Morning came quickly, and in the dark we made our way towards
Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks.
Alex, Dave, and Doug would drive to the starting trailhead, Marvin Pass,
and unload most of the contents of the car into the parking lot. Doug would then pick up the rest of our crew
and their packs at the Crescent Meadow Trailhead, stop at the Ranger’s Station
for a permit and bear canisters, and bring them back to Marvin Pass. While Alex and Dave waited, a yummy breakfast
or potatoes, eggs, and bacon was cooked up.
We were dropped off at Marvin Pass around 6:45 AM, and by 10:00 AM, our
group of six was assembled and ready to hit the trail.
Day 1 on the trail started with uphill switchbacks, but
eventually turned into mile after mile of flat, mile crushing, terrain. Alex and Dave, spent much of the day
questioning whether backpacking here instead of Yosemite was the right
choice. Doug said the views and trail
were supposed to be great, but so far it was nothing but blah-ish, lacking
views, and very dusty. We hoped things
improved, we wanted Carrie, Pat and Rachel to have amazing trip. Perhaps we were being too picky, because even
now they seemed quite happy. We stopped
a few times throughout the day to snack and eat lunch, and found ourselves at
the Roaring River Ranger’s Station by 6 PM.
After doing some calculations, we realized we had hiked 18-19 miles that
day, blowing our original goals out of the water. Having hiked that significant chunk helped to
make up for the time lost due to the flight delay, and also set us up to be
able to reach Elizabeth Pass the next day.
We found a camping area near the ranger’s station, set-up
tents, changed out of our dusty and sweaty clothes, filtered water, washed up,
started a camp fire, and prepared dinner.
Everyone was pretty tired at this point and lounged around the fire,
enjoying a delicious Doug dinner (rice noodles, Italian seasoning, and salmon),
and some of the absurd amount of wine he lugged in his pack all day. Before long, each of us retreated to our
tents to rest our tired bodies.
Friday morning, we woke soon after the sun, and each of us
did our part to get camp cleaned up and breakfast prepared. We were particularly happy that Pat made us
coffee to sip on and warm us up and we packed camp.
Around 7:30 AM we were on the trail again, headed towards
Elizabeth Pass, about 11 miles away. The
terrain today turned into what we had been hoping for. Granite peaks and cliff faces began to peak
from behind the trees, and eventually come into full view. The “ooohs and ahhhhs” of our friends made us
even happier with the trail.
As the pass drew close, we stopped at the edge of the meadow
below the pass to make lunch. The plan
was tuna, green onion, and cheese in a wrap, but it quickly changed to involve
cooking up some orzo to make it a heartier lunch since gaining Elizabeth Pass
was going to be a tiring endeavor. Since
the break was going to be significant, we all took off our boots and gave our
feet and socks a chance to dry out.
Everyone lounged and napped at some point before or after lunch. We spent some extra time watching the clouds
after lunch, nervous that they could be bringing storms. We did not want to get stuck in the pass area
if a thunderstorm was likely. After a
while, we decided the sky looked good, and made a move for the pass…. all of us
except for Doug. Doug continued to nap on
ground where we had earlier had fun throwing rocks at his exposed buttocks. We were all confident that Doug would catch
up to us, the question was how soon?
Together we made our way towards the pass. As the terrain turned steep, Dave took off
quickly moving up the trail, Alex and Carrie took up the middle position, and
Pat and Rachel brought up the rear. Soon
we spied Doug in his pink shirt and large pack making his way through the
Dave crushed the elevation, and found himself sitting at the
top within an hour. As Alex and Carrie
made their way towards the pass, Doug’s voice caught their attention. He wanted them to stop so he could get some
sunscreen from them. The pair was not
happy about stopping, but Doug quickly scrambled up the terrain ignoring all
the switchbacks to meet them. As they
were ready to get moving, Doug asked if they wanted some chocolate and
proceeded to empty the contents of his pack onto the ground in order to reach
the bear canister that contained the Hershey bar. Alex and Carrie were making their way up the
rocky switchbacks, questioning their will to live and whether they were ever
going to reach the top. Alex was
mentally prepared for what looked to be the end to be a trick, and rightly
so. As they came up over the hump, what
was skyline turned into flatter terrain before the final push to the pass. Before they could see him, they could hear
Dave shouting a combination of encouragement and taunts for stopping. Joyfully, but tiredly, Alex and Carrie joined
Dave on the pass, about 45 minutes after his arrival to it.
The three took some pictures and settled themselves on some
rocks in an area on the side of the pass that offered shelter from the
wind. Doug showed up a short while
later, having had to stop to save all the wine from leaking into his pack. A hole had formed in the wine bag, and he
stopped to get water bottles from Pat and Rachel to transfer the remains
into. As Pat and Rachel came into view
of the four of us, Dave wanted to give some encouragement to them. He was going to sing to them, but instead,
Doug pulled out his iPod and mini speaker, blasted some Guns N Roses, and the
pair threw off their shirts to perform on air-guitars and air-drums.
When all six of us joined on the pass, we celebrated victory….
It was all downhill after this! We
decided to cook dinner on the pass since we still had several miles of hiking
before we could make camp. Mashed
potatoes, summer sausage, and fresh green beans were prepared on the camp
stoves and eagerly devoured before we began to make our way down the other side
of the pass. The pass was the dividing
line between King’s Canyon (where we came from) and Sequoia (where we were
headed) National Parks.
