TR: Whiskeylog Camp Overnighter 4/19-4/20 2019

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TR: Whiskeylog Camp Overnighter 4/19-4/20 2019

Post by Timo_the_Osprey » Wed Apr 24, 2019 2:59 pm

My brother arrived from the Central Coast in the late afternoon and we departed Visalia around 4pm. South Fork Drive was beautiful with the wildflowers in full bloom. A couple of weeks earlier there had been patches of mud that made me glad to have 4x4, but the road was clear now and probably would have been manageable using a low-clearance vehicle.

On reaching the end of the road, we spotted only one available campsite at South Fork campground. This was a surprise, as SF is a rather obscure corner of the park that attracts few crowds, but I suppose Easter weekend is different. I began to worry that we might even arrive at Whiskeylog near dark only to find the campsite occupied.

Packs loaded and DEET heavily applied to avoid ticks, we set off from the trailhead at 5:15pm, crossing Clough Cave bridge to take Ladybug Trail. I had printed out the Park Service's Ladybug Trail Description (link below) and would recommend the same to anyone taking Ladybug for the first time. As it would turn out, the detailed mileage of the trail description proved useful in our race against sundown.

Part of our mission was to scout out various possible future fishing spots, so we did not arrive at Ladybug Camp until 6:30pm—that's 1.7 miles in a little over an hour. The camp was unoccupied. So with about an hour till sundown and a little more than 2 miles to Whiskeylog Camp, the smart choice was to set up camp at Ladybug. We decided to press our luck and continue on.

The meadows we crossed (or "grassy hillsides" according to the Park Service trail description) were stunning in the evening sunlight and Homer's Nose and Calhoun Rock towered above to the North with beautiful views of Dennison to the South. (I had brought binoculars to check out the status of Snowslide Canyon for a possible Dennison ascent some time soon. Verdict: too much snow to attempt Dennison by that route.)

Our hearts sunk a bit when we encountered what looked to be some serious windfall blocking the trail in the cedar forest before Cedar Creek. But with a bit of poking around we discovered a faint trail off to the left about 10 yards before the blockage. With some careful stepping and ducking we were on the other side of the downed timber and back on the trail in less than 2 minutes.

We reached Cedar Creek and its sequoia grove with very little evening left. The grove is nothing remarkable by sequoia standards but there is something special about encountering sequoias out in the wild, far from the clicks of tourists' cameras. This little patch of sequoias is particularly interesting in that it is mixed with oak, giving it a very different feel from, say, Giant Forest. We crossed Cedar Creak on a fallen log, only to lose the trail for a minute or two on the other side. (The trail is upstream from the crossing log.)

With about 1 mile to go and the near certainty that we'd have to finish the last leg of the hike with headlamps, we tightened our packs and picked up our pace to the equivalent of a hiker's sprint, encountering a few brutal inclines along the way. As the trail description puts it, ""All the elevation you have just lost you will now regain!"

We reached Whiskeylog Camp at 7:45pm and pitched the tent in record time just as all natural light faded to black. (For a total of 4.02 miles in 2.5 hours.) Fortunately, we had no neighbors. In fact, we had seen nobody on the trail the entire way. Takeaway: South Fork Camp can be crowded on holiday weekends but Ladybug and Whiskeylog are safe bets.

A few notes on Whiskeylog: the camp lies right off some rapids of the South Fork, making for beautiful sound and easy access to water. There is a giant fallen log that makes stove set-up convenient, and we found a generous pile of wood next to the fire ring, left by previous campers. I had read about some bear activity in this area but our bear canister went untouched through the night.

Next day, we made the return trip in about 3 hours, as we continued to scout the river for fishing spots, sometimes scrambling down questionable routes in search of river access.

All in all, Ladybug Trail and Whiskeylog camp cannot match the majesty of the high Sierra but it does have a charm of its own, especially if you want to get away from the crowds of the more popular areas of the park, or avoid snow in spring or fall, or just enjoy wildflowers.

Final notes: South Fork lies at the beginning and end of the trail to Whiskeylog, and Squaw Creek and Cedar Creek flow permanently throughout the year, so carrying water is not an issue. And despite that DEET I mentioned at the beginning of the trip report... my brother found a tick buried deep in his side on the trip home. Nature finds a way!
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Re: TR: Whiskeylog Camp Overnighter 4/19-4/20 2019

Post by sekihiker » Wed Apr 24, 2019 8:59 pm

This early in the season you have a chance to avoid thick patches of poison oak. Photos show that there is plenty of charm in the area. Thanks for posting.

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Re: TR: Whiskeylog Camp Overnighter 4/19-4/20 2019

Post by tlsharb » Thu Apr 25, 2019 3:44 pm

I've caught many a trout on that trail. It was a regular when I was a kid. Thanks for jogging the memories.

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Re: TR: Whiskeylog Camp Overnighter 4/19-4/20 2019

Post by calarn » Sat Apr 27, 2019 3:41 pm

Thanks for the pictures! Sounds like a lovely little trip.

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