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.

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