Moose Lake, August 11, 2018
Length: 20.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 6,194 feet (Low: 7,265 High:10,666)
GPS Tracking: Click here
Moose Lake is located in Sequoia National Park along State Route 198. The General Sherman tree is well known and a point of reference I often use to describe the lake. Wolverton Trailhead is located at the end of Wolverton Road. This is the same road going to the main parking lot to General Sherman. The trailhead serves various destinations and key landmarks including, Pear Lake, Emerald Lake, Watchtower, Alta Meadows, Alta Peak, Moose Lake, and a trans Seirra route to Mount Whitney.
On August of 2009, my friend/coworker, Ron Rucks and I made a first attempt at Moose Lake through Alta Meadows. The entire lake is surrounded by ridges and no maps show any trails leading to it. Because of the ridges, you cannot see the lake unless you are looking directly down at it. On this attempt, we arrived at another ridge south of the lake. The terrain seemed too daunting and not being able to see the lake was not encouraging. This would be the first of two failed attempts to get to Moose Lake. The second was a solo attempt and by this time I had studied topographical maps of the area and drew my own non-existent trail. Nowadays, you can go online and finds blogs by people pretty much describing the route I drew. On the second trip, a thunderstorm came and I had no choice but to turn around approximately ¾ mile from Moose Lake. On September of 2011, I finally reached Moose Lake via Pear Lake. I’ve since been there 3 times including one trip where I looped Pear Lake, Moose Lake, and Alta Meadows. That’s a whole other story in itself. The short of it is that it was very difficult and I would never do that alone again.
As you read on, please pardon the many details. The main reader for this blog will probably be myself when I decide to make the trip again. The information hereafter serves as a lessons learned and unless it is recorded, it is easily forgotten.
The daypack weighed in at 21 pounds. This includes Mavic Pro drone, Osmo Mobile 2, waterfilled 2.5 liter bladder, personal locator beacon, sweater, 2 apples, 3 granola bars, 5 Espresso Gu, zip lock of peanuts, Garmin 62S, 1 can of redbull, first aid, mosquito spray, sun block, lip balm, TP, Mophie juice pack for the Garmin watch, tactical knife, water filter, 4 Ibuprofens, and head lamp. This is the first time I used my Osprey Manta AG 36 daypack and it was amazing. Most notable about it is the contour fitting of the belt strap and the mesh to offset the pack from my back.
Most of the time I will decide to do trips like this within 48 hours of the hike. This was no different. On the seven days leading to this point I comfortably ran a 10k on five of those days. This made it more encouraging to ensure this is what I want to do. A few weeks ago, I had taken my parents and daughter to this area to visit the General Sherman tree. In the process, I purchased the annual wilderness pass for $80. Fast forward to now, I am starting to pack for this trip the evening prior. This is when I realized that everything is accounted for except for the wilderness pass. I had targeted starting the hike at 4am which meant I would start the drive at 2am. It is now 10pm and I don’t have the pass. I can always pay $20 without the pass but not finding it really bothered me. My parents searched their house and couldn’t find it. Instead of sleeping, I decide to leave Bakersfield and head to my parents home in Delano to find the pass. I end up finding it after 30 minutes. After finding it, anxiety set in and I couldn't seep. I Eventually sleep for only 2 to 3 hours before hastily beginning by journey on the road. I hit the road 1 hour late.
I spent the first 10 minutes at Wolverton Trail Head repacking. I entered the trail at around 6am. At about half a mile in, I found a pair of white Underarmor sunglasses and picked it up in case I run into the owner later in the trip. I never found the owner. At mile 1.9 is the first fork. Going right leads to Alt Peak. I went left for the Lakes Trail. I reached The Watchtower at 3.7 miles. This is where you first catch glimpse of the amazing view of the canyon containing the Marble Fox Kaweah River. I took a few video clips at the Watchtower with the drone. This is where I ran into the first hiker. He asked, "Are you Asian?". I responded with, "I'm a Filipino". "I'm Chinese". I didn't get his name but the Chinese man from LA mentioned that in a few weeks he will do a 6 day Crescent Meadow to Mount Whitney journey with a group. I’d like to do that one day. About half a mile further, I took a few more video clips along the cliff side trail. I reached Heather Lake at mile 4.8. After Heather Lake I ran into a few more groups heading back to the trailhead. At 9:00 or mile 5.8 I reach Emerald Lake. There were a few groups awake and readying to either head home or go about a day hike. After this lake I made the first attempt to do a hyper-lapse with the Osmo Mobile. I mistakenly created a 9 minute regular video. That vid will not see the light of day. I caught glimpse of the first deer near the entrance to Pear Lake. I reached Pear Lake at 9:30 AM and took a 15 minute break. I don’t remember their names but I talked to a husband and wife who was interested in Moose Lake. They picked my brain about the route I would take. During the conversation, we observed a person heading north then east along the granite slope. From half a mile away he was just a speck on the mountainside. The couple mentioned speaking to him earlier and that he was headed to Moose Lake. He was not on the route I planned on taking. I would look for him later in the day to inquire on his route. Up until now the route has been along an established trail. There are no trails along the 2 miles between Pear Lake and Moose Lake. The level of difficulty between these two lakes is increased and there are a lot less hikers.
