Overview & Map

Now for something completely different! For all the years we have plied the backcountry,

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our significant others have not joined in for various reasons. Whether it was the seemingly tightly wound schedules we planned or the wild eye wonder when we would recall a grueling hike thru bramble and rock slides, our yearly trips must have given off a perception of madness mixed with mayhem and topped off with momentary lapses of reason. So to counteract that undeserved notion, we set to make this a first and have our partners join in to see that we were only partially insane!

The key factor for this trip was comfort. The itinerary called for a horse ride and pack-in with all our gear to include chairs, tables, camp lights, camp shower and you get the picture. A far cry from our usual gear list and food stock, but nothing but the best for our fellow companions. We were in the capable hands of Kennedy Meadows. Just last year in October a fire had broken out and burned down the main building along with 7 cabins, a generator shed, showers, bathrooms and the laundry room. Fortunately no one was injured but the devastation was heartbreaking, especially if you had been venturing to this corner of the Sierra for 42 years as I have. It was like losing a good friend who welcomed you year after year. However, from the ashes have arisen new sprouts and the third reincarnation of the Kennedy Meadows Resort that Matt guided back into existence looks great!

Highlights

  • Day 1 ** Elev +6367 (drive from Half Moon Bay) ** Kennedy Meadows 6367ft ** N38.31179 W119.74562 ** Ahi Tuna with broccoli and rice
  • Day 2 ** Elev +1594/-164 ** Kennedy Lake 7805ft ** N38.26006 W119.65313 ** Pasta Putanesca w/green salad and wine
  • Day 3 ** Base camp ** Kennedy Lake 7805ft ** N38.26006 W119.65313 ** Trout, hot dogs and leftover Putanesca with a healthy dose of red and white wine
  • Day 4 ** Base camp ** Kennedy Lake 7805ft ** N38.26006 W119.65313 ** Pesto (garlic-free) Tortellini with smoked Salmon and the last of the wine
  • Day 5 ** Elev +164/-1594 ** Kennedy Meadows 6367ft ** N38.31179 W119.74562 ** Chevy's on the way home

Pack-in

Up early saddle up and head for the trail. It was a cold start with bagels, juice and hard boiled eggs as the trip toBetsey and Mark on the Kennedy Lake trail Kennedy Lake was only a few hours and we would be there for lunch. It is usually nippy in the morning while you are waiting at the corral dock, however today it was pleasant and before you knew it we were on our way. For all the times George and I have rode or hiked this trail, I still get a smile on my face and draw in the peaceful scenery. The gentle start to Upper Kennedy Meadows lulls you into a sleepy state and does not prepare you for the quick rise up along a dynamite blasted ledge before crossing the bridge over Summit Creek. Below you is the confluence of Summit and Kennedy creeks that pinpoints the start of the middle fork of the Stanislaus River. The trail climbs up a set of switchbacks, levels out for awhile before a left trail split and another set of switchbacks. Manzanita bushes cover the hillside and you soon come upon the last bridge to cross over Kennedy creek. This is about the half way point and the rest of trail meanders up canyon thru cool pine forests until you reach the stock drift fence that hails your arrival at Kennedy Lake valley. Once we passed this point it was just a matter of directing the packer to our favorite site, just a bit further than he seemed to want to go. It was time to get off the horses and for some it was not soon enough, but that soon passed. Camp was set up, firewood collected and naps all around

In and Around Kennedy Lake

A day of leisure with George and Sara off to Kennedy Lake for some hiking, fishing, swimming and plenty of sunshine. Betsey and I decided to take a short hike into Soda Canyon, the site of the world famous Soda Springs! While it is not a World Heritage Site it is a small mineral spring that is emblematic of the geologic diversity of this part of the Sierra. Some have drank the waters with comments ranging from 'blood/sprite mix' to 'cool and refreshing but I cannot verify either of these. One year on an early season trip George and I discovered mountain lion tracks leading into and all around the spring, and what looked to be a mother and her cub.

We returned to a warm afternoon and spent the best part of it just laying down next to the creek on a green meadow watching the day laze away. The blue skies were swirling the hi clouds and a gentle breeze puffed cool breaths of fresh mountain air. As dusk approached a gaggle of deer made their way across the meadows and we all watched intensely. That night we were treated to the talents of Sara, master fire maker and enjoyed a quiet dinner.

Early morning rise for George to re-take Night Cap Peak in revenge for last year's miss. The rest of us slept the morning away, had some delicious pancakes and hung around camp waiting for the Ranger's return. Once he did make it back it was off on another day of hiking and relaxing. Betsey and I went down to the lake and wandered around taking in the scenery and clearing out the cobwebs of day-to-day life down in the flatlands. However, before that we had a special ceremony to perform. Olorin, one of our beloved Malamutes was to be memorialized with a scattering of his ashes, an invocation of the 4 directions, earth, sky, power animals and spirit guides under a mighty Lodgepole Pine that has been my favorite for many years. It was a beautiful day and brought back many memories for us both, and as we shed a tear we had a sense of peace that he was with friends and would be protected by the animal spirits of Kennedy Lake. The day meandered on, finishing with another hearty meal and the last drops of wine. As the sun set a small alpen glow hit the ridges and we settled around the camp fire for our last night in the wilderness.

Pack/Walk Out

Time to go! We woke early to break camp and have breakfast with Sara and George who were going to wait for the pickup from Kennedy Meadows, while Betsey and I decided to walk it out on a lovely day and save the saddle sores. Off we started, briskly moving in the cool of the morning under the forest canopy waiting for George and Sara to pass us by on their swift steeds. However, we were expecting to see the packer on the way out as there is only one trail, and the further we went the stranger it seemed to not have met up with him. Would have been pretty hard to miss a tall man in a saddle pulling two mules! We even asked a packer bringing up two clients for a day ride to Kennedy Lake if he had seen the other, and he was pretty sure he had left earlier. Oh well, we continued our hike and stopped for lunch but still no sign of the packer and Sara and George. As we got closer to Kennedy Meadows and the beating sun heated us up, we hit the dry part of the trail but pushed on to get back to the resort. Still no sign. We made it back and replenished ourselves at the store and waited. Finally the slow pokes showed up. I guess we did not realize how quick a pace we set and the packer did get hung up at with another party delaying his pickup time. We picked up the gear, packed the Pilot and headed home. Another year under our belts, 22 and counting.

2009 will be my choice, so more of the PCT, a new part of Emigrant or an entrance from the Eastern flank of the Sierra will be pondered over the winter months.   All will be revealed soon...As always,

May our paths and errands meet...