Saturday and Sunday, September 3-4, 2016
Wuksachi Lodge Trail/Twin Lakes Trail Overnight – Sequoia NP – California
This was the big hike for this trip. I sent in my wilderness permit application on the first day I was able, back in March, to make sure we got one. This was probably overkill, but I didn’t want to take any chances, and as Court will tell you, I love to plan.
We had arrived in the park the day before the hike and picked up our wilderness permit at the Lodgepole Visitor Center. The line was long and I found out that a lot of people were trying to get walk-up permits. In my opinion, there should be two lines: one for walk-ups and one for people who have had reserved permits for FIVE MONTHS. Anyway, after about an hour, we got our permit. I was prepared to rent a bear canister, but the ranger told us the bear boxes at the campsite at Twin Lakes would work fine.
We woke up early and had breakfast in the lodge and then hit the Wuksachi Trailhead nearby, which met up with the Twin Lakes Trail after about 1.5 miles.
The morning was chilly, but nice, probably in the low 50s to start. Watching the sun come up through the trees as we hiked along was great and it was nice to have a dirt trail with relatively few rocks, unlike most of the Texas trails we are used to. You can actually look around instead of down at your feet!
At the junction with the Twin Lakes Trail we turned north and started to climb. We crossed Silliman Creek several times, which provides Lodgepole with all of its water. It was too late in the year for a raging river, so we were able to rock hop across easily.
We would pass Cahoon Meadow and later have a great view of it from above.
We stopped for lunch and to filter water at a creek just after Cahoon Gap. We packed in a chicken pita that we got from Lodgepole the day before and it was great.
After filling up we hiked on and quickly heard a strange sound that turned out to be a young deer sneezing! He was apparently not happy with our intrusion, as he actually charged me for a second when I tried to take a picture. His brother was there too, but didn’t seem to mind us as much. We continued and the trail began to switchback up for the steepest part of the hike up to Twin Lakes.
We came to a granite outcropping that looked like it would have a good view slightly off trail and as we approached the edge two marmots were there to greet us. One scampered off, but the other looked at us, contemplated for a moment, and then lay down to take a nap. This was one of my favorite wildlife sightings of the trip.
Continuing to climb up the steep switchbacks, the altitude started to make breathing a bit more difficult and we slowed our pace. We came to a granite “staircase” that would have been an amazing cascade of water if we were here earlier in the year, but it was still beautiful, even if dry.
Finally we reached the top, after passing a couple of hikers who were taking an extended break to rest before attempting the rest of the climb up. They did eventually make it I think. There were two bear boxes to choose from and an open air pit toilet that we decided not to investigate. The lakes were gorgeous and surrounded by towering granite walls.
After exploring for a bit we chose a campsite near Big Lake and settled in and washed our feet in the water. Even with long pants and gaiters, the dirt still found a way in and our toes were filthy. I filtered water while Court put the finishing touches on the tent and then we went up to the bear box to cook dinner on the new Jetboil Minimo. Beef Pho was the freeze-dried choice of the night (Backpacker’s Pantry) and it wasn’t my favorite, but it did the job.
After a slight tent mesh mishap by Courtney (now I need to order some Tenacious Tape), we got snug under our quilt and read until we fell asleep. We didn’t even make it til 9pm. It got COLD overnight, but for the most part we were comfy. We woke up at 6:30am to a pretty sunrise and decided to hit the trail and eat bars for breakfast on the way back down the trail.
We descended down 2500 feet to the trailhead in about 3.5 hours, as opposed to the 5 hours it took to come up. Court had a blister on one of her toes, but other than being dirty, we were in good shape.
We ventured back down to Lodgepole in the car to get some food and drinks for dinner in the room, but the chaos and crowds in the prime of Labor Day Weekend were insane. After over an hour of parking and standing in line for groceries with screaming kids and their bedraggled parents, we gratefully retired to our room, showered, and watched Texas beat Notre Dame for our football season opener. It was a beautiful hike and an amazing experience for our first Sierra backpacking adventure.