High Sierra Trail: Smacking You In the Face With Beauty and Snakes

Day One: Crescent Meadow to Bearpaw Meadow
Mileage: 11.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,140 feet
Elevation at Camp: 7,820 feet


Molly at the base of a really big tree on day one.

We left for Sequoia National Park from the Comfort Inn in Visalia, CA via the 6:15 shuttle and got to the Lodgepole Visitor Center where our permits were about two hours later. It’s a long, windy, haul. Pick up was relatively straight forward, although apparently I missed an impressed/bemused facial expression when the Park Ranger asked for our emergency contact info and I gave them one number and rattled off that my mother also had everyone else’s emergency contact information and knew to harass the hostel in Lone Pine before calling in the troops if she hadn’t heard from me.

Look. Preparation is important.

Two more shuttles later, we were at our trailhead at Crescent Meadow. On the trail by 10am, the first day is walking through a Sequoia Forest, properly called the “Giant Forest.” And view after view after view just smacks you in the face with its beauty. I’m totally jealous of people who are close enough to have that be a day trip option.

After the forest opened up a bit, we walked along a sunny face and there were a variety of salamanders that scurried out of the way as we walked – then suddenly, there was a different movement off the trail to under the rock. I look down and I’m like: Oh! A snake!

Then there’s a half-hearted rattle.

A rattlesnake. Awesome. I’m going to be on this side of the trail, thanks. It seemed simply mildly irritated and not otherwise interested in us, thank god. My first encounter with that particular hiking threat, but it’s definitely up there in my Worst Case Scenarios of Backpacking in the Backwoods.

Bearpaw Meadow as a camp spoils you – there’s a pit toilet and spigots for water. If you’re willing to pay an arm and a leg, there’s platform tents and food brought in on a mule supply train just up the way. Us plebs have to pay with our actual feet and toes and sleep on the ground with whatever we brought in with us.

Sam and I shared a two person tent of this that I admittedly took up 60% of. My sleeping pad, while awesome and super comfortable and yes, meant for backpacking, inflates to a wide size not meant for the small size of backpacking two person tents. (We may be still bickering about that, two days after we got off the trail.) Molly has her own one person, and between the three of us we have enough general camp stuff to cook our food and feed us.

So much food. We counted on Sam eating double the amount per usual, but one serving was enough for him – extra food that got hoisted off on a group of seven college age “kids” that followed roughly the same route as us at every opportunity.

18-22 year old boys make excellent garbage disposals.

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