Sunday August 2, 27.7mi/44.6km

Lower Precipice Lake (57.7/9880ft) to Crescent Meadow (75.6/6710ft) (CA) +9.8mi to Cahoon Gap (9.8/8645ft)

My last day on the HST went by quickly. I started by hiking downhill 1700ft to Hamilton Lake, passing thru many alpine meadows.

Hamilton Lake far below.

Sometimes the terrain was very steep, and it was impressive what trail builders did to make it passable. Like a tunnel!

Hamilton Lake getting closer.

Finally I got to the lake I had been watching for over an hour. There were many people camped nearby, I’m glad I didn’t come down here to camp last night.

Then the trail followed Hamilton Creek downstream for a short while, it was entertaining to see all the waterfalls.

And this is where the trail crossed the stream, which disappeared over a cliff.

The trail stayed high on the hillside as the stream plunged into the valley below, it was impressive trail construction.

I was quite surprised when I came to a bridge over a side creek.

Looking down from the bridge, there was an insanely deep chasm.

With the remains of the old bridge, as a sort of reminder to keep moving, ha!

The trail continued its impressive journey on the hillside all the way to Bearpaw meadows.

At Bearpaw meadows, there were a strange number of abandoned buildings.

The sign says I only have 11.3 miles to go, excellent! And Mt Whitney is 60 miles away, crazy.

Thankfully, the trail stayed in a deeply shaded forest for a few hours, as it was getting hot out.

Still traversing the hillside, I occasionally had views below, like to Little Blue Dome.

Towards the end of the day, the trail returned to its exposed traverse, now high above the Middle Fork Kaweah River.

I could see all the way down the valley to the towns near the park boundary.

Just about a half mile before the end, I finally saw some signage for the High Sierra Trail. It’s not just a line on a map!

The final bit was thru a cool dark forest full of ferns.

And then around the corner, was Crescent Meadow. I was done!

There was an interpretive sign at the trailhead.

And a fun distance sign, for the hikers starting from this end.

Now I was finished with the HST, and I was back on the west side of the Sierras, but not quite at my car, which is parked in King’s Canyon. So, north I went, thru the Giant Sequoia Groves! This tree was called the black arch.

I passed by an old cattle rancher’s cabin, all the cattle were finally removed in 1917 when the land was purchased and added to the park.

The Founders Group of trees.

The Room tree. It was surprisingly large inside.

This tree outlived its namesake by a few centuries.

I hiked on another hour to Lodgepole village, a Campground in the park. I grabbed some dinner from the little store.

In order to camp legally, I had to leave the developed area. So, I continued northward, taking the Twin Lakes trail to JO pass.

Four miles later, and it was 7pm, I stopped for the night at Cahoon Gap.

Tomorrow I’ll have a morning of hiking then I’ll be back at my car!

Saturday August 1, 21.4mi/34.4km

Kern River Canyon (36.3/7360ft) to Lower Precipice Lake (57.7/9880ft) (CA)

The early morning trail was a little chilly, as it followed the Kern River downstream.

Even a couple hours later, the sun still had not reached the canyon bottom.

I came to the Kern hot springs, and I was surprised to see it was quite developed.

There was even a little concrete bathtub to soak in, and a fence around it.

The source was a steaming little flow between some rocks. The dried minerals in the rocks were everywhere.

I soaked my legs, and when I got cold I started hiking again. The trail crossed the Kern River on a huge bridge, almost big enough to drive over.

Chagoopa falls came crashing down into the canyon from 1500ft above.

And then, the climb started. Up to Kaweah Gap, 3900ft uphill.

After about 1000ft of climbing up switchbacks, I turned around to see a neat perspective down the Kern River Canyon.

As soon as I climbed high enough to leave the shade of the canyon, I saw these little lizards everywhere in the sunshine.

As I climbed higher, the alpine meadows returned.

I stopped for a swim at Moraine Lake, which was quite pleasant, and even had a sandy bottom.

I hiked on uphill another 1000ft and had lunch, at a precipice overlooking the Big Arroyo Creek Valley.

