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.