|Date: 8/26/2009 to 8/28/09|
Location: Sequoia National Park - Wolverton to Pear Lake via Lakes Trail, then cross-country to Moose Lake (see map).
Summary: I went on a solo backpacking trip in Sequoia National Park. On Day #1 (8/26/09) I hiked from the Wolverton trailhead to Pear Lake and stayed the night. On Day #2 I hiked cross-country to Moose Lake and stayed the night. On Day #3 (8/27/09) I hiked cross-country from Moose Lake back to Pear Lake where I took the trail all of the way back to the Wolverton trailhead.
On August 26th I went on a 3 day solo backpacking trip in Sequoia National Park. By the time I was done I had walked over 18 miles and ascended 4,772 feet. My plan was to hike into Pear Lake, stay the night, and the next day go cross country to Moose Lake. On the third day I hiked all of the way back to my starting point at the trail head at Wolverton.
Pear Lake is a popular destination for day hikers and backpackers, and is reached by taking the “Lakes Trail” which passes by five beautiful subalpine lakes (hence the name). The trail also goes past the top of a huge granite spire called the Watchtower. It took most of the day for me to walk the 6.2 miles to Pear Lake. It is a breathtakingly beautiful lake enclosed on three sides by granite walls. Technically, it is a tarn which is a type of lake carved by a glacier. The trail ends at Pear Lake and to get to Moose lake I needed to travel cross country. It was only 2.5 miles to Moose from Pear, but it took me all day to get there because I had to climb to 11,000 foot elevation. I shared Pear Lake with 7 or 8 other people. But once I started out on my cross country trek to Moose, I never saw another human being until I was returning home. When I arrived at Moose Lake I had it entirely to myself. I experienced complete and utter solitude during this time. It was strange being so entirely alone and it made me focus on the important tasks of navigation and survival. It was an interesting experience.
The landscape is very different between Pear and Moose Lakes. At Pear there are still a few trees (it’s subalpine) and the granite is large and polished by an ancient glacier. The lake is nestled between walls that tower around it, and it felt enclosed and tranquil. As I climbed out of the Pear Lake basin and gained altitude, the granite become increasingly more ice-shattered. Gone were the large masses of smooth rock and in its place were small blocks and sheets. There were no trees, only low growing shrubs and even they gave way, as I climbed higher, to small plants only a few inches tall that grew between the rocks. Above 10,000 feet the land becomes stark and desolate. It has a different type of beauty. The spaces are very open and the vistas are expansive. It felt as if I was walking on the rooftop of the Sierras or in some alien land.
After climbing to 11,000 feet I dropped over a crest into Moose Lake which is at 10,500 feet. It is a true alpine lake with vast open views of the Great Western Divide. It was spectacular! I arrived there with enough time to setup my camp, eat my dinner and then start taking pictures of the sunset. That night, around 2 or 3 am the wind picked up. Between the flapping tent and the lapping waves of the lake, I didn’t get much sleep. At one point I got out of my tent to relieve myself and was absolutely amazed by how bright the star filled sky was. I’ve seen the night sky plenty of times while visiting the mountains, but at this altitude and distance from civilization it was spectacular. And to punctuate the point, I saw a meteor that streaked across a third of the sky before I got back into my tent.
On the morning of the third day I left Moose Lake and climbed back up to 11,000 feet. I took a different route and saw even more of the harsh and rugged peaks of the Great Western Divide. I needed to make good time to get back to the trailhead before it got dark. Stopping and taking pictures slows me down considerably so I stuffed my camera in my pack and didn’t pull it out again until I got back to my vehicle. It was a long day of hiking which started in a treeless landscaped with ubiquitous granite and ended in a deep lush pine and redwood forest.
For really hardcore backpackers my hike was nothing more than a quick excursion into the high Sierras. But for me, it was an epic adventure. I had never been to a place quite like this before and I had never done an overnight trip alone. The combination of intense effort, self-reliance and incredible beauty was rewarding beyond what my words can convey. The memories and photos that I brought back are very gratifying.
My first solo backpacking trip was an interesting experience on a personal level. I was surrounded by awesome beauty, but because I was by myself, my attention was usually focused on navigation and staying safe. I enjoyed the vistas, but never really just sat and soaked it all in. I always had some practical matter of survival in the forefront of my thoughts that I was dealing with. As I traveled back to Pear Lake I ran across a party of five or so guys who were on their way to Moose Lake. They were the first people I had seen in over 24 hours. We stopped and talked for a short time, and I experienced an odd feeling. It was good to see a fellow human being. It brought feelings of comfort, but I also felt like my solitude had ended. One of the guys said something like, "Wait until you get back to Fresno and the rat-race. You'll wish you were back here." In some way he was right. Luckily, however, I was able to carry back with me a small bit of the solitude and serenity that I had found during this journey. My photos help remind me of those feelings.
To see photos from my trip visit these pages.
My SmugMug photo gallery.
The things I saw covered such vast spaces that I used a technique where I took serial overlapping pictures in order to capture the vistas. Once I got home I stitched these photos together using a (free) program called Hugin. The results are immersive wide-angle panoramas. Please follow this link to Panoramio.com to see my panoramic photos of this trip. Remember to click on the photo to see the hi-resolution version. http://www.panoramio.com/user/3629128/tags/Sequoia%20National%20Park