A big ol’ loop from the depths of the Kings River up to the Sierra crest and back round again. Jason and I completed a modified version of the classic hike dubbed the “Circle of Solitude” by Mike White in his book Kings Canyon National Park, cutting south to Lake Reflection and heading off-trail over the awful death trap that is Harrison Pass instead of taking the longer route over Forester Pass. I’d been eyeing this loop since reading CaliTrails report of it in 2013. Coming from LA, an east side entrance over Kearsarge Pass made sense for him, but the one of the things that made this loop appeal to me is the combination of a west side entrance with all the glory of lots of time spent in the high country. The trip was as gorgeous as I’d imagined and Harrison Pass pushed both Jason and me to (past?) our limits of comfort.
Since I was to spend three weeks in northern Utah at the Park City Mathematics Institute‘s 2016 program on The Mathematics of Data, I decided to drive from the bay area and bookend the trip with some nature. On the way in, I spent 48 hours in Captiol Reef National Park, a place I’d only spent an afternoon (and not hiked much) before. I camped two nights at the Fruita campground in the park and got in three short-to-medium day hikes.
We hiked all the way (!) across the Sierra Nevada on the High Sierra Trail, which was constructed by the National Park Service from 1928 to 1932 after Sequoia National Park was expanded east of the Great Western Divide. It is the only trail in the Sierra that was built solely for recreational use (as opposed to mining or grazing) and it is also the last major trail constructed in the southern Sierra.
Starting out at Crescent Meadow on the western edge of Sequoia National Park, the trail follows the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River past lakes made famous by Ansel Adams and then up and over the Great Western Divide at the Kaweah Gap. Then it heads down the glacially carved Big Arroyo canyon before climbing again to the Bighorn Plateau and then dropping thousands of feet to the Kern River (passing some hot springs!). Then it heads north up Kern Canyon before heading up Wallace Creek and over to Crabtree Meadow. A final climb up to the moonscape of Mt Whitney and a long descent brings the trail back to the relative civilization of Whitney Portal.
Who: Just me!
Where: Yosemite National Park
Mileage: 53 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +9,400ft/-12,700ft
More photos: here
This would be my longest solo trip so far. I was interested in trying to do a solo trip without using my car (so that I could leave it in Oakland for my partner to use), so I decided to head to Yosemite, where I could use a combination of Amtrak, YARTS, and private tour busses to get around. I had a few close calls and some delays, but all in all it worked. The trip proved to be absolutely gorgeous and I found peace and solitude in southern Yosemite. I did find myself racing intense thunderstorms on four of my days out, but the dramatic skies and beautiful granite landscapes made up for the soggy gear and afternoons spent hunkered down in my tent.
Who: Just me!
Where: Kings Canyon National Park
Mileage: 13 miles on trail, 7 miles cross-country
Elevation gain/loss: +4300ft/-4300ft
More photos: here
This was the second trip of my road trip encircling the Sierra and my third solo trip ever. I was really excited to explore Dusy Basin, hoping to find some solitude and fantastic scenery. I was not disappointed! I had considered heading over Knapsack Pass and down into Palisade Basin for the second night, but after a brutal talus slog with a full pack (due to a poor route choice), I decided to stay in Lower Dusy Basin for the second night. Two nights is not nearly enough time to explore this gorgeous basin. The cross-country travel is easy, with landmarks everywhere and little to no underbrush to worry about. It’s a great place to explore if you’re interested in getting accustomed to off-trail travel!
This is the third and final trip of my whirlwind 9 day seminar talk inspired road trip all the way around the Sierra. After finishing my hike in Dusy Basin on Thursday afternoon, I drove up the 395 to South Lake Tahoe. On Friday morning, Patrick drove Liz and Alex out from Oakland and we met up to do a car shuttle, dropping a car at Eagle Falls trailhead before heading back to Echo Chalet. This would be Alex’s first backpacking trip and he hadn’t really trained, so we planned to keep the trip very easy. (This seems to be a bit of a theme this summer!) We had a glorious evening at Lake Aloha and perfect hiking weather the whole weekend.
Who: Patrick and me
Where: Sequoia National Park
Mileage: 18 miles
Elevation gain/loss: +4500ft/-4500ft
More photos: here
I was scheduled to give a colloquium talk at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA on Monday, June 16, so I decided to bookend the drive down from the bay area with trips to the Sierra. In less than 9 days, I drove 1,250 miles, hiked 55 miles, gave a seminar talk, spent 3 nights in motels and five nights in the backcountry. The first trip of this crazy week was planned to be a loop connecting Alta Meadow with the Lakes Trail via an off trail route around Moose Lake, but when Patrick suffered altitude sickness after our route up to Moose Lake, we decided to make it an out-and-back via Alta Meadow, opting to return on the off-trail route we knew instead of finding our way through the Tablelands. We had time pressure as well since we were hoping to have Patrick on a train in Fresno by 5:45pm. It was a beautiful trip and the sunset alpenglow on the Great Western Divide was some of the most dramatic I’ve seen!