I thought I would dig up this thread one last time since I finally finished all the images from this trip. Only took 5 months. Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10
I know I never finished this whole report and I guess if I am digging this thing back up for pictures I could finish it up.
So leaving Lake South America
I immediately came back to the small lake
that is often mistaken as Lake South America and the Roaring River Ranger told me she actually hiked up there once and thought that the lake was no big deal but was at the wrong lake and never even saw it! But what this lake surprisingly had is very big trout. I saw what looked like 12 inch fat trout of some kind swimming away from the shores as I went so if you go up there throw a line in!
As I descended this large and beautiful basin
I once again found the trail going from class 2 to class 1 and it being a bit difficult to follow even though I was going down hill. This did not really bother me personally but once again I started thinking about how trails on the map are mostly listed the same yet can be radically different and the impact that can have on less experienced hikers or pack trains making their way into these locations.
Moving through the beautiful tarns
I make my way into the trees and down the creek and at one point the trail reaches the Kern and disappears. I glance around and see two prominent cairns on the other side of the creek. I check my GPS map and it does not show my trail crossing the creek but I have known the GPS trails to not be 100% accurate so I cross the stream and begin following the trail. The trail then begins to climb and curve more West and it does not take me that long to realise that this is not my trail but another trail that is not on any map that leads up Milestone Creek and I assumed to the small lakes just South of it. I quickly became really annoyed about going off trail and up hill and having to back track so instead of following the trail back to the creek I said F%&K IT! and bailed off through the trees cross country in a SE direction to intercept the trail at some point. It did not take long before I was down climbing steep granite ledges and aways below me I found the trail switch backing up this section so I once again resumed on trail. The trail here was poor but easily navigable. When I stopped for lunch two ladies past on the way to Lake South America and they commented about how poor the trail was so I warned them it was only going to get worse ahead.
The rest of the slog to the Kern Hotspring was uneventful other then taking notes of downed trees to report to the trail crew that was from Rock Creek that I knew was relocated to the spring. Approaching the spring I was hoping the place was not completely packed and was crossing my fingers for getting the nice camp sites with a bear box but to my surprise as I got there not a single person was camped there. I made the decision to not only do my layover day here but to also just go ahead and burn the other day that I had to use here also.
The following day I stopped in at the crews camp to say hi and talked to them a bit. A Ranger was spike camped here also and I talked to her a bit about why the trail crew was here on this nice trail when the Upper Kern trail was a mess and hard to follow, an answer that came later...
I talked to her about these trails being class 1 and she said that all trails in the park are built to the same standard and I just shook my head at her and she laughed knowing that although it's an official agency "pitch" it simply isn't true. "That trail has not been touched in 10 years" I said and she only argued the point that it isn't used that much so it's not a priority...
The only thing to note about staying at the spring is at this point it was September 10th and I had some Mosquitoes attacking me which I thought was unusual not only for so late but so low in altitude. Also only one person ever passed by on the trail in 3 days.
As I resumed the trail I was happy to find massive fields of Raspberries under Chagoopa Falls. Not Timbleberries that resemble them but actual Raspberries which I had not seen before and they were quite tasty!
Once again on this trail I slogged along on this long stretch of "crush" with no dirt on it and was annoyed by the trail construction. For those of you that have not done trail work when a section of trail is constructed amongst wood or rock structures such as a "Causeway" you put thin granite rocks into it and smash them up with a sledge hammer to create "crush" this essentially is your foundation and then you dump dirt on it completing a nice trail. Now sometimes such as the North side of Forester Pass you will have to walk on tons of crush with no dirt but it's because there is no dirt to be able to put on it. This is not the case with the trail along the Kern and we all know how horrible it is to walk on that ankle twisting crush. "More notes about this later."
So moving on up and out of the Kern Canyon
and then through a section of trail I like that is a sea of ferns.
This section of trail is being removed though in 2011. A trail crew at Hamilton Lake told me they are doing a 2 mile reroute of the High Sierra Trail to avoid the burn zone that is from Chagoopa Creek down to the switch backs to the Kern.
