Sunday, September 25, 2022

Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow, Sunset Rock

Hiked: 9/23/2022
Distance: 1 mile round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 6725'
Elevation Gain: 350'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.2
Round trip time: 40 minutes
Recommended water: 16 oz.
Parking/Fees: $35 National Parks Fee
Difficulty: Easy

Leisa and I returned to Sequoia National Park to finish the things we missed on our abbreviated trip earlier in the month. (note: stats are just for Moro Rock. We also hiked more than a mile around Crescent Meadow, and more than a mile to Sunset Rock. I combined all of these short trips into one report.)

Moro Rock is a massive and prominent rock that is visible outside the park. It is popular attraction and during summer, can only be reached by shuttle bus. The season just ended so we were able to drive to it, though we had to park in an overflow area. A half mile hike got us to the base, then we took 300' of stairs to the top. Without the stairs, it would be a formidible rock climb. There were nice unobstructed views on top and several information plaques.

Silliman left and Alta Peak right

Next we drove to Crescent Meadow and planned a loop by Tharp's Log and the Chimney Tree. A small crowd was gathered a hundred feet down the trail watching a mama and baby bear scavange for food. The mama was easy to spot digging on the ground, but it took us a minute to spot the baby 100' up a tree. Whatever the baby was doing up there, it was done, and started to descend tail first. We watched it all the way down, losing track of the mama, but guessed it had moved away from the gawkers since that is the way the baby ran. When we got to Creascent Meadow, it was hard to enjoy since dozens of gnats had joined our hike. I put on my bug net and Leisa followed suit later. Tharp's Log was a makeshift cabin built into the root end of a fallen Sequoia. It had a table, window, and rock chimney. Per Wikipedia, the log is named after Hale D. Tharp, who was described as the first Non-Native American to enter the Giant Forest. John Muir described it as a "noble den". Our last stop on the loop was Chimney Tree, a Sequoia whose inside was burned out, leaving a hollow husk and long shards of bark that could fall at any time.

Leisa in the entrance to Chimney Tree

Our last hike of the day was to Sunset Rock, a 1.4 mile round trip from the Giant Tree Museum. It ended on a granite slab overlooking the valley toward Three Rivers with an NPS benchmark. It was a nice way to end the day, but we headed back just before sunset. Instead of camping this time, we stayed at the Wuksachi Lodge, highly recommended if you want a comfortable room inside the park.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Mount Silliman

Hiked: 9/3/2022
Distance: 13.8 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 11188'
Prominence: 828'
Elevation Gain: 4866'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 3.5
Round trip time: 10 hours
Recommended water: 160 oz.
Parking/Fees: $35 National Parks Fee
Difficulty: Strenuous

Leisa and I camped at Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park with several hikes on the agenda. We drove up on the 2nd and I realized I had left my hiking boots at home. Uh oh. It was the start of a series of SNAFUs. After setting up camp, we drove to Fresno where I picked up some boots at REI. Not a relaxing start to the weekend. Packing for the hike the next morning, I realized the fresh batteries I installed in the GPS were dead. Also dead was my flashlight and I couldn't get it open. I still had a headlamp, if needed, but things were already going wrong.

We walked 0.2 miles across the campground to the Twin Lakes trailhead. I hadn't done much research on Silliman (SPS #201), expecting it to be similar to Alta Peak we had done the year before. We were heads down hiking on the smooth trail, then a GPS check showed we had passed the exit point to the use trail. We gave up some elevation to return to the use trail that started behind a sign at the Silliman Creek crossing. The trail shadows Silliman Creek on the east side (right). Water was running in the creek and with Silliman Lake ahead, we weren't worried about water. Downfall plagued the use trail, but it was otherwise in good condition. When we reached Silliman Meadow, we had not gained much elevation, a bad omen leaving most of the gain packed into the final two miles.

Use trail starts behind the sign

Silliman behind the distant sub-peak

A wide granite basin loomed above the meadow. The use trail led into chest high bushes with faint paths traced in multiple directions. Leisa and I both had GPS tracks, but different ones. Mine led toward a cliffy gully on the right. Hers led toward the basin on the left. We followed mine until the way forward was unclear, then we backtracked and followed hers. That got us through the bushes and onto the slabs. The slabs were wide and chunky, similar to the slabs on Sub Dome. Ascending required switchback moves to reach the next ramp. The sideways movement put too much pressure on Leisa's still healing toe. With 1900' of gain left, she decided to return to camp. She encouraged me to continue, and persuaded me that she could find her way back with her own track. I stayed with her until she got off the slabs and watched her blend back into the bushes. Ignoring the GPS, I went straight up. Near the top of the slabs, I met a fat marmot who had no need or interest in any food I might have.

