High Sierra and Big trees - some notes and photos

In October 2016 I spent nearly three weeks meandering through the Sierras. Here are some photos and words from that marvelous backpacking trip.

By Jörgen Johansson

This giant's foot is not really a big tree... not if you compare to the Giant Sequoias.


I started along the PCT/JMT at Reds Meadow on an overcast day, and reached Purple Lake at nightfall, pitching my tarp and innertent by the light of my headlamp. The following morning more than made up for the overcast first day.

Southbound on the JMT/PCT you find that Tully's Hole is really a hole. The trail goes down and down and you realise that all your hard-earned altitude will be lost. But it really does not matter, this is why you are on the trail and the view down the hole, where Fish Creek meanders through the October rusty meadow, is lovely.


This time I took the trail past the Lake of the Lone Indian to Goodale Pass, instead of the JMT across Silver Pass. Coming down from Goodale in the late afternoon, I stepped off the trail for a couple of hundred yards and found a stream. There I pitched my homemade "Drytent" (so named because I have never had any condensation in it) and sat down to an evening meal of noodles and sausage. It was one of those meals where the ambience made up for the less-than-cordon-bleu menu.
As the year before I used the Bear Creek Cutoff and Bear Creek Trail to reconnect with the JMT/PCT, after my resupply at Vermillion. It is truly the loveliest of trails, going upstream through old forest and along countless restful pools with water joyfully rushing into them
Late in the day I looked back north from Selden Pass. Long shadows were reaching out for beautiful Marie Lake, but the distant peaks still shimmered, like they only do in the Sierras. Earlier that day I had met a couple of Sobos doing the PCT, Spice Rack and Crusher. We had chatted by a stream where they had stopped for lunch and I for a snack. They probably hiked past me later, when I stopped by Marie Lake for afternoon coffee (a Swedish 'religious' practice). I never saw them again. Late in the evening I had decended to Sallie Keyes Lakes where I camped for the night.
Evolution Valley in the morning is a glorious walk. Especially since it was dark when I found a place to pitch my tent. In the first light it turned out I had spent the night surrounded by horse shit in the stock camp. Walking along the river towards the next stair in this series of hanging valleys more than made up for it.
Evolution Valley ends with another step up the stair, to Evolution Basin. Many consider this alpine valley along the JMT to be the absolute highpoint of spectacular beauty in the Sierras.
In spite of it being October it was nice warm day. The brown wedge of grass right by the lake in the lower, right hand corner was perfect. I stripped and basked in the sun until the water was boiling. Then I added it to my freeze dried meal and dozed for another 10-15 minutes, letting myself and the food rejuvenate companionably

Stepping up further in Evolution Basin, on my Sierra walk in October 2016, I entered the world of rocks. Coming from an Arctic area of the world, I have hiked quite a bit in areas like this. But here, along Wanda Lake heading for the Muir Pass, I encountered the toughest tree in the Sierras, miles from any relative. To quote Jurassic Park: "Life will find a way".
The upper part of Evolution Basin is of course spectacular. When I passed Wanda Lake the year before it was in a somber mode. This year it was all smiles, in spite of it being October. Taking a break at Muir Pass two trail runners caught up with me. They were doing "Evolution Basin" in a day, planning to reach Bishop before the day was done. Whew! Since there was only about an hour of daylight left I hurried down to the protection of some trees. I expect those guys did a lot of running with headlamps before reaching Bishop.

On my October ramble in the Sierras I left the JMT/PCT after Muir Pass. Instead I went down, down the Middle Fork of the Kings River. The trail was seriously man made in places, not to pleasant to walk upon. I ran across some bear scat and then a bear that scurried away up a steep slope. They certainly can move fast uphill.


The stream went through a system of twist, turns and falls into the Devil's Washbowl. It did look a lot nicer than the name implied.

 By nightfall I was down at Simpson Meadow and found a nice camp spot near the river in an otherwise dry area.

Simpsons Meadow in the morning, heading for a long days ascent.

Looking down into the depths of the Middle Fork canyon.
A chilly morning between the two forks of the Kings River, heading for Granite Pass.
Near Granite Pass.
Going down, down, down into the South Fork canyon of the Kings River.
Cedar Grove Lodge were kind enough to hold this box for me. At this time of the year most other resupply facilities were closed.
A nook in the sun for repackaging, charging and inhaling a burger and a Coke.
This is work in progress, more photos from the hike will be added by and by.

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