Meet You In The Middle
If you want to hike across the Sierra, how do you get home when you finish? One way, short of a chartered flight, is to have a friend do the same trip from the other direction. Rob and I started at Onion Valley, went up and over Kearsarge Pass and then hiked to Road's End in King's Canyon. Craig took Rob's truck to Road's End and followed Bubb's Creek up to the Pass and back to his own parked at Onion Valley. Perfect!
We started at 6:00 on Saturday morning just as the sky was beginning to lighten. It was pretty damn cold but not freezing. We saw one hunter and a couple of guys in their bags sleeping practically on the trail (both with their dogs) but it was very quiet and still. The sun rose just as we came to a little lake just near the edge of the tree line.
We reached the pass at about 7:30 and it was windy and cold. As we hiked down the backside, heading west, the wind was swirling from all directions and the water in the trail was iced over with little patches of rime.
It calmed down a bit as we got lower but we were definitely hurrying to get out of the "tundra."
Past the Lakes
The trail goes high above Bullfrog and I think Kearsarge Lakes and gives spectacular views of Vidette Peak, Mt. Brewer, Northguard and some others I don't know the names of. It winds around for about 3-1/2 miles until it meets up with the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail where we made a hard left and started toward Vidette Meadow.
The trail down to Vidette is steep switchbacks and is really beautiful. Lots of trees, bubbling water, ferns, manzanita thickets, and gorgeous towering rock formations. The Meadow itself is sheltered and looks like a good place to camp. We got there at about 11:00 or so - approximately 5 hours from the car.
Once you pass the meadows you travel along Bubb's Creek through what is really remote and amazing country. We saw several deer just off the trail who really weren't that interested in us, and the Creek gets bigger and bigger until you reach an impressive gorge with a waterfall. It must be incredible in the spring at full blast! Again, it's fairly steep switchbacks with neck-swiveling scenery. I had to go pretty slow so I could sightsee without breaking my neck. There's another spot where the creek runs over a humongous boulder in a natural slide that makes you stop and stare. The whole place is on a large scale - everything is big and seems totally removed from human influence.
To Junction Meadow
We met up with Craig just above Junction Meadow. We'd been going downhill since Kearsarge Pass, but Craig had been going uphill from the car. And he still had a ways to go before he'd be ready to camp. Junction Meadow is approximately 13 or 14 miles from Onion Valley trailhead and Rob and I camped there. We got there somewhere around 2:00 or 3:00, I forget. There are plenty of nice established campsites. It was a little dusty actually since so much use had removed the pine needles that keep the dirt covered, and there wasn't a lot of firewood handy but it's really an idyllic spot. Guess that's why everyone uses it, ay?
It was a nice night after the wind died down and not as cold as the teens or 20s predicted. I did end up having my usual bladder problems, though. Water bladder, that is. I am on my third one - Outdoor Products, MSR, Platypus - and I must be doing something wrong because they fail on me without fail. The MSR had a broken valve so I couldn't get any water out, and both the Platypus and the OP sprang a leak. I brought the bladder into the tent to drink during the night since we were filtering water and I didn't have any bottles. About 3:00 when I went out to take care of my other bladder, I realized my feet were in a puddle. Yep, the water bladder leaked! I chucked it outside and dried the tent with my dirty shirt. I guess it's good that it wasn't my other bladder leaking and that I brought more than one shirt...
Rob let me sleep until about 8:30 (Rob is a prince!) and then we made hot water so I got my coffee. After that the stove didn't want to work so we skipped the oatmeal, etc. and started hiking the last 12 miles to the car.
It's a gentle downhill for the most part, except right at the end, and it winds through forest and ferns and boulders following the creek. You go past Charlotte Dome and the giant Bubb's Creek Wall which Rob has climbed. There are several good camping spots along the way.
The trail is pleasant and relatively flat until you get to Sphinx Creek, and then you start the steeper descent down to the King's Canyon floor. It's still pleasant, but the last switchback section was hot by the time we got there and my toes were ready for it to be over.
About two miles from the car, my ankle flopped outward and I landed on my butt, but I wrapped it up tight in an ace bandage and was able to walk out. Once you cross the King's River, it's flat all the way to Road's End, thank God. When we got there I took off my shoes and numbed my feet in the icy river. Yumm! Took away all the pain and helped reduce swelling, I'm sure. We drove to Cedar Grove for some grub but it was only 2:30 and they didn't open the grill until 5 so we settled for chips and beer by the river. It's a 2-hr scenic drive out to Fresno and then it sucks. We ended up driving all the way through Fresno looking for the 99 and then it's three hours home. Craig called at 6:00 and said he was only an hour from home. We got home about 8:30. So you take your pick - an easier 3-hr drive with an uphill hike or a mostly downhill hike with a longer 5-hr drive. Personally, I prefer uphill hiking because of my knees and toes but it was absolutely gorgeous and I'd do it again in a heartbeat either direction!
I know some Superhuman Summitposters can do this hike in mere hours and bag a couple of peaks along the way, but it's fun this way too. We are thinking of taking a three-day trip to include Mt. Brewer in the circuit next time. Now that sounds like a good trip to me!