The trail continued to follow along the edge for a few miles, and the views were wonderful distractions from the heat.

Since I was following the Big Arroyo Creek upstream, eventually the valley bottom came up to meet the trail. I hiked in the valley along the creek for a couple of gradual uphill miles.

Finally at almost 5pm, Kaweah Gap was in view.

I reached to the top of the 10,700ft Kaweah Gap at 5pm, and it was super windy. I read the commemorative plaque of the park’s founder, and moved on.

And I had an all-new view down into the next valley!

The little alpine bog was cool looking.

I turned a corner and… Precipice Lake! It looked so deep and cold.

There weren’t any good camping spots, so I moved on to Lower Precipice Lake. I ended up camping on the ridge at the far end of the lake in the photo.

I had a nice view overlooking the valley thousands of feet below.

The sunset was pretty spectacular, with the peaks turning orange and red.

It should be a good night’s sleep after 5400ft of elevation gain today!

Friday July 31, 22.8mi/36.7km

Ridge above Rock Creek (13.5/11,005ft) to Kern River Canyon (36.3/7360ft) (CA)

It was a cool morning at 11,000 feet, even with the sun coming over the mountains.

By the time I dropped down to Rock Creek at 8:30, it was warm in the green valley.

I climbed back up out of the valley, and the forest returned to its usual sparse trees.

As I descended to Whitney Creek valley, I could look up past Crabtree Meadows to the backside (west side) of Mt Whitney. Cool!

Just before Crabtree Meadows, I went by a huge group of 11 hikers. They appeared to be guided, I didn’t think that size was even allowed.

Crabtree Meadows looked the same as ever. I was here a few times in 2015, briefly on my way to Mt Whitney.

Whitney Creek still had a ton of water, it was a challenge to keep dry feet, even using the crossing stones.

Side trip to Mt Whitney? Nah, I’ll keep going to Wallace Creek.

Looking west, across Kern Canyon. I will be way down in the canyon soon.

Looking north, I think one of those passes is Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT.

Down to Junction Meadows, and (tomorrow) Kern Hot Springs!

I followed the Wallace Creek trail, it stayed near the water for most of the descent.

It kept going down, down, down. 2200 feet down to the bottom of Kern Canyon.

I had descended low enough that the vegetation had changed, and the views were much more open.

Junction Meadow was a nice surprise, since it was more of a mature conifer forest. Very nice and shaded, it was so hot today.

Whitney Creek, which I had crossed this morning (and 2500ft upstream) on stones, I now had to cross on a suspiciously thin log.

I followed the Kern River downstream for over an hour, and it was neat looking up at the canyon walls.

I ended up hiking 1.5 miles more than I planned, since there wasn’t a good place to camp until then. It was easy hiking on a good trail, and I was still in camp before 6pm. It’s warm down here in Kern Canyon at 7400 feet, tomorrow I hike out of the canyon and back up to alpine!

Thursday July 30, 13.5mi/21.7km

Cottonwood Pass TH (0.0/9950ft) to Ridge above Rock Creek (13.5/11,005ft) (CA)

I had a nice relaxing morning and slept in, then picked up a package from the PO, and called and arranged a ride from a local Lone Pine resident, Chuck. I grabbed a calorie dense lunch from the Carl’s Jr, and Chuck dropped me at the Cottonwood Pass trailhead at 1pm.

And a few minutes later, I was in the Wilderness!

Both options lead up to the PCT, I chose Trail Pass.

In 2015, I had accidentally missed the short 5-mile section between the two passes, and I wanted to complete that gap.

I headed for the ridge in the distance.

After 45 minutes, I was on the PCT.

I hiked thru classic Southern High Sierra terrain for most of the day, gnarled conifers and granite rocky soil.

Occasionally there was an alpine meadow, but not as frequently as the SHR. Things seem much drier here.

At the second meadow, I realized I was looking down at the headwaters of the South Fork Kern River. Neat.

I took a break at Cottonwood Pass, and I saw a couple of hikers, the first people I saw on trail today.

I continued on, and took another short break near Chicken Spring Lake. The trail doesn’t really go near the lake, so I didn’t swim in this one.

The next few miles of trail were really slow. There was almost no elevation gain, but the trail itself was super soft sand. Ugh.

I remember hiking this part Southbound in October 2015, trying to outrun a snowstorm, and it really slowed us down then too.
The boundary to enter Sequoia National Park was a nice landmark for a snack break. I think the sign is wrong, it should say PCT North.

And now I was in a new river drainage, the main Kern River.

The trails are really well marked in this section. Sequoia National Park is the southernmost NP on the PCT, they set the bar high for the rest of the parks.

Huge PCT marker.

I hiked until 6:30pm, looking for water. I didn’t find any and set up camp anyway, I’ll just have to wait until I get to Rock Creek tomorrow morning.

Wednesday July 29, 5.9mi/9.5km

Horse Creek Pass (189.1/10,680ft) to Twin Lakes Trailhead (195.0/7160ft) (CA)

I left camp at 6am, figuring it would take me over 3 hours to get to the Trailhead and finish. Within 5 minutes I had to put on microspikes to traverse a long snowfield.

Snow walking is fun and easy, but it soon ended and I continued down the canyon on easy shale rocks.

The sun was rising higher, but I was in the shade all morning, it’s a deep canyon.

A thousand feet down from the pass, and I saw trees!

After this point, I was able to follow a light use trail.

Once I got down to 8000ft, I passed a string of Beaver ponds. Apparently they were introduced to the eastern Sierra.

And where there’s water, there’s thick undergrowth. I was happy to have a good trail to follow.

More Beaver ponds!

A mile before I left the woods, I saw the back of this sign. Apparently I had been in the Hoover Wilderness.

I could see Mono Resort in the distance, it’s an RV campground at the head of the lake.

And just like that, the hike was done and I was back in civilization.

I spent about 45 minutes trying to hitchhike pickup trucks, but had no luck. So I started walking the 13 miles down to Bridgeport, where I would get a bus at 4pm. After a mile of walking, a trail runner I saw this morning stopped and gave me a ride! It was fun to be in the back of a pickup truck, and I had my own fresh air. 15 minutes later, I was in the tiny town of Bridgeport.

The most important tasks came first.

And then first lunch was a chicken burger, fries, lemonade tea, and milkshake.

Second lunch was at 2pm, with a burrito, pizza, and watermelon. I felt kinda ill after that so I didn’t get a photo. I ride the empty bus to Lone Pine, about 2.5 hours south.

I grabbed dinner at the Whitney Diner, and while I was looking at the menu, a server asked me if I liked salmon. Of course, it’s a food group! He had made one by accident, and I could have it for half price!

After that deliciousness, I was ready for food shopping. It’s a tiny grocery mart, but had 90% of what I usually buy, and I improvised the tortillas and Nutella.

I walked back to the hotel room, showered, and fell asleep to Archer reruns. Perfect day!

Tuesday July 28, 12.6mi/20.3km

Lee Vining Creek (176.5/10,080ft) to Horse Creek Pass (189.1/10,680ft) (CA)

I knew today would be a ton of elevation change, so I have myself extra time and started at 6:30am. Sunrise on the mountains!

Less than an hour later, I was on Conness Pass. I think that is Greenstone Lake on the right.

The view of pointy North Peak was impressive, and I had a preview of the route, the green ramps to the right.

The descent off the pass was very exact, if I didn’t follow the instructions I would be stuck looking over a cliff. This photo is looking back what I came down, the shaded gully in the left-center.

I could see Cascade Lake just ahead, and my climb up to Sky Pilot Col, the low point just right of the center mountain.

Cascade Lake was very reflective in the morning light.

The climb up to Sky Pilot Col is interesting. The first half is on a trail, which ends at Secret Lake.

The next part ascended the talus field behind the lake. The final part is “a short but steep scree slope that most hikers will find offensive”, according to the guidebook author.

Sky Pilot Col is named for this blue-ish flower that blankets the pass, and only grows at high elevations. I think this is it.

I arrived at the top of the pass sweaty, and it wasn’t hot out. Maybe the scree scamper can be a new fitness fad! The view back to the Saddlebag Lake, Cascade Lake, and Steelhead Lake was cool.

