Get High ~ Sequoia National Park (Part 2)

“When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful… and one naturally walked softly and awestricken among them.”  ~  John Muir

Time to get high, as in “natural high” or elevation gain, not like some of you are thinking.  Temps are starting to creep up so hiking in the higher elevations just makes more sense.  For our first high- elevation hike in Sequoia National Park, we opted for part of the High Sierra Trail.  I say part because you could traipse all the way to Mt. Whitney if you were so inclined.  Our trek for the day was to be 11 miles, versus 60 to the highest point in the lower 48.

I’m quite the flashy little guy, don’t you think?

This is rated as a moderate hike, with some longish steady uphill slogs.  Probably rated more this because of the distance versus the uphill exertion.  On our way out to the trailhead, which began in the Giant Forest, a black bear sow and cinnamon yearling sprinted across the road, both evading our camera.  We had heard there were bears in the area, but this was to be our first sighting.

Terry headin’ on down the trail.

Beginning at an elevation of ~7000 feet, which I was still acclimatizing to since we lived at sea level for the past four months, the air was crisp and fresh, fresh, fresh.  Part of the trail winds through the quiet, lush green forests, with the trilling of many songbirds, the sweet scents of unknown plants (did recognize sage and what I thought smelled like grape hyacinth) and the deep, rich fragrance of pine wafted up as we hiked across the spongy carpet of needles.

pretty in pink

Where the forest opened up, many varieties of wildflowers were beginning to pop along the trail, adding to the sensual pleasure.

Besides the quiet beauty of the forest and the wildflowers that greeted us along the path, gurgling brooks and waterfalls appeared around many bends.

waterfall where we enjoyed lunch

We enjoyed our lunch next to a small cascading waterfall, created from the snow-melt above. Vistas opened through the forest to remind us of how high we were and how much further our feet could carry us.

We were continually amazed at the size of the trees on this trail, sending out cones almost the length of my arm in some cases.

One big pine cone, and nope, not from a sequoia.

This is definitely a hike worth taking if you like high elevations and grand vistas (and don’t mind a little uphill trekking).

Our next hike (and with a day’s rest between the two, thank you) was to Eagle Lake, out the Mineral King road.  The drive out is 25 miles on an old  logging road, narrow and not terribly well-maintained.  There are 698 twists and turns to get to Mineral King, the teeny town near the trailhead (yes, someone actually counted them) so it becomes a 90-minute drive at an average speed of 15-20 mph.

Historic 1923 Kaweah River Bridge on drive out to Mineral King.

Given the views, I would say it is worth the time, even if winding roads make you a little “green around the gills” as they can me. Elevations at the trailheads out in these parts are the highest anywhere in the park.

We stopped at the Ranger Station a couple of miles from the trails to get some information and check out which trail seemed most to our liking.  Both were rated as strenuous and Eagle Lake was a little longer, but with the lake as our destination, that did it for us.

fat marmot with a voracious hunger

We had heard that the marmots here liked to munch on wiring and cables in vehicles (something about lacking needed minerals when they crawled out of their den with their babes) so thought we would confirm this with the Ranger.  He assured us that no marmots had bothered vehicles parked across from the Ranger Station but an unfortunate hiker who had parked at the trailhead had to have his car towed earlier in the week.  Ok, decision made, even though it added another 4.5 miles to our hike for the day.

Anise swallowtail right at my feet!

The Eagle Lake Trail is an 8-mile hike (websites say a little less but I’m goin’ with our GPS reading) at a starting elevation of 7400 feet and an elevation gain of 2500 feet (the part that gave me pause).  With what promised to be a beautiful lake at the end, I pushed aside my doubt of ever seeing it and off we headed.

view out to the trailhead

The views along the way were spectacular so if this is what we had to look forward to once on the trail, bring it on!

Gurgling snow-fed streams, lofty waterfalls, beautiful butterflies and gorgeous vistas almost made me forget about the relentless uphill climb (almost).  Just when I thought we had hit a little smooth sailing (as in level terrain), around the next bend what should appear but a rather extensive boulder field that needed to be traversed.

