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Re: Moose in the Mist

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Moose in the Mist
August 01, 2013 08:45PM
My wife and I were awakened early Saturday morning by the sound of light rain falling on the roof of the car we were sleeping in at Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia. The rain was light and warm, more tropical than alpine. Still, a wet evening and morning was an ominous start to my wife's birthday hike. It's as if the weather gods hadn't gotten the message that this was to be a special, relaxing trip, not an epic...

Drizzle continued intermittently into morning as we prepared for our three-day hike around the Alta Peak complex where we planned on hitting the usual highlights: Alta Meadow, Moose Lake, the Tableland, and Pear Lake. As the rain was light and warm, we pressed on, obtaining our permit at the ranger station and driving up to the trailhead at Wolverton. By the time our packs were on, ready to hike, the rain had all but stopped. Perhaps the message about this being a special trip had gotten through...? As we headed up to Panther Gap, then traversed past (dry) Mehrten Creek and the Alta Peak junction, the clouds were quite low, obscuring the views of high points like Tharps Rock.

Unfortunately, the views of the Great Western Divide from near Alta Meadow were similarly obscured:

After a lunch stop at the top of Alta Meadow, where many people camp due to the proximity to water (which was still flowing) and the good views, we followed the faint, overgrown trail to where it ends on the topo map, near the "bottom" or eastern end of the meadow. (As has been previously explained, the reason the trail drops almost 400 feet while crossing Alta Meadow, only to climb 1600' back to Moose Lake, is that the trail originally continued down to the current High Sierra Trail near Buck Creek; the spur to Moose Lake was a later development.) Despite the dry conditions, Alta Meadow was still quite lush, and our pants and shoes got very wet from the damp foliage we brushed through.

We transitioned to the unmaintained Moose Lake trail, and except in one early overgrown section and at the rocky (first) creek crossing, we were always on the old trail. Despite it being well-publicized on the Internet, the trail doesn't appear to get much use at all, and is if anything more faint that it was the first time we followed it.

At the second creek, where the trail drops into a small meadow (which I've seen called "Last Chance Meadow"winking smiley, it faded into the meadow past some flagging tape; we headed for the sandy gully across the meadow where the trail continued. Someone had flagged this segment of the trail, and we managed to mostly follow the steep and rutted trail to the top of the ridge, where we got our first views of "Little Moose Lake", the upper reaches of Buck Creek, and the ridge along the south end of Moose Lake. This being our third (or fourth) trip to Moose, we have found almost all of the old trail; only the short section along the ridge remains un-rediscovered.

We followed the ridge maybe 1/4 mile to the northwest to where the trail drops into the rocky basin south of Moose. From here, the trail is mostly obvious and well-ducked. (Of course, there are--or were--also well-ducked routes that are not on the trail...)

To the east we saw the large granite face that forms the east wall of Buck Creek's small canyon, which reminded me a bit of Clouds Rest and Tenaya Canyon.

Eventually we reached the small gap where the trail ends, high above the south end of Moose Lake. There is very little camping near this location; we'd have to circle around the southeast of the lake to our desired destination on the north-east "corner" of the lake.

In our previous trips, this stroll around the lake was complicated by snow banks clinging to the north faces of the ridges surrounding the lake. Not this year.

After setting up camp (Photosynththe clouds started to dissipate, and in fact a few times we experienced our only direct sunshine of the day.

Eventually, a golden glow bathed the granite surrounding us, and soon thereafter, the sun disappeared behind the ridge we'd be traversing in a few days. Not long thereafter, we were asleep in our tents and sleeping bags.

The next morning we were welcomed by mostly clear skies reflected by the glassy-smooth lake.

As the night had been quite humid (at least by Sierra standards), we dried out our gear in leisure.

Two of our friends had to return that day, so we bid them good-bye (Photosynth); not long thereafter, we started climbing over the ridge north of the lake en route to the Tableland (or is it just "Tableland"? or "The Tablelands"?) (Photosynth). We paused at the top for what we thought would be our last views of Moose Lake. (In fact, we'd get several glimpses of it from various places in the Tableland.)

Travel around the north was straightforward, something that would be a recurring theme in the Tableland area--it seems that whenever we needed a "miracle" grassy ledge or gully, we found one, never getting hung up or cliffed out. Or, perhaps we were lucky, or it was the Tableland's birthday gift to my wife.

