28 August 2015

Hell For Sure: Goddard Canyon

Sierra National Forest

Kings Canyon National Park



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

(Day 3 of 5) It is 2 AM and I have woken up not comfortable at all. The smoke is making my nose run which is just enough to dribble down my throat and my stomach is reacting with heart burn. Maybe I should bail. Smoke is not a healthy thing. Pulling out the map, it looks like I could get back to the car in a day. It would be even easier to do so if I get the part I already know done now. I am not sleeping or even feeling sleepy. Packing is easy and quick. Under the moon, I do not even need my head lamp. It is curious how the trail stands out in the low light as a lighter line, even as it passes over the rocks. Very small particles ground out by the passage of many shoes scatter the light a little better? It seems plausible. Whatever it is, it makes the trail easier to follow than it was in the daylight. Of course, knowing where it goes helps too. I keep on going down and up the little climb and down into the trees. I am much more comfortable under the trees and the tired is returning, so when I flat spot a half mile short of the junction marking the last of what I have hiked pops up, I grab it for the rest of the night's sleep.

Under the trees is much more comfortable and the light finds me well rested and much happier. It might be because the smoke was clearing out again. I head down the rest of the way to the water just before the junction to cook breakfast since I dumped the extra in the night knowing there was water here. My spoon is not in my cook kit. My spoon is not anywhere. I bought a second set of these Light My Fire toddler sized sporks just so I could have the translucent turquoise one which I have used for a grand total of five meals and it is not there. First, how do I eat my couscous? A granola bar wrapper folded in half works out surprisingly well. And eventually I decide I will go back. For a spoon. Passing by the short spur trail to Dale Lake for a fourth time and ignoring it seems unkind to the poor lake and the trail is becoming very familiar.

Lake Disappointment
Back to Lake Disappointment. The lesser smoke in the air allows the walls around the Devil's Punchbowl to be visible as well.

Back at the lake, I head down to my site. Which is clean. I came down a different way and it somehow does not quite look the same for having approached it the "wrong" way, but there is the rock I cooked on and there is where I slept half the night shown with some scuff marks in the dirt. I head back up to my back and pull out everything and open up everything to see if it found a new spot, then head back, this time along the original route, to my campsite. Searching some more, I find myself quoting The Matrix in various intonations to make Shatner proud. "There is no spoon." Some creature must have helped my pack up without it. I have come back some 2.5 miles for a spoon that is not even here. Well, I am going to get something out of this extra walk. I am going to Hell For Sure.

rock benches on the way up to the last lake
Not all that much more climbing to the lake and just a bit more would go right on over.

four ponds in the rocks and grass nearing tree line
A few ponds on the way between the two lakes.


The short walk past a number of small ponds up to the lake is good for reflection. My spoon solution for breakfast would not work with supper, but maybe chopsticks could be found along the way. I am not certain I would want to stir with natural found chopsticks, but I do have a bunch of stakes with my shelter that have not even been used yet and would be easy to clean even if they had been. With the thought that at least I have a solution for shoveling food, the lake comes into view. It is vast and like Disappointment and others in the area, does not seem to be low.

Hell For Sure Lake
Getting to Hell For Sure Lake under a half smoke sky.

Part of why I went ahead and dropped down the couple miles in the night was a suspicion that if I was already up this far and looking at the much cleaner air of morning, I would just keep on going. I might look at the pass, so short from the lake, and decide I might as well go up it and see what is out there. I am likely to have one more night in the smoke anyway, might as well make it two. Although finding the trail up from the lake is difficult. The majority of obvious trail goes to the lake but the line on the map seems to stay off of it as it turns northward to make the last climb. It is also noticeably marked "not for stock" on this side and "unmaintained" on the other. I had spotted a cairn up on the rocks on the way to the lake and head for it, then climb generally upward. Just over a short lip of rock, there is another very clear trail to start climbing on.

Hell For Sure Pass
Hell For Sure Pass is right up there.

The trail up to the pass has some surprising wet spots. When it rains, it must become a creek. For now, there are just some spots of water loving plants and quite a bit of green generally.

one sprig of white flowers on a stalk
Some of the water loving plants are in flower.

Hell For Sure from another angle
Once climbing the pass, it is easier to appreciate just how huge Hell For Sure Lake is.

top of the pass marked by a post
At the top of Hell For Sure Pass where only a post marks entry into Kings Canyon National Park.

