Country: United State of America
Forest: Sequoia National Forest
Trail Length: 24 miles
Trail Difficult: Easy to Hard
Starting Elevation: 8000 feet
Recommend Time of Year: Late Spring
History of The Area
Located northeast of Kernville and Lake Isabella resides the Domeland Wilderness. The wilderness is divided up into two sections. The USDA Forest service manages the western half while the Bureau of Land Management manages the eastern portion. The Domeland Wilderness is known to rock climbing enthusiasts and is a favorite for geologists. Large portions of the landscapre are rock outcrops towering over the land below. Other portions massive domes of rock.
Sitting on my couch one morning with a hot cup of coffee in hand, I stared out the windows and into the mountains. It was a cool November morning and the horses were doing there usual feeding. It was quiet. The cat was asleep on the opposite side of the couch as I reached out and grabbed the latest issue of Backpacker magazine. I read a few articles, looked at a few far off destinations, and soon was inspired to go on a backpacking trip. Where would I go this time of year that wasn’t far away?
Entire Photo Album -> HERE
I thought of the desert, down south, or possibly to Zion National Park. Those all sounded fun, but they were far away and I wasn’t up for driving at the time. The only areas close by were covered in snow and access to the trailheads was closed. It then occurred to me I had never been to the Domeland Wilderness. I recalled hearing about the geology and towers and domes of rock in which it was named after. I was excited and motivated to get out there and start hiking. I had one big problem though. It was winter and the Domelands range in elevations from 4000 feet in the center to surrounding 9000 foot peaks which enclosed the wilderness. The trip would have to be in the upcoming summer.
I emailed a few people to see if there was an interest in backpacking. Quite a few people were interested in doing some type of a trip. As the summer approached, I had acquired more gear and was ready to get going. I sent out more emails to the interested parties and so began our trip on May 25th, 2007. Only 5 people, Ben, Hilda, Joe, Joey, and myself, were the only ones who were able to make the trip.
Day 1 – Friday
Ben drove up early that morning to meet both Hilda and I at my house. We loaded our gear in my truck and drove down to the nearby ranger station. We obtained three fire permits so we could legally have a campfire on the forest. They didn’t cost anything, so nobody had a problem getting one. We then drove over to the Chevron station so I could buy some Tylenol PM. My main reason for buying Tylenol PM was to help me sleep better through the night because Joe snores haha. After about 2.5 to 3 hours of driving, we had reached the trail head. Our starting elevation was roughly 8000 feet. The first half hour was rough; even though Ben looked liked nothing was fazing him on the ascent. For myself, I knew once I was there for about an hour I would perform a lot better. Anyway we arrived at the boundary and proceeded downhill for a couple of miles to Manter Meadow. Along the way, Hilda always wanted to push over a tree. She did so and was able to mark that off her to do list in life.
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After arriving in Manter Meadow, we decided to take our packs off and relax for awhile. Joe and his son Joey were not with us yet. Joey had to finish up stuff at school, so they couldn’t leave at around 9PM like we planned on doing. After about an hour of relaxing and filtering water for our Nalgenes, Ben spotted Joe and Joey. Earlier, Ben had spotted two other backpackers traveling along the same route we were on. We later found out from Joe that those two guys were going deeper into the wilderness to rock climb.
Now we were all together and ready to go. As we traveled along the scenery was really cool. Towers of rock surrounded us and were easy to see due to the 2000 Manter Fire. I took some photographs as we stopped for short breaks. The area was so quiet and so peaceful. We all had yet to see any other form of life, though we heard some birds singing in the distance.
We approached our first campsite at about 4 PM. There was no water and there really wasn’t a place to sleep. Joe made a suggestion we should try to go as far as we could towards our second campsite. The rest of the group agreed and thought it was a great idea, so we proceeded to climb up the last couple of miles before we could descend down further into the wilderness.
