Twin Lakes: The Experience.

by ahanagata

  Morning Savages! As I mentioned in a past article, I recently backpacked up to the Twin Lakes in the Sequoia Wilderness. I don’t think I need to say much to sell this other than this is the Sierras, and it doesn’t get too much better in the way of majestic mountain landscapes. The Sierras are not known for being forgiving, just ask the Donner party, but with some planning and knowledge there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy yourself and not have to eat your friends. Starting out be sure you have all your permits in order, you will need a wilderness permit. I suggest heading to the ranger station early to get this as there is a quota, early bird gets the worm and what not. You must visit the Lodgepole station to get your permit and make sure you double check all fire restrictions with the ranger as they change frequently. At the wilderness desk they also post a five day weather forecast for the surrounding area that’s worth taking a look at; but even in the summer the area is susceptible to a freak thunderstorm, so I suggest being prepared for that.

  Alternately, even though they only issue the passes at Lodgepole you can start your trek to the twin lakes at the Wuksachi village. Though most will enter via the trail head at Lodgepole. If you plan on car camping your first night before jumping on the trail, I’d get to Lodgepole early. Out of the surrounding camp sites, Lodgepole offers the most amenities so it tends to fill up fastest. If you’re a general misanthrope, skip it and camp elsewhere because it’s packed with screaming children. However, they do have a market where you can grab last minute items on your list, hot showers, a cafe of sorts and a proper toilet that doesn’t smell entirely like hell.

  I’d like to note that this is a fairly strenuous hike with a pack and it’s rated as such in numerous guides. Make sure that your boots are broken in and you pack moleskin. The hike itself to the Twin Lakes is only seven miles but it’s nearly all ascent as you’ll be climbing from roughly 6,500 ft to 10,200 ft in elevation. I should note that I started from Lodgepole and the trip is slightly longer from Wuksachi village. You can break up the trip to Twin Lakes into multiple days as there are ample opportunities for camping prior to arriving at the lakes. You’ll be going over some fairly rocky terrain during the first leg of the trip so I’d advise that you have boots with good traction, and I found that trekking poles helped with the steeper bits. Don’t forget to take advantage of the views as you ascend.

  Things will flatten out a bit as you make your way through the deep conifer forest reaching the first place you can stop and camp which is the Cahoon Meadows. I didn’t camp here, but if you do make sure you pack in enough water for that day and the next leg of your trip as there isn’t an available water source which doesn’t make it all that desirable a stop. There is a park provided bear box which is a nice convenience. It’s definitely worth a stop, the meadow itself is a gem wrapped in a granite cove. I would recommend evaluating your personal fitness level before moving on as the trail itself doesn’t get any easier and it’s a good distance to the next place to camp.

  Leaving Cahoon Meadows the ascent continues and you’ll once again be climbing several steep switchbacks. You’ll pass a few creeks and streams which will be at various levels depending on what time of year it is. Being the height of summer, I had no issues or wet feet while making my way across any of these. If you decide to use one of these to replenish your canteens be sure to use proper water treatment techniques, though if you go during the dry season I wouldn’t bet the farm that there would be enough water so check ahead if you plan on using them. About a mile from the meadow you’ll be treated with the following view of Cahoon Meadows.

The Cahoon Meadows from afar

  The next stop on the trail with adequate camping space is the Cahoon Gap. It’s flat. That’s about all it has going for it as far as a camp site goes. No water, No bear box. I really do suggest that you push on forward to much better camping if you can muster it. I know, you’re probably exhausted as you’ve been climbing this whole time. It’s not a bad place to rest if you like that sort of thing.

  The good news is you’re next stop is Clover Creek and it’s all downhill from the gap. Clover Creek is not marked on most maps but is a fantastic place to camp; you’ll have ample water from the creek, and a couple different spots where you can pitch a tent. There is also a bear box, which is hugely convenient. I packed a bear can myself, but it’s nice to unpack things and it makes a great table where you can cook dinner. As an added bonus at the time the fire restrictions allowed fires under 9,000 feet and the Creek is at 8,500. There are fire rings in the campsites as well, just make sure you watch your embers and only use wood that you can pick up. Ample wood can be found within reasonable distance, though I recommend having something to baton with or if you’re a crazy person you can pack an axe. Keep an eye out for local wildlife, I had deer roaming through camp. This means keep scented things in the bear box, and off your body (lotions, deodorant, cologne). That creek that’s so close and you’re drinkin’ out of? You’re sharing it.

