Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 5

Day 5: Junction Meadow to Kern Hot Springs

Waking up the morning of Day 5 we knew we had some mileage to make, but we couldn't resist a side hike up the Kern Kaweah river; a spectacular cascade that comes down into Junction Meadow.  Unlike the Kern, which would best be described as chunky boulder cascades, the Kern Kaweah is carved out of Granite with more of a waterfall characteristic.

Of course before we could get moving we had to gather the family belongings, something which is not exactly trivial on a trip like this.  At one point we set Maggie on a mat without her diaper, and of course she decided it would be a good time to pee...

I can't believe you are putting this on the internet, Dad

After packing up we crossed the Kern and headed up the granite canyon to the west.  Mark brought his fishing pole to see if he could slay some trout in the cascade.

Allison soaking up some rays while Marc slays some trout

Pi and Dad scoping out their lines

The Crew
 You could spend the whole day exploring the Kern Kaweah, and if you you were to keep going up you would hit probably the most remote part of the Sierra between the Kern, the Kaweah and the Kings; but alas we had to get moving downstream.

From Junction Meadow down to Kern Hot Springs is one of the most scenic and enjoyable sections of the Headwaters by boat.  By foot it is not quite as spectacular, but close...

Rebecca and Pi at Junction Meadow
 This section of the Kern is classic; tall pines, crystal clear water and glacially carved canyon walls with waterfalls cascading in from the high plateaus on either side.  The gradient of the river (and the trail) is not very steep here, so you can make pretty good time. Some of the crew would stop periodically to fish; we just stopped for a bite to eat and a mellow sit by the river.

Lunch Stop

There is one major rapid on this section of river; I have dubbed it "Nine out of Ten".  The story goes that during our first descent at high water, we got to this long rapid with a series of possible bad consequences.  Sam Drevo, who I would consider to be a very accomplished boater, elected not to run it because he was a "Nine out of Ten guy".  Meaning that, in this situation so  far from any civilization, his threshold for running something would be that he thought he could make it nine out of ten times.  None of the rest of us ran it either.

This trip, with low water, Nine out of Ten looked pretty friendly, marking the first time I wish I had my boat with me on the trip.

Looking down the center of Nine out of Ten

The run-out of Nine out of Ten
Dave, Allison and Andrew fished some of the calm pools here (which had been raging whitewater 7 years ago) and we continued on down towards the hot springs.  The scenery along this stretch is top notch as the canyon opens a little and the trees thin out somewhat.  There are some creek crossings that are no big deal at this water level, but can become treacherous at higher water.  Then of course there are the waterfalls...

Yet another waterfall cascading into Kern Canyon

With about 10 miles to cover this day, we got into a big of a grove.  The heavy packs, however began to take their toll and knees were beginning to get sore as we descended.  The awkward load of Maggie in her pack also was starting to wear on Rebecca and we were all looking forward to the hot springs at the end of the hike.

Rebecca making her way down
There was a point at which I was too tired to take a bunch of photos and, needless to say,  the bear box at camp was a welcome site as it meant we minutes from soaking in the hot springs.  Compared to our frigid dip in the river at Junction Meadow, the afternoon bath here was quite relaxing.  Also, for those who appreciated my Crabtree Meadow pit toilet story, the pit toilet at Hot Springs camp probably had an even better view (plus a privacy wall).  Of all of the places past Whitney, this is the most likely place that you might run into other campers.  Still, the option of soaking in a hot bath makes it a worthwhile stopping point.

 One thing I never had to consider on a multi-day backpack trip was baby diapers.  Usually pack-it-in-pack-it-out works just fine.  Ten plus days of diapers would, however, probably weigh around 50 lbs, not to mention the fact that it would be a bit of an olfactory issue.  We had brought biodegradable diapers, but the plan was actually to burn them, creating as little impact as possible.  If you have not yet sat around a diaper fire in the High Sierra (or anywhere for that matter)... well, let's just say it is an experience.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 4

Rebecca and Pi looking into Kern Canyon with the Kaweah Ridge in the bacground
 Day 4: Wallace Creek to Junction Meadow

Waking up in the morning at the top of Wallace creek was a good feeling.  Not only were we very close to the Kern, but we had the majority of our uphill out of the way and a very easy day down to Junction Meadow.  On top of that, the smoke that we had seen in the canyon the day before from the George Fire was no longer evident, which meant a couple of things.  First, we would not be breathing smoke the whole day, and second, there was a good chance that the fire was contained and that our helicopter (bringing us boats and taking Marc and Ann out) was probably going to be there when it was supposed to be.