Through the bushes

The granite basin

On the slabs

Silliman Lake was blue green and glassy in a bowl of rock. The way up was through a grass filled gully and a series of ledges. Nothing exceeded class 2, but route finding was important. Soon, I reached a smaller unnamed lake I called Upper Silliman Lake. Although I wasn't low on water, I decided to fill up my one liter filtered bottle. It was a nice place for a break before the last ridge. While I was resting, a couple approached from the other side. They were Joe and Christie Alfano from Wuksachi. They asked if I had been up Silliman before, and I learned this was also their first attempt. They had come up the gully right of the slabs. They continued up along a visible use trail. I wrapped up my break and followed, catching them before they got out of sight. None of us was moving quickly, but my pace was slightly faster. The rest of the route was a mix of sand and class 2 boulders.

I arrived at the summit about 10 minutes before the Alfanos. The views were fantastic in all directions with big drops on the north and east sides. Wind gusted around the top and dark clouds had silently built up in the afternoon, even though the forecast was for sunny skies. I found a benchmark and signed the register. When the couple arrived, we took photos of each other and shared well wishes before I started down. The clouds were concerning, and I might have heard lightning as I passed below the lake, but wasn't sure. In any case, I was well below the high point and felt safe.

I followed the track I had down the gully. It appeared cliffy, but always revealed a workable path. Eventually, I reached the bushy area, then the meadow. The heat rose back to 80F as I descended. Gnats annoyed me just before the main trail so I put on my bug net until they gave up. I had plenty of water but was hot when I got back to camp. I was greatly relieved to find Leisa made it back, and impressed with her ability to navigate back alone. She did get a nasty cut on her leg from climbing over fallen trees. I walked to my truck to sit in the AC for a few minutes and was shocked when it barely started. I let it run for 10 minutes, then tried to start it again. It took several tries before the engine turned over. We discussed our options and since it was late, decided to camp another night and hope it started in the morning. There was no cell service for hours, we didn't have jumpers, and our options were few. If the truck didn't start, we might be stuck for days trying to get help. The next morning, we packed up camp and crossed our fingers. The truck started on the third try. There were no warning lights, so I guessed it was just the battery. We drove to Visalia, found a Pep Boys, and left it running while I went inside. With luck, they had the right battery and installed it in less than an hour. We debated whether to drive up to Sequoia again for one more day, but decided to return home and not dare the gods to deal us any more bad cards.

Silliman at sunset from Wuksachi Lodge

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Delamar Mountain

Hiked: 8/26/2022
Distance: 1.7 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 8379'
Elevation Gain: 730'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.6
Round trip time: 1 hour
Recommended water: 16 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Forest Road 3N14
Difficulty: Easy

The second peak of the day was Delamar Mountain (HPS #51). From Fawnskin, I drove north on Rim of the World Drive to 3N12. The road climbs to the north side of Delamar Mountain and was in good shape. I drove until I reached the intersection with the PCT where there was a large turnout. At the start, I thought I'd explore a fire break going steeply up the side of the mountain, but when I got 100' up decided to side hill back to the PCT. I looked for a clear use trail heading toward Delamar, but didn't find one, so turned uphill and followed some animal trails. I felt like I was wandering all over the mountain until I stumbled into a good use trail that must have met the PCT farther east. It was easy going after that. The summit of Delamar was a 20' pile of boulders. I didn't find a benchmark and didn't find a register. Like Arctic Point, most of the views were blocked by large trees. On the way down, I found a second use trail that was more direct. However, it ended half way down and I took a gully back to the PCT.

Wandering aimlessly


Limited views

Down the gully

Arctic Point

Hiked: 8/26/2022
Distance: 2.8 miles round trip on dirt road and cross country
Summit Elevation: 8336'
Elevation Gain: 935'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.7
Round trip time: 1 hours 40 minutes
Recommended water: 24 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Forest Road 3N07
Difficulty: Easy

Storms in most of the higher local mountains left me few choices. Blue skies were on tap for Big Bear, so I located some lesser HPS peaks. First up was Arctic Point (HPS #54). Doing this one in the hottest month of the year felt incongruous. I drove a series of dirt roads from the east side of Big Bear Lake to the starting point: 3N09 to 3N16 to 3N07 to the intersection with 3N23. The roads were not bad, but I did have to drive through 4 mud puddles at the end with 4x4. I followed the next dirt road (3N43) on foot to a drainage on the right where the cross country route started. A faint use trail came and went, but I mostly followed cairns. The path appeared to go through several boulder piles, but there was always a ramp or bypass. I did a little scrambling by choice. The summit was a walk up set of boulders. I found a register in HPS red cans, but it was water soaked and I couldn't sign it. I poured water out of the cans and found a dead baby scorpion. The views were mostly blocked by large trees. I was prepared for disappointment with Arctic Point, but I quite enjoyed the walk through open forest. On the drive out, I stopped at Wilbur's Grave. Legend has it that Wilbur wanted to be buried in that exact spot by the side of the road.

Rockfall on the unmaintained 3N09, but not blocking

Leaving the trail for the drainage

Summit with register cans visible

Wilbur's Grave