18 July 2015

Coyote Peaks: Coyote Pass

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Park

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3

(Day 2 of 3) After getting a mound of water for breakfast and another mound for hiking for the day, a procedure that seems to take forever with a Sawyer mini, Bernard is somehow still sleeping. The shaded creek is full of tiny Humboldt lilies and I enjoy my nice hot breakfast before giving him a little kick to get started on the hiking for the day. Today we climb and, as far as we know, this is the last water before the lakes at the top. The trail is a lot easier to find as we start today than it was as we ended yesterday.

full of green
Humboldt lilies are among the thick green around Rifle Creek.

Lion Fire scar
Back out into the scar left by the 2012 Lion Fire, but at least some sawyers have come by.

The trail becomes faint in places as we twist up through the forest. There are still a few big logs to jump over, but it is not so bad that the few mule prints we find on the trail seem out of place. Pistol Creek is gurgling along just fine as we come to it. A glimpse up Farewell Gap is surprisingly familiar from seeing it on the other side. Far to the south, over one ridge, there are the tiniest little thunderheads developing.

bald peaks through a pass
Peeking out through, perhaps, Shotgun Pass, are some rocks that became familiar when hiking past them out from Little Claire Lake.

Pistol Creek
Pistol Creek has a fine flow.

Little Kern River valley
Looking back down the valley of the Little Kern River. Far in the distance, there are tiny thunderheads.

points of hard rock
A little bit of early granite as we climb.

As we hit a junction, we are on the lesser of three trails. Two loose sign boards point the way. One says we are 4 miles to the pass and just 10 miles to Lewis Camp. I am pretty sure that not even a crow could make it back to our start in 10 miles. (The straight line distance on the map is easily determined off the UTM grid as 19.5 km, well over 10 miles.) I have coordinates in my GPS for various benchmarks along the trail that were either set or recovered in 1940, some of which are marked on the 1905 map. I am excited to look for these as we go, since I found one of them last November.

towering clouds over the Little Kern River valley
Well, those certainly are growing quickly.

rain over the Kern River
And far down there, I am certain there is rain over the Kern River.

The first benchmark is near, but not very near the junction and finding it proves difficult. The point in the GPS is far below the trail, probably read off a map rather than an actual location. The map indicates a switchback to hit this trail a little further to the east than we did, so the junction may have changed over time. We continue on to Pistol Creek again, which is still flowing well. Finding the trail again on the far side of the creek is oddly challenging, but once we are on the right line, it is obvious it is the trail.

pointy things in the distance
Onward toward higher ground, but not very quickly yet.

lilies by the creek
Humboldt lilies and Sierra onions by Pistol Creek.

The trail wanders south to a saddle. A benchmark in a saddle should be easier to locate, but an extensive search comes up empty again. We start down and into some brief rain. Shortly after hitting Rifle Creek again (flowing), Bernard seems determined to keep going downhill as we hit some ceanothus. He takes a corner that screams wrong to me, but he is barreling forward. At least I am not the one wearing shorts. The barreling is short lived as the white thorn gets too thick. We look around for an answer and I finally point out a massive tree at the top of the thorny growth which we agree has a massive blaze on it. We backtrack out of the bushes even further than I thought we would before finding a piece of perfectly good trail that was starting to climb.

up from Pistol Creek
The changing terrain looking up Pistol Creek.

purple flowers
A burst of purple at one of the lines that feeds Rifle Creek.

A little after Rifle Creek, the trail really gets to climbing. Bernard is annoyed at how difficult it is to follow, but from here it is easy. There is still a tree to navigate, so it is not perfect. Up and up we go until at a wide saddle.

Great Western Divide
Things get sharper as we start to climb in earnest.

wide, high spaces
Up in a saddle where I can fail to find another benchmark.

We figure we are at the pass, but there is a short downhill and an even shorter uphill to get there. The real Coyote Pass is a more impressive area of rocky outcrops and well marked with Park Service boundary signs. One of the older benchmarks is here, somewhere. As if to tease us about bring our water up, there is water on the way down toward the pass.

Tamarack Creek
A burst of flowers around the small flow of Tamarack Creek.

west from high on the pass
A westerly look from up on a rock by Coyote Pass.

south along the divide
Looking south along the Great Western Divide.

sign faded to white
The Department of the Interior is very possessive of its lands.

The weather had cleared a bit by the last saddle, now it seems to be settling in. It is not enough to get Coyote Creek to run, but is getting Bernard to worry. I am only worried that we might not see the junction, but Kings Canyon has been kind enough to place a metal sign at it to keep it well marked. My last benchmark is somewhere near it, but there seems to be nowhere to look and after finding no others, not a lot of reason.

twisty trees on a slope
Heading down along Coyote Creek.

We turn up the trail toward the peaks and lakes. It seems too late to go for the peaks, which I really wanted to do. Bernard has other thoughts because he has come to the strange philosophy that the Sierras do not rain on people. He wants to know if there are trees around the lakes, but I cannot remember what the trees might be like, just that I could clearly see them from the east. On the way up, he finds what he is looking for: a sheltering tree.

grass and trees
All wet beside the meadow.

We get set up for the night. I am not ready to trust a tree to keep down dry in whatever weather is coming through overnight. Once again my floor becomes a roof, just this time it is for someone else. This day took a surprisingly long time for just 10 or 11 miles. Bernard blames the route finding difficulties, I blame the looking for benchmarks (badly), but even with that, it seems like we should have been able to get to the peaks and the lakes today. Not that the view would have been very good.

Continue reading: day 3

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 6 Sep 2015

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