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TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

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TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby jimmeans » Mon Jun 01, 2015 6:42 pm

My first hike of the season was a 3-day, 2-night solo outing into the Golden Trout Wilderness. I started at the Horseshoe Meadow trailhead traveling south over Trail Pass and then down into Mulkey Meadows.


From Mulkey Meadows I followed the trail east through Bullfrog Meadow toward the Tunnel Meadow.


Just before reaching the South Fork Kern River is a small spring-fed creek, and that was the first water that I encountered since the creek in Horseshoe Meadow. The South Fork Kern River had a nice flow of water, and there were a lot of golden trout being trout.


I continued on to Tunnel Meadow and followed the trail along the north side of the meadow. I found the old camp that was part of the old air service camp into Tunnel Meadow, and then a bit further I found the remnants of the tunnel that is the meadow's namesake.


On the other side of this chasm I explored the old ranger station site. The old water tower supports are still there although the water tank itself is gone.


At this point I was looking for a campsite. In the immediate area of the ranger station South Fork Kern River and Golden Trout Creek are very close, but to be more than 100 feet away meant having a little climb to/from water. I continued and followed the trail branch that follows Golden Trout Creek, and a short distance away I found several good campsites with easy access to the creek.

The next morning I continued west on the trail following Golden Trout Creek.


The view changes quite a bit when you reach the lava flow area.


When I reach Little Whitney Meadow I left the Golden Trout Creek trail and turned north onto the trail that follows Johnson Creek. At the point where I started this segment Johnson Creek had a good flow in it, but that proved to be deceiving. This trail was a little difficult to find at first, but I walked to the old cow camp buildings in the distance and was able to find the trail wrapping around the backside of these buildings.


This trail did not seem to have had a lot of recent use, but I was able to stay on track. When I reached Salt Lick Meadow the two small creeks draining it also had a good water flow and a lot of trout.


Not far from here the trail returned to Johnson Creek, and here the water flow was very low. It was obvious that the stronger flow that I had seen lower was from Salt Lick Meadow and not the main trunk of Johnson Creek. I refilled my canteen and continued. I reached the top of the Johnson Creek drainage and started down toward Barigan Stringer which drains Rocky Basin Lakes. When I reached Barigan Stringer I found it dry. Fortunately I had been going easy on the water, but I had to alter my plan since I originally planned on camping nearby. I decided to continue to Big Whitney Meadow, and I was relieved to find that the creek draining from Siberian Pass had ample water. There was a nice bluff nearby, so I camped there.


The next morning I packed up and headed for Cottonwood Pass. I found that Golden Trout Creek had a good flow through Big Whitney Meadow, but the other smaller creeks/stringers in Big Whitney were dry. As I climbed the small canyon towards the pass Stokes Stringer had water in it for a stretch, but there was nothing in it towards the top of the climb. After a couple of hours I finally reached the point where the trail to Cottonwood Pass levels out for the last short climb.



After another 1 1/2 hours I had finished my 33 mile hike and was back in my car heading for the Frosty Chalet in Lone Pine.

The weather overall was good. Each day was similar. Very clear in the morning with clouds building through the afternoon. The clouds helped to moderate the temperature. Late in the afternoons I experienced light rain/hail, but it was never hard enough to get me into my raingear. It got very cold both nights, and when I awoke in Big Whitney Meadow on Wednesday there was a frost layer everywhere. There were no flying bugs to speak of during the entire trip.

A couple of lessons learned. The first is to be more careful packing. I had carried my Tenkara fishing rod, but I had forgot my small bag with the lines and flies which made the rod useless (but fortunately still light). The second is that for this season I'm going to load more water when I find it.
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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby gary c. » Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:10 pm

What a great hike. Thanks' for sharing with us. That entire area is on my short list to do but it won't be this year. It sure looks dry for the month of May.
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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby cslaght » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:31 am


Great report! I absolutely love the shot from Big Whitney Meadow toward Siberian Pass, great trip!
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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby TahoeJeff » Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:56 am

Great trip report!
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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:57 pm

A nice TR, thanks for taking us along. Forgetting some of your key fishing gear is a real drag, but it looks like the scenery made up for it. :)
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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby texan » Wed Jun 03, 2015 5:09 am

Nice trail report. I haven't been up in that area in years.

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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby SweetSierra » Wed Jun 03, 2015 8:30 am

Thanks for taking me through one of my favorite places. I' haven't been as far as Tunnel Meadow. The last trip there, it was also dry all the way to the little creek just before the Little Kern (I was so glad to see the creek as I thought there would be water before then. I was parched). We left the Tunnel Meadow trail at a place that used to be a junction with a trail that hooked up with a trail to Little Whitney Meadow (a short cut). But the whole hillside had slid and the trail was gone. We climbed up through the jumbled dirt looking for where the trail should have been and found it! It was in good shape after that.
I just love those big meadows and cow camps in Golden Trout. Love the shot looking toward Siberian Pass.
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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby acorad » Wed Jun 03, 2015 8:34 am


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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby bjmullready » Mon Jun 22, 2015 3:21 pm

Great post. Thanks for passing along a detailed trip account. I wondered if you could be of assistance. I am going to have a day in this area on Thursday and wanted to day hike in to the South Fork of Kern Creek in the morning and the hike back out late afternoon. How many miles was it to decent fishing on the SF Kern Creek? Is an in and out on the same day possible in your opinion? Elevation gain tough? I am a young and pretty fit and want this to be a warm up for when I climb Whitney the following weekend. Hope to be in touch. Thanks!
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Re: TR: Golden Trout Wilderness 5/25-27/2015

Postby maverick » Mon Jun 22, 2015 3:46 pm

Hi Brendan,

Welcome to HST! An intro would be appreciated: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9329
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member:
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