Trip Report: Lewis Camp TH to Willow Meadows

Pete headed out to the Sequoia National Forest side of the Golden Trout Wilderness. He did a three day and two night trip. Here is what he has to report.

Trail Report: Trail Report: Lewis Camp TH to Willow Meadows 7/17-19/20
I went on a solo out-and-back trip 7/17-19/20 from Lewis TH to Trout Meadow. I had the whole wilderness to myself until Saturday evening when four delightful ladies from the Sequoia Backcountry Horsemen appeared and held forth at the USFS cabins at Trout Meadow. 

The trail from Lewis to the Little Kern Bridge was uneventful, except, past Jug Spring I somehow missed the fork that would have put me on the trail on the south side of the Jug Spring drainage, and instead I somehow ended up wandering the innumerable cattle trails north of the drainage. So after spending two hours wandering the cow trails trying to get to the Little Kern Bridge, I was stopped near the spring drainage, looking at a cattle trail water crossing through the drainage and wondering where it led, getting hot and frustrated, it was 2 pm by this time, when out of nowhere a solo fisherwoman appeared who was bushwhacking up the Jug Spring drainage carrying a spinning rod outfit. She said yes, just cross here and in about 300 meters along a short spur you will connect to the main trail going to the Bridge. (That spur is not on the USGS topo or the USFS map, by the way. Also the trail is shown on the wrong side of the Jug Spring drainage on the topo map.) Then she disappeared again into the brush. Never saw her again after that. In 40+ years of hiking, backpacking, hunting, etc., that is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me in the backcountry. An angel maybe? Whatever, man I was glad she showed up. Interestingly the trip guide on this blog says to go that way (north of Jug Spring), and to just keep going right when you hot forks in the trail, but every time I went right there was just another dead end cattle trail into the drainage, into the floodplain sand, or into nowhere. 

Anyway I arrived at Little Kern Bridge, watered up and pushed on to Trout Meadow where I arrived about 5:30 and set up camp in the area near the USFS cabins. On Saturday I was fairly beat up from the hike in Friday so I just dayhiked a little ways north on the Hockett Trail to north of Willow. I stayed two nights at Trout and left Sunday morning.  

The only water sources along this route right now (July 18, 2020) are the drainage from Jug Spring, Little Kern River, and the developed spring at the Trout Meadow cabins. Any winter deadfall has been cut. Skeeters are out with a vengeance. The Jug Spring drainage is running slow but it is running, not stagnant. The ponds at Willow Meadow are bone dry. Other hikers told me there is water in the developed spring at the cowboy camp a couple miles north of Willow but I did not confirm that. As a contrast, I was up here two years ago and there was water everywhere. In fact the trail was flooded north of Willow. Big change from two years ago.

This is a fairly physically intensive hike especially if one is not accustomed to the 6500’ altitude. I live in the valley and had not been working out all spring due to Covid so my conditioning was lacking and man I felt it. I was operating off my base conditioning which ended up saving my bacon or I would have been miserable. The climb out of the Little Kern canyon to the top of the ridge before starting the descent to Trout Meadow is a 100% legit climb. The trail is rough, rocky, and loose with deep sand and loose rocks. Also the climb on the return trip from the Little Kern to the Lewis TH is a serious climb, on par with any of the trails in the Grand Canyon: steep, loose rocks, and deep loose sand. The trail from Jerkey TH is not as steep but is longer than the trial to Lewis TH. 

Thanks Pete for sharing your trip with everyone! The information will be super helpful to others planning the same route.

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Trail Report: Lewis Camp TH to Coyote Lakes

Fred ventured about in the GTW recently and wanted to get to Coyote Lakes. Here is what he had to report.

     Hiked to Coyote Lakes from Lewis Camp. We left Lewis trailhead by 2PM on Thursday and spent the night at Lion Meadows. The trail is easy to follow even though we lost it a little bit after Burnt Corral Meadow. We then hiked up Lion Trail to Grasshopper creek and Coyote Lakes. The trail has not been maintained in years and good navigation skills and GPS/compass are very very useful. Coyote Lakes are free of ice and snow. We hiked Coyote Peak from the Lake and hiked down to the Kern River Ranger Station following the coyote creek trail. We spent one last night on Grasshopper flat before heading back to Lewis trailhead.
Overall the trails are in good conditions, you just have to jump over/go around fallen trees from time to time. All the creeks are flowing and you won’t run out of water on this trip! The only critical section is between Lion Meadow and Coyote Lakes where you can easily get lost…

Here is the GPS files -> https://caltopo.com/m/4GDG

Thanks Fred for the update and sharing your trail report with everyone!

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Contacting the Sequoia National Forest

If the standard numbers to the office are not working for the Sequoia National Forest, here are some alternative numbers according to their official website.

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Trip Report: Kern River

Over Memorial Day weekend, hiker Gautham started at the Jerkey Meadow Trailhead and went to the Kern River. Here is what he has to report.

Hiked to the kern river from the jerky trailhead over the memorial day weekend. The trail from the trailhead to willow springs is in good shape. From willow springs onward there are quite a few dead falls on the trail and it becomes hard to follow on the way back up from the river. Going down to the river the trail is easier to follow. You just have to go around fallen trees. However, since it is a canyon you can’t really get lost just follow the general direction and you will get back on trail.

