Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kings Canyon National Park: The Mist Falls Day Hike

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Hike Route From Road's End

The trailhead for this hike is literally at the end of road (Road’s End) past Cedar Grove. It is about a 2.5-hour drive from Fresno, CA on Highway 180 (Kings Canyon Highway). When you get to the park continue left on 180 at the junction with the General’s Highway which heads south. Continue past Grant Grove, past Cedar Grove, past Hume Lake to the end of the road. All the while you will be descending one of the deepest canyons in the U.S. At Boyden Cave you will begin to climb again. The trailhead elevation is about 5,000’ with about 800 feet of gain outbound. The trail is about 8 miles round trip and took me about 6 hours. I was glad to get an early start at 7:30am. Most of the climb is in the last two miles outbound. Don’t stop climbing until you see the sign that indicates “Mist Falls”. If you have a head net, bring it. ‘100 proof Deet’ may do a good job with mosquitos but seems to be a gnat attractant. They were everywhere and made the hike less pleasurable.
The Rough Fire that burned over 85,000 acres in Kings Canyon two years ago is very evident. The fire burned an historic lodge to the ground but Hume Lake Christian Camp was spared. You will notice all the burned trees and logs as you hike along the south fork of the King’s river, which is below and away from the trail.
There is a turn off to the left marked by a sign indicating 2.7 miles to the falls. There is a footbridge worth walking to not far past where you begin the climb. This bridge is at the confluence of Bubb’s Creek and the south fork of the King’s River. Bubb’s Creek and Woods Creek (above the Mist Falls) are major tributaries of the south fork of the Kings River. Gardiner Creek flows in from Gardiner Basin just below the falls.
I have passed this way before coming down from to backpacking trips. This is the most water I have seen in the falls and assume that a month or so ago the falls had a great deal more water yet. The suspension bridge over Woods Creek was damaged and the bridge over the Kings River was washed away this year. Those doing the Rae Lakes Loop have to ford the Kings River.

I you don’t have a means of purifying water for resupply, bring plenty with you. The later you begin, the more you will need.   

 Kings River In Cedar Grove Area
 Along The Falls Trail Climb

 Confluence of Middle Fork And South Fork Kings River

 Wilderness Permit Station

 From The Bridge At Confluence Of Bubb's Creek And Kings

 People At Base For Perspective

 Sphinx Center
 Kings River Below Highway 180
 Highway 180 Descending
 Kings Canyon From 180

Here is a link to a YouTube movie I created with the photographs and video clips.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Overnight Hike To Big McGee Lake

Dale Matson

Click on Photographs To Enlarge
Hike Route
If you like hiking in mid June conditions in August, Big McGee Lake is a lovely hike this year. I had done a small portion of this hike previously and you can’t beat the eastern Sierra Nevada scenery. Have plenty of insect spray on hand.
Here are some basics of the hike. The McGee Creek Trailhead is south of Convict Lake and north of Tom’s Place off Highway 395. Overnights require a wilderness permit which we reserved online and picked up the day prior at the White Mountain ranger station in Bishop. My Suunto GPS had this hike at about 16 miles round trip to our campsite at Big McGee Lake with around 3,000’ of climb outbound. Water from Horsetail Falls currently crosses the trail and needs to be forded. There are two crossings of McGee Creek. The first crossing (west side to the east side) is about 3 miles from the trailhead. The second crossing (east side to west side) is about 4 miles outbound. If you are headed to Steelhead Lake, you will need to cross the creek an additional time. We did not see a means to cross back over McGee Creek to get to the Steelhead Lake Trail. Pay attention to the signs. Both crossings are somewhat sketchy since the water is high and fast. The first crossing had to be extended with a log because the bank had been worn away. Before you get to the first ‘official’ log crossing there is a use trail through the trees to the river with a log across it. Some folks, that past us used this spot to ford the river. If we hadn’t had help from some young men on our final inbound crossing, that is where we would have crossed. Thank you!  
The trail is partially covered in snow and there are places it is better to go around the snow since flowing water has created snow bridges that collapse under the weight of hikers. It happened to us twice.
When you first see Big McGee Lake from the trail above, there are a couple of use trails that descend to it. We took one for photographs but these trails have no flat campsites. Stay on the upper trail until it begins to turn north. At that point, you are by where the peninsula juts out into the lake. There are several campsites about 200’ above the lake with steams for water.
The temperature in the morning was surprisingly mild at about 60 degrees at our campsite. When we hiked out in the morning, the snow on the trail had refrozen making is slippery. We hiked around the snow whenever we could. We are not young and our pace was slow. We took fewer photos on our return leg, which took about 6.5 hours descending back to the trailhead.
It was a beautiful hike and I have included lots of photos.  I would not recommend it as a day hike unless you get an early start and can average about 3 miles an hour.
Most of the photographs were taken with a Sony A7R2 and the new Sony 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens. Others were taken with the A6000 and the Sony/Zeiss 16-70mm lens.

 Big McGee Lake
 Horsetail Falls Water Crossing Trail
 Second Crossing At 4 Miles From Trailhead
 Near Trailhead Outbound

Mt. Crocker

Zeiss Batis 18mm 2.8

 From Campsite Area


 Red And White Mountain (elevation 12, 816')
 Waterfall Center

 Crossing Helpers Inbound

Looking East To White Mountains
A YouTube video of this hike made of graphics and video clips is available here: