The call to get into the mountains continued to grow. The timing to get up there was just never quite right. With time running out there was only one weekend left for an overnight trip: Labor Day. It was going to take some quick planning and see who I could get to go with me so late in the year. I decided to call up my brother and see if he was interested in going. He promptly returned with a, “yes I can go.” We were originally going to attempt Jennie Lake for the second time. However, a coworker of mine recommended an unnamed lake residing on the border of Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest. We had to cross-country to our destination and would likely not see anyone there. The idea sounded great and Jeremiah was on board. In less than a week, he was up here and ready to go.
Day 1 – Saturday
Our journey began at 6AM. I was too excited to fall back asleep at 530 AM, so I woke up and just double checked a few things. Diana took a picture of us before heading out the door at 615 AM. We stopped at Denny’s to have a large breakfast. I had read that “stuffing yourself” for breakfast is a great way to skip over a lunch when backpacking. However, this only works if you have a few hours prior to hitting the trail. We did and the author was right. We just had a cliff bar around that time and it worked out great. Anyway, we were on the road at 650 AM.
We arrived at Sequoia National Park around 830 AM. We paid the $20 Park entrance fee and stopped by the General Sherman Store for a book Jeremiah wanted and some fruit drinks. We eventually made it to the trail head, on the Sequoia National Forest, around 945AM. Excited and ready to get going, we started hiking around 10 AM.
We were in the shade for about 1 to 1.5 miles. The tread was easy and evidence of past hikers and equestrians were visible along the trail. The temperature was cool with a very slight breeze. There was nobody else on the trail. We talked most of the way up and as we started to turn east, we had a wonderful view of the Forest.
Now that we were in the sun, we rolled up our sleeves and zipped off the bottom part of our pants. We quickly noticed the difference in temperature and our performance. The breakfast was giving us plenty of energy, but the cool temperature change made it even easier to continue the steady pace uphill. It wasn’t long before we came across the Jennie Lakes Wilderness boundary sign. We figured it was a good time for water and photos.
Continuing up the trail we started heading northwest. We were adjacent to a Rowell Creek for a bit, which was refreshing change of scenery. The slight temperature change while next to the creek was wonderful. We were not back into the forest surrounded by lodgepole pines, white fur, and a variety of riparian vegetation. In fact, the trail started to level out at this point and our paced quickened. We were chatting up a storm and no longer breathing heavy at all. However, the mosquitoes soon found us, which pushed us on through Rowell Meadow.
We soon came to our first junction. However, there was no sign. Just a wooden post remained. Thankfully, and yet sadly, we had two maps with us. We used a topo map and the Tom Harrison map. The combination showed that this was not our junction and we should continue to the left. We did so expecting to see a cabin, which was indicated on the topo map. Sure enough there was a cabin within 3 minutes of seeing the junction. We were now at Rowell Meadows.
As we were enjoying the views once again and chatting away, Jeremiah made a quick halt. I first thought it was a snake, but he quickly pointed to something on a log. “What is that!?” he said pointing with his trekking pole. I looked over to see it was a marmot. It apparently just came out of its home to see what was going on. The marmot was not far away at all. I reached for my camera to snap a photo and as I turned it on, he stood up on his rear legs. Apparently the mechanical noises of the point and shoot camera were new to him. He stood there posing for a while and as we approached casually made his way back under the tree.
We still had not seen anyone on the trail at this point. The only mammal was the marmot. I think we saw a squirrel once. Other than that it was just mosquitoes and noise from the wind blowing through the trees. The trail was still in amazing condition too. We did have to avoid a fallen tree though, but the reroute was not a problem. At last we came to another junction, but this time it had a sign! One of the signs was a post it note showing users which way Marvin Pass was. Otherwise you only knew the way you came, east, and south directions. We headed south to Seville Lake.
Only 1.5 miles left of trail till we were at the border of the Park and the Forest. About half way along this portion of the trail we met up with three backpackers. They had come from Seville Lake and took one of the short cuts to get to the boundary. They told us how the treading is really bad and hard to find. They were thankful they had their GPS to guide them along. We asked them if the trail we were on to the boundary was still easy to find. Without hesitation they said it was in great condition and that it was just a short cut trail on the Park side. We thanked them and continued on.
We made it to the pass/park boundary. There was a nice steel sign letting hikers know they were entering the Kings Canyon National Park area. The Forest Service wilderness sign was huge and made of wood, which is very common. Here we took a break, had a snack, and started to examine how we were going to cross-country our way to the lake. Fifteen minutes later we were ready to make our trek!
