Matt's Corner

Matt on Hiking in Sequoia

Day 1

I rushed home to finalize my preparations: underwear (check), socks (check), t-shirt (check), a few energy bars (check), sleeping bag (check)….I was all about the bare minimum. (Note to self: next time bring a pillow…) I met my compadres at the Shackelford home; we loaded up and headed out, reaching our hotel destination at three rivers later that night, determined catch as much sleep as possible.

Day 2

We scarfed down the complimentary breakfast of waffles and hard boiled eggs like we weren’t going to see another hot plate for two days… After driving up the mountain to the trailhead at Lodgepole, filling our water jugs and concluding last minute phone calls to family, we were officially off. We set out farther into the wilderness at an incredible pace; those eerie feelings of isolation slowly increasing. Andrew only allowed us two stops along the way, just enough time to filter the creek water and replenish our water jugs. It was only the last mile before Twin Lakes (our destination for the day) that presented a challenge, where the elevation change went from about 7000 feet to 9000. But the difficulty of that last mile made the arrival at our camp all the sweeter… We quickly found a fantastic campsite and made camp for the evening. It must have been around 3pm because most of the gang then stripped down to their bathing suits and took to the lake to wash the day’s dust off our skin; refreshing! The valley itself was absolutely stunning. The granite cliffs off to one side of the lake caught the falling sun with brilliance and the water itself was crystal clear. Dinner that night was full of laughs as Rod, Tony and John had hauled 7lbs of pre-cooked frozen orange chicken from Pick-Up-Sticks up the mountain that day. (Not camping food in my book, but it was delicious.) The highlight of the night had to be Preston exclaiming that his chicken was still frozen; as I looked at the piece he was pushing around his bowl I replied “its not cooked because that’s not chicken, that’s a water chestnut.” To which the entire camp burst out in laughter…There’s a first time for everything, right Preston? J

Day 3

I must have looked like death this morning because everyone stared at me with a look of horror or laughter. It was one of those nights where you wish morning would just come so you could get out of your tent and do something. I think I got about an hour of sleep total. I place blame on (in this order): the altitude, Reid’s whooping cough and the invisible bear trotting through our campground. Getting moving however, seemed to be the cure. I took up a fishing pole and headed to the lake (15 ft from camp) and after trying my casts in different locations, I stumbled upon the gold mine which Tony Miller appropriately named “Mueller’s Reef.” I caught 12 fish in about 20 minutes which, for me, is absolutely incredible. I guess fishing can actually be fun… Unfortunately, it was time to break camp and head to our next destination. While Twin Lakes was totally awesome, it’s one downside was that it was against the rules to have a campfire. However, Ranger Lake, three miles out, did allow campfires. Three miles sounded totally doable (considering we hiked seven the first day), but little did we know that the three miles included a one mile span of hiking switchbacks from 9100ft to 10400ft, then another 2 miles almost straight down into Ranger Lake. We set off and made great time. The views from the top of Sillman Pass were absolutely breathtaking. The tops of the mighty sierras stretched as far as the eye could see, gigantic horns piercing the clear blue sky. We made even better time heading down into Ranger Lake and got to our camp at around 4 in the afternoon. It was when we got into the valley that I began to notice some odd things about Ranger Lake. The first lake was a clear contrast to this one. While Twin Lakes was a cacophony of bird chirps and other noises one would expect to hear in the wild, the path skirting the border of Ranger was oddly devoid of any animal noise. Furthering my uneasiness regarding this lake was the fact that in my 2 hour hike around the lake I couldn’t find any game trails, scat, or any other sign of animal life. That, and when camp was finally set up and the boys decided to go fishing they couldn’t catch anything… the lake was seemingly dead as well. We didn’t even see a single fish jump that night, or the next morning. However, that night the campfire was incredibly comforting and as we sat around and enjoyed each others company and shared our cases of the “altitoodies.” We will all remember the kung-pow chicken from that night, as it was some of the most revolting food I have forced down my throat (Which is saying a lot because those who know me, know that I really will eat just about anything). As the fire blazed on, one by one of the campers sauntered off to bed. I slept like a rock that night, partly due to Reid’s alleviating cough and partly because of my 12 inch Rambo knife snuggled nicely under my makeshift pillow of the shorts and whatever other clothes I wasn’t wearing to keep me warm.

Day 4

We had determined the previous night that Ranger Lake, although campfire friendly, was in almost every other way an utter disappointment. The resulting decision was to head back a day early. It ended up being more of a blitz back to the cars; up and down Sillman pass, a brief respite at Twin Lakes to recharge the batteries, then onwards and downwards to the end of the trail. After arriving at Lodgepole near 3pm we soon realized the holiday traffic would have been absolutely unbearable had we left the next day. There was a constant line of vehicles coming up the mountain only to be turned away at the entrance to the already packed campsite. Our last stop was at the beloved In N Out in Visalia, where we had to give them our order twice and they still got it wrong…

Hiking in the Sequoia’s was an incredible experience; one I won’t soon forget! Many thanks go out to Rod, Tony and John for letting me tag along; it was a blast!

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