At the top of the ridge that separates the Buck Creek drainage from the Marble Fork (Photosynth), we got our first views down into the Table Meadows area. On our first Moose Lake excursion we had returned to Pear Lake via Marble Fork, a route that is like a broader, gentler Cherry Creek Canyon--as long as you manage to exit by Pear Lake. However, for this trip, we would stay high above the Marble Fork.

If you are not into grassy meadows, small lakes and tarns, and large expanses of granite, you'd find the Tableland tedious. But if hands-in-pockets cross-country travel through open terrain is your thing, it's paradise.

We didn't really have a route in mind, and only a vague sense of heading towards lake 10559 for the night. So we wandered around, enjoying the easy travel, but also keeping our eyes on the growing stormclouds all around us.

Behind us in the distance was the Alta Peak complex, where we would be returning the next day.

At the gentle ridge that forms the Kings Canyon-Sequoia boundary, we got our first views of the high peaks to the north; in contrast to the sunshine we were enjoying, they were cloaked by dark clouds.

Instead of continuing to lake 10559, we decided to head down to some small tarns we saw and set up camp before the storm hit us. Before dropping off the ridge, we looked back on Moose Lake, precariously perched on a granite ridge in the distance.

We set up camp at a LNT-approved "durable" location and mostly just took it easy for the rest of the afternoon and evening, bathing, cooking, reading, and playing cards.

(Yes, that large black monolith center-left is the new Bearikade, behind a Bearvault 500 (for comparison)...)

The next morning started out clear and cloudless, and after another leisurely round of packing up our campsite, we strolled back towards the Alta Peak complex, passing by several small tarns and lakes.

Eventually, we made it back to the place where we had first seen the Marble Fork drainage the previous day. Facing us there was a steep-looking climb up the ridge. Another birthday gift was revealed: a straightforward grassy ramp that led easily to the top of the ridge, whose broad, flat top provided panoramic views.

From this ridge, the route to Pear Lake was mostly familiar--mostly, because the lack of snow made it simple to drop down to the lakes near "peak" 10824, where we stopped for lunch before continuing westward towards Pear.

After a short "climb" of maybe 50', we reached the top of the first of two major descents to Pear. To the north was the landmark tree trunk that serves as a guidepost for other Pear - Moose travelers.

In the distance, we could see the "Green Mile", a grassy slot with a use trail that leads to Pear Lake.

As the "Green Mile" trail steepened, we got the first glimpses of granite-rimmed Pear Lake. The eastern shore of this lake is particularly inviting and should make a fun scramble (or swim) destination for a future trip.

After the final steep descent down granite slabs to Pear Lake, we stopped by the shore and enjoyed a brisk swim in Pear's inviting waters. (Photosynth)

We could have stayed at Pear all afternoon, but we still had several miles' walking, and a long drive, facing us. We followed the trail past Aster, Emerald, and Heather lakes, then continued along the Watchtower Trail, which clung precariously above the Tokopah Valley.

The namesake falls below the trail were unfortunately all but dry.

From near the Watchtower, we got our last views of the Tableland area before the trail left the open granite and descended into the Wolverton-area forest.

In hindsight, the unusual weather we had made the trip more special, and it was a great way for my wife to share her birthday with friends and familiar country.

More Pictures

(edit: now with Photosynths!)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/01/2013 09:09PM by basilbop.
Re: Moose in the Mist
August 01, 2013 09:21PM
When I asked myself at different points along the trip: "Is there anyplace else I'd rather be right now?" My answer was always no. I was right where I *should* be. Where I *wanted* to be. I love Moose. I've missed Moose. I love the area around Moose. I love the friends who carved out the time from their busy schedules to spend 3 to 4 days with us in the mountains!

Folks, I want to point out that "L" with the red backpack is 73 and is freaking amazing! He grew up hiking and backpacking in the Sierra, has shared that with his own kids and grandkids and many others he mentored in the wilderness, and I wanna be just like him when I grow up! smiling smiley His attitude combined with his aptitude, not just for hiking, but for cross-country hiking... well, I'll hike with him and Old Dood any freaking day! I bow to both of them and to any like them! Bowing to his greatness More power to you and know you are an inspiration to me and Basilbop! We thank you both for sharing your time, wisdom, and humor with us on our trips so far, and we look forward to more.

"P" is also an inspiration and is proof positive that a great attitude and a willingness to learn means you can get into backpacking at any point in your life. If you've been wondering if you could actually backpack... I suggest you start doing it... There are many clubs and organizations that lead hikes of various levels, and though I myself have not participated with any, P's stories impressed upon me how beneficial they can be. I posted elsewhere earlier today about "finding new friends" when the ones you have don't quite share your passion. (TechieSteve's adventure thread). Between traditional options such as SierraClub hikes and the new MeetUp groups (thanks, nwhkr for your advice on them) there are options...

