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2014 T5 Hi Adventure Sierra/Kings Canyon NP

posted Sep 21, 2016, 9:51 PM by Joshua Wu   [ updated Sep 21, 2016, 9:51 PM by Gary Anwyl ]

Reflections from Life Scout Mihir:

Hello all,

I have written up a report covering everything we did over our 1 week trip. Please note that I wrote this in retrospect, as I didn’t plan to or have time to write it during the trip. Also, above each days entry, there is something that says IMG #### – ####. These numbers correspond to my pictures which I upload to GoogleDocs (and are available on the link below). If you match up the numbers of the pictures, you can find which pictures I took which days, and some visual aids as well to help you through the writing.
Follow this link to the pictures I took while on the trip: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B9I4sRQQZjwLOXp4VWx5bkNQUzg&usp=drive_web
Day 1: 7/31 IMG 3113 – 3213
We met on Thursday morning and distributed food. This was a big task as all of the food had been purchased by Ignat, but had to be packed into bear canisters. These are now the law, and required for backpacking in the Sierras. They are a replacement for bear bags, but for that reason are quite heavy. After that packing was complete, we traveled in 2 cars across the Central Valley to Sequoia National Park. We arrived in the afternoon to the car camping site at Lodgepole Camp Ground. Around our campsite was a very nice pooling of the river, where we spent sometime cooling off and relaxing. In the evening, Sam cooked a fabulous meal of barbecued lamb. He told us that we had said to make the meals gourmet, and he really went the whole 9 yards. After dinner, we went to a talk by the Rangers about star gazing in the Sierras. With this new found knowledge, the scouts went after dark up the creek a little ways, to do a bit of star gazing. I personally brought my DSLR camera so I was able to get some lovely pictures of the night sky.
Day 2: 8/1 IMG 3242 – 3372
We used our second day of car camping before we set off hiking to do a bit of the sightseeing around the park. We began by hiking down to the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree in terms of girth, and generally considered the largest tree in the world. From here we went to the Giant Tree Museum, which had more information on the rather large trees we were hiking among. From there, we caught a shuttle to Moro Rock. This landmark rock is very interesting in that it sticks right out into the valley, so from the top of it, there is a simply spectacular view of the valley and the mountains that surround it. After this, it was a couple of shuttles back to the cars and then the car camping site, where we relaxed and prepared for the next days hiking. For dinner we had some more lovely food, this time an assortment of meet balls with a variety of sides. That evening, we all got an early night, in preparation for the hike the next day.
Day 3: 8/2 IMG 3379 – 3596
Having broken camp and stowed everything we were not taking in an appropriate manor, we drove our packs to the trail head (a 5 minute drive). While the drivers parked the cars, we met another Scout Troop, car camping in the site by the trail head. That day, we had intending for a 10 mi hike into Ranger Lake. The first parts of the hike were relatively easy, if a little up hill, but filled with stops as we figured out all of the gear and pack packing. The days climb involved going for 7000 ft at Lodgepole Camp Ground to 9200 ft at Ranger Lake. Most of the middle portion of the hike was pretty easy, but around mile 5, the trail became very steep, in the long climb up to a point called Twin Lakes, which itself is located at 9200 or 9300 ft. At the base of this climb, the crew agreed to split up and climb at our own pace, and regroup at Twin Lakes. The first of us made it there by 12:30, with the last arriving something like 45 minutes later. By the time we had made it up there, most of us were so tired that we decided to simply camp there. We were delighted to find that there was a bear box at the site, meaning we didn’t have to pack all of the trash into the bear can. That evening, the scouts went fishing, and found that though the larger of the twin lakes did not yield much, the smaller did, and in the matter of an hour and a half, they had caught 10 fish. This meant we could have Mountain House (freeze dried food brand) along with a brown trout each. In the evening, we saw the effect of the sun setting on the horizon through the pink painting of the mountains, forest and lake surface. With only a moderate amount of clouds in the sky, this effect was emphasized, to fill our little valley in pink and red.