We followed the ridge line as best we could. There was an old barbed wire fence on the ground. I suspect prior to the Jennie Lakes Wilderness grazing was allowed on the Forest’s side. The allotment must have been terminated or never renewed as the fence was down. We continued along the ridge and at the top we were able to get a look at our biggest challenge of the day as well as a view into Kings Canyon National Park.
During the planning stages we saw a small pond like feature near the base of a peak that housed Brothers Lake. It wasn’t on the topo map or on the Tom Harrison map. As we approached our finally ascent for the day, we dropped down into a small saddle. Sure enough, there was a small body of water there. No outlet was present nor a continue flow of water into the area. The tall trees must have protected it from the sun for most of the day throughout the summer. It was pretty, but this wasn’t our final destination. We needed to ascend 300 feet in about a 1/16 of a mile.
Now 3 hours into the hike and less than a quarter-mile to go, we made our way up the mountain. The trek wasn’t easy and we stopped often. We were at 9100 feet and as we got about the tree line and peaked backed to where we came from, we stopped and just stared. It was absolutely breath taking. You could see for miles! Shortly after this great view we made it to the top and hiked down to the lake.
We had made it to the lake in about 3 hours and 30 minutes. The last hard climb only took about 20 minutes to complete. The hard part was over. We had finally made it to the lake. There were no tracks of animals and no signs of humans being here. The only sighting of an animal was a lonely duck. Tadpoles where along the lake’s shoreline. We decided to set up camp on the south side of the lake in the sun for extra warmth. There was a lot of dead trees waiting to come down everywhere else, so this was the best spot. We had the place all to ourselves and it was simply amazing!
While we rested we just enjoyed the view. We were still acclimatizing so sitting still or doing small things was great. We drank a lot of water to hydrate, walked out into the lake, took a shower, and tried to soak it all in. I walked around the lake taking various photos while Jeremiah opened up his book to read about local vegetation in the area.
We started making dinner around 5 PM. Mountain House freeze dried meals was on the menu that night. We boiled and added the water to our food pouches, sealed them for 9 minutes, and opened them ready to eat. There was just one problem. We forgot to bring eating utensils! Jeremiah quickly got creative and made spoons out of the freeze dried packing. It worked just fine and we used a stick to stir the meal.
Following dinner, the sun went behind the ridge line. The temperature dropped quickly, so we put on our jackets and decided to get a fire going. We were both looking forward to seeing the stars and hopefully the Milky Way. I wanted to do some night photography too.
Well it didn’t get quite dark enough just yet to let the stars to fully shine, so we did an experiment with the camera. I remember some photographers having fun with the shutter speeds and flashlights. Jeremiah had a flashlight that came with a red and blue lens cover. We faced away from the camp fire and had some fun!
Now the stars were really shining and the ridge behind us blocked the half moon’s light. I took a few photos as stars came out that night. The Milky Way was visible and there were so many stars out. Unfortunately the camera could not pick up all of them. You just simply need to get to high elevations to experience this at least once in your lifetime. I imagine this is what people saw all the time prior to light and other pollution! We both went to bed around 9 AM after using his book to find constellations.
Day 2 – Sunday
We woke up around 6AM and quickly made breakfast. There was frost on the ground and we found ice under the rainfly. While preparing to leave the water filter was frozen. Even making a fire was very difficult, but we managed to get one going. We thawed a few items, such as the water filter, and used up the rest of the wood we collected. We were both surprised because the weather said it was supposed to be in the high 40’s that night.
As we were about to pack up the rest of our gear, I snapped a few shots of the sunrise over the lakes and surrounding peaks. It was a nice, easy going morning and we wanted to be out there by 9 AM. Switching out of our jackets to our hiking shirts was a cold sensation. Thankfully the fire was there to warm things up.
Loaded up and ready to go, we made our way back down the mountain. As soon as we walked into the sun on the other side of the lake, it was at least 10 to 15 degrees warmer. It must have been a cold pocket on the south side of the lake. Anyway, we decided to go a different way down the mountain and back to the pond. We found an easier way and decided if we came back next time, we would go up this same way.
It didn’t take long and we were back on the trail. It was all downhill now and that was a nice change. It was an easy climb downhill, but once again the only problem was the mosquitoes. We stopped for a couple of photos, but we made sure to quickly take them. We took a few breaks for water and snacks too.
Once out of Rowell Meadows, the trail got steeper so our paced slowed down a bit. The mosquitoes were gone and that was wonderful. We met a few people going up the trail. A couple was going to do a day hike to Rowell Meadows. Another guy was waiting to meet up with three friends. The other guy was going into Sugarloaf on the Park side. We ended up finishing in 2 hours and 20 minutes for 5.5 miles!
It was a great over night trip. We both wanted to come back next year and bring our wives along. It was a light trip, but long enough to feel like you were away from everything. Another adventure complete!