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Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

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Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby Obrknoch » Sun Jan 11, 2015 11:54 am

In September 2014 we did our eight day hike of the Circle of Solitude, starting from Onion Valley, Kearsage Trailhead and also leaving the trail at this point. One spectacular hike of approximately 78 miles through beautiful landscape.

Pictures of the hike can be found at: http://obrknochi.com/siera-nevada-eng/

Our hike started September at the Kearsage Trailhead in Onion Valley. We had spent the night in Independence and after a good breakfast at Jenny's it was time to get ready to hike. We had looked out to this trip so many weeks and it would be the highlight of our US holiday for sure!

Getting the permit for the trip was easy as the season was over its peak and the trailheads on the eastside of the Sierra's (apart from Mnt Whitney), seem to get less attention. The permit itself we got at the Visitors center in Lone Pine. There we were told that water, even after three years of draught, was still running in the main rivers.

The hike itself we started at about 11 in the morning. After having parked the car at the trailhead, we hiked up to Kearsage Pass. The scenery was superb from the start. The dry land in the valley already made its way for plants and trees around the trailhead and getting up further to the Pass. The Pass self-made it possible to look into both east and western directions. The Sierra's to the West made clear that we would have a great week ahead of us. Lakes, trees, mountains and clear skies lay ahead of us. Camp would be below at one of the Kearsage Lakes. Before we arrived there, we had the chance to see a few deer. One was drinking milk with its mother.

We arrived at the lakes and made camp. The bearbox there is for unclear reason out of order so we had to take extra precautions for this first night, where not all food and other smelly stuff fit into our bear canisters. We managed to find a good spot far away from the tent to store our stuff for the night. The moon, which was on the rise, disappeared early in the night and it became very dark. We had the most amazing stars above us. The Milky Way clearly visible as well. We knew that there would be little chance later in the trip as the moon would be getting full and a super moon was predicted for September.

Day 2. From Kearsage Lakes to Sphinx junction

After a good night’s rest we made breakfast out of oatmeal. Together with coffee this made us fit again for the day ahead, towards Sphinx junction. It would be a clear blue day again and we got on the trail around 9. Along Bullfrog Lake we moved towards the crossing with the JMT. Then we turned to the right, into King's Canyon. The hike through the day was beautiful; in particular the spot on the river were we had lunch. As water levels were low, we had the chance to sit on the bedding of the river before it plunged into the deep. Over an hour we enjoyed the views, our lunch made out of tuna wraps with mayo, salami and a bar. We filled our water bottles with the clear fresh water and moved on. On our way, there were a lot of brushes and it made us a bit anxious for bears. We talked a bit louder to avoid surprising one. Apart from a ranger, we did not meet people on the trail today and around 6 we arrived at Sphinx junction. Here more people were already making camp. We found a spot and made dinner talked a little and looked at a few people arriving late, in the dark at the campground. We were tired of this second day but appreciated so much the chance to walk here in the woods, enjoying the beauty so much. We fell asleep quickly.

Day 3 from Sphinx junction to Roaring River

We slept well again and rose early. Today a long day ahead of us, with a challenging climb up to Avalanche Pass. There was not a change in the weather so in clear blue skies we were hiking up the wall of King's Canyon. The hike up is strenuous and we were using a lot of our trail mix and bars to reach to top of Avalanche Pass. The hike up is partly a carved out stair like climb. After the biggest portion of the climb, the only place to get water, Sphinx Creek was used to fill up and to rest a bit. After a short break, we hiked up further to Avalanche Pass, where we arrived around 1PM. The Pass does not really give views, but is scattered with big alone standing trees which form a wonderful setting for a lunch. Also here no water but we filled up enough during our last stop.

Roaring River. On the way down, great views into Deadman's Canyon. Fresh bear scat colored up the trail. Not a view of a bear though. At Roaring River Ranger Station we made camps for the night. We took a bath in the river and said hi to the Park Ranger. Shortly after dinner, the bats announced the night.

Day 4 from Roaring River Ranger Station to Colby Lake

This day we were looking forward too very much. The thought of wide open meadows, Whaleback and, relative slow rise of the trail would make this a great day. And so it was. We hiked quickly and soon the trees were mixed with smaller and larger meadows. Then the Big Wet Meadow opened up in front of us. Towards the left end of the Canyon, Whaleback was beautifully visible. What a great sight! The meadow itself was, due to the drought fairly brown but the display of the grass, the openness of the terrain; the few clouds above the canyon all made this a magical place. A perfect place for a lunch, before hiking further up the canyon to get to Colby Lake. The fact that we were pretty far away from any starting point was clear as well. Sofar today we did not see anyone. The ultimate backpacking feeling and a feeling of being on yourself that is difficult to get nowadays.