Heading into Kern Canyon

Even though we had an easy day in front of us, some of us were pretty beat down (read me) from the heavy packs and long days leading up to this point.  Dave, Allison and Andrew, however, were not, so they elected to go on yet another adventure while the rest of us made the descent down to the river.  

First look at Junction Meadow
The hike down was pleasant, following Wallace Creek pretty much the whole way.  Views of Black Kaweah and other peaks the whole way down.  As you get closer to the river you get to see the Glacially carved valley, of which pictures do no justice...

Back at this sign 7 years later

When we got down to where Wallace Creek Trail hits the Kern Canyon trail we took a minute to snap a picture at a sign that we had visited 7 years earlier on our Headwaters of the Kern expedition (Rebecca was the first Woman to paddle it).  Funny how much has changed since then.

Looking up into the Kern-Kaweah river
While Junction Meadow is a beautiful place, it is well know to be a mosquito haven, so we took a minute to find our camp just north of the wooded area where the bugs would be less likely to ravage us.  We then took a trip through the bog to hang out by the river, which was low, but still a wonderful sight to see.

Marc and Ann chilling

Pi and Dad floating sticks in the river
Of course we had to jump in and "bathe", but none of us lingered very long in the icy waters.  Invigorating would be a mild way to put the experience of a dip in the Kern at Junction meadow, but if you can't feel alive hanging out at this place, a quick jump in the water will definitely bring you to your senses.

Rebecca debating the merits of jumping in

Um, it's cold...
After our swim we set up camp and poked around a little bit checking out the cascade of the Kern coming down into Junction Meadow.  7 years ago we had considered boating this section of river, but looking at it at high water we had deemed it unwise to attempt.  Looking at it now at low water did not tempt me either. 

After a while we got the radio call from the others and met them at camp.  While it was a relatively leisurely day, we were still pretty beat and happy to hang out at "bear camp".  The next day we had some mileage to make to stay on schedule to meet the chopper, but we were now on the Kern, our home river.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 3

Timberline Lake to Wallace Creek:

We woke up to a beautiful Sierra morning; blue skies and warm sun with no wind.  After huddling in the tent to cook dinner the night before this was a pleasant change, so we took some time in the morning to check out the area around timberline lake, and it was worth taking the time.

Maggie adventures from home base at Timberline lake

The string of lakes in this area is connected by a cascading creek, the section between Guitar lake and Timberline is particularly interesting with a stair-step rock character.  The cold night had left ice formations on the cascading waterfalls that made it even more enticing to wander around and check out the scene.

Pi and Dad checking out the ice formations
It also felt nice to sit out in the warming morning sun and soak up the scenery, that was pretty much all ours to enjoy.  The few people we had come across during our trek down the back side of Whitney were pretty intent on staying close to the peak; presumably to bag it early the next day.  The extra effort we had made to loose some altitude and get into the tree line paid of with what ended up being one of the most relaxing mornings of the trip.  I really wanted to just do a layover day and enjoy this place for another day; alas we had to keep moving so that we could meet the helicopter at the prescribed time.

So... where are we going today Mom?
We did not have a ton of distance to cover on day 3, so we had a leisurely morning and a relatively leisurely hike.  At one point I hiked an extra half mile or so to check out the pit toilet in Crabtree Meadow.  Not being much of an outdoor pooper, I had a fascination with this toilet ever since I read about it on another headwaters trip report.  I was not disappointed; the toilet was free standing (no privacy walls) in the middle of the meadow with fantastic open air views.  Of course I had set my pack down to do this excursion, but had I had my camera with me, you would have been treated to a self portrait - next time...

Rebecca and Pi somewhere near Crabtree Meadow

After a bit of descending and a disheartening section of uphill (the previous day had taken its toll), we got to yet another breathtaking view of the Bighorn Plateau and Mts Tyndall and Williamson.  We had lunch at the head of Wallace Creek and decided that we would make a short day of it and finish the hike down to Junction Meadow the following day.  This allowed  the Energizer Bunnies (Dave, Allison and Andrew) the chance to explore the Bighorn Plateau for a bit as the rest of us settled into camp. 

Ahhh,  so that is where we are

Unfortunately, one of the tequila bottles had leaked, putting a serious damper on the evening.  Well, not really, but next time I'm sure Marc will double check the platypus.  We were able to find a camp just below the "fire line" and enjoy a little campfire and cook out.  We were officially descending into Kern Canyon...

Pi and Daddy Jamming some Brown Eyed Girl on the Bear Canister