Friday, August 28, 2015

Photo Friday: Backpacking the Sierra Nevada

Okay, we've been here before. Me and backpacking photos, I mean (like every time I don't have a bit of flash fiction ready to go on a Friday!). This trip went into a new area, with a new family configuration--one of our sons was away for the whole month of July, leaving us to backpack as a family of three (weird) (but as the eldest is now at college, something to get used to). Looking for someplace to go after dropping Second Son off at LAX for his trip to Mongolia, we settled on Sequoia National Park, in particular the Mineral King area.

The road in to Mineral King is not for the faint of heart. It takes over an hour, is steep, windy, and only one lane wide. And when you get to the trailhead, the ranger will suggest that you marmot-proof your car, as the little demons have a habit of crawling underneath, then nibbling anything rubber. Like brake lines, something you will really want for the trip back out. We borrowed chicken wire, scrounged our ground cloths, and secured the car before departing.
The author and Eldest Son contemplate the well-wrapped automobile.
One of the evil marmot-creatures, lurking about and looking for a car to steal. I understand that after they eat the rubber parts, they go joy-riding.
From the parking lot we climbed up and through Timber Gap, soon putting on rain gear as a thunder storm passed over us. It moved on so that we could stop for lunch at the pass. This was the first climb of the day, followed by a long drop to Cliff Creek. 
Flowers look extra-nice after the rain. These nicely washed leopard lilies caught my attention.
 A second long climb brought us to Pinto Lake, halfway to Black Rock Pass. Our camp there gave us a beautiful view of the sunset, as things had cleared up (aside from the smoke).
Looking west.
While the sun was setting, behind us a full moon rose over the mountains.
Looking east.
 Next morning we broke camp under a threatening sky (had to toss the fly back on the tent for a few minutes when a shower came through), and climbed toward Black Rock Pass. We hadn't gone far before the rain started in earnest, with much wind and general unpleasantness, though fortunately (given our exposed position) not thunder and lightning. We pushed on up and over the pass, and down into the trees on the other side before stopping to eat. That was too long, and took a toll on me and Eldest Son.
Lupin against the dark clouds and rain-washed mountains.
Not  long after we finished lunch (under a fallen log--seriously!) and put up camp near one of the Little Five Lakes, the storms moved off and the sun broke through and dried all our gear (including my camera, which had developed an interesting tendency to take photos on its own). An evening walk gave us great light on the Kaweah Peaks across the Big Arroyo.
Whitebark pine snags add interest to any view!
 The third day was a slack day, moving camp only about 3 miles, to Big Five Lakes. We did laundry, napped, read, and came out eventually to make dinner.
For those who wonder--dinner is usually in zip-lock bags and is made by adding boiling water. This is the entire kitchen kit for 3 of us, and weighs about 10 oz.
An after-dinner walk produced nice light and reflections, which we were able to photograph between  slaps at voracious mosquitoes.
One of the Big Five Lakes and a nameless peak. Calm winds make for nice reflection, but a brisk breeze is better when the mosquitoes are out!
 The fourth day we were back to covering the miles. Over the hill and down to Lost Canyon, then up the Canyon and over a divide to Columbine Lake.
The mountain meadow just at treeline was a real treat before climbing to the saddle just right of center on the skyline.
Arrived at Columbine Lake just after lunch (we like to start early, hike steadily--and make camp early so we can nap). It doesn't look promising, but there are actually a number of nice campsites in the low area ahead of the hikers.
The Spouse and Eldest Son homing in on home for the night.
 Fog moved in and out, so that we thought there would be no sunset. But the weather gods smiled on us, and we ended up with some of the most magical light I've experienced. The photos don't do it justice.
Moving right to left, the second dip on that skyline is Black Rock Pass that we crossed 2 days earlier.
 Gratuitous additional photos of the evening light.

Last lights on peaks reflected in the lake.
Fifth and final day: a short climb to Sawtooth Pass, and a long, painful descent (about 3000' down) to the car! The view from the top was spectacular, but I'll not deny my feet and knees were whimpering before we were done.
Sawtooth Peak from Sawtooth Pass
We experienced some rain nearly every day, mosquitoes were definitely worse than they are in August, but the scenery was world class, the kid carried more weight than I did (for the first time ever!), and it was great to see that we could still do significant mileage.

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015


  1. Hi Rebecca - wonderful photos and some amazing scenery - great to see all that you did - yes I can feel the effort .. even from here in little old England! I've never liked hiking - but perhaps I now understand why ... a birth defect and frot hip - many decades later.

    Gorgeous photos .. and yes sensible food rations essential ... well done - cheers Hilary

    1. Thanks, Hilary! I can see where issues with hips and all would make hiking seem a lot less fun (I am developing more such issues as I age, but it's too late--I'm addicted :) ). That delicate balance between enough food to keep us fed, but not so much we can't carry it. And I've found that not having to actually cook in camp is nice, as well as in many ways a weight-saver (much less fuel).

  2. Thanks for the TR. As always, great pics! I will need to talk with you about descending 3000'. Vitamin I is your friend.

    1. Hah! Without ibuprofen, I probably wouldn't be able to backpack at all. Which is kind of a sad thought, but enough things do hurt that sleep gets tough without some help.

      Descending 3000' hurt, but left no lasting damage. A few years ago we ended a hike with a 4000' descent over 9 miles, and I wasn't able to hike or run for over a week--that one did some actual injury.


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