August 22-31, 2012 we (Amy and James) hiked a ten-day loop through Sequoia and Kings Canyon (SEKI) National Parks. The goal was to take a long trip through the high Sierra with only modest amounts of cross-country travel and not too much time spent on the John Muir Trail (aka JMT). We also wanted to visit a few places we had not been to previously. It was also designed as a loop so that transit back to the car at the end of the trip would not be a hassle.
Our route started at Road’s End in Kings Canyon NP. We crossed Avalanche and Colby Passes and descended into Kern Canyon to Junction Meadow. Heading north, we followed trail to about the 10800 foot level in the Upper Kern Basin. We traveled cross-country to Lucy’s Foot Pass, but didn’t descend the pass as neither of us felt comfortable on the extremely loose rock in the descent gully. We headed back south to Lake South America and contoured around to the JMT. We followed the JMT north to its junction with the Middle Fork of the Kings River (with an off-trail diversion from Glen Pass through 60 Lakes Basin) crossing Forester, Glenn, Pinchot, and Mather Passes. Then down the Middle Fork Kings to Simpson Meadow, followed by a crossing of the Monarch Divide via Kennedy Canyon and Kennedy Pass and back down to Kings Canyon via Lewis Creek. Along the way, James summited Mt. Genevra, Mt. Wynne, and Kennedy Mountain. Overall, this route was about 140 miles of fantastic high mountain walking.
A few notes:
• we had exceptionally good weather: day one was overcast and day ten offered a half hour’s worth of light precipitation, but the rest of time was perfect Sierra weather
• mildly annoying insects were present only below 7000 feet
• while a bit dryer than average, there was plenty of surface water available
• steam crossings were not a problem anywhere; there is a log bridge across the Middle Fork of the Kings River just off of the JMT
• the Kennedy Canyon Trail descending Dead Pine Ridge and then through Kennedy Canyon itself is, as the Park Service calls it, “faint” and requires much attention not to lose it: we would not recommend it to those who are navigationally challenged
• the Kennedy Canyon Trail from Kennedy Pass to Frypan Meadow is in poor condition and on the verge of being seriously overgrown
• we saw three bears, all on the Monarch Divide; one was cooling off in a shallow stream.
• During three days walking on the JMT, we saw many dozens of people. Otherwise, we encountered two other parties on the trail, two other parties at a distance, and one trail crew. The concentration of people on the JMT is very dramatic, but it doesn't take much effort to find solitude in the southern Sierra.
• Amy made a brand new 35 ounce down double top-quilt, with nice footbox, just prior to the trip. This replaced a worn out modified Nunatak Backcountry Blanket. It was great. She will post a report on that over in the MYOG forums.
Below are a few images from the trip. The full show is posted in our SmugMug gallery.
southeast of Colby Pass
campsite at 12,300 feet just north of Forester Pass
looking west down Palisade Creek
Enchanted Gorge and Disappearing Creek from the trail up to Monarch Divide; we descended the Gorge from the Ionian Basin to Goddard Canyon many years ago.