Wallace Creek(18.7)-Moraine Lake(38.1)
Campsite Elevation: 9,235ft
Today had two parts to the day, the down, and the up. We were camped at 10,366ft and had a looong gradual downhill for over half the day. First, we followed a trail that followed the Wallace Creek all the way down to Kern Canyon and the Kern River.
If you look at the map of our route, you’ll see a 90 degree turn that heads south down a canyon. That’s the Kern River. It was almost 10mi of walking down the Kern Canyon today. This canyon is unique because it runs very straight for 25mi. That is because it is on the Kern Canyon fault. What is left are 2,000-5,000ft walls on either side of the canyon.
We are pretty happy with our westbound route as we’ve met a lot of HST hikers going the eastbound route, and not enjoying something like 14mi of uphill. Yes, our direction has the haul up through Whitney Portal to start out, but overall it has 2,000ft less in elevation gain overall. The midday event of the day was the Kern River Hot Springs. I’m not a big fan of hot springs and communal bathing, but got my feet in.
It’s a small concrete tub that you plug and it fills so it’s new water for each person. Next to it is a lounging area in the Kern River, so people tend to go back and forth from hot to cold. I know I’m the anomaly here, but when it’s 90 degrees, standing in hot water isn’t at the top of my favorite things to do. Why Not and Rockin’ partook in a more complete soak and enjoyed it. I’m just glad we had it to ourselves!
We had a couple more miles of downhill after the extended lunch at the hot spring. Then the trail turned sharply back north and uphill for about 2,500ft over 5mi.
It was HOT! 93 degrees was what my thermometer read as we did the mostly exposed switchbacks up. It did get cooler once we got higher up and there was a nice breeze and more shade. We walked past Sky Parlor Meadow, and we could see the Kaweah Mtns across the meadow. Tomorrow, we hike over something called Kaweah Gap.
Soon after the meadow, we reached our predetermined destination of Moraine Lake. There is a trail that parallels the High Sierra Trail for a few miles to take hikers to Moraine Lake and we heard it was a must do, so we planned to camp there. When we got there at 5pm, we hiked to the far end to have space from a lot of other campers that had already arrived. Then the most terrifying thing happened! I was hiking in front and before I even saw anything, I heard the very loud, close, and distinct sound of a rattlesnake!
A half second later, I saw it by the trail and it scared me so much that yelled “shit” and leapt off the trail in an attempt to run backwards. Why Not and Rockin’ were right behind me as I unintentionally did a spot on impersonation of a person in a horror movie falling backwards in the woods as someone is chasing them. Not my coolest moment at all. I’ve seen my share of rattlers and this one was angry and big…and since when are there rattlesnakes in the Sierra!? What kind is this thing!? Now I’m super paranoid that they could be anywhere!
After that entertainment to end the day, we found a more remote camping area to ourselves at the end of the lake.
We all agreed that today was pretty uneventful as far as scenery and what we expected from this trail. We saw a handful of other HST hikers going the opposite direction today, and there’s another handful camped here at the lake, but we’ve yet to meet any going our direction. The diversity in all aspects of hikers we’ve met has been great to see. All the hikers are really enjoying it and I’m appreciating some time on a trail, but today was a bit of a letdown. With the name, High Sierra Trail, I expected something higher rather than being in a canyon all day. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the trees and walking by the river, but to be doing that all day on a High Sierra Trail isn’t what I imagined. Tomorrow, we will be in a canyon that we heard is cool and will hike up to a pass, so it may be more eventful.
Some of the people out here are on their first trip and I do see how this could be a cool introduction to the Sierra. This is a very nice lake with a sandy beach around it and sparse trees to camp around it. There’s even been a loon making sounds from time to time. I can imagine how cool it would be to hike up from where we came from yesterday (most do this hike in about 6-8 days and we are doing it in 3.5) and to overlap with the JMT for the first time, and go up Mt Whitney for the grand finale. It is a pretty good trip for those wanting to cut their teeth on the Sierra.