It is now 9:45 and from the neck part of Pear Lake I made my way up. There is a Granite slope leading down to Pear lake and the campsites. That slope is very doable when dry. I headed up along a northeasterly direction near a long patch of vegetation or gully. That gully is a preferable route when it is raining. There are a few trees above the Granite slope. When I ran into the first “dead tree”, I changed my bearing to southeast towards another “dead tree”. I think there was a third “dead tree” to follow until eventually you run into a short trail in the gully. That trail heads up towards a saddle point. When reached there is a small long lake in which you can walk along the left side. At the end of this long Lake I ran into a meadow with a meandering creek and above it a vast sea of broken granite slabs. From here, you could see one dead tree over a half mile uphill. It is not a challenge to find this tree as you are already above tree line and this particular tree is the only one in sight. I made my way up to this tree staying to the right of a wall of granite. Be careful here as most times of the summer months, the rock slopes are flowing with water from snow melt. It wasn’t on this trip. I reached the tree around 11:15 and from here I made the mistake of changing my bearing too early from east to northeast. I spent 20 minutes sitting on a rock observing and staring at the map before realizing that I needed to back track and reroute. From that last dead tree you should continue east towards the low point of a ridge line. This is not the Moose Lake ridge. From the saddle of the ridge line, I headed northeast between the two lakes. On a prior trip this entire area was covered with snow. If that’s the case, do not go between the lakes. Instead, walk along the westerly slope east of these Lakes. After passing these two lakes, you will see a third lake. There is a gully that leads to this 3rd lake. When dry, walk along it as it will lead you to a low accessible point along Moose Lake’s ridge. I reached this ridge at 12 PM. This is also where I ran out of 2.5 liters of water. I flew for a few video clips at this ridge. At this point I felt the hike was complete. It was early and plenty of time to do more things so at 12:30 I downed a Redbull and descended 360 feet towards the lake. Coming down, I heard what I thought was a horse also descending towards the lake. The sounds were actually of two people coming down. They were a quarter mile away and they immediately went into the water. It was now 12:45 and I too reach the shore and touched the water. Moose Lake is at 10,300 and the water was unusually warm for such a high lake. I contemplated for a few minutes then decided I would go in for a swim. I didn’t have extra clothes so I swam bare. The couple was far enough away and they did the same. There was a 4th person about half a mile the other direction or east. At the end of the day I am quite certain that the four of us were the only people to visit Moose Lake. As I get ready to head to the east shore, the clouds start bellowing and the sounds of crackling is heard. I immediately make the decision to forget the east shore and at 1:15 make my official turn around at mile 10.1. I reached the same ridge point at 1:40.
After the ridge I descended west to the 3 lakes from earlier in the day. I snapped a few clips and stills in the area until it started to sprinkle. I hastily put the drone away, pumped about half a liter of water, and put on a sweater. Turns out, the 3 others also made their way out at the sound of thunder. The lone hiker passed me from a distance as I pumped water. At 2:10 I continued but went too far south missing the dead tree. The combined two occasions where I went the wrong direction may have added an entire mile to my trip. It will be obvious if you look at the map linked above where I made the two wrong turns. It is now mile 12.3 and I got myself back to the correct route. This is where I met with the two people who swam down the shore from me. I mentioned to the woman that I heard her distinct hiking shoes from the distance. I told her how her steps sounded like a horse and she thought it was funny. I also learned from the couple that they found this route through an online blog. The three of us caught up to the 4th guy. Turns out this is the guy I saw earlier as a speck going off on a strange route above Pear Lake. He didn’t rave about it so I’m not going to consider what he did a future option. At half a mile before reaching Pear Lake, I ran into the husband and wife from earlier who are now with their 7-10 year old child. The three of them were off-trail scrambling with their hands and trying to get to where the four of us were. They were on their way up to Moose Lake. The sprinkling has been intermittent and because it could get worse, I discouraged them from continuing and they complied. The husband seemed to think that Moose Lake ridge was a quarter mile away. It was 1.8 miles behind me. This was all the more reason to convince them to turn around. I offered to guide them back down but the husband kindly declined. I told them I would wait at Pear Lake to make sure they got back safe because the granite surface is now slippery. The couple from earlier had now reached Pear Lake and I joined the 4th guy going down. He was another Asian about my age from Denver who was camping at Pear Lake near the family behind us. I guided us to a gully to avoid the slippery granite. When we reached Pear Lake I asked him to watch for that family and we said our farewells. Fortunately for everyone, the clouds gave no more than the occasional drizzle. Most of the rain seemed to be south and north of Moose Lake. We were west of Moose Lake. I took a short break at Pear Lake and left around 3:00. Going back to the car was pretty straight forward. The 0.5 liter water was adequate for the 10 miles walking back. I only stopped for a few video clips and stills with the Osmo Mobile. I observed 3 more deer including two cute does at mile 17. At 6pm or mile 20.3 I reached the car 2 hours earlier than intended.