And the view ahead was worrisome, seeing all that talus!

Fortunately, about a third of the descent was on snow, which was alot of fun.

But eventually the snowfield ended, and there was SO MUCH talus.

I was so happy to arrive at Shepherd Lake, where the talus finally ended.

From there, it was a nice easy two mile jaunt downhill thru open forest, all the way down to Virginia Canyon.

I saw a rare flower, the Mariposa Lily.

I had a long lunch in the canyon, swimming in the river and eating most of my remaining food. The climb up out of the canyon want by quickly, as I was endlessly entertained by the granite peeling off (“exfoliating”).

At the top of the 1400ft climb was Soldier Lake, the last lake on SHR. So of course one last swim.

The climb up to Stanton Pass was easy at first, and I had a close view of pointy, red Virginia Peak.

Up at almost 11,000ft/3300m, there was still snow.

The final bit of climbing to the pass was confusing, as there were three notches in the ridge that all looked like “the” pass. Eventually I got over to the left notch, the correct one that allows a safe descent. I earned these views!

Looking down into Spiller Valley:

The descent was steeeep. The “class 2-3” descent involved many 5th class moves, which was very slow.

An hour later, I had dropped 300 feet and was now in easy meadows! The final pass of the SHR, Horse Creek Pass, is in the distance.

I got to Horse Creek Pass at 5:30pm and made camp.

And I made a fun dinner, my last one on the SHR.

I didn’t cover much distance today, but the 5344ft/1600m of elevation gain was tiring!

Monday July 27, 17.6mi/28.3km

Rafferty Creek (162.3/9510ft) to Lee Vining Creek (176.5/10,080ft) (CA) + 3.4mi for Tuolumne

I was moving down the trail at 7am, excited for some town food at the Tuolumne Store. It’s a convenience store with an attached small takeout restaurant, and I was looking forward to a breakfast burrito.

As I got closer, I started seeing signs of civilization.

I joined the PCT for just over a mile. These markers always make me smile.

The meadows were full of hungry deer, already enjoying their breakfast. I had one more mile to mine.

I think one of those mountains is Cathedral Peak.

I arrived to the store at 9am. Not only were they not open, it looked like they hadn’t been open in a few years. What a sad sight.

I didn’t want my extra 1.5 miles to be wasted, so I went Dome-spotting. Lembert Dome:

And Puppy Dome:

No sign of the popular Stately Pleasure Dome, though.

Hungry and disappointed, I walked the 30 minutes back to the trail, and distracted myself with beautiful surroundings.

I got to the Dana Fork River, fearing a raging river. The map suggests an alternate route to avoid this “deep ford”. I stepped across on stones, and it never looked more than ankle deep. Maybe in early season?

A minute later, I crossed the only pavement on the entire SHR, the Tioga Pass Road/Hwy 120.

The good trail continued, uphill towards Gaylor Peak (right).

After achieving timberline elevation, the trail faded and I had a sublime xc stroll.

I passed Lower Gaylor Lake, forgetting about swimming since it was getting windy.

I walked along Upper Gaylor Lake for a bit, and because of the wind there were no bugs.

I climbed up, leaving the lakes behind. At the top of the ridge, at 10,800ft/3300m, there were some old mining buildings!

I went inside the “doorway”, and it looked pretty solidly built.

There were other smaller buildings as well.

And even an old mine shaft. It was terrifyingly deep.

I continued on across the ridge, noticing that the geology of this side (eastern) of the Sierras is very different. No more granite, mostly shales I think.

I came across a hidden valley with a little snowmelt stream, what a cool surprise. Definitely not on my map!

An hour later, I dropped down from the ridge to Spuller Lake.

It smelled weird, so I kept going. The next trio of lakes looked much nicer! Green Treble Lake, unknown, Maul Lake:

After a nice swim in Maul Lake, I headed down to the valley to camp in the trees.

The tallest point on the left is Mount Conness, tomorrow morning I climb the pass on the right.

