15 August 2012

Sierra: Crabtree Lake to Wallace Creek

Sequoia National Park

This is part of a nine day backpacking trip that starts here.

Locate the trail head.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6 | DAY 7 | DAY 8 | DAY 9

The new day dawns nice and sunny. Only the very smallest dots of clouds are in the sky to cause any worry about weather later in the day. Reports that our missing group member had set up at the end of the lake turn out to be true. Our old neighbors turn up again, one with a pack and the other two without as one is hiking out over Whitney by trails while the other two stay for more off-trail adventures. We set out our stuff to dry, then pack it up more carefully for protection from water. I leave my sleeping bag in the bivy as it is stuffed. The good dry bag being used to hold lunch gets the clothing in it instead and a smaller sack is used for the lunch food. Really, a simple arrangement to keep dry the things that it is most important to keep dry. We head out, down the trail that comes up to the lake.

lower Crabtree Lake
The lower Crabtree Lake from the outlet end at the west.

At the bottom of the lake, the trail passes over scree, progressing diagonally downward making it hard to see where it comes out. Others have made a smaller trail crossing over the outflow. Experimentation showed that both routes work to get back onto the main trail down.

more bumps to the west
The mountains out by the Kern River, far to the west.

We progress down the trail through forest and meadow. Crossing one meadow, I smell the distinct scent of little red onions. I find a few among the meadows as I go down and nibble on them, making everything later taste a bit of onion.

purple striped flower
One of the flowers in the meadow that closes up tightly when the rain is coming.

little red onions
Many of the little red onions in the meadows have gone to seed, but the leaves are still yummy.

swampy sections in Upper Crabtree Meadow
Coming down the rocks into Upper Crabtree Meadow, there is suddenly green on either side.

Getting to a large meadow, often referred to as Upper Crabtree although it isn't in the Crabtree drainage, we sit down to have a bit of lunch. The map shows trail going around the east side of the meadow, but the trail generally vanishes at the edge and we are following the piled up signs of horse travel in a more direct route to the trail for the direction we wish to go. We enjoy the little view and wonder where exactly the main trail goes by when a trail runner shows the way.

curves of creek flowing through Upper Crabtree Meadow
Whitney Creek flows through Upper Crabtree Meadow in some big, lazy curves.

little mushrooms in the meadow
A couple of little mushrooms growing in Upper Crabtree Meadow.

Mount Whitney
As we get around Mount Hitchcock, we get another view of Mount Whitney.

butterflies on matching flowers
Nearing a maintained trail again and we come upon a bunch of flowers with matching butterflies fluttering all over.

Mount Hitchcock
The mass of rock that is Mount Hitchcock.

We rejoin maintained trail shortly, then cut across a short hill to reach the Pacific Crest Trail. We head north toward Wallace Creek, initially climbing to a long flat. There is a note on the sign for the junction with the trail that goes directly to Crabtree Ranger Station that turns out to be for us. Two people who were supposed to start with us have actually started later and come by quicker route and are waiting at Wallace Lake. The trail passes large meadows as it drops and climbs again. We pass a work crew at the small creek before Wallace Creek who point out that there is a use trail up it and we decide to take it rather than making our way cross country from here. We continue down a series of very solid switchbacks that seem to embody the pure essence of what is a switchback.

meadow along the PCT
Sandy Meadow and the mountains along the Kern River in the distance.

white mountains popping up through a gap
Some very white mountains showing up through a gap in the nearby ones.

Wallace Creek valley
Coming into Wallace Creek, the valley seems quite defined.

Getting to Wallace Creek, we find it is a madhouse with people camping everywhere. At the sign for the Kern Hot Springs, we turn the other way and follow the use trail up the side of the creek. The route of the trail does not stick all that close to the water, hinting that it may have been built at some point. We continue up it without expecting we'll go all the way to Wallace Lake today. Well, all but one who is heading cross country from higher up on the PCT. During the time we walk up the creek, the sky to our left is building up thick clouds while the sky to our right remains mostly clear. We stop just past a big meadow and make camp among the trees. I build another shelter with a borrowed hiking pole.

short canyon the creek is carving in the bottom of the glacial valley
Part of the few 10s of feet deep canyon that Wallace Creek is carving out of the bottom of the glacial valley it flows through.

meadow along Wallace Creek
We come to a large meadow fed by a Wallace Creek where our trail crosses over. Up from the meadow, there is a waterfall.

A ranger comes by on her way to personal plans for the coming days that serve as a weekend for her. She is surprised to see people camped here, although it is clearly well used and she is even checking for illegal fire rings. She seems a little worried about the sky above, but is fairly sure that it is too late for it to do anything. This turns out to be wishful thinking as less than an hour later the sky opens up with rain that quickly turns to large hail stones. Again. I'm more interested in cooking than in taking shelter from the falling ice, but it becomes clear that I won't be able to keep it out of my pot while doing the constant stirring I call "simmering" on my Whisperlite. It also seems to be taking forever to boil, but that was probably simply perception. The hail bounces everywhere. My shelter turns out to be pointed in the exact correct direction and only a few bits of ice land on my bivy. Others are not so lucky as they find out that their spot is made so perfectly flat by a pooling process of water that flows to it. On the other hand, everything is kept dry anyway by nice mats and everything is good again after the tent is moved.

shelter from the hail
The ice comes down again, but my shelter holds firm against it.

The hail finishes and the clouds disperse, giving us plenty of time at the end of the day for cooking without trying to shelter the pot from falling water. The weather may be bad, but it also seems to have a sense of timing for convenience.

Continue reading: day 7

©2012 Valerie Norton
Posted 26 Aug 2012

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