Seriously?! We’ve gotta cross this thing?

By now I’m thinking maybe I don’t need to see another lake after all!  With a little cajoling from Terry and a wee bit of whining and sniveling on my part, we crossed over and prepared for the last leg of our journey up to the lake (sounds like I’m trekking Mt Everest, doesn’t it?).

Man, was it worth it!  Eagle Lake is a cirque  granite lake, crystal clear and looked so inviting. All we had time for was a quick lunch and a few photos, then back down the trail we went.  I would have been so disappointed had I not gutted it out.

the prize at the end of the trail
two tired but very happy hikers

The hike out took less than half the time to get up to the lake.  We both agreed it was one of the toughest hikes either of us had done but one of the most rewarding.  Actually, once off the trail, the hike back to our truck seemed like the longest but it assured us that we wouldn’t have furry little hitchhikers on the way back, right?  Well, what should we find when we approached our truck but a fat marmot scurrying under it.  Terry yelled and raised the hood and who should be sitting on the engine staring back at him but our fat, furry friend wanting a lift back into town!  He decided to scurry off instead and no damage done.  We noticed as we passed through the parking lot at the trailhead that many cars had been encased in chicken wire and one ingenious hiker had laid down a large tarp, drove onto it, and wrapped it up like a Christmas present!  Didn’t even think to take a photo, darn it.

It’s a great time of year to come up to Sequoia National Park and get high, as in a high elevation hike.  You don’t know what you’re missing!

Magic mushrooms anyone?

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24 thoughts on “Get High ~ Sequoia National Park (Part 2)

  • It is obvious to us that you’re having a wonderful time. Keep it up, it makes all of us think in a positive manner about what wonderful experiences are available in our wonderful country. R&G

  • What a wonderful post! Your rendering was absolutely beautiful, as were the pictures. It makes me want to do higher and longer hikes this summer to get ready. Now I just have to find someone to do them with.

  • That’s a fancy lizard, for sure. You’d have to save him for Sunday.

    Those marmots, though; they look like your everyday sort of critter.

  • Hello, this post is wonderful! I am particularly drawn in by John Muir’s quote. He is my inspiration and I have mentioned a quote from him in one of my books Memoirs: The Soulful Recollection Friendship and Life. The quote is “The power of imagination makes us infintie”- John Muir
    My passion is writing – short stories and poetry. I was wondering, if you are into reading ebooks about fiction- with a touch of adventure and inspiration from nature and life, then may be you could check out my blog at your own leisure, my latest ebook: 12 Precious Anecdotes from Life – a novella of such a genre has been released at Amazon , and I posted the synopsis at my blog. I wish you a great week ahead.

  • 11 miles and with that much gain is Moderate? I’m only 28 but I’m gonna be needing a stick as well. How much time in all did you two spend on those trails?
    Love the lake at the end.

    • Given that I’m old enough to be your mother, I use sticks except on the easier hikes. I find they protect my knees so much better. We don’t feel the need to rush on any hikes as we find it’s about the journey. We stop for photos, a nice lunch, to take in the sights, sounds and smells around us. The 11-miler probably took about 4.5 hours and the 12.5’er about 6.5. Both are great trails!

  • what a great and beautiful trip!. lu, are you going to do sometihng ‘crafty’ with those pine cones? those are just too much!

    • I used to make my own potpourri when we lived in Sedona, gathering up leaves and cones in the forest. I’m not sure what I would do with a pinecone that size! Sequoia and Kings Canyon are both beautiful national parks. Have you ever been to either? You would have so much material to photograph.

    • We are right behind you my blogger friend! Yes, we are in Yosemite right now for another week, then will be headed to the San Francisco area after that, where we will be exploring Muir Woods National Monument. I really love your blog and your ability to appreciate the beauty in nature. You also have a great eye as a photographer. One other noteworthy item, when my husband and I traveled through Mexico for a year we always marveled at the multiple family generations walking arm-in-arm together, which sadly I think is something missing in this country. I love it that you embrace traveling with mother, grandmother, uncle, etc. Kudos to you! Thanks so much for featuring me on your blog.

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