The hike towards Colby Lake gave way to fine views into Cloud Canyon for a long time. Flowers, waterfall, a few clouds adding color to the blue sky. Plenty of opportunity to get water and rest a bit along the creek coming from Colby Lake. When we had a brief stop, we were almost surprised to see a single woman passing the trail without any gear. She was too far away from us and kept on moving up. We did not see here again that day but it would be the only human for this day.

We arrived at Colby Lake and looked for a spot to camp. As the shore of the lake is high, there are only a few options at the beginning. We managed to find a spot a bit further on a ridge above the shoreline. There was a pleasant way down to the lake giving us access to water. Colby Lake is beautifully surrounded in granite peaks. We cooked diner, had coffee and watched the daylight fade out. Together with the light, also the clouds disappeared and the first stars became visible.

Day 5 from Colby Lake to Junction Meadow.
As clear as the night was when we went to sleep, the night was a totally different story. We woke up from the wind moving our tent quite strongly. Light rain was falling on and off. Sleeping was not that easy although our tent was standing stable. Then when we almost fell asleep again, a sudden thunder and lightning spectacle woke us up more than we wanted. Being up that high near a large body of water, surrounded by trees was not a wonder place to be in in case of such a storm! As soon as the storm moved in, it also disappeared again, leaving only the rain behind. It allowed us to calm down again, catch another bit of sleep, before the daylight came back again.

The thunderstorm made us feel humble in the surroundings. The exact feeling for a pristine place like that, so deeply tucked away in the Sierra's. It was dry again but big clouds were rolling in and out our vision. Today, we had Colby Pass ahead of us first. The pass was not visible from where we were standing but as clouds were covering the peeks of the mountains ahead of us, we were wondering if the pass would be in clouds as well or not. The experience of the night and uncertainty if there would be ore storms rolling in made us even shortly think about the away ahead. However, at the right moment, a woman was coming down the trail, from the direction of the pass. It appeared to be the same woman that we saw yesterday, when she was moving up without gear. This time we did have a chance to chat and she told us she was working with the Park service. She had been up Colby Pass, repairing the trail. She told us the trail was in good condition and that she was not expecting storms anymore. Yes, last night's storms also freaked her out a bit but she had good faith that all would work out well. Her work was finished and she would return to the ranger station. We packed our gear as well and started our hike up, which was not as bad as thought. A relative easy hike brought us to the border of Sequoia National Park / Colby Pass. Some clearings in the sky brought a vivid light. We ate a bit and started our decent towards Meadow Junction. We picked up a good speed. The rain that started to fall, helped us to keep our pace. One party of three of the UK passed us on the way up. The overall decent to the Junction was a long one. Along Horse Shoe Meadow, passing waterfalls, seeing a double rainbow above Kern Canyon, despite the rain for a few hours, if was a good day. The last hours of the day, the sky was clearing again. We enjoyed our hot food and slept very well.

Day 6 from Junction Meadow to Tyndall Creek (on the JMT)

The day started again with clear skies and as soon as we hit the trail and got in the sun, the temperatures were pleasant again, so we could return to our shorts and T-shirt gear. The trail slowly made its way up the eastside of Kern Canyon, giving plenty of room for big views of the impressive canyon and its steep walls. Magnificent trees along the panoramic views make the views even more dramatic. A waterfall along the way is a refreshing stop, before we come to the junction with the JMT. Deer pass the junction as well but are not disturbed by us.

From here we go north towards Bighorn Plateau. To our right, we have views of Mnt Whitney as we get to the heart of the plateau. Totally different from the rest of our hike, the plateau is an amazing place where desert like circumstances appear to rule. Only trunks of trees are standing. Together with rocks, sand and dirt they form an amazing moon-like landscape against a deep blue sky. When we leave the plateau we slowly make our way towards Tyndall Creek, where we make camps that evening. Although not immediately under Forester Pass, we are still in reach of tomorrow's top destination. More people than we have seen on this entire hike so far, are camping here. Still though there is a certain solitude to be found in the alpenglow coming from the mountain ridge we are looking at.

