister, then headed
down to Squaw Valley where Ol-Zeke treated us all to a gigantic supreme pizza and a
pitcher of beer at Bear Mountain Pizza.
All in all it was a fabulous trip! I loved hiking with each of the guys and I appreciate them
slowing down at times for me and my shorter stride. Ol-Zeke had great stories to tell
and I appreciated his vast bpâ€™ing experience. Hikerduane followed me for most of the
trip and helped me in many sticky steep spots. Andrew, as he always has been, is one of
my favorite people to hike withâ€¦ Good trip guys! We'll have to do another again!
Ol-Zeke's Photos: http://community.webshots.com/user/olzeke
|Hikerduane poses by a huge erratic boulder
|Large lake on the north end of the Tablelands
|Ol-Zeke makes his way down into Table Meadows
|Table Meadows and the headwaters of the Marble Fork Kaweah River
|Hikerduane filtering water out of the last lake we stayed at
|Lodgepole and Western White Pines
|Heading down down down to the Lake 10,435
|Someone frosted the forest!