Solo Backpacking

June 16th, 2008

I’ve been wanting to do a Backpacking trip by myself for some time. And after Otto’s Passing, I really needed it. I wanted to do 3-5 days, enough time to get out there, let the dust settle in my brain so i had time to think, reflect, or just relax. I also needed some good exercise, different than my constant running. So off I went …

Chad entering Kings Canyon National Park

On Tuesday, June 3, I packed up, voted, then left San Francisco for the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At first I wasn’t sure where to go .. I considered Yosemite, Tahoe, .. but went for Kings Canyon. I did a day hike there in 2006, as well as a Backpacking trip near there at Jennie Wilderness with Juan and Damian in 2004, so i knew what to expect. I got there a few hours before sunset, enough time to eat, setup camp, and walk around a bit before bed.

Wednesday I got early and went to the Lodge to find trail info from some backpacking books. I took a few pics of some good hikes, then went to Roads End to get my wilderness permit. The rangers warned that there was still lots of snow .. mostly above 9,000 feet. I considered doing Paradise Valley (start of Rae Lakes Loop), but ended up picking Bubbs Creek to Junction Meadow, with a day hike option to East Lake or Charlotte Lake.

I started hiking around 10:30am Wednesday at Roads End (Elevation 5085 ft). It was 2 miles through the valley floor to my first Junction, then I crossed Bailey Bridge up Bubbs Creek, hitting switchbacks out of the valley to Sphinx Creek Campsite (6280 ft), my first rest, about 4 miles in. As soon as I took my backpack off, I brilliantly twisted my ankle. I hurt like hell at first, but turned out mostly OK .. wasn’t able to use it fully for over a week. After water refill and a snack, i continued on to Charlotte Creek. It was 4pm when I stopped, and my GPS watch said i hiked over 7 miles. I wasn’t sure if i had 3 or 5 miles more till Junction meadow (depending on if you trust books, maps, or trail signs), so I decided to camp, since 5 miles more would be too much. I setup tent, got water, cooked dinner – delicious spicy chicken with rice and vegies, and appreciated clean air and sunset. I was wiped out, and was in bed asleep around 9pm.

Preparing for Swim

Thursday I woke up 6ish, got out of the tent at 7am, packed and hit the trail by 8. Charlotte Creek (7280 ft) was overflowing, and I had to crawl over wet slippery logs to cross .. my first semi-dangerous adventure. I made it to Junction meadow (8190 ft) around 10am .. so it wasn’t that far after all (about 3 miles according to GPS watch). I decided to setup camp, have brunch, and do a day hike. After some tasty oatmeal, orange and banana, I hit the trail by noon. The rangers warned that bubbs creek would be too high to cross to east lake, but i ran into another hiker (first person I met on the trail) who just came from there – he spent the night on top of snow at Lake Reflection, a few miles past east lake. On his suggestion, i went to east lake instead of Charlotte Lake – mainly cuz it was closer and I’d like to spend some time swimming and exploring the lake. Bubbs creek was super high and I ended up crossing water 4 times, mostly over fallen trees, but the last crossing involved some jumping and getting my feet wet. I ringed out my socks, put my boots back on and kept on. I climbed out of the junction valley up east creek to the most beautiful views (video). I made it to East lake (9475 ft) around 2:30, swam, ate, and sunbathed till 4pm. Happy and fully rested, I hiked back down, getting back to camp by 5:30 (crossing the rivers again without falling in this time). I could feel the elevation but felt great after the afternoon at the lake. My stove wasn’t working, so i got a fire going and boiled water for my beef stronganoff (not as good as the spicy chicken). After eating I basically played with fire till after dark, and was asleep by 10pm. There were 3 other groups at junction meadow, from 2-4 peeps each.

Friday i didn’t get out of the tent till 8ish, had a leisure breakfast and wrote in my journal till 11. I then busted out of there, thinking i had to return my bear cannister before the ranger station closed at 3pm. It took me about 3.5 hours to hike out, arrived at 3:10pm – rangers were gone but they had a drop-off for the bear cannister. I was beat. I took off my boots and it was awesome – they were still pretty new and rubbing me raw in weird places. I grabbed a beer at the lodge and hit the road back to SF around 4pm. I stopped at In-N-Out and had the most delicious burger and fries ever. I made it home by 9, and went out to Amnesia for some brasstax action. Yay.

In Summary, I hiked about 30 miles over 3 days with about 4,400 feet elevation gain. You can check out my hike info from GPS Watch (it shows just the going up part, batteries ran out at east lake). Also view the Google map of the hike. At some point I want to do Rae Lakes Loop Hike, a 4-7 day trip. It is supposed to be so Amazing, one of the best in the Sierras. Here’s a sample itinerary.