Sequoia National Park: Big Meadow Winter Trailhead to Jennie and Weaver Lakes Loop Trail
This was my first backpacking trip so used extra caution on most aspects of the trip; over-prepared, kept risk taking on the trail to a minimum (only crossing rivers using fallen trees when totally necessary) etc... I completed it in 2.5 days over Memorial Weekend. As a result of COVID there was an additional 5 miles each way of unexpected paved-road hiking to the trip due to road closures, though this is avoidable in normal times by parking at Fox Meadow. I saw a total of six groups the entire trip so it was surprisingly empty. Aside from the distance, the trail isn't too difficult as long as you're in decent shape. Wasn't a ton of animals but the flora and general scenery is epic.
Elevation Max: 9,475 ft
Elevation Gain/Loss: +4924/-4,922
Start Location: Big Meadow Winter Trailhead
Overall Description: Two alpine lake loop with epic scenery and lots of fun river crossings along the way. Jennie Lake is at 9,024 ft elevation and Weaver Lake is at 8,712. Great beginner solo backpacking trail for me combining most aspects of backpacking but not requiring expert level skills in any of them.
DAY 1: approx. 10 miles
Day 2: approx. 10 miles
Day 3: approx. 6 miles
This was most of my loadout although clothes and other last minute items were added. At the two lakes these were the campsite maps. Lastly, you might recognize my Trip Timeline from the May 9th-15th issue of The Economist but in retrospect I should put a little more time in formalizing/standarizing my Plan.
The Road to Jennie Lake 10 miles
The real start of the trail begins with a bridge that looks like it belongs in your computer desktop's screensaver cycle.
I believe this is part of the montrane part of the forest, the slope above the foothills and below the alpine of the mountain, with enough mild climate which allows for denser vegetation.
Thought these trees were gnarly looking. While these are still standing, there were a surprising number of dead trees along the way, curious what that's all about and it didn't look like clean enough cuts for logging companies.
This is all Jennie Lake. Not sure if it was the long anticipation of seeing this mirage of a Lake in the middle of nowhere or if it was in fact wildly picturesque but I enjoyed it just the same. Rather than using the lake for easy water supply in the morning, I had a nice long walk out to the snow-covered mountain on the south side of the lake to take fresh water from the rivers flowing down the side of the small mountain; most likely ice melt.
Things that I'll remember for next time: can't see it in the picture but need to remember not to set up my tent directly next to a tree that looks like its been dead for a few decades already. I noticed it immediately after setting up the tent and didnt feel like changing location at that point. oops.
The road to Weaver Lake 10 miles
It was a long day and it didnt help that I got a late start and then got into a great conversation about gear with three guys from Cal Fire before leaving Jennie (Their plan was to stick around and fish all day--i'm told the lake is STOCKED with trout. I got their names so I'll have to follow up and see how the fishing was). The picture of the fire-ring and sticks is of a campsite I came upon and wished I could take but it was too early in the morning at that point to think about settling down for the day.
I finally arrived at Weaver Lake which I am told is a common dayhiking trail. There were 3 other groups that night so the crowds must be coming later in the year.
I bought a ton of shit before this trip and was feeling too cheap a) to buy real rope and b) buy a bear box. While it was probably lazy of me, I had a ton of fun making contraptions both nights hanging my food outside the reach of Yogi the Bear with the only item I did bring...4 extra neon yellow shoelaces that came with a pair of Banana Republic shoes I recently bought (rookie move). Worked out great though.
Haven't figured this part out yet but both mornings I woke up with a swollen face. This is not how I normally look! Jury is still out on the cause for this but not a great thing to not understand for future trips.
The road Home 6 miles
One last snap I thought was cool on the way from Weaver to the car.
I walked through a giant corridor of the first picture and it smelled like a Yankee Candle store. After using this new app I downloaded which identifies all kinds of nature's creatures (Seek), I saw that it actually blooms into the second picture, which will be really sweet to see when that happens. ('Sheep Laurel-Kalmia angustifolia' in case you wanted to look it up)
This one I thought was really cool, though the picture didnt come out well becuase I only noticed it once I was on the other side of the river. BUT on the bank of a raging river where there was no other vegetation at all, a bunch of these cool little guys were being looted by a bunch of bees. Fun fact: after looking them up, the small bulbs housed underground were eaten by Native Americans. Could have been a good little snack had I known this! (Leichtlin's mariposa lily)
I picked up these two rocks. In a sea of pine needles certain parts of the trail had beds of whatever quartz type rock this is. Haven't been able to find exactly what type of rock this is so if you know shout it out.
Post Mortem of first trip (for my records, hopefully these get smaller over time)
- Planning out the gear while time consuming, was actually pretty straight forward (with a bit of outside counsel @MikeJones) and now that I have a list I can refer back to what I actually needed (95% of my bag) and what I could do without (5%). Goal would obviously be to get to 100% efficiency; but good start.
- Need to work on my fire and navigation skills. Waterlogged sticks make starting a fire harder than it needs to be and having to pull out the gps every couple minutes when the trail gets less defined takes away from the disconnected intention of the trip.
- Woke up both mornings with a swollen face. Nothing like that has ever happened before, not allergic to anything so super weird so will be keeping an eye on this for next trip.
- Mountain House dehydrated food is acceptable for a few meals but string them together 3 times a day for multiple days, and that just takes the enjoyment out of the trip. Need to find better ways to mix it up.
- The Alltrails app logged 30 miles which I know is too long after checking in a couple spots when I got back. It didn't matter this trip because I didnt deviate from the routes that I pre-planned for each day so was able to forget about all that and enjoy the journey. But in future trips if I were to get into trouble and have to suddenly change plans for whatever reason, I'd need accurate GPS distancing with me for re-calculating routes. This planning is also only going to get better when I start paying attention to accurate data on how fast I'm able to travel, over what terrain, for what distance. So starting to see the need for a good GPS device.
- I liked having something to do on the trail. That something this time was photography. Without a purpose it turns into a little bit of work sometimes which takes away from the enjoyment of being out there. Could be some other "things to do"...
- Find a way to stretch every morning! Tight knee third day because I was lazy and didnt take the time to get limber before lugging 35lbs a bunch of miles.
- Towards the end started using a walking stick and that really seemed to help. Considering a walking pole.
- Really enjoyed the aspect of problem solving (river crossings, bear bag setting without a rope in the gear bag :) ), incredible scenery and honestly the peacefulness of walking through it all knowing theres not another human being in a couple mile radius. I stopped and took pictures when I felt like it and at one point video'ed a small ant carrying another ant 4x its size across the trail for like 15 mins. Will going with someone else completely change the feel and freedom of the trip??
- -To buy for the quiver/bring for next time: spork, home scale, bring more toilet paper, full med kit, rope, big knife, maybe walking pole, camera charger, bear box