Reaching Sky Parlor Meadow
I walked out and enjoyed the peaceful nature of this meadow in Fall. For some reason this place had great energy to it and I wished I was camping here. But then I hear a bell which sounded to be coming from the other side of the meadow and I thought it was a bell horse but it only got closer until I saw it was a hiker with a bell on his back. Obviously an "outsider" to the Sierra and intimidated about bears.
After a night with no people at Moraine Lake
I resume once again. Climbing out of the Moraine Lake area I notice what may be a good view point so I leave the trail and climb out on some rocks for a beautiful view of the Big Arroyo and Saw Tooth Peak.
I did not see a single person until I closed in
on 9 Lakes Basin.
At this point I was excited to once again be hiking through one of my favorite areas in the Sierra. From Precipice Lake
to one expansive view
Reaching Hamilton Lake
I go and visit the trail crews camp but it was their day off so only two guys were in camp and the main one I talked to was probably the most how can I put it? "drab" person I had talked to on the trail so far. He seemed to be all apathy and had a one word answer for anything I guess. So finally I retreated to camp and enjoyed the alpine glow.
Leaving Hamilton Lake I was not excited about the big climb up Elizabeth Pass coming up as everyone I talked to said it was horrible but before I could even get out of camp I started talking to two hikers for probably an hour and a half about all sorts of things but finally we HAD to go! Closing in on Lone Pine Creek I was happy to find tons of Timbleberry that was quite tasty and as a Ranger passed and I talked to him I tried to see if he could identify another set of berries that happened to be right where we spoke that I had never seen on any other trail and I could not find anything even remotely like it in any guide books but he didn't know either.
Back on trail I began the first climbing as the trail went up Lone Pine Creek
and it was hot and humid! Bear scat littered the trail every where as I went.
I noticed as I crossed Lone Pine Creek where the drift wood line was and pictured the water level of this creek in early season and it's safe to say it would not only be impassible but deadly if you tried!
The trail then begins to climb radically! And the trail has really high check dams that have been under cut over the years taxing your legs even more then they already are on this extremely steep trail. The only thing that saved it was the incredibly beautiful views
all the way up.
Finally as you hit the outlet stream of Lonely Lake the trail gives you a break from it's extreme altitude gain yet you still look up
to see you have aways to go.
Around this point the trail begins to fade and become class 1 but instead of building a trail the trail crews spent their time building cairns to help you find the trail. I do have to admit they did a nice job with them as they are solid to the touch and do not move at all. So the rest of the way up until the last scree slope climb to the summit you find the trail, lose it, find it, lose it but the going is very easy cross country. Feeling completely taxed I finally reach the pass and enjoy the view of Glacier Ridge
and gawk at the idea that there are copper mines way up on the Deadman Canyon head wall!
As I dropped down into Deadman Canyon I was losing light fast and as I was closing in on the tree line a massive wall of smoke
came flooding up the canyon. It's approach was so dramatic I was wondering if the fire was moving up Deadman Canyon itself as I had no knowledge of what the deal was with the Sheep Fire and I was even considering what my options would be if I woke up in the middle of the night with a forest fire barreling down on me. As the smoke engulfed me it choaked me up and was generally disgusting. When I had set up camp and it was dark you could see your flashlight beam like you were in the fog and I was hoping this smoke was not going to ruin my view of the canyon tomorrow as hiking this canyon was the entire reason I picked this route back West across the Sierra.
Getting on the trail early I was glad to see the smoke had cleared up and I set off down the trail and all the beautiful views that are Deadman Canyon
came into view. As I reached Ranger Meadow
I was happy to see really strange clouds
that were hard to read filling the sky and enhancing the view and images through here.
Moving down the canyon I made a point to find the grave site
that is Deadman Canyon and was surprised that I had missed it in 2009. I had not even reached Roaring River before all clouds had cleared up and the Sheep Fire smoke once again choked the whole canyon and myself included creating a very strange orange hue to the entire forest. Like a gift from nature my timing in Deadman Canyon could not have been more perfect to get exactly the experience I hoped for from the canyon. As I ate lunch at Roaring River and scouted out the Barton Lackey Cabin
the ranger showed up and I talked to her for 3 hours! One of our subjects was trail work as she had worked trail crews for 15 years and we talked about the horrible dirt free crush walk in the Kern Canyon. She said she has been trying for 7 years to get the crew to put dirt on that crush and every single year they go there and nothing gets done. I then made a comment on why they are there at all when there are trails in need of more work then that one and she had the obvious answer. "Now think about it" she says, "they are near the end of their season, it's September, and there is a hotspring". Enough said... lol
After enjoying her company for so long I had to push on as I still had a long way to go.