The top of the pass really is not far up from the lake The top is marked by a post and although it is not quite noon, the smoke has moved into the canyon beyond. The other wall is close, at least in comparison to the distance between walls in the wide valleys I am leaving, but the rocks are just a grey mass behind all the smoke. There is a pool just a hundred feet down the other side. This one does show a higher high water line than the current fill.

Red Mountain
A bit of use trail goes up Red Mountain, which is only another 650 feet or so.

The trail down the other side is clear and has many footprints. It may be unmaintained, but it is certainly well traveled. Checking out the hillside below, it looks like there are low spots and cliffs and the low spots might just lead to lower cliffs. Getting the route right might be quite important. This makes an early split in the trail, where it is not clear which is most traveled, a little disconcerting. I pick right because it gives me a slightly better feeling than left, but only very slightly. The trail has certainly shortened into steeper routes and gets lost a little in some grassy areas, but they are all places where it can be seen further away. The map shows a creek very high up next to the trail and surprisingly it is running quite well.

Goddard Canyon
High on the rim of Goddard Canyon and hoping this is the right route down.

cone shaped flowers in a bunch
There are a few more flowers on this side, including this unfamiliar blossom.

cliff beyond almost visible
Detail on the far wall is visible briefly.

The trail flirts with the creek for a bit before curving out a bit from it. It starts to swing back as it gets ready for a long and generally level run up the canyon and there is a spot where I cannot help but think it might have been nice to plan to camp. The stream is running even better as I hit it again.

boulder outcrops
The creek takes a small cut through the rock outcrops while the trail winds down the side.

tree roots over a rock
Being unable to see the far things, it is important to pay attention to the details close at hand, like all the colors in the rocks and the effort of the trees to grow.

trail below a short cliff
The trail settles in for a long stretch up the canyon.

The only clue that the trail really is unmaintained is a 6 inch tree that has broken off about 2 feet up and crosses the trail. It would be easy to remove and the step over is not entirely trivial. The break is discolored to a very dark grey brown showing quite some age, but still it sits. Crossing one thin stream of water, the willows have choked off the old trail and now it climbs a bit to squeeze beside the rocks. Otherwise, it sees plenty of feet to keep it clear.

water cutting into rock
Another or the three creeks and one stream that the trail crosses as it progresses up the canyon.

point in the smoke
There are peaks over there, hiding in the smoke.

Eventually, the trail turns downward again and works its way to another along the side of the river below. Only a cairn marks the junction. I am getting down into the trees, but I want more trees, thicker trees. Trees seemed to work well for getting some sleep last night, so I want them again. I turn to follow the trail on down the side of the South Fork San Joaquin River. The map promises waterfalls ahead.

South Fork San Joaquin River
Looks like there really is a river down there.

North Goddard Creek
An unadvertised waterfall as North Goddard Creek comes down into the river.

one of a few creeks
Crossing the creeks again as I move down the canyon.

wide, flat water
A look along the river as it grows. The coloration on the rocks indicate it is about a foot low.

water rushing over rocks and down suddenly
The advertised waterfall, which might have a better view by going down into the trees.

This trail is also marked not for stock on the map, but there are plenty of hoof prints. Some spots seem narrow on the cliffs, but I am probably just being oversensitive to it today. There is certainly enough room for a human to pass safely. A deer feels otherwise and bounds the other way as I come upon it grazing. It is a long, slow slog downward.

water over an edge
Another, smaller, waterfall drops the river water in a roar.

granite slabs
Above, the granite cliffs seem to have layers that sit vertically.

pools along the river
I am sure someone looks at that clearly dangerous pool and just has to go for it.

trees and willows and grainte above the trail
Chutes in the rocks seem to come in diagonally on both sides.

There are numerous camps along the river as I go. I think about stopping at the one right before hitting the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail for the privacy, but end up going that last quarter mile. I had wanted to go another couple miles from here to make the next day more manageable, but it is late. There is a nice metal sign at the trail and a bridge over the river to a camp for the southbound direction. It is huge and one end is already occupied, the first people I have seen since the rangers at the start. I can find a suitable spot and one more group comes along later while two other groups pass by. It seems like a city down here on the named long trails.  And supper is eaten with a v-stake.  It works reasonably well.

Continue reading: day 4




©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 24 Sep 2015

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