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easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

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easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby adam » Tue Jun 23, 2009 9:53 am

Hi All,

I'll be visiting friends in beautiful bakersfield soon and would like to get in a backpack trip in the vicinity while there. It will be the first of the season and I'd like to keep it pretty mellow. Ideally, it would be 1-2 nights, no dramatic elevation gain, and alpine or subalpine areas-- sort of like what's available off tioga road up north. Realistically this might be a bit much to ask.

Do those of you who know the area have any inspired suggestions? I was looking at the mineral king and general's highway areas, just because they seem to be the closest coming/going from bakersfield from the bay area, but I'm totally ignorant of that part of the mountains (my previous trip to the area was as a carsick 7 year old puking out the window!). I'm open to any suggestions, including those that violate my preferences above if you think they're really great trips.

the trips out of mineral king looked to all be pretty steep; the one pretty mellow one off general's highway I gleaned from the guidebooks was going to alta meadows from wolverton (or perhaps pear lake?). Is this area nice? hugely crowded? any other, including cross country, alternatives that might be better?

thanks for any help!



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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby cgundersen » Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:15 am

Hi Adam,
Alta Meadow is certainly nice and VERY easy to reach (easiest from Wolverton), but to get flatter ground for a tent, you have to descend to the lower parts of the meadow, and you lose a lot of the view (and, there is no lake, obviously). If you are up for another hour (or two) of moderately strenuous effort (beyond Alta), you can reach one of the small, off-trail little lakes that are visible on the topo maps below Moose Lake. Many years ago, I "dragged" my 13 year old brother and his same aged pal to the lower of those lakes, and it was well within their capabilities. You just need to be a bit savvy about negotiating off trail, because there is no well-worn use trail (however, there is a fairly decent use trail to Moose that begins on the ridge above these two little lakes and peters out just shy of Moose). Anyway, in addition to having a lake (and, last time I was there, the lower one had trout), you'll almost certainly have the place to yourself, and the views over Buck's canyon up toward Hamilton Lake and the Great Western Divide are great. It's definitely a bit more work, but in my mind, it's worth the effort. Obviously, if you run out of gas at Alta Meadow, it should still be a fine escape from B-field.
CG
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby adam » Tue Jun 23, 2009 12:05 pm

thanks-- that's helpful information. How much did you have to "drag" your brother, and how long ago was it? I ask because in reading up on this in some of the old wilderness press guides from the late 70's, it seems very attractive to try to continue to moose lake, perhaps even looping back via pear lake.

However, the current wilderness press Sierra South guide warns "a trail that once went across alta meadow to moose lake no longer exists--even across the meadow, it is barely a use trail--and trying to follow its route is a frustrating exercise in bashing through deadfall and over animal trails. A better route to moose lake may be to go cross-country at or above treeline-- a rough route for hardier hikers, especially for those who wish to loop over to pear lake"

Even accounting for what I take to be the general lowering of expected guidebook reader ability from the 70's to now (at least based on the routes the old books include), this seems like a stern warning. On the other hand, I don't mind a bit of effort.

-adam
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby cgundersen » Tue Jun 23, 2009 2:53 pm

Hi Adam,
From my recollections (I was last through that area ~4 years ago), once you reach the eastern fringes of Alta meadow (and there WAS a trail all the way through the meadow, but it can be obscured by plants) you may still find some remnant trail, but mostly you are on your own. After that I pretty much stayed roughly level or climbed slightly to pass through a couple more washes (and one of them has a very robust, but easy to cross stream). After the second (or possibly, third) wash, there is a a fairly steep hillside (maybe ~500 ft climb), and once you reach the ridge, you'll be looking down on the lower of the two small lakes (and, it's ~400-500 ft down to the lake, I have never traversed around the ridge, because there is lots more bushwhacking to do). If you go that far, that's probably a good time to decide if you want to go for Moose. The climb is not that daunting, and the use trail on the ridge does get you to within shouting distance of Moose (the trail vanishes as you cross a final mix of meadow and rock leading up to the lake). I really like Moose (no trees, but great open views). Again, if you're going to loop back to Pear, you need to be patient on the Tablelands. You'll be expecting to loop into the Pear Lake recess long before you actually reach it. nevertheless, crossing the wide open Tablelands is fun and it's great to do the loop. Just remember that it'll take a lot more time/energy than the original Alta meadow plan.
CG
PS: The little bro had his sleeping bag & clothes and made the trip like a pro; the scenery left him as speechless as the altitude.
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby adam » Tue Jun 23, 2009 3:29 pm

again, thanks for the info. We'll have to see how ambition and time align whether I stick with the easy alta or go for the loop, but it's nice to know what's involved either way.
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby SSSdave » Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:14 pm

A problem you are going to get when asking such questions on boards like this is many responses will be more strenuous than you probably really are looking for. That is because most on these boards have considerable experience, are often in excellent physical shape, and tend to provide suggestions of places they themselves have visited and would recommend to equals. And one can predict destinations will take most of a day to reach while climbing up considerable elevations.

