Next week is the long awaited High Sierra Trail backpack trip… 72 miles across Sequoia National Park, from Giant Forest (the world’s biggest trees) to Mount Whitney (highest mountain in the lower 48 states). I had hoped to get in a couple of short backpack trips beforehand as training, but the best laid plans…
So I got in a couple of long, steep dayhikes this week, which will have to do!
Last Monday I hiked Ralston Peak, one of my all-time favorites, and a hike I do almost every summer. The trailhead for this hike is right on highway 50, across from Camp Sacramento. The trail initially follows the ridgeline on the east side of Pyramid Creek/Horsetail Falls, and is very steep most of the way. The first section of the hike can be very hot, which I expected, but there was a nice breeze most of the day, which kept it tolerable.
It finally tops out at a col, and traverses the ridgeline which includes Mount Ralston, and then shifts to the right as it climbs the ridgeline. As it tops out, you start to get some fantastic views, and if you were doing this hike and were worn out at this point, it would be a worthy lunch spot. There is a unmarked spur trail to the summit, and after scrambling up some rocky talus, you find yourself on the top, 9235′. The views are just spectacular here…. you can see both Echo Lakes, Fallen Leaf, Lake Aloha, and all the way out to Lake Tahoe.
After a yummy lunch, I started the long slog back to the car. Going down is pretty tough… it’s very steep, and the footing is pretty crummy in spots… if you have trekking poles, they come in very handy on this! It was a good day though, having hiked 8.2 miles with 3000+’ of climbing.
On Friday, I hiked the second of my Sierra summits, Thunder Mountain. The trailhead for this is located on highway 88, a few miles east of Silver Lake, and just west of Carson Spur.
This hike is very different from Ralston. A steady but manageable climb over 3.6 miles. The landscape is very volcanic, and reminds me a lot of hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park. After a mile or so in shady forest, it breaks out onto a airy ridgeline with spectacular views. If you didn’t want to hike all the way to the top, there are a number of spots you could stop for lunch, and still have a great day. The trail tops out at a little pass between two volcanic formations, then moves behind the the peaks. To the left you can see the top of the Kirkwood ski-lifts (for those who need them). At 3 miles you hit a trail junction… to the left the trail heads to Horse Canyon, and straight on to the peak (9410′). The trail crosses a couple of false summits on the way to the true summit… you know it’s the one, since it’s higher than the others! I ate a yummy lunch, savored the views, and headed back down.
You know it’s a great hike, when your car is STILL in the shade when you get back to it!
These were both great training hikes, and I’m feeling a bit more prepared for the High Sierra Trail. Watch for a blog in a couple of weeks!!
Kit: Osprey Stratos 24 backpack, Ibex merino wool t-shirt, Mountain Hardwear Canmore shorts, Point 6 merino hiking socks, Vasque Breeze low boots, Black Diamond Alpine Cork carbon-fiber trekking poles.