Day 4: 8/3 IMG 3613 – 3780
I woke around 5 am to rain on the top of my tent, and wind battering the side. Though the weather had been nice the evening before, in the morning, it had fouled right up. The tent I was sharing with Michael was an ultra-light sort, which meant instead of tent poles, the tent was pitched as a sort of sideways A-Frame, with 2 hiking poles supporting the center, along the several stakes. At some point in the morning though, the wind yanked the crucial stake on Michael’s side of the tent out of the ground, which tipped half of the tent down onto us. We attempted to fix the problem, except the wind had launched the stake somewhere unknown, so we couldn’t find it to re-stake the tent. Instead, Michael brought his knee up, and used it to support the upright hiking pole so that the tent wouldn’t collapse onto us. We had attempted to wait the rain out, and by 7 am, it had died down to a drizzle, which allowed us to emerge from our tents, in search of breakfast and something warm to drink. By the time that camp had been broken and we were ready to hit the trail, the rain had picked up. Because of our early stop at Twin Lakes, the hike was only 3.3 mi, but it involved climbing over Silliman Pass, which lay 1000 ft above us at 10,000 ft. The climb up was not actually as difficult as the climb up to Twin Lakes had been, although the rain made the hike far more difficult. Besides some peoples poor equipment (namely boots) it was also rather cold, amplified by the strong wind that continued from the morning. At the top of the pass, the wind was even greater, but that didn’t stop us from taking a couple of pictures. After that, it was a slow, cold and lengthy descent back down to 9000 ft, where Ranger Lake was. Upon arriving at that camp, we found that we could make fires, so we got right to that. We then built a clothes rack above the fire, to dry out our clothes. That afternoon, Ignat took a group mushroom hunting, and returned with some porcini mushrooms. These we cooked along with dinner, although without butter or oil, they were still very good. That evening around the fire, we shared some earnest campfire songs and set out the plan for the rest of the trip.
Day 5: 8/4 IMG 3782 – 3869
This was one of our most eventful days. We had decided the night before not to break camp, but instead use Ranger Lake as a base camp, and do a couple of day trips to various attractions. We first hiked about 5 mi out to a site called Comanche Meadow, along the way stopping for lunch in a pooling point of a creek called Sugarloaf Creek. On the trip out to the meadow, the weather generally cooperated, and we had no rain. On the way back though, a slight drizzle did pick up. We hoped this wouldn’t spoil plans to go to a site called Ball Dome. To get there, we first hiked out to Lost Lake, were we took a break and split. After the stop at Lost Lake, Sri, Calvin and Gary headed back to camp at Ranger Lake, while the remaining adults and scouts planned our route up to Ball Dome. This peak is aptly named, and is a large round dome that sticks up out of the forest. There is no trail out to it, so we were guided mainly by GPS to the site. Having crossed a rather large boulder field, we came up to the base of the formation. We found that we could not scale it from the side we had approached, meaning that we had to skirt around the side of it, which ended up being a pretty shear drop-off, and then climb up on the other side. Getting around the side was not as easy as we thought. The side was made of boulders ranging from a few feet to a few yards across, and these were piled on to the side of a very steep hill, that after descending for a bit simply dropped off altogether. We crossed these boulders while trying to maintain a constant-ish elevation using our arms and legs. Having gotten around the other side though, we found a rather dark and rather menacing cloud moving in over us. Being Philmont trained, we knew that we had to wait for it to pass before attempting to summit a bare granite mountain. We took up lighting position in the forest just below the summit and waited for the clouds to pass. After this, we saw our chance and made for the summit. Climbing up entailed essentially climbing over similar terrain as before, except this time, we climbed straight up it. About 40 feet from the top, we had to stop because the rock became literally vertical, and there were no cracks or anything for us to grip to go any higher. Here we took a picture of the scouts sitting in a line with the landscape off below. Following our high elevation photo shoot, we had to return the way we came to our packs, and then back to Ranger Lake. Returning over the rocks that we had came turned out to be very difficult, because it had been all uphill coming up, and was all downhill while leaving. Over boulders like that, up is much easier than down (think of climbing a ladder). I eventually adopted a crab-walking sort of method to get down and once we cleared the rocks, it was pretty smooth sailing back to the camp. That night, following dinner, the scouts went out the clear rocky area behind our camp. We were able to get there guided only by moon light. While up there we spent a while star gazing, and I took some more pictures of the night sky. Due to the light from the moon, fewer stars were visible than the first night we did this, but none the less, it was very spectacular.
