Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Backpacking in Sequoia NP

Steve and I recently completed a four day backpacking adventure in the Mineral King region of Sequoia National Park. We thought this was going to be a nice leisurely trip, however we found ourselves to be challenged in a healthy, limit-finding sort of way. Backpacking is an interesting sport. It's wonderful to leave everything behind and just sweat through the same shirt for a week. It's not always comfortable but the views are amazing. And when you take your boots off your swollen, blistered feet at the end of the day, you can truly appreciate just how amazing it is to return to feeling "normal". I guess you could say backpacking realigns your priorities.

[I have all my pictures posted on my online photo album. Just type in "LADOTYK" for the member name.]

We had driven to the park the night before and car camped to make sure that we were able to get our back country permit when the ranger station opened at 8:00. Luckily we got our spots, a couple of bear canisters, and we were off up the trail.

Climbing out of Mineral King Valley

The first three miles were straight up over Timber Gap. Unfortunately by this point the new boots decided it was time to wreak havoc with my heels. Alas. To quote Jackaroo, "What're you gonna do." We hiked another six miles to Pinto Lake through pretty meadows of intense wild flowers. Too bad I bonked a half-mile from the campsite and Steve had to help me up over the last hill.

After some rearranging of the gear (i.e. lightened my pack by about 10-lb) we headed straight for Black Rock Pass, part of the Great Western Divide, which was a good 3,000 ft. above our campsite. Numerous people coming down the other side that gave us kudos for picking what they thought was clearly the more difficult direction. One guy said crossing the pass from our direction was on his list of trails never to attempt. I didn't think it was too bad as long as you went slow and steady, but crikey it's like three hours on a stair master at 11,600 ft. altitude.

Crossing Black Rock Pass

At last we reached the top of the Divide and then descended into a beautiful alpine region called Little Five Lakes. We pushed a little farther to the Big Five Lakes where we setup our second camp. The mosquitoes were intense so we broke out the netting we got in Visalia just before the trip. Let me tell you, best damn things we ever bought.

The best $1.50 ever spent

The third morning we lingered around camp a little later than usual because we knew we had a shorter, less strenuous day planned. Finally we packed up our gear and headed back out into the wild. Most of this day was spent in Lost Canyon, following the babbling creek back to its source in the mountain snow runoff. When we broke out of the trees on the canyon floor we had breathtaking views of Sawtooth Peak and the Great Western Divide looming over a pristine alpine meadow. It was spectacular.

Alpine meadows in front of Sawtooth Peak

We eventually climbed out of the canyon and onto the shores of Columbine Lake, nestled at 10,800 ft. right below Sawtooth Peak. This was a very exposed lake with no trees -- just some grass, fat yellow bumblebees, and trout jumping out of the lake to feast on mosquitoes. Not too concerned about bears this evening.

Our campsite on Columbine Lake

We had a beautiful sunset but shortly after zipping up the tent the heavens opened up and a thunderstorm struck. This must have been a huge storm because my friend said she saw lightning in the mountains from the La Canada Flintridge area. The rain poured and the wind howled against our little tent. Out little tent with metal poles. On the top of an exposed mountain with no trees, next to a huge body of water. Freakin' brilliant.
Sunset and moonrise on Columbine Lake

Fortunately we lived but that has got to be the worst night's sleep of my life. I was freaked out because I knew we had to cross Sawtooth Peak in the morning and I thought the wind and slippery rocks would wipe us clean off the mountain. We waited for morning to dry up the storm but it kept on raining, so we packed up our things and headed up the last mountain. The rain and wind seemed less severe outside the tent and in fact we had little trouble cossing the pass. It even snowed on us at the top! From there it was straight down 5 miles and 4,000 ft. back to our car, blessed car. As we left the park the fog of the storm lifted and it was just another 100 degree day in the central valley. We stewed in our juices until we reached LA at last and got to take a long, hot, liberating shower. The end!


At 3:34 PM, Blogger CK said...

That looks like so much fun, and those are awesome pictures! I love the pink one.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your pictures are awesome and the trip sounds great except for all that walking. Great job with the blog.


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