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SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 11:36 am
by Fallujah04
Hey everyone, my wife and I are planning an 8 day hike in the SEKI area in late July and I’m looking for some advice. A general overview of what I have planned is:

Wolverton to Ranger Lake to Roaring River to Colby Lake to Kern Hot Springs to Moraine Lake to Big Arroyo to Hamilton Lake and finish back at Wolverton. Is this feasible in the Sierra Nevada’s? We can spend a few extra days on the trail if needed. Also, I was thinking about heading south to Mineral King after reaching Bearpaw Meadow (I have family that can pick us up from anywhere on the western side). Would it be worth it or is the HST from Bearpaw to Wolverton better? My wife likes meadows and trees more so than granite or mountain tops, so a route that goes through Primarily beautiful meadows is my main objective.

Some background info. We live in Georgia and hike portions of the Appalachian Trail on a regular basis, however the elevation is much lower than the Sierra’s and the longest we've stayed out is 3 days. We are both physically fit. Mountain bike, run..etc. I’m 33 and she’s 26. I served in the Marines as a Scout Sniper lugging around 100+ lbs of weight for days, so I’m conscious about pack weight (ounces lead to pounds). I’m also adept at land nav, however I think I want to stay on trails for this trip. I've climbed Mt. Fuji without a problem but that was many years ago. My wife is an officer in the Army and can carry a 55 lb pack without a problem, but she’s never hiked above 4k feet. I should note that I plan on keeping our packs under 50 lbs for this trip.

Lastly, I’m terrified of lightning and tried to plan our route to go over passes in the morning before afternoon clouds build up. I would like to camp at Colby Lake and Hamilton Lake, but they look risky in the event of a thunderstorm. Should I be legitimately concerned or are these spots as safe as anywhere else on the trail?? Thanks in advance!

Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 12:12 pm
by maverick

Welcome to HST! Thanks for supplying some info about your experience. Please read
this post that we request new folks asking for trip advice to read. This info allows us to
recommend according to your level of experience, instead of people here starting to
recommend options that may be outside of your comfort/experience level: ... f=1&t=4205" onclick=";return false;
Semper Fi

Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 12:21 pm
by AlmostThere
Well, let's see. Can you do the miles and the elevation gain?

If you are listing your planned camping spots, your first day is going to be really difficult.

After you have answered the questions in the FAQ I can suggest some things. First suggestion will be to plan something more relaxed. From Wolverton to Ranger Lake is a tough slog with a pack that heavy. From Ranger Lake to Roaring River was my least favorite part of a trip I took last year - the trails through Jennie Lake Wilderness (that corner of it) travel in low, hot, burned out areas that were dusty, hot and miserable in the afternoon. And it is a long day, too many miles in sand.

Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:09 pm
by Fallujah04
Oops. My apologies :/. Here is the additional info:
What level of backpacking experience do you have? Level 3 or 4. I haven't done very much x-country travel in regards to recreation, but I have hiked many miles x-country leading my sniper team in combat operations. I've been on many backpacking trips.

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with? Snow travel/Glacier crossings. I have very little experience in the snow and no experience with glaciers.

What is your main interest? I enjoy all of these, but I love beautiful lakes and big mountain scenery most.
- Lakes
- Forests
- Big Mountain scenery
- Photography
- Fishing
- Climbing

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead? 8 days - 7 nights
How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers? 10-15 miles/day with possible layover.
Do you have a route logistics preference: loop, out and back, point to point (which
may require 2 vehicles or hitchhiking)? My family is dropping us off and picking us up. Loop route preferred.
Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in(Yosemite, SEKI
western sierra start or eastern start ect.)? I would like to hike the area between Bearpaw Meadow and Precipice Lake, Moraine Lake, and the Whaleback.
Will you be hiking with a dog? No.

Thanks for advice, AlmostThere. I was thinking about camping at Twin Lakes the first day, but might try to push over the pass if the weather is nice. We hike about 16 miles/day on the Georgia section of the Appalachian trail but I'm not sure what that will equal in the high elevation of the Sierra's. I know there is less oxygen up there. We can take up to 10 days for the hike, so we can shorten the distance between campsites. For instance, From Colby Lake we can camp at Gallats Lake or Junction Meadow, then hit Kern Hot Springs the next day.

Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:10 pm
by maverick
Also, Colby nor Hamilton is any more safer or dangerous than a majority of your High
Sierra locations. Learn some of the basic lightning safety facts and reduce your
chances of getting hit: ... 095#p58095" onclick=";return false;

Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:12 pm
by RoguePhotonic
I assume you mean Lodgepole to Ranger Lake as you would need to hike to Lodgepole to begin towards Silliman Pass and Ranger Lake.

The number of days is fine and if you have the ability to do more then you should. The Sierra is a special place. An extra day to hike up Deadman Canyon and see Ranger Meadow is worth it.

You will start with longer days then you will end with other than if you plan to hike from Hamilton Lake out. If your wife likes meadows you might want to stay at Sky Parlor Meadow instead of Moraine Lake as it's a nicer spot.

As for lightning unless you have a storm wave move through most days you will probably not have any thunderstorms. Even if you do I wouldn't be afraid at either Hamilton or Colby Lake as they both have plenty of trees for lightning to strike before you.

Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:29 pm
by Mike M.

If I were you, I would add at least three or four more days to my schedule. Why force-march through this beautiful country when you can stop and smell the roses? For instance, you plan to hike from Colby Lake to Kern Hot Springs in a day. That's almost 20 miles, with an elevation loss of more than 4,000 feet. If your objective is to spend time in forests and meadows, you would be hurrying past the high meadows on the south side of Colby Pass with incredible views of the Kaweahs; hurrying through the meadows of Gallats Lake; hurrying past the beautiful tiger lillies and other bulbs and tubers that flourish along the Kern-Kaweah; and so on.

Try to spend a night near Big Wet Meadow in Cloud Canyon -- there are exquisite views of the Whaleback from there and the meadow is gorgeous (but thick with mosquitoes in early season.) A side trip to upper Cloud Canyon would be worth the effort.

If you like to fish, you might want to plan for a zero day near the hot springs.

I don't see any reason why Colby Lake or Hamilton Lake would pose a higher-than-normal risk of lightning strikes.

I have not done the hike from Wolverton to Ranger Lake, so can't comment. Your itinerary out from the hot springs sounds more reasonable in terms of hours on feet than the first part of your trip.


Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:40 pm
by Tom_H
I'm going to suggest a different location in the Sierra ("Sierra" is already plural, therefore there is no "s" on the end of the word). This area will be far less granite, will have the meadows you seek (the majority will be through meadows-though the wildflowers will be gone by the late date of your trip), and will be at a lower altitude than SEKI-enough to get you above the tree line much of the time, yet with trees at most of the places you will camp. With the fitness level you both have, the altitude on this route may make you feel slightly winded at first, but you are far far less likely to experience any pulmonary edema or acute mountain sickness in contrast with SEKI. At your fitness levels, that probably wouldn't happen anyway, but having never hiked at this altitude, SEKI could surely give you some serious headaches and lung discomfort for a few days.

You would begin at Kennedy Meadows in Emigrant Wilderness, go through Emigrant Meadow, to Dorothy Lake in the northernmost point of Yosemite National Park, then down the West Walker River in Hoover Wilderness, exiting at Leavitt Meadow, just up-river from the US Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center at Pickel Meadows on CA Hwy 108. (Maybe they'd allow you a tour, IF you were interested.)

I am going to draw an online map of this route and send the link to you via PM. The map is going to include some secret locations that many people don't know about. Look for a PM within the next day or so.

By the way, a better place to hike in GA is the Bartram Trail (named after naturalist William Bartram-the east's less known counterpart of John Muir). You see lots of people on the AT, but rarely do you see anyone on the Bartram. If you want, I could try to mark up an online map; maybe I can remember the good camping spots (some are a bit hidden just off-trail). It's been 36 years since I hiked the BT. I am a GA native and used to guide professionally in 6 different states, including GA and CA, and did trips on the Bartram. Keep an eye out for the PM.


PS The Sierra doesn't get a huge number of summer thunderstorms. It does happen occasionally, but it's not like Uncompaghre CO where I used to have thunderstorms every single afternoon.

Update: PM with links has been sent.

Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:42 pm
by DavePloessel
I'll second taking the time to go up deadman canyon to ranger meadow. In a range full of special places, it stands out as truly spectacular (to me at least). If you are going to be out that way, it's well worth the hike.

Re: SEKI hike advice needed.

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:18 pm
by maverick
From Lodgepole you could make Ranger Lake (11.2 miles), if you get an
early start. Make sure to visit Lost Lake, a gorgeous lake, especially near
sunrise. The Sugarloaf section is hot and dust (dry) so try to get as
early of a start as possible to get through this section (Ranger to Roaring
13.6 miles). If you decided to skip Deadman Canyon, or just day hike it
and head up Cloud Canyon keep in mind that July is skeeter month, and
Big Wet Meadow can be absolutely horrible. Another side trip would to be
visit one of the most beautiful swimming holes in the Sierra with outstanding
views, Picket Creek Lake. This can be reached by traversing up towards
the lake from where the creek almost touches the trail, and where it
reads 9.6 on the Tom Harrison’s “Mt. Whitney High Country Trail Map”.
You access the lake from the north not from the east as you approach
the lake. The hike down to the Hot Springs is about 8 miles from Junction
Meadow, it can be quite hot in the Kern Canyon so an early start is
recommended, and not much no see either since your blocked in by the
canyon walls. Sky Parlor can be pretty if you catch the wildflowers,
Moraine Lake is okay. Precipice Lake is quite pretty, as is the Valhalla
area, and the views from the High Sierra Camp. An alternative since you
asked about exiting to Mineral King, and the one I would prefer would
be going to Little Five Lakes, over Black Rock Pass, use the class 2
route from Spring to Columbine Lake and then exit to Mineral King via
Sawtooth Pass.
If you can extend your trip as you mentioned to 10 days than do it, always
good to have a cushion built into a trip, plus if you can why not.
Your wife will love Ranger Meadow, the Gallats area, and possibly Sky Parlor,
but the first two meadows can be outstanding.