As we were moving along, I noticed a rock outcrop that looked like a storm trooper from Star Wars. At least, the rock had the shape and form of their helmets. It almost looked like a Pez dispenser, but obviously a lot larger. My cousin Jamie would have loved to had seen it in person, I am sure of that. Anyway, just around the corner was our next resting spot before we descended. According to the map, we had about 3 to 4 miles to go to reach the second campsite. It was about 530PM.
Now that we were going downhill, our pace increased. Joe, Hilda, and Joey went ahead while Ben and I went to the edge of a knob. It was a great scenic view of what I call ?the heart? of the Domeland Wilderness. It was a great view and we took a couple photographs of us with large rock outcrops in the distance. We then hauled back down the ridge to meet up with the rest of the group.
Joe was leading the group at this point to keep the pace. The sun was beginning to set and we needed to find a camping spot fast. Most importantly we needed to find a place with water. Around 7ish Joe turned around let us know he wasn’t going any further. I don’t think anyone else was arguing that point and we broke camp. Out came 3 MSR stoves and food was soon ready for everyone in about 20 minutes. We then camped out under the stars and went to sleep.
Day 2 – Saturday
The next morning Joey and I gathered wood together for a camp fire. It was cool along the rock surface and the slight breeze kept the morning cool. We were out and hiking around 9 AM. Our real adventure was about to begin, but we didn’t know what was in store for us. We were lower in elevation now and the terrain had changed.
We proceeded along the trail which a motorcyclist had also driven on. We walked for about a mile when all of the sudden the trail was gone. We searched for about 20 minutes, but could not find the trail. Cross country and some bush whacking was what we had to do. The detour was about 2 to 3 hours. We actually saw a black bear on the detour too. Ben spotted it across the drainage. It was the first mammal we had seen the entire trip. I estimated its weight to be around 250 lbs. Even though it was cool to see the bear, I think we were even happier to see Trout Creek about 30 minutes later. We rested there for about an hour or so. The water was really cold and once filtered, it was refreshing to drink. We later discovered the trail about 250 yards up the hill from our resting spot.
We then pushed on the alternative 2nd campsite. Joe and I had planned on going to this under two conditions. The first one was whether or not we had enough time to make it there and the second condition was if the group was up for it. We had the time and the group was ready to go. We proceeded for another 2 to 3 miles and arrived at our campsite around 6 PM. The Domelands were behind us as we were now back into the Sequoia National Forest. We had a campfire that night and sat around talking. Hilda and Joe went to bed first, but Ben, Joey, and I hung around the fire for another hour or so. That night I had my tent out incase of bugs and for a little more warmth. It was a good thing too because it was colder that night.
Day 3 – Sunday
The next morning we slept in a bit, well everyone else did anyway. I was up and ready to go at 630 haha. We didn’t sleep as close as last time and some of us were in tents. I had carried mine this whole time and figured it was about time I used it. It is a two person tent and Ben shared the other space.
Anyway, we didn’t get going till 10 AM. It was going to be are hardest day of hiking. Our starting elevation was around 7100 feet and we had to climb to 9600 feet before we could descend. On top of that, we had to do it in 3 miles. The first mile was the hardest, but after doing that and breaking for lunch the remaining 2 miles wasn’t that bad. I could feel myself short of breath once I was 8300 feet up. The views were great though. We stayed as a group for the first two miles, but then separated for the last mile to campsite 3.
Once we all got there, Joe and Joey decided to head back to the truck. The trucks were another 5 miles away, but downhill. After they took off, we discussed whether we wanted to stay the night at 9400 feet or go home that night. 15 minutes later, we decided it was a good idea and pushed to get that 5 miles done. We met up at with the others at Serrieta Pass (9600 feet). We took a group photo and from there descended towards our vehicles.
It was a good decision to head back. We were able to see Big Meadows at sunset and had fun with one last photograph. My vehicle of people arrived back at my house around 1015 PM. We stopped in Porterville at Super Burger for some food. Mmmm Mmmm it was good. It was a great adventure and we ended up traveling around 8 miles a day. It wasn’t as leisurely as planned, but after asking everyone what they thought of the trip, it was good to hear everyone had fun.