05 July 2013

Mineral King: Big Five Lakes

Sequoia National Park

Locate the trailhead.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5

Day 3. I still wasn't feeling like I should, but I was feeling better with a higher quality sleep. The thing was, we were way behind the plan. It may not have been quite as hopeless to head on down to the spring at 6k feet, a decidedly warm elevation, but it sure felt like it. We decided to let it go. We would take the trail down Big Arroyo and catch our route up again at Soda Creek. Today would be a bit of downhill after a day hike over to the Big Five Lakes.

clouds gathering already in the gap
Clouds gathering already in Kaweah Gap, the last place the clouds hung on to yesterday.

The trail around the edge of the short ridge that separates the Big Five and Little Five Lakes is well traveled and we met a few hikers along it. At least until the junction where a spur goes up to the upper lakes. No one else seemed to be coming that way and gradually the trail went too. At first, it just showed more signs of having to reroute around logs. It drops down to the first lake in short, steep switchbacks. It looks like camp spots have been established at this lake off to the left a ways. It then drops down a bit further to a larger lake. We came to another campsite and the trail seemed to stop. This may be what's left of a spur that goes around the lake a little way to the left that is shown on the map. We then found a bit more trail heading up. The signs of a well built trail are along it, but the trail itself dwindles away to nothing. I was expecting use trails to go further than the routes shown on the map, but instead it is hard to follow trail even that far. We settled by the third lake for a bit before turning back.

first lake we came to of the Big Five Lakes
The first of the Big Five Lakes that we came to.

the next lake is a bit bigger
Past the first lake, the second lake is a bit bigger and has a couple trails.

losing the good trail
Following Sung as the trail goes from some lovely rock work along the edge of a meadow to following cairns over small logs and up a rocky creek in just over 40 feet.

sitting by the lake side
Sung doing his best to actually sit by the lake for a long moment.

a wide spot in the stream flowing from third to second lake
Water must flow between the lakes, and sometimes it flows very widely across the meadow.

Heading back to camp, we packed everything up and started down to Big Arroyo. The trail bobs along with little climbs for a mile or so and passes another cluster of lakes that are also marked Little Five Lakes on the map. We met a few hikers along this bit of trail, too, including one of the returning day hikers to the local big mountain. After those lakes, it is a steep drop down to the creek, another bear box, and the old patrol cabin.

another of the Little Five Lakes
Perhaps it's a mistake, but this is another of the much more than five lakes in Little Five Lakes.

looking down into Big Arroyo shows a small building and a line of trail
Taking a look down among the trees below in Big Arroyo shows a line of grey High Sierra Trail making an easy climb and the old patrol cabin.

Big Arroyo Patrol Station
Old Big Arroyo Patrol Cabin on the map. As near as we could make out the sign above the door, this is the Big Arroyo Patrol Station. A second line might say Sequoia National Park and a third line looked like it could have said the elevation. Only cracks allow looking in, and that only to see the other cracks.

This spot seemed to have quite a few camping at it already and plenty of mosquitoes. After the poke around the cabin, we turned down the Big Arroyo trail to get a few more miles covered before camp.

cliffs above Big Arroyo/High Sierra Trail intersection
A look up at the rocks around the cabin and campsite at Big Arroyo.

looking up toward the Little Five Lakes
Got to take the picture if someone poses. Looking back up the way we came toward the Little Five Lakes.

The trail below was easy to follow in general, but is clearly much less used. We didn't meet anyone along it, but did manage to stay on it for this first part. It was looking like finding a camp site would be tough, but we found one just ten minutes after really starting to look. It was dry and tucked away a little from the sound of the rushing water. There was a nice, rocky kitchen area with great table rocks around. The mosquitoes were sparse and got more so as the evening actually cooled off. The night before had a few times when I was wondering how I could be hearing a mosquito in the ear against the pillow, so I was still determined to try out an idea for protection from the things by gathering and draping my tarp much like a mosquito net. It also helped cut out light and sound and wasn't as warm as feared. We settled in for a nice night.

Continue reading: day 4

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 12 July 2013

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