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We spent the night in a campground at Grants Grove, and then drove to the Rowell Meadow trailhead--a paved road for the first eight miles, then a very good dirt road for the last two. There were about five cars in the parking lot, and our only worry was our barbecue grill. We didn't want to leave it in the car, but there were no bear boxes at the trailhead.
What to do? We'd even asked the rangers for advice, and they suggested...well, they didn't really have a suggestion. So we cleaned it, wrapped it up as well as we could, buried it deep in the blankets in the back, and hoped for the best.
What a great time of year to be hiking. We had perfect weather from beginning to end of this trip, and the climb up to Rowell Meadows was almost pleasant in the shade of the early morning. We managed to get to JO pass by lunchtime, with long stretches of this hike through glorious open forests.
I'd love to include some photos here, but this site won't let me. You can see them on our website, backpackthesierra.com.
For lunch, we left the trail to climb up to a little lake above the pass, only to discover that it was mainly meadow. Still, a nice place to eat, and a view to the west of some of the granite that makes the Sierra so wonderful. We'd seen only one person on the trail.
We got to Jennie Lake about an hour after lunch, and spend the afternoon setting up camp, napping, and wandering around the lake. I didn't see any trout at all, so no fishing. We had the place to ourselves.
And that night for the first time in years, we actually made a campfire in the existing fire ring. (This area has designated fire rings at most of the lakes, and they are even identified on a map when you arrive at any of the destination lakes. It's a bit more civilized, for better and for worse, than many other areas we've visited.)
The next day we backtracked to JO pass, then hiked down to Clover Creek, again through those wonderful open forests and meadows. After a couple of miles we turned left at the junction, and climbed up to Twin Lakes. This was originally one of our camping destinations, but we'd adapted our route because of the long drive home on the fourth day. So we ate lunch here, loved the scenery, and chatted a bit with a day-hiker from Lodgepole. And then it was back into the packs for the climb up and over Silliman Pass.
A steep climb, but we took it slow and easy, and were rewarded with a spectacular view at the top. The whole Sierra opens up from a spot just 100 yards south of the pass, and we spent a good half an hour up here taking in the view. Simply amazing.
It was an even steeper climb back down the other side to Ranger Lake. And part of the trail had been artfully assembled with stones clinging to bare granite cliffs. Impressive work!
At Ranger Lake we found the same kind of campsite map, and chose one on the eastern side of the lake. From there we could see not only the lake and the cliffs around it, but almost the same view as the one from Silliman Pass. That's Ranger Lake below.
The view to the East made for a wonderful dining room, as we sat on stone benches in a kind of granite amphitheater overlooking one of the great views in the Sierra.
It was so good that we stayed there until dusk, watching the shadows grow longer over Kings Canyon, and watching the light on the distant peaks slowly change from yellow to orange to rose to lavender.
And then to bed.
The next day was an easy one. We took the short trail to Lost Lake ( the long trail is apparently no longer marked nor maintained--although it does appear on the maps) and stopped there for a snack and a bit of fishing--lots of medium sized brook trout. We left it in the hands of an exuberant but respectful group of seven young men, and hiked down and around to Seville Lake for lunch.
This is a lovely lake surrounded by grass, and in the fall it had all turned to a golden green. I fished a bit (slow, but still those brook trout) and we rested and got organized for an early start the next day. Our campsite here, once again a designated site, was deep among towering pines, and it was just wonderful.
The next day we followed our topo maps to the short cut back to the pass our of the National Parks, and into Jennie Lakes Wilderness. Only that short cut trail doesn't really exist. It begins with a good string of cairns at Jennie Lake, but once you get deep into the meadow/creek crossing about a half-mile in, it disappears altogether. We finally gave up and contoured cross county back to the east where we picked up the longer trail. The short cut hadn't been any shorter, but at least it wasn't any longer.
And it was an adventure!
From there it was an easy stroll back down to Rowell Meadows, and we got to experience the first section of this hike all over again from the other direction. That last two miles to the trailhead were steeper and rougher than we'd remembered...but maybe that's just because the sun was higher in the sky, our legs were a bit tired, and we still had a long drive home.
And then there was that worry about the car. When we arrived at the trailhead, the car was there. And so was the barbecue. The bears apparently were looking elsewhere for food during our trip.
This was a great trip for this time of year--but during the height of the season there would be a lot more people. We saw a total of about 25 people over the four days. That's a lot for us. And in the summer, I bet there are that many people at each of the lakes.
Stunning views, perfect weather, and great hiking. A nice way to end the season!