Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to Big Meadows: August 2011

(Remember to click on a picture if you want to enlarge it, and then click "back.")

We had a free week before school started, so guess what we did? Good guess: we ran off to the mountains again. We were hoping to score a "boondocking" site in the Sequoia National Forest somewhere north of Big Meadows, and we did. Our campsite (which we've used before) was on a big open granite knoll at 8000 feet, overlooking the skyline of the entire eastern Sierra. The access road was very long and very bumpy, but it was well worth the effort -- the campsite was absolutely silent, several miles from our nearest neighbor, cool and breezy.

Sunday, August 14: After arrival, our first order of business was to set up our two-person hammock. This was our first attempt to deploy it; the poor thing patiently traveled with us all summer, waiting for its moment in the sun. Unfortunately, despite great effort, I could never figure out how to stretch the ropes tight enough to support my weight:

But the hammock was just right for Felice, who reports that it was very comfortable:

It was then time for the afternoon cocktail ritual; we perched our lounge chairs on a convenient boulder with a view of the mountains:

That night, we watched the full moon rise over Mitchell Peak, directly to our east:

Monday, August 15:

Early that morning, before taking off for our first hike, I spotted a huge "balancing rock" on the slope below our campsite -- this rock is about the size of a large delivery truck:

On our way out from our campsite, we passed Buck Rock Lookout Tower at 8500 feet:

The rock itself is amazing -- a huge granite monolith, deeply scored by a crosshatch of erosion:

We drove out to the east end of the Big Meadows area, on the border between the National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park, and hiked up Lookout Peak. The hike was short but strenuous, and the views of the canyon below our boots were astonishing:

We then took a longer (and steeper) hike to the Deer Meadows area, hoping to get to the Deer Meadows grove of Sequoias. Although the meadow was pretty, the trail did not take us to the trees, which was disappointing. However, on the way out, we went up to the top of a nearby granite dome, and the views more than compensated for our temporary disappointment. Later that day, we came back to photograph the "balancing rock" in full daylight -- don't worry, Felice really didn't push very hard on the rock:

Tuesday, August 16: We hiked to Muir Grove, a perennial favorite, and walked around the northwest quadrant of the grove, far from anyone else. We relocated Felice’s favorite pair of trees, which she calls the "husband-and-wife" trees:

Not that anyone else would care, but the precise GPS location of these trees is: 36° 38.129, 118° 50.301. (Someday, I hope to come back to these trees in the winter on snowshoes, and we will need the GPS coordinates to find them.)

After we explored the back part of the grove, the afternoon got very hot; we made time for some swimming (actually, shallow splashing) in a remote section of Dorst Creek. Our Crocs (which are very light and easy to carry) gave us surprisingly good traction on the slippery rocks:

Wednesday, August 17: Feeling energetic and adventurous, we hiked to the top of Mitchell Peak, a steep climb with a gain of almost 2000 feet. We were amazed at the quantity of wildflowers; usually, by mid-August, the flowers have died off. These are scarlet Gilia:

The top of the mountain was breezy and cool at 10,300 feet:

Thursday, August 18: Feeling even more energetic, we hiked out of the Wolverton area on the Lakes Trail and made it all the way up to Emerald Lake, a round-trip distance of over 10 miles, with more than 2500 feet of net elevation gain. In the crevices of the the granite walls, there were occasional patches of damp soil that supported gardens of wildflowers:

There was still plenty of snow up at the lake:

This is a brief clip of the whole cirque:

This leopard lily posed obligingly in front of a snowbank:

On the way down, Felice was feeling brave, so we ventured onto the Watchtower Trail, a narrow ledge dynamited out of solid rock, with a sheer cliff right next to the trail:

The views from the trail were breathtaking. At one point on the trail, a huge boulder had fallen off the overhanging cliff and had wedged itself across the trail. We had to crawl under it:

Felice was very excited that she had conquered her acrophobia and had traversed the spectacular Watchtower Trail-- I doubt we will ever take the steeper "Hump" again:

Friday, August 19: I had a mild cold, so we took a much easier hike to Big Baldy. The views were pretty good, although there was quite a bit of smoke in the air from the Lion Fire in the southern Sierra. Later that day, we bounced around in the Canyonero looking for new boondocking sites near the Bearskin Grove, not far from Grant Grove.

Saturday, August 20: Sadly, Departure Day arrived. Felice once again displayed her uncanny prowess as the "Hitch Ball Wizard” -- somehow, she has the ability to coax the car into perfect position for hitching up the trailer, simply by gently waving her hands in the air:


The Good Luck Duck said...

Wowz. I could just dive into your story and cool off. That's great.


Anonymous said...

Dan - Love your blog. I'm so happy that we inspired you and Felice to get your little trailer. They are lots of fun! Chris