Backpacking, Round 1 (Part 2)

Day 2 started very cold.  There was a layer of frost on the car and we quickly packed up camp and headed to the lower elevations where our backpacking trip would start.  On the way we got a glimpse of bear number 5 from the road!  We went to a picnic area near our trailhead and ate some oatmeal for breakfast and packed up our gear, trying to split the weight evenly between us.  We then drove the 2 miles to the trailhead on a dirt road and parked the car.

We were very excited to get started.  First, we had to drop our cooler off in a bear canister at the trailhead, apparently to keep the bears from clawing at the car.  Gulp.  Then, we threw on our packs and started down the Middle Fork trail.  Our goal was to hike in approximately six miles to a campsite and stay there for the next two nights.

We knew there was going to be some river/stream crossings, but we weren’t expecting to have one in the first half mile.  Last post I’d mentioned the heavy snows in Sequoia over the winter.  Well, that snow was melting and making all the waterways higher and faster than usual.  A waterfall was feeding a stream that we had to cross to continue on the trail.  Another group ahead of us was taking off their boots and crossing in their sandals.  We followed suit, since the water was too high to cross in boots.  It wasn’t a tough crossing, you just had to wade through the water, but, man, that water was cold.  On the other side, we rebooted and were off again.

The picture above was taken during the first three miles of the hike.  That’s the middle fork of the Kaweah River, and the trail generally followed the river, though it was quite a distance from the river in many places.  The trail was a series of ups and downs (more ups) that followed the hillsides, meandering in and out of the morning sunlight.   This was my first time carrying serious weight in my new Gregory Baltoro 70 backpack.  The pack felt good, but while I heard that the weight of your pack should be on your hips, I was definitely feeling the straps on my shoulder.  My Kayland hiking shoes were doing great, feet were feeling good.

At three miles we came to our second river crossing at Panther Creek.  This was the site of the first camping sites on the trail and also a big waterfall.  To the right is Sarah making the crossing (I made her stop her crossing to get the picture, she was a good sport about it).  This one we were able to make across by skipping across rocks.  Out east, I haven’t had much experience with crossing waterways other than ones that you could easily cross by rock-hopping.  The crossing here required some patience and figuring out which rocks to jump to next, and the added weight of the pack definitely affected my balance.

Still dry, we saw that there were already several people camping here.   Rather than checking out the falls, we decided to march on.  We wanted to make sure we got a campsite at six mile mark and several other groups had started out at the same time as us, though we had only seen one other group after the first mile.

We stopped in a shady spot with some big rocks for a quick lunch of summer sausage and cheese on baguettes, along with dried fruit and trail mix.  Yum.  The campsite we were looking for was on a turnoff from the main trail that went about a mile and appeared to end near the Kaweah River.  We weren’t exactly sure where on the trail the campsites would be.  We made it to the fork much earlier than we expected and were actually not sure if it was the right turnoff.

After consulting the map and running into another hiker who was camped in the area, we figured out we were in the right spot.  The hiker we spoke to pointed out that there was a site across the creek.  So we crossed a nicely placed, large fallen tree and walked to a great camp site.  There was an existing fire ring (complete with firewood) sheltered by some huge rocks, a nice flat spot for a tent, areas away from our tent where we could store our food and prepare dinners, and to top it off, right by the creek.

It felt good to take off the backpack, my shoulders thanked me!  We set up our tent and moved our food away from the camp.  The trail we were camping off was supposed to continue for another mile and end down by the Kaweah river.  The hiker we spoke to said that the trail was not really maintained, but that if we felt like bushwacking a little, you could find the trail.  He told us if we found a gravesite on the way, we’d know we were on the right trail.

Never to turn down a challenge we decided to check it out.  There were lots of downed trees that you had to clamber over and the trail had obviously not been kept up because there we were constantly having to push our way through underbrush (and at one point small trees).  But, enough people had been back there that a faint trail was almost always visible.  We found the gravesite.  A 15 year-old’s gravemarker was on the side of a small hill.  Don’t know if he died on the trail or what and I’m not sure how someone carried out the rather large gravemarker that  far.  A strange sight indeed.  As we got closer to the river, we kinda lost whatever trail there was and had to scramble down some steep embankments to reach the river.  There was supposed to be a campsite down there, but we couldn’t find it.  We enjoyed the solitude, listening to the roar of the river and the sounds of birds.

The trip back was uneventful (meaning we found the trail with no problem) and we were happy to get back to camp.  We gave our new MSR water filtration system its first test in the creek by our campsite.  It worked well over the weekend and we even used it to help out some other hikers whose own filtration system had malfunctioned.  For dinner, we boiled some water and tried out our first freeze-dried camping food.  Beef stroganoff was the main course.  With a little salt and pepper, and our leftover baguette from lunch, we were quite pleased with the quality.  Both us were actually looking forward to our next freeze dried dinner.

After a little work, we got a fire started.  It had rained for most of the week leading up to our arrival, so most of the wood by the campsite was wet.  But we found enough dry stuff to get a fire going and then were able to dry out some of the wet wood.   We played some cards after dinner and soon after darkness arrived we gladly turned in.  It had been a tiring day, around 9 miles total.  Tomorrow we were hoping to hike double that amount, so we needed the rest.  The sound of the creek provided some great white noise to fall asleep to.

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One Response to “Backpacking, Round 1 (Part 2)”

  1. Backpacking, Round 1 (Part 3) « Nothing to Write Home About Says:

    […] writing about our first backpacking trip to Sequoia National Park.  Parts 1 and 2 here and here.  So our goal for our second day was to do an out-and-back to a grove of Sequoias called Redwood […]

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