Day 7 from Tyndall Creek to Kearsage Lakes

We start very early today as we want to get as far as possible towards Kearsage Lakes. For us a considerable amount of miles but we have a good pace. Ice is on the little water ponds along the way but the sun is keeping us warm. The colors are so beautiful up here as we pass two large lakes before we get to the foot of the pass itself. We hike quickly and seem to have so much energy, that we ourselves are even surprised that we move up so quickly. The views southwards are breathtaking. The last bit of the climb up to Forester Pass is steep but the way up is relative short. We reach to Pass without much trouble and enjoy the best views you can imagine! Marmots join us. Apparently they expect food from us as they show little fear. We enjoyed the views in every direction, had some snacks and amazed ourselves on what we all saw. Then it was time to move on and make our descend into the valley. Fully fulfilled with all the views, we hiked like we were taking an afternoon stroll. Not to many people were on the trail today.

More deer along the way, water flowing on the valley floor, some late flowers, it brought us in no time to Vidette meadow. From there, it was around four in the afternoon, we decided to move on as Kearsage Lakes was within our reach. We climbed once more up, reached the junction where we left the JMT trail again and reached Bullfrog Lake quickly. Some pika's were making alarm as we came by. A bit before 7 PM we arrived at Kearsage Lakes. We made camp and prepared our last dried diner. We had such a great day and were proud of ourselves that we hiked such a long stretch. The final day tomorrow, will be a short hike. A shower and a well-earned burger were within our reach.

The stars came out again.

Day 8 from Kearsage Lakes to Kearsage Pass Trailhead.
The day started again so sunny. The sun reached our campsite early and we ate our last breakfast, which existed out of two bars, as we ate our last oatmeal the day before. We packed all, put on our backpacks and got on our final stretch of our hike. At Kearsage Pass, we took a view of the lakes below, a view we also had 7 days ago. The whole hike has been such a great experience. The Sierra’s are truly a magnificent place.

The link below brings you to a selection of the pictures we made during our hike.

http://obrknochi.com/siera-nevada-eng/

This year, we will for sure do a hike again in the Sierra's. Should you have a good suggestion for a similar hike from out of the eastside, we would be more than pleased to hear from you.
Last edited by Obrknoch on Wed Jan 06, 2016 5:36 am, edited 10 times in total.



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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby maverick » Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:11 pm

Hi Obrknoch,

Welcome to HST! Thank you for sharing these wonderful photo's of your adventure.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby ofuros » Sun Jan 11, 2015 8:16 pm

Quickly checked out a few of your pics on my mobile...enjoyed them. :cool:
Will look in more detail tonight, thanks for sharing.

Sent from my GT-I9100T using Tapatalk 2
Out 'n about....looking for trout.
https://ofuros.exposure.co/
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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby Thebrenner » Sun Jan 11, 2015 8:52 pm

Your photos are stunning! I especially loved the one of Gallets Lake and the one of the double rainbow! I did this same trip with a few side trips in mid August. It always amazes me to see how much the Sierra changes in a month. Thanks for posting...makes me wanna get out there NOW... Except for the cold and snow!;-)
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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby bravefanla » Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:12 am

Great Pictures!! I've been debating with my hiking buddy about doing the Rae Lakes Loop. However, after seeing your trip I might have to reconsider. Thanks for posting and welcome to the HST!!
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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby slowhiker » Mon Feb 23, 2015 10:53 pm

Great trip report and the pictures were amazing. Quick question, about how many miles was this hike?
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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby rrivera » Tue Feb 24, 2015 9:31 pm

I did this trip a number of years ago and it's wonderful I really loved seeing the pictures during the change in season....thanks for sharing
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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby Obrknoch » Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:38 am

slowhiker wrote:Great trip report and the pictures were amazing. Quick question, about how many miles was this hike?
Slowhiker


Hi Slowhiker, thanks for zour feedack. The trip is about 78 miles, when you start this from Kearsage, which is a bit longer than from Road's End.
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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby Cross Country » Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:08 am

I did this trip but in 2 trips, one from Kersearge and one from Kings Canyon when I went over Lucy´s Foot Pass. I thoughly enjoyed both trips.
I wonder by who or how it got the name Circle of Solitude.
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Re: Trip Report: Circle of Solitude September 2014

Postby BSquared » Fri Mar 13, 2015 6:39 am

Cross Country wrote:I did this trip but in 2 trips, one from Kersearge and one from Kings Canyon when I went over Lucy´s Foot Pass. I thoughly enjoyed both trips.
I wonder by who or how it got the name Circle of Solitude.

I've been wondering the same thing.

Great TR and superb pictures, Obrknoch! Thanks SO much!
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