I can say I could get use to this whole camping well before 6pm thing, and I am getting quite spoiled. Tonight, I think I have time to watch two episodes of UnReal, score! I have realized that with the SHR and all the photos of the action and terrain, I’ve posted very few photos of myself. Here’s one from the tent tonight. Again, I’m a darn happy camper:)
Hi Wired(Erin), I’m a friend of Marmot (Lindsay Malone) here in Seattle. I have been following you for a while. I’m headed for the Sierras next month. Only been one other time, 20+ years ago, so I’m stoked!.
My route looks something like this: Onion Valley TH to Kearsarge Pass/lakes; then on the JMT to Kings Kern Divide & Forester Pass/Center basin. Then a day exploring Kern basin. We then head x-country to Milestone basin. Then to Wright Lakes basin. More off trail travel to connect with Shepard pass Trail, then out Symmes Creek drainage.
Wanted to say that I’m an Unreal fan too- do you upload episodes to your phone? Are you on season 1 or 2? Quinn & Rachel are something!
What sleeping bag are you using for this trip? I have a MH 32 degree that I’d like to use as it’s my lightest, but some folks have said I may be cold. Thoughts?
Warmly, Elle (aka Snowdog)
Your route sounds great Elle! Excited for you to set out there. The whole sleeping bag thing is so random out here. The three of us all have 10 degree bags and love them. I’d say most nights it is in the 40s but it can definitely drop to the 30s easily up there and it has been known to randomly snow even. There are ways to get those episodes or any show onto my phone with the interwebs these days. I heard the actress that plays Quinn got nominated for an Emmy, but many are saying it should have been the actress that plays Rachel. They both do a great job for sure and Quinn can be so cutthroat! Hope you have a great trip!
I was at the hot spring in 1983 on my PCT thru hike. Took the side trail and spent a Nero there and didn’t see another person all day. It seems the river was closer as I kept hopping back and forth. Got a killer sunburn and was miserable on the climb back to the trail but worth it. Great memories and definitely a trail less traveled back then. On the CDT the next year, you rarely saw another person for days or even weeks.
I have read all your trip blogs and really enjoy your writing style. Looking forward to your account of the WRHR. The Winds are my favorite range in the lower 48 and I spend time there every fall as it is just a few hours away. My body is here in my office at my desk, but my heart is out in the mountains. Thanks for letting me live vicariously.
Aw, I love this comment John! Glad to have you along for the journey!
THANK you for your insight on the HST. What a surprise to me also. I would have expect HIGH. I can only imagine how happy your body must be though to have a rest from the scrambles. The soft trails in the woods makes my feet giggle with delight especially after so many miles on granite. Enjoy this break cause I have a feeling things will be changing dramatically when you hit the Winds.
Yes, it was especially healing for the bum ankle I have to just walk on smooth flat trail.
I’m not sure what kind that brown rattler is. Here in Big Bear we have mostly Southern Pacifics,
I tried to look it up online and got too creeped out looking at all of them to figure it out.
Saw your posting with the rattler just today and then we saw one ourselves on a late afternoon hike today at Waters Creek, OR. Yikes!
Oh man! Not in Oregon! Damn global warming…
That is one grand rattlesnake photo you snapped — it makes it all worth it, eh? 🙂
And you look so happy! I am smiling big for you!!
Man, he still makes me shiver! I do love being in my tent at night and having that mesh door without the storm doors when it’s warm enough to just see everything.
Hey Wired! You crossed me and my buddy on the HST on this day! We had camped at Kern Hot Springs and were headed to Wallace Creek. We were sitting by the side of the trail a few miles short of Junction meadow when you and your friends went flying by us uphill. I didn’t recognize you immediately, but you guys spoke to another group hiking theHST behind us, and when they told us about the three of you, I immediately realized it was you. I was so bummed I did not get to talk to the three of you 🙂
Oh no, so close! I hope you enjoyed the hike. It’s quite a good one with challenging elevation for sure. Congrats on doing it!
“We had a lot of wooded hiking today, which I have missed.” I really like that too and throw in the river and wow, you got some nice scenery to drive you along. Reading the words “darn happy camper” puts a big smile on my face. I just finished my backpacking trip in the Emigrant Wilderness and I feel great, even after a day at work. I’m a happy camper too.
Great to hear Warren! Those trips really do last well after you’ve returned.