Sunday July 26, 16.7mi/26.9km

Meadow under Peak 11210 (146.3/10,400ft) to Rafferty Creek (162.3/9510ft) (CA) + 0.7mi to lake

It was a cold morning, only 45F/7C on my thermometer. I was able to move quickly thru easy terrain and stay warm.

This tree seemed out of place.

And then after only twenty minutes, I was on a trail!

It switchbacked all the way down to the Lyell Fork Merced River, which I had to ford. Brrr.

Once across the river, I could look back and see where the trail came down. How fortunate to have that ramp, everything else was cliffs.

The scenery started changing to typical Yosemite granite slabs.

And typical Yosemite trail construction.

I was down low all day, it was a nice change to be in a forest surrounded by green.

I cruised along all morning on easy trails, it was nice not having to focus on navigation.

Just before I dropped down into another river valley, there was a viewpoint, I could see half dome!

When I got down to the river (Lewis Creek), there was a trail junction. I forgot about the Yosemite style trail signs, they must be so hard to make.

I walked upstream along Lewis Creek for an hour, by now it was late morning and hot. The mist from all the various waterfalls felt nice.

And the occasional shady cliff helped too.

It was a pleasant hike, and before I knew it, I had climbed 1000ft/300m and had left the river. I was now up in the meadows.

I stopped for lunch next to a little creek.

After lunch my objective was Vogelsang Pass, an easy 700ft climb on a nice trail.

The view from the pass looking back. Gallison Lake is on the left, Bernice Lake on the right.

Gallison Lake, with the trail’s stone steps in front.

Up ahead was Vogelsang Lake, which looked good for swimming.

Yup, it was good for swimming.

The trail was very easy to follow in this area.

The outlet end of the lake had a neat view. Just the tip of Half Dome is visible.

A mile later, I had an unwelcome surprise of civilization in the middle of the wilderness.

Vogelsang Camp looked mostly abandoned, probably not used in a couple years. I moved on thru the labyrinth of trails in the camp, and came out the other side at the coolest square cairn.

I saw a sign for Booth Lake! I had to go see my namesake body of water.

Only a half mile off my route, it was worth it.

Swim #2, and with a sandy beach!

Thunderstorms were forming as usual, so I got back on the main trail. It descended slowly thru open meadows down to Tuolumne valley.

I had to stop and camp early, as camping is not allowed within 4 miles of Tuolumne Meadows. So I hit the 4mi boundary and found a spot. It was only 4:30pm, so I had plenty of time to watch the marmots nearby.

I read a book for a few hours, and it rained lightly outside for a little while. Nice relaxing day.

Saturday July 25, 8.7mi/14.0km

Lake Catherine (137.6/11,040ft) to Meadow under Peak 11210 (146.3/10,400ft) (CA)

Expecting a puzzle of slabs and cliffs, I started early at 7am. The sun was already up over the mountains.

The terrain was very complex, and I had to constantly keep checking my guidebook and compass to make sure I wasn’t heading for a dead-end.

After 45 minutes, I made it down the first 400feet of elevation, and I could see my objective in the distance, the Twin Lakes.

The next part of the descent was a little more obvious, which was a grassy ledge traverse.

This connected to a grassy gully, the difficulty being choosing the correct gully.
There was some scouting and trial-and-error involved there.

Finally, I arrived at the promised grove of trees, and had a nice break and 2nd breakfast. It was 8:30am and I had covered a mile.

After the break, I went to the cliff edge to scout the upcoming terrain. Good views!

The next mile to Lower Twin Lake proved to be simpler navigation, and I made it over there by 10am.

The route crosses the outlet of the lake, or rather the foot of the lake itself.

It wasn’t too deep.

After the crossing, I had a good view back to the terrain that I had descended this morning. It looked so improbable.

I hiked on up to Upper Twin Lake, which had a cool tiny island. The trees looked like bonsai trees.

As I traversed around a ridge, paying close attention to the navigation, I noticed some of the rocks had little fossils in them!

The next objective was to descend to Bench Canyon. I stopped for lunch first, in case there were mosquitoes down in the lush valley.

The descent was fun, it was mostly on grass and easy smooth slabs.