One or two nights is not much time out there and I am one that believes one ought not spend most of the time on such trips hiking all day and being so exhausted from the effort that all one can do is lay around in camp recovering. In fact I enjoy many easy destinations into the backcountry that are actually terrific though many would pass right by. The destination below is not a lake nor a major stream. There is no fishing. A hangup many backpackers have is all their destinations are lake or major streams to lake to lake to lake. But since you didn't mention either and did mention alpine...

So here is one near Bakersfiled and indeed it goes to Mineral King you mentioned, however it is easy. And although it will be near a trail, I can guarantee few others will be in the area except to occasionally pass through. Destination is where the trail up White Chief Canyon reaches elevation 9160 feet:

http://www.mytopo.com/maps.cfm?mtlat=36 ... .5856&z=15

Its a small bench near a small stream with a terrific canyon view, especially late in the day. There is a grassy area just north of the trail with terrific views for minimalist tenters or one can go a couple hundred feet further to a old mining residence site in tall red firs. The grassy area has the superb view, fine sierra juniper, lots of wildflowers, and lots of marmots and deer. Definitely bring binoculars. With just a single layover day, continuing to explore up the canyon that has unusual limestone outcrops will be more than enough to keep anyone occupied.
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby rightstar76 » Wed Jun 24, 2009 12:41 am

True, there is no trail across Alta Meadow. No sweat because there's a nice trail there. The only thing there still might be a tree across the trail after the junction to Alta Peak. That was last year so maybe it was sawed through. Even so, a minor nuisance. Never been past the meadow so I can't help you there but it doesn't look too difficult as long as you stay above the tree line. The meadow itself is a great destination in and of itself so you can't go wrong.
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby Skibum » Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:52 am

I agree with sssdave. It sounds to me like your looking for a fairly easy trip. For a fairly easy 1-2 day trip that reaches some nice alpine scenery, you might consider Pear Lake out of Wolverton. 6.2 miles to Pear Lake with around a 2000 ft. elevation gain. You can always stop at Heather Lake if you so desire.

Have fun.
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby Shawn » Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:29 am

The area sssdave refers to is very nice.....
Image

As is the area around Alta and Pear Lake....
Image

And here's an image (from 2003) looking down at Alta Meadws....
Image
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby adam » Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:30 pm

shawn, skibum, and ssdave, et al... thanks for the help and the photos! sssdave, I agree with you that while adventure and challenge have their place, so does taking it easy. I really appreciate your suggestion-- I've often idly (very idly) thought of compiling a website of beautiful but easy-to-reach campsites like this, and it's great to have this info about places I don't know well. We'll see what my wife and I are up for after a few days in bakersfield (besides getting out!)-- but it's nice to know that there are easy options. I've actually never been to bakersfield-- maybe I'll love it.

-adam
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:47 pm

The hike to Alta meadow/peak can be made less strenuous easily - when you get to Mehrton Meadows there are established camp sites and a stream. If you are pooped, this is a good place to set up for the night. The next day you can go on to Alta.

The established trail will end at Alta meadow - if you look to the immediate right there is a large campsite with fire ring. If you continue down the ridge there will be ample flat spots for tents just off the meadow, which is good because much of the meadow itself is a bog. There is a spring/stream that crosses the trail on the way in that is the best water source for this area.

While I was camped at Alta last fall (August) there was fresh bear scat and one of the trees from which I suspended my hammock had scratches on it. I did not see a bear, however, and nothing disturbed my bear can.

If you choose to go to Pear Lake, be aware that it's against regulations to camp at some of the lakes.

A great moderate loop is the Jennie Lakes Wilderness - taken at a leisurely pace, this is a great easy trip with two lakes to stop at.
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Re: easyish trip from west side seki; alta medows?

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:01 pm

21 years ago on my first day out of Wolverton, instead of taking the usual trail towards Hamilton Lakes, I chose a first night at Alta Meadows because I thought the views east might be good. After arriving at the east end of those meadows, I explored for a camp spot into the nearby tall red fir forest and guess what? Rousted three big black bears that were having fun climbing up trees. They dropped like rocks to the ground and ran off. Made me a bit spooked looking for a spot in "bear meadows" and ended up camping atop some rocks on a nose out in the canyon where I wouldn't be waking up to glowing eyes in the dark. The next morning I made like tarzan descending very steep heavily treed slopes to the trail far below. A route NOT recommended.

In Shawn's pic the flat area upper left in the background between the trees is the big flat just above my 9650 bench where the miners once lived.
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