On the way out of the area I passed some white berries
that I had never seen before. I have no idea what those are...
I then see an old cabin
so I leave the trail to take a look and was perplexed by the fact that the door on this thing was about 4 feet high.
Then into Sugarloaf Valley with Sugarloaf Dome
being visible. Yeah right...
From Roaring River through all of Sugarloaf Valley the whole trail was covered in bear tracks going in both directions. There were more here then I have ever seen on a trail before but I never saw any bears. Finally with light fading fast I found a nice camp site at Sugarloaf Creek.
Many sections of trail through here I picked apart because of them being flooded and turned into swamps. I mean if this was June then ok but this was September 15th. I looked at the problem and fixing the water flow issue is easy and could be done in a single day so I didn't think there was a reasonable excuse.
The next morning I made the slog up Silliman Pass
before the Sheep Fire smoke engulfed the area.
As this day had got closer it became a more strange reality after being out here living in the Sierra for over 2 months thinking about the trip coming to an end and heading back to Bakersfield to the life I had left behind... And now here I was slogging down the trail to Lodgepole and crossing the finish line. But before I had I saw a small bear eating on the corpse of a deer which I thought was an interesting sight.
So walking out of the Twin Lakes trail and crossing the finish line I felt weird as I walked by all these casual tourists as they gave me odd looks. People pass by us every day I thought and you never know what their story is. People see me and think there is another haggard hiker but did they even have an idea that I had just finished hiking about 575 miles and living in the mountains for 69 days?
I walked to the registration desk for the camp ground and had to stand in line for a site, that is stand in the middle of the road in a line of cars. The rangers at the desk were shocked and excited about what I had done and although the camp ground was pretty much full they managed to squeeze me into an over flow site which had no table or fire pit but they said they would bring me a table. They told me to keep my sighting of the bear eating a deer hush as it quote "freaks out the tourists" lol.
I had to hurry in order to get a shower before they closed and I was a bit disappointed to find the snack shop was closed but I was able to buy good food from the store and went back to camp to cook it. The can of chili I bought needed a can opener which I did not have so I walked over to this couples camp and asked if they had a can opener which they were happy to lend but before I even opened the can I had explained "why" I did not have a can opener and then this was too much for them and then they started pushing all kinds of food on me and fired up the grill cooking me some steak and making salad and pushed on me what ever I could possibly eat. They did not speak much english but were able to understand enough to have a nice evening with them. But before I left the Rangers came over and pushed even more food on me. Pretty much anything they could find and listened to some stories of my hike.
The next day I went about and saw some sights. I was on the Sunset Rock trail eating on Raspberries from the trail when a mother bear
and her two cubes came out of the bushes. A woman hiking solo had been coming toward me and became very scared at the sight of the 3 bears coming toward her and she retreated down the trail. I casually followed the bears as they were walking in the same direction I was going on the trail and at times the mother acted a bit aggressive and standing up as some more tourists approached behind me. As the bears moved further the woman that had retreated was hiding behind a tree and she scared the bears as they passed her causing the cubs to fly up a tree. "GO AWAY!" she shouted apparently scared shitless. As they did she reluctantly got back on the trail holding her chest after nearly having a heart attack.
After returning to camp I finally had a table and an older guy came up and called me by name. He apparently was looking for a camp site and the Rangers had told him about me and that he could ask to stay in my camp which I was more then happy to let him. The Rangers also decided since I had what they considered a horrible camp site they would refund me half my money so it only cost 10 dollars a night instead of 20.
So the last day my ride showed up and it was time to leave the lands that "lay far above the haunts of the devil and the pestilence that walks in darkness". ~ John Muir