Walking thru Bench Canyon was quite nice, it was very verdant, and no bugs at all.

It also has nice walking with lots of little rock slab waterfalls.

The walking was easy and straightforward, all the way up to Blue Lake.

It seemed Blue Lake was aptly named.

Upper Blue Lake was less windy, so I decided to go for a swim.

It even had a little sandy beach!

Yes, my feet are much whiter than my legs.

The climb up to Blue Lake pass was simple, and mostly on grassy ramps and some talus.

The view behind me, to the Blue Lakes.

And the view ahead, and down into Yosemite National Park!

I made it down to that small tarn 30 minutes later, and the usual monsoonal weather pattern was happening.

I had flat walking for two miles across easy terrain, aiming for a pointy peak (“Peak 11210”).

I made it down into a grove of trees by 4:30pm, and quickly setup my tent before the rain started. The storm raged for an hour, then the blue skies came back!

Tomorrow I should be able to cover much more distance, since most of the day will be on trails, which I’m looking forward to.

Friday July 24, 10.7mi/17.2km

Nancy Pass (126.9/10,240ft) to Lake Catherine (137.6/11,040ft) (CA)

The morning view from my tent was one of the best ever.

I easily found a way down from Nancy Pass and ambled across a nice meadow, and fortunately it was still too cold for the mosquitoes.

The first lake was Minaret Lake, and it was quite hidden on all sides by mountains.

I walked along the southern shore, following a rough use trail.

There was a group of three people sledding down a snowfield on their foam sleeping pads. It was pretty entertaining to see!

By the time I walked to the other end of the lake, I had a cool view of this pointy peak.

And also of the entire Minaret Lake.

I climbed up to an unnamed pass to get to the next lake, Cecile Lake. There was one short technical “class 3” section, climbing up thru a rocky slot.

Lake Cecile was very deep.

It took me a while to find a spot where I could access the lake to swim.

Feeling refreshed, I tackled the steep descent down to Iceberg Lake. Lots of loose scree.

I made it down to the lake easier than I thought, halfway down I found an old use trail. The view from the other end of the lake, looking at the talus/scree field I had just descended.

And then I was on a real, maintained trail! Only for a half mile, but it was exciting.

I had a long gradual climb up to Whitebark Pass, thru huge alpine meadows. It reminded me of the North Cascades.

I stopped for lunch at the top of the meadows, and had a great view of Mount Ritter (left) and Banner Peak (right).

I continued my trek up to the pass, traversing the Nydiver Lakes along the way.

Finally, I reached Whitebark Pass, it was easy, just a long slow hike up. It had a unique view down to Garnet Lake, which I’ve seen from another side on the JMT.

With thunderclouds forming, I quickly scurried over to the next unnamed pass a mile away. It had a view down to Thousand Island Lake, which I’ve also seen the other side from the PCT/JMT. The route goes down the strip of land (isthmus) on the left side.

Walking the isthmus was pretty great, as far as isthmus walking goes.

Before I left the lake I took one last photo, it shows all the little islands.

Then, up to Glacier Lake Pass! I hiked along the Middle Fork San Joaquin for a mile to it’s headwaters.

At the very top, there was even some snow left.

The view from the top of Glacier Lake Pass is just rocks and Lake Catherine.

I had a quick descent to the lake, since it’s only 100 feet. I did spy one little spot of greenery, a determined little patch of flowers up here at over 11,000 feet.

The traverse around the lake wasn’t quick. Thanks, talus.

It was almost 6pm so I was looking for a campsite, but it was talus everywhere.

I searched around for 10 minutes, and what a great surprise, someone had cleared out a little tent spot! It’s like Christmas!

So I made camp by the outlet of Lake Catherine.

As I was finishing dinner, a group of three people came by. I was very surprised, since this spot is 3-4 hours from a trail in either direction. I met Cypress, Blanc, and (?) who are out here for two weeks doing a backcountry route thru the northern Sierras.

They said it took them over 3 hours to navigate up here from Twin Lakes (only 2 miles away) due to the maze of slabs and cliffs. Hmmm… tomorrow’s puzzle!