Trout Meadows BP Trip
Golden Trout Wilderness
June 5-7, 2004
On Saturday afternoon after we got off work, one of my seasonals, John, and I headed
up to the Lewis Camp Trailhead.  We headed out on the trail at about 6:30 and twilight
came quickly as we decended into the Golden Trout Wilderness...
The sky at sunset accenting the north side of the Needles
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The trail from Lewis Camp splits many times and you can head to different destinations.  
The portion that we took heads down to the Little Kern River then over to Trout
Meadows.  This is a part of the Jordan Trail which was constructed in 1861.

The trail is steep in spots but soon you find yourself on a relatively flat ridge separating
the Little Kern River basin towards the north from the Freeman Creek basin towards
the south.  And the views are incredible!  Across the Little Kern Basin you can see the
higher peaks that form the boundary between Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia
National Park.  Across the Freeman Creek basin you can see the Needles.  Ahead you
spot Castle Rock and in the distance Olancha Peak.  We passed two guys and their pack
train and stopped and chatted with them for a little bit.

We spent the first night near Jug Spring.  The night was so still and quiet...  Well, until
sometime in the midde of the night when I heard what can best be described as a cross
between a coyote and Big Foot!  I woke John up and even he couldn't figure out what it
was that was making that noise.  But it was far off and it eventually stopped calling so
we managed to get some sleep.
Farewell Gap at sunset
In the morning we filtered a little bit of water from the spring and continued our
descent to the Little Kern River.  The forest is truly magnificent along this trail.  There
are huge cedar, sugar pine, white and red fir, ponderosa and Jeffrey pine, and an
understory of manzanita and wildflowers.  Particularly abundant were the bright red
snowplants.

Down down down we went and eventually started to see and hear the Little Kern River
to the left.    At this point the river is flowing fast and furious amongst huge granite
boulders and butting up against granite cliffs.  Above the granite in places is darker
basalt.  Then we reached the bridge.  There the scene is indeed beautiful!  There are
several campsites near the river on both sides of the bridge.  We stopped there for
lunch and cooled off our feet in the river.  We saw one backpacker, the only one we saw
on our three days out, cross the bridge.  We also spotted two rattlesnakes within
minutes of each other!
After the river the trail climbs up a dry rocky slope which this time of year is a rock
garden.  We saw lupine, mule ears, stonecrop, Indian paintbrush, yarrow, western
wallflower, Ithurial’s spear, among other flowers…

It’s about 2.5 miles from the river to Trout Meadows.  It’s a dry portion of trail
and mostly sunny so be sure to get plenty of water at the river.  Along the way we
passed a member of the Backcountry Horseman’s Association whom I’ve talked
with many times.  He gave us the combination to the Trout Meadow Guard Station so weâ
€™d have its facilities to use.
At the cabin we set up our stuff at a nearby campsite and layed down to rest in the
shade.  There is a nice spring next to the cabin but there isn’t much to the cabin
itself.  It was built in 1919 and has been fixed up a bit over the years but it’s still as
rustic as rustic can be.

We took the rest of the afternoon pretty easy.  I walked another mile or so up the trail
to photograph the trees and meadows.  I watched a pair of chipmunks spiral up and down
a pine chasing each other.  I watched a pair of White-headed Woodpeckers try to defend
their territory from a Stellar’s Jay.  The sky was a perfect blue and the meadows
were a perfect spring green and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect place!
After you go over the last ridge the trail turns north and you are greeted with the wide
green expanse of Trout Meadows.  What a site after a couple miles of dry dusty trail!  
And I’ve never seen so many birds before, they were incredible!  We saw a western
tanager, mountain bluebird, morning doves, lots of white headed woodpeckers,
chickadees, juncos, ravens, a red-tailed hawk, a flicker, and many others.  I guess the
place to be if you’re a bird in the southern sierra is Trout Meadows!
That evening we decided to gather wood for a fire.  As night fell we were suddenly
treated to a couple of groups of groups of coyotes serenading us.  They were so loud, one
group couldn’t have been more than ¼ mile away!  And their voices echoed off the
surrounding mountains... it was beautiful and eerie at the same time.
We both slept rather well that night, no bigfoot calls this time to wake us.  We packed
up in the morning, made sure our campfire was dead out, and somewhat reluctantly left
the inviting meadows and their abundant feathered residents.

The first part of the hike out, the portion just back to the Little Kern River, was
mostly downhill and it was easy.  We again ate lunch at the river but after an hour began
the long trek out.  The elevation change from river to trailhead is about 2,000 feet
over the distance of about 4 miles.  So it is a tough climb back out of there!  We made
good time, though, and only stopped a couple of times.  The views of the mountains were
incredible that afternoon!
Alpenglow on Angora Mountain framed by Sugar Pines
Zooming in on Florence Peak, the highest peak in
Sequoia National Forest at 12,432'
The Little Kern River Suspension Bridge
Me out on the bridge
We both hope to get back into the Golden Trout again soon...  Maybe we'll go to Gray
Meadow.  Or maybe Coyote Lakes?  Or Maggie Lakes?  There's too many choices!  :)