Daily Archives: June 21, 2014

Hiking Alta Peak

Friday morning we got up before the sun. After a quick breakfast we went to the Wolverton trail head to tackle the Alta Trail, which ends at the very top of Alta Peak (elevation 11,208 ft). The hike was 7 miles out and 7 miles back. It had an elevation gain of ~4,000 ft. Soon after starting out on the trail we encountered two hikers beating a hasty retreat. A bear on the trail had thwarted their hike. Since black bears are less dangerous than texting drivers, we convinced the hikers to join us and walk past the bear. Evidently the bear knew it was now outnumbered 4 to 1, and when we reached the spot where the bear had been blocking the trail it was gone–rather anticlimactic.

When we reached Panther Gap the views on the trail became very impressive. The Great Western Divide stretched out beside us. Rugged ridges lined the near side of the canyon. Here are some pictures from the trail, not necessarily in order of appearance.

Looking up at a ridge we would later look down upon.

Looking up at a ridge we would later look down upon.

I liked this face on the ridge.

I liked this face on the ridge.

The face up closer. . .

The face up closer. . .

The Sierra Mountains, looking stately.

The Sierra Mountains across the Great Western Divide, looking stately.

The final stretch of the trail was challenging. The air was thin and the trail was steep (and slippery), but the peak could not stop us.

Standing in the snow on Alta Peak with Pear Lake far below.

Standing in the snow on Alta Peak with Pear Lake far below.

Emerald Lake, Aster Lake, and Pear Lake (clockwise from left) viewed from Alta Peak.

Emerald Lake, Aster Lake, and Pear Lake (clockwise from left) viewed from Alta Peak.

On Alta Peak, with Tharp's Rock in the distance to my right and Moro Rock in the right background.

On Alta Peak, with Tharp’s Rock in the distance to my right and Moro Rock to my left in the background–the Central Valley is behind me (hidden by the haze).

At the very top of Alta Peak.

At the very top of Alta Peak.

But all the triumphant pictures you’ve just seen are not the true pinnacle of Alta Peak. Reaching the top involves scrambling up some large boulders onto a large slab of granite.  I stood by the benchmarks (yes, there are two) and signed the register. I also took a selfie at the very top. The panoramic views from the top were staggering (though I did my best not to stagger, since falling to the canyon floor was not part of my plan for the day). From the very top of Alta Peak a glimpse of Mount Whitney is possible. It is the only place in Sequoia National Park where you can see Mount Whitney (unless you have a killer vertical leap). I added some titles to a picture to point out Mount Whitney since it is a bit camera-shy.

Mount Whitney viewed from Alta Peak (yet Mount Whitney is not very noticeable).

Mount Whitney viewed from Alta Peak (yet Mount Whitney is not very noticeable).

Maybe this will help. . .

Maybe this will help. . .

A panorama shot from Alta Peak.

A panorama shot from the very top of Alta Peak.

During our trip out and back we filtered water from springs, which were plentiful. I know it might have been purely psychological, but the water tasted heavenly.

A spring on the Alta Trail.

A spring on the Alta Trail.

The plants we encountered on the trail were impressive. I enjoyed seeing how the plants capitalized on small niches. The vibrancy of green around the springs was also very cool. I did not expect to see Dicentra and Mertensia in the high Sierras–hello relatives of old friends. The plants in California continue to surprise me.

One-seeded pussypaws (Cistanthe monosperma).

One-seeded pussypaws (Cistanthe monosperma).

Sierra wallflower (Erysimum capitatum).

Sierra wallflower (Erysimum capitatum).

 

 

 

 

 

 

After completing the hike we stopped by Hospital Rock on the return to the campsite. At first glance I thought the Native American murals were graffiti, the color was still so vibrant.

After supper we closed the day out by reading “Kaweah’s Run” from Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (Clarence King) by lamplight. It was a very full and very fun day.

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Hiking at Sierra National Park: The Adventure Begins

I spent two and a half days hiking at Sequoia National Park with my friend Terry. We camped at the Patwisha campground. On Thursday we went to the Giant Forest area and hiked the Sherman Tree Trail, the Congress Trail, and pieces of other trails. We saw a bear with two cubs within 10 minutes of arriving. Bears are cool, but trees are cooler. The sheer size and majesty of the redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) impressed me. The signs of lightning strikes and fires were plentiful in the grove. It is amazing how resilient the trees are in the face of the forces of nature.

Giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

Giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

A grove of redwoods.

The Founders Grove.

The General Sherman viewed from below.

The General Sherman viewed from below.

Seeing the General Sherman was a thrill. This tree is believed to be the largest plant in the world (when measuring by volume or mass). The dark understory and bright sky made photographing the behemoth difficult–I have many pictures with grossly overexposed skies.

After seeing the redwoods we hiked up Moro Rock. This is not Morro Rock, which sits proudly in Morro Bay, but is another rock (granite dome, in fact) with a similar name that resides at high elevation. We were seeing Moro Rock because of the view from the top. Over the years stairs and railings have been added to the rock. At one time reaching the top of Moro Rock was very hazardous–now it is rather harmless if you exercise common sense and don’t get struck by lightning.

Moro Rock viewed from the Generals Highway.

Moro Rock viewed from the Generals Highway.

The Moro Rock stairway is on the National Register of Historic Places. From the top of Moro Rock much of Sequoia National Park is visible.

The bottom of the stairs.

The bottom of the stairs.

Handrails come and go. Don't fall to the left!

Handrails come and go. Don’t fall to the left!

Walking along the top of the rock reminded me how much I respect heights. I took many pictures, but the haze in the sky made them less impressive than I expected them to be. It made me happy to think that the peak we would hike the next day was thousands of feet higher than this point.

We went back to camp, had supper, and spent the evening talking about life.

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