Day 6: 8/5 IMG 3870 – 3897
This day, we did another day hike, this time to a spot called Crescent Lake. This spot, like Ball Dome, was totally off trail, which meant using our topographic maps, compasses and GPS to find our way. In the morning, scouts and adults spent quite a while out on the rocky outcrop where we had star gazed the night before orienting the maps and trying to figure out the best route. There was a little disagreement as to which peaks were which (comparing the map to our view), but none the less, we set off under the guidance of the GPS. The first part of the hike was not too bad, and though there were some steep bits, the terrain was very manageable. When we approached a pair of unnamed lakes however, the terrain became quite a bit worse. From the top of a ridge, we had to descend to the level of the lakes, before rising back up to meet Crescent Lake. Going down to the lakes was very difficult, as the terrain became very steep and rocky. But once down, we stopped for lunch and Ignat and Gary did a bit of swimming. After this, we had a brief but treacherous climb up to Twin Lakes. Two routes were taken, one following an overgrown green depression, and the other following the rocks to the side of the green bit. The green route was not as steep but involved massive bushes of incredibly thistle-y plants, which, quite obviously, caused some problems. The other route was a little more clear, but a lot more steep. All of the challenges getting up were well worth it though. Crescent Lake was situated pretty high up the side of a mountain, with the ridge of said mountain lining the sky to the west. To the south and east, the terrain dropped way down into a valley before rising back up to meet the same ridge. Because of this drop, it gave the appearance of a natural dam, with trees and grass on it, holding back the lake from the valley below. We approached from the north, where we could see these rocky features rising up around the lake. The lake itself formed its crescent shape by a large piece of land stretching out into the center of the lake to create the shape. We spent as long as we could at the lake, out on the bit of land that stuck out. From where we sat we could see large clouds of what could end up being rain pouring up and over from the ridge above us, and flooding into the sky above the valley. We used this as a cue to leave, as completing the hike back in the rain would have been very difficult indeed. Luckily for us, it didn’t rain, but it was still quite a challenge getting back. To return to the unnamed pair of lakes, we opted for a new route, descending on the other side of the green valley that we climbed up. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, as the two initial descent points that we selected were both nearly vertical and very rocky indeed. The scouts were able to make it down okay, but Sri and Gary opted for another route, which turned out to be much easier, if a little slower. After this one very difficult descent, it was pretty much smooth sailing back to the camp. That night, with battery and energy fading, we got an early night and readied ourselves for the hike the next day.
Day 7: 8/6 IMG 3902
From experience hiking in, we decided that we shouldn’t tackle Silliman Pass and getting back to the cars on the same day. Instead, we allotted an extra day, and so we only had to get back to Twin Lakes on this day. The hike up to Silliman Pass was rather long, but the group spread out hiking at there own pace, and the adults met another hiker leaving Ranger Lake at the same time as us, who then hiked with us the rest of the day. We arrived back at Twin Lakes by lunch time, which meant in the afternoon, there was much time to do other things. Ignat took some of us mushroom hunting, and found quite a few of the porcini mushrooms, included one rather large one, that was at least 8 in across the top. To add to our dinner feast, we went fishing, this time in the larger of the two lakes. We did have to fish a little longer to get fish in the large lake, but the fish that we caught we considerably larger and meatier. This made for good eating in the evening, with fish, porcini mushrooms and a side of Mountain House. That evening, unlike our first night at Twin Lakes, was very foggy, although it didn’t rain. The ambient temperature also dropped considerably, which meant looking out over the lake, we witnessed a beautiful steaming affect coming off of the surface of the lake.
Day 8: 8/9 No Images
The final day was not too eventful, and a quiet end to our trip. We hiked out the 7 mi downhill to Lodgepole Camp Ground with ease. At the cafe we had lunch, a reflection on the trip and a few words from Gary. After that, just a quick 5 hour drive back home and a returning of some gear to finish off.
To conclude, this year’s High Adventure was a very successful one. Though the plan changed a little bit, we still hiking and saw great things. We were definitely high up (9000 ft at least), and it was most definitely an adventure. That’s what its all about anyway, isn’t it? Finally, a massive thanks to Gary, Calvin, Sri, Ignat and Sam for all of there help in making the trip possible. Without each one of their contributions, the trip wouldn’t have been what it was.
I most definitely enjoyed myself, and I hope to see more scouts on more High Adventure trips to come,
Mihir Juvvadi