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The High Sierra Trail

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The High Sierra Trail

Postby freestone » Sun Jan 09, 2011 9:00 am

After doing some reading in Starr's Guide to the High Sierra, and reading LMBSGB's excellent trip report, I have decided to do the HST at some point in my life (I just turned 60, so I'd better hurry!). My first problem I need to work out is logistics. How do most hikers travel it? I do not see any loop possibilities that would take me back to my starting point at Crescent Meadow. One option is to park a car at both ends of the trail, but since I will most likely be solo, this would not work. Another obvious option would be to simply turn around at Junction Meadow and go back. I would love to hear from any of you who have done the trail and how you solved this logistical issue. Thank you!



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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby copeg » Sun Jan 09, 2011 10:28 am

Is doing the HST in sections an option? I just ask since I haven't done it in a single trip, and preferred it that way since each time it allowed me to do loops and/or explore surrounding territory without worrying about the logistics of a shuttle.
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby quentinc » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:00 am

Although I know Kern Hot Springs has its fervent fans, personally if I couldn't do a through trip (because of logistics) I would skip the plunge into Kern Canyon. To me, that is by far the least interesting part of the trail, including dusty, mosquito-filed Junction Meadow; the tumble down into the Canyon; and the long, hot slog up out of it. Others will disagree, which is part of the fun.

If you were to do it in halves, there's lots of wonderful country to explore around the trail, particularly on the western segment. Tarmarack Lake and Nine Lakes Basin are two lovely areas. On the east, as Wandering Daisy will tell you ;) , you can't go wrong with a side trip to Wales and Wallace Lakes.
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby sirlight » Sun Jan 09, 2011 1:45 pm

The trail is wonderful to do as a through hike if you have the stamina and the time. It’s best to start from crescent meadow and finish up at Whitney Portal. The way you have a chance to get used to the elevation as you go along. When I did it, the entire trip turned out to be around 83 miles and 22K total elevation gain. We allowed 8 days , but finished in 7. It’s a real high sierra adventure.

Logistics can be a huge problem since it’s about 350 miles between trailheads. There is really no way around needing someone to help with the transportation. You can park a car at lone pine and use that to get home when you finish. Contact the chamber of commerce in lone pine. If you make a small donation, they will let you park for as much as 2 weeks. Hitch hike from Whitney portal down to lone pine on your last day.

You will have some wonderful memories when the trip is done, and that pizza in lone pine will taste great!
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jan 09, 2011 1:50 pm

Two years ago I did most of the High Sierra Trail from Whitney Portal. I went from Trail Crest to Junction Meadow, then up the Kern-Keweah, over Pants Pass and down to Hamilton Lake- then returned on the trail, with a side-trip to Wallace Lake. If going over Pants Pass (off-trail) is not appealing, you could stay on the trail over Colby Pass, go on down to Roaring Fork and take the Elizabeth Pass trail to Hamilton Lake and then return on the High Sierra Trail. These loops miss the first 15 miles or so from Crescent Meadow.

Another good method is to find another person or group and have each group do it from opposite trailheads, plan a meeting point to trade keys and then when you get out you take the other person's car to a meeting point. I met a group who was doing just that when I was out two years ago. Obviously, you have to trust your car with the other person(s).

Third method is to have a family memeber pick you up and drive you back. Do you have any kids that "owe" you (say- you helped them with college?).

I suppose with enough time you could piece together a public transportation return - I think when done, you could just as easily pay someone to pick you up. You get charged about $100 to be taken from one trailhead on the east side to another on the east side- I guess it would be a pretty penny to get across the mountains back to Crescent Meadow.
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby tim » Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:18 pm

I was looking at the transport options for this and figured out the best option seems to be to stay in Visalia at one of the motels and leave your car there, get the early shuttle up to Sequoia (6 or 7am), collect your permit at Lodgepole and get the shuttle over to Crescent Meadow (giving you a decent half day on the trail). After exiting at Whitney Portal you hitch down to Lone Pine and stay there (in the hostel or wherever). The next morning (early) you get the CREST bus to Mojave where you change to a Greyhound bus back to Visalia (you have about one hour for the connection at McDonalds at lunchtime), arriving back in Visalia late afternoon. The only tricky thing is that the CREST buses just run Monday, Wednesday, Friday so you need to time your start/end dates accordingly. However, its way cheaper than any other option, and adds very little to the time required.
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby Cloudy » Sun Jan 09, 2011 10:48 pm