Thanks Gautham for the report. If anyone else goes on a trip this season, please consider sharing with GTW so it can be posted for everyone else to benefit from.

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A Better Way to Think About Wildland Fires

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Roads Update

Users are reporting the following for road access:

Safely and successfully drove up The North Road to Summit TH. A Prius made it.

Safely drove up and over Sherman Pass road from Kernville and down to 395.

Batch Park and Bear Creek roads are open.

Enjoy and be safe all.

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Latest Road Information

The roads page has been update to the latest information as of this posting. Many are wanting to get into the wilderness this Memorial Day weekend and roads are a big part of that. Here is some additional information to consider before heading out.

  • Most of the roads are still closed for accessing the Golden Trout Wilderness
  • On the SQF side – The North Road 21S50 – is “partially opened.” The catch is how far you can drive before hitting a snow drift? No reports of anyone making it to the Summit TH have been reported yet to GTW.org or to the Springville office of the USFS. Thus if you are going to attempt it, be prepared for walking on the road if a snow drift blocks you way.
    • Please DO NOT drive off the road to get around snow. This can cause further resource damage.
    • Walking could consist of 11 miles depending on how close a snow drift is to the gate that normally closes the road.
  • No word yet on how far over Sherman Pass one can drive just yet. There are also snow drifts that are common and “hang around” while other parts of the road are dry.
  • Mountain Home State Forest roads are open, but campgrounds are closed much like the Forest Service and Park Service.

If you have made contact with the State or Federal land managers offices on roads and have an update, please feel free to share in the comments below. It will be a great help to others.

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Sequoia National Forest Enters Fire Restrictions

Fire restriction information was just released from the Sequoia National Forest. Here is what the order states.

PORTERVILLE, Calif, May 8, 2020 – The Sequoia National Forest will enact fire restrictions prohibiting campfires, stove fires, welding, or smoking on all public lands managed by the Forest below 5,000 ft. The restrictions starting Saturday, May 9, are due to a heavy grass fuel load, drying conditions, and established high wildland fire danger.

The Forest is continuing to experience tree mortality, affecting approximately 600,000 acres of forest land. “These conditions coupled with late winter precipitation have resulted in a heavy grass fuel load,” said Forest Supervisor, Teresa Benson. “The restrictions are deemed necessary to protect public safety and prevent human-caused wildfires.”

Effective May 9, and until further notice, the following restrictions are in effect below 5,000 ft:

  • No Campfires or Stove Fires. As a reminder, all developed campgrounds are closed under the Regional Order.
  • Persons with a valid California Campfire Permit are not exempt from the prohibitions but are allowed to use portable stoves and lanterns with shut-off valves using pressurized gas, liquid fuel, or propane.
  • No Smoking is permitted, except within an enclosed vehicle.
  • Operating an internal combustion engine off of properly designated roads or trails and welding are all strictly prohibited during the fire restriction period.
  • Fireworks, exploding targets, tracer rounds, and other incendiary ammunition or devices are not allowed in the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument at any time. This includes sparklers or safe and sane fireworks.

Human-caused fires can be prevented.  One less spark can mean one less wildfire.  Do your part to prevent wildfires. To learn more, visit www.preventwildfireca.org/one-less-spark-one-less-wildfire.

Know Before You Go!  For additional information regarding fire restrictions, please contact your local Ranger Station Monday – Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm or email SM.FS.SequoiaNF@usda.gov for current information.

  • Kern River Ranger District             760-549-9533
  • Western Divide Ranger District      559-920-0460
  • Hume Lake Ranger District            559-791-5758
  • Supervisor’s Office                         559-920-1588

Stay informed, follow our webpage at www.fs.usda.gov/sequoia, Facebook at #SequoiaNF, Twitter at @sequoiaforest or SequoiaNF OnCell app.

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Roads Update

Just wanted to do a quick mention that the roads information is updated and accurate as of this posting. Right now the only road open is to Kennedy Meadows from the east side of the Sierra Nevada. All other access is currently closed.

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General Updates for SNP, SQF, and INF

There are some official updates regarding obtaining a wilderness permit for the GTW due to the COVID-19 issue. Here is an excerpt below from the Sequoia National Forest (SQF).

2020 Golden Trout Wilderness Permits – Under current circumstances with COVID-19, the Sequoia National Forest will offer wilderness permits virtually through our website for travel dates after June 15, 2020.

  1. Print and completely fill out the Application for a Wilderness Visitor’s Permit
  2. Scan and email your completed application to the Sequoia National Forest to SM.FS.SequoiaNF@usda.gov
  3. Within a day or two, you will receive a response to your email, confirming receipt of your application. Your hard copy application will then take the place of your permit for overnight stay in the Golden Trout Wilderness on the Sequoia National Forest. 

    Keep a copy with you and share the information with someone at home to anticipate your safe return. The Forest Service will keep an electronic copy of your application on file just in case, and for our records. It is your responsibility to monitor conditions and fire restrictions and provide for your own safety. Current road conditions and fire restrictions will be posted on this website throughout the summer.

Source: Sequoia National Forest

If you are wanting to access the Golden Trout Wilderness via Mineral King in the Sequoia National Park (SNP), that road will remain closed until further notice due to the COVID-19. There may be some changes coming in the next month or two so stay tuned!

As for the Inyo National Forest (INF), there are no updates regarding permits. Road access to Horseshoe Meadow area is still marked as closed.

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