We made our way down the backside of the pass, stopping to
filter water on the way. Eventually, the
sloping meadow turned into long switchbacks that would drop us into the valley
below. The views as we descended were
breathtaking, especially with the alpine glow lighting up the rugged
peaks. As darkness fell, we pulled out
headlamps to aid our journey to the valley.
Carrie and Doug walked ahead and located an area for us to set up
camp. Once we all arrived, tents were
quickly set up, a few snacks eaten, and all of us but Doug retreated to our
tents, bodies exhausted from the day. As
we lay in our tents, Doug shouted something along the lines of “DAVE! You are
NEVER going to believe this!” Uh-oh….
“This map says there is a CONCESSION STAND about 2 miles from here!” We verified this in the morning, the map
really did say “camping and concessions (summer only)” at the Bear Paw Ranger
Station. We weren’t really sure what
this meant, but at worst it meant overpriced snacks… which would be delicious!
As we heard Doug head to the tent, we heard something else
outside. It kind of sounded like a
deer. Dave stuck his head out of the
tent and found it was not only one deer, it was three bucks! One of which was quite large. These deer were very curious and kept coming
closer to our tent. Throwing rocks and
yelling only made them more curious! It
was quite the ridiculous situation, and no one else got out their tents to see
this! Eventually, we went back into our
tent and ignored the curious creatures that wandered around where we slept.
We enjoyed a slow and relaxed morning on Saturday, eating
breakfast and drinking coffee around a campfire. We only had about 13 miles to cover between
today on Sunday, so we planned to drop our packs off and do a day hike out to Hamilton Lakes before
hiking to our camping spot for the night.
When we finally got moving, we made our way towards the split in the
trail where we could continue towards our ending trailhead, Crescent Meadow, or
turn off towards Hamilton Lakes. We
stashed our packs in the bushes, and only took the food, water, and other small
items we would need for the 2.4 mile hike to the lake. We meandered up and around the mountain via
switchbacks, stopping for lunch at a waterfall.
When we reached the lake, we all dropped our outer clothing to take a
refreshing dip before lying on the hot stone slabs to dry. At 2:00 PM, the appointed turn-around
time, we made our way back to where we stashed out packs, and made our way
along the stunning and exposed rim traverse of the High Sierra Trail.
After 1.6 miles of beautiful terrain and raspberry picking,
we arrived at Bear Paw Camp. Turns out
there WAS a “concession stand”! The camp
was a walk in camping area that provided tents and cabins to hikers who
reserved them. It also provided its
guests with meals. Sadly, we could only
drool over the meat cooking on the grill and twice-baked potatoes in the
kitchen. They did however, have snacks
for purchase for those who were hiking through, and we took advantage! It was an oasis in the woods! We feasted on big delicious brownies,
over-priced mini-bags of chips, and apples.
Doug kept calling for more “rounds,” but after spending $30 on snacks,
Carrie, who carried the cash, shut him down with “No, wallet is closed!”
Joyfully we made our way from Bear Paw another 2 miles
towards where we would camp for the night.
It was the best day ever!
Alex, Dave, and Doug arrived at the predetermined location
first, only to find that there were no more cleared campsites. We searched around for a bit, found an area
with good spots for tents, and then cleared the tent areas of debris. Tents went up, dinner was being prepared, and
before long all six of us were together again.
We ate and relaxed, without ever using the fire ring that Carrie and
Dave created, before settling into our tents for the night.
When we arrived at the Crescent Meadow, two of us would have
to drive the rental car to the starting trailhead to retrieve the Rav 4, so
Dave and Doug planned to start a bit earlier than the rest of the group so they
could quickly cover the remaining 9 miles, and retrieve the car. It would take 1.5 hours to drive from one
trailhead to the other, so they would have 3 hours of driving before we could
all get in the cars.
Dave and Doug set off around 7:10, followed by the rest of
the crew at 7:45. The mileage to the
Crescent Meadow was mostly uphill, but gradual, which made for an enjoyable
hike. Near the end of the trail Alex and
Carrie crossed paths with a rattlesnake, just before hitting they started to
run into lots of day hikers.
The group of four waited for Dave and Doug to show up with
the cars, wandering around the area, checking out the “big trees”. After about an hour, Dave and Doug jumped off
a shuttle bus, saying we would need to take a shuttle. Apparently the ranger who issued the permit
forgot to mention that the trailhead parking area was closed to traffic on
Sundays. Since Pat had the permit in his
pack, Dave and Doug had to park at the nearest parking lot and take the shuttle
to Crescent Meadow to let us know we needed to ride a shuttle to reach the
Once at the cars, we loaded our packs and headed to the
ranger station at Lodgepole to return our bear canisters.
As we headed back towards Fresno, we noticed some large
cumulus looking clouds rising from behind a mountain. We quickly decided this was actually smoke from
a forest fire. When we stopped at a
lookout, we learned from fire information posting that the smoke was from the
Rough Fire, the same fire that was over the ridgeline from us when we climbed
the Obelisk. The fire had grown
significantly in the last week, and the smoke we could see was a pyrocumulus
Back in Fresno, we enjoyed a delicious Mexican dinner before
parting ways with Carrie, Pat, and Rachel.
Not wanting to make the 6 hour drive to Vegas that night, we booked a
hotel room for the night and enjoyed relaxing by the pool and sleeping in real