I've started at Crescent Meadow, headed over Kaweah Gap, down Big Arroyo and into Kern Canyon. Headed N to Kern Hot Spring, turned around and retraced my steps (and more) to Rattlesnake Creek, Continued west up Rattlesnake Creek, over Franklin Pass, walked the length of Mineral King Valley and headed over Timber Gap. From there to Redwood Meadow, up to Bearpaw Meadow and back onto the HST for an easy walk back to Crescent Meadow. I don't remember how long it took but my trips usually last around 10 days or so - and I've never been in great shape :-) As I recall, the worst of it was the sandy slog near the top of the east side of Franklin Pass and the short, steep section below Timber Gap.
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jan 10, 2011 8:10 pm

The plunge into Kern Canyon is an integral part of the High Sierra Trail, whether liked of not! It takes you to another ecosystem in the Sierra. My experience, although not all fun and games, was not to be missed. I descended in a fierce lightning storm then got to the hot springs only to be swarmed by bees! Who would have thought. I actually had to retreat to my tent to eat dinner. I finally got into the hot springs after a long wait (next AM actually -too many others ahead of me). I thought the walk up out of the canyon to the PCT was just fine. I think the Kern Canyon is a geologic wonder and something not to be missed. To each his own! I think the conditions on the exact day you do this will make a lot of difference. If the springs are very crowded it is a real disappointment to get there and wait until the next morning to get in. The camping at the springs is not great. BEst to hit the springs in AM and continue walking and camp at better spots north. On the other hand, if you are lucky and hit the springs when few others are around a leisurely soak in the evening is heaven. It is all a roll of the dice.
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby freestone » Mon Jan 10, 2011 10:16 pm

Thank you everyone for taking the time to express your thoughts and experiences on the HST. It has really expanded my options on how to approach it in its entirety. My first thoughts were to do the trail as a through hike using UL elements to see if I like that sort of hiking, but now I will also consider doing it two sections using the suggested trail alternatives. Nice to also hear about the public transportation possibilities, and yes Wandering Daisy, my kids owe me!
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby maverick » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:38 pm

I would rather do the HST is sections since it passes thru, or near some of the
best parts of the Sierra that you would not explore because of sticking to a
designated trail, the best thing of the HST, and the JMT, is that it offers quick
access to off trail routes, which otherwise would take longer to get to.
I too think that the Kern, especially looking down from higher benches above it
is very pretty.
There are numerous variations you can do by starting at either end of the HST.
For example: Crescent-Bear Paw-9 Lakes-Big Arroyo-and from here you have
several trails to choose from to get to Mineral King, and back to the HST
via Timber Gap.
Another would be to use the cross-country pass in 9 Lakes to get to Lion Lake from
where you can follow Lone Pine Creek to Tamarack Lake and back to the HST.
From the other end you can head north on the PCT into the Upper Kern, and then
down the Kern to Junction Meadow/HST and back to Whitney.
Things get really good if you are comfy with cross-country which opens up
Wallace/Wright Lakes, and Kaweah Basin areas for example, which are great
destinations on there own.
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby LMBSGV » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:54 pm

Freestone, thank you for the kind words on my trip report. I also concur with doing the HST in sections. Like Wandering Daisy, I love the “geologic wonder” of Kern Canyon. As Maverick suggests, study a map for a nice loop trip of the western section by going back through Mineral King. It’s a matter of how much time you have and what are your sensibilities. Even if you’re not someone who is comfy with cross country, Milestone Basin, the Upper Kern, Wallace and Wright Lakes are relatively easy and well worth a side trip. They are all class 1 hiking routes that only require basic navigation skills. Study the maps and dream up possible trips and then choose the one(s) that seems to fit you best.
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Re: The High Sierra Trail

Postby East Side Hiker » Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:50 pm

Its rugged country in the Kaweah drainage. And the plunge off the Chagoopa into the Kern is fascinating. As several people have said, there are several variations to getting back to Cresent if you make the time. Triple Divide Pk and the Kaweah Pks Ridge region is splendid, and you're right there after crossing the Kaweah Gap. So much country to see in that region.
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