The Cahoon Creek

An inquisitive deer wandering through camp

  Twin Lakes is only two miles from Clover Creek, but be warned traveler the first half mile or so is flat; the rest is a rocky stair master. During this portion on the way up and back I saw a few people resting and my guess is that they underestimated the trek. It’s short but stout with numerous switchbacks, the only time it levels out is when you’re at the lake. At which point your aching will be rewarded with a fantastic lake encompassed by a lush forest and a granite amphitheater. There are trout and bass in the lake I believe, though since you’re probably traveling light I recommend going outfitted for trout. You can in fact catch the elusive California brown trout, with luck you won’t be eating boil bag bullshit another night. I recommend using a fly and bubble, kastmaster or trying to forage for some worms or local bugs. You can swim in the lake and I recommend it, though even in height of summer it’s pretty brisk. If you’re thinking of camping, there are big bear boxes near camp sites, a ‘ranger toilet’ and a cotton candy machine. I’d rather use the trowel and dig a hole than use the ‘ranger toilet’ but it’s harder to get away from water sources up there.

Almost to the lakes, lace yer boots tight

  During my stay I base camped at the creek and day tripped to the lakes for fishing. This allowed me to have a fire, and kept the lakes within a short jaunt without having to pack to the lake and be sans fire. What can I say, I like fire. If you have the time, you can keep going past the twins and jump to Ranger Lake which is in jurisdiction of Kings County National Wilderness and they allow fires at higher altitudes so you can have fire and a lake. Remember how I mentioned that thunderstorms can surprise you during the summer? I caught a glimpse of some ominous clouds and bugged out back to base camp. My intuitions proved right and the storm hit later that night. Luckily these summer storms don’t last long and usually don’t pour too hard.

  The way back is nearly all downhill with the exception of the climb from the Creek to the Gap. You’ll make record time with gravity on your side and those showers at Lodgepole I spoke of? I couldn’t think of a better thing to spend three bucks on. If you want to be out longer you can continue on the trail in a loop that hits numerous lakes though it’s not easy and it will take a week or more to complete.

  Bears. Yes, there are a lot of bears. To be honest though if you want to see bears, they’re more easily sighted near the car camping areas due to the ample trash/food. Bear spray is not allowed here, but rest easy these are Black Bears and they aren’t territorial or very aggressive. By all means, don’t try to pet them, ride them, feed them, or do similarly bad, stupid ideas. Just keep your scented items (repeat: all scented items not just food, even Vaseline) in a bear box, don’t sleep right next to said box and you’ll be fine.

  I did not see any poison oak myself, but I’ve heard it can be found out there so keep an eye out. Your biggest threat out there is probably the mosquitoes and ticks. Taking my own advice found HERE I made it out without a single bite. There are fairly large ants, but they seem to leave people alone. Oh, and there are some kind of weird spiders that only seem to come out at night and fight only each other. I cannot tell you what kind of spiders they are other than they aren’t poison and they didn’t bother me. Especially in sunny rocky areas or places where you can’t see the ground like grassy meadows, watch out for rattlesnakes. I didn’t see any, but they are out there. Remember on this trail you’ll be over 8,000 feet and 10,000 at the lakes, so some people might start feeling the effects of altitude sickness. Other than that, you are your own worst enemy. Well, that and the Unicorns. They’re mean as shit.

  Be sure to be vigilant with your fire and make sure you check restrictions and keep an eye out for your elevation either with GPS or with your map (both is even better). As always, you should leave only footprints and pick up any trash you might see especially if it was left there by a prior visitor. Together we can all keep these areas beautiful, especially if we pick up the slack left by others. Also, I lied about the Cotton Candy machine, you have to pack that in yourself.

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