But I digress. I'm lucky in that I do have enough friends who enjoy this type of thing that I can usually round a few up for a trip. We were hoping for a couple of other bird-brains to join us, but circumstances precluded that option, so we look forward to a future joint excursion!

One thing Basilbop mentioned in his post is that on Day 2, we settled relatively early... and played cards. Wow. L and I had a BLAST, and by golly, am I rusty. I got whooped badly! Didn't matter that it was my actual birthday-day, I was getting pummeled! After dinner, we coaxed Basilbop to join us, and though some of the pain was redirected his way, it was obvious who was king of the cards! That day. I want a rematch.. or 10!

Pear Lake was a treat for all of us - we all got in, some more gracefully than others, but we ALL GOT IN. And swam and floated and putzed about for some time. I must say, Peggy and I stayed in the longest... And the 20-something-seeming boys over near the campground who were screaming about how cold it was and who would throw each other in and then immediately get back out? Well, I tuned them out as I was doing dolphin rolls and floating about.... The water did not qualify as COLD to me. It was nice. But I stayed in long enough to get a little shivery, and I know that's when I need to get out. Made for a very pleasant hike on trail back out of the lakes' basins.

Could I have asked for better weather? No. Did it rain on us while hiking? No. You saw those rain jackets and pack covers? They did their job - as soon as they went on, the piddly drips STOPPED. We finally all got out of the jackets because we were too warm. We changed course and stopped early on Day 2 because the clouds were threatening all around us... but we were fine. I thank the weather heartily for adding beauty and depth to my trip, without any discomfort! Skies were clear and gorgeous both nights in the backcountry! How perfect! I was mildly annoyed with the moon for washing out my view of the milky way... but then I thought of TechieSteve and was happy for half a night of dark sky. I truly value our wilderness.

And a final note to A & E who had to leave Sunday... you guys have been awesome on all the trips we've had and we've had a few life-changing ones. Thank you again for your friendship and camaraderie!

It's become a habit to hike whenever possible on my birthday.. and I'm looking forward to next year!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/01/2013 09:30PM by JustKeepWalking.
Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 07:52AM
Thanks for posting this. Moose is one of my favorite lakes. Such a spectacular view of the mountains to the east. Plus it has a sandy beach!
avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 07:55AM
hehehe (yet another sandy beach lake in The Sierra) awesome

Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 08:02AM
Bowing to his greatness

To both of you. And to all the Old Doods out there hiking-on.

Yeah, I tried and tried and tired... but wife just wouldn't bite on the trip.
O well... you have to realize that for many many many years in a row
we did a weeklong trip that went thru her birthday. As much as she
loves backpacking... she didn't necessarily want to have to hike
"all the way over there" on her birthDAY. So she gets what she wants.
And in return... well.. I get to go where I want ... and she has the
time off then... so ... regardless of the snow situation I get this:
Or I just go on a really long dayhike around the Bay Area.

Thanks for posting. Just awesome.

And Larry is "Older Dood"

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 08:44AM
Another place to put on my growing list of MUST hikes!! After spending a majority of my life in the Rockies, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that the Sierra is a very special place. Obviously, all of these pictures are great but the one of the ridge that looks like a wave about to break with the mist behind it is very cool, I wanted to grab my surf board! Happy birthday JKW! Looks like you had the best present ever, great friends and a great trip. We leave Monday for TM to do a leisurely hike to Yosemite Valley. My brother-in-law is coming in from London for his first trip to Yosemite. I thought this hike would be a good one for him.
avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 09:39AM
How did a lake in California ever get called Moose Lake? Did California ever have moose?
avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 11:27AM

How did a lake in California ever get called Moose Lake?

Because the Sierra Club back in 1928 opposed it being named Buck Lake. So it was named Moose Lake, instead:

avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 11:36AM

Did California ever have moose?

A quick search brings up some photos of the rarely sighted Sierra Moose.

Here's a photo of one taken in Yosemite Valley:

Other photos of the rare Sierra Moose can be found here:


Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 02:42PM
How did a lake in California ever get called Moose Lake? Did California ever have moose?

I think I remember reading somewhere that it was named due to its superficial resemblance to a moose (head?) from the air... I'd say that perhaps it was named by the DFG pilots, but I think I've seen this name on maps that pre-date the aerial fish seeding program.
avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 03:29PM
It really doesn't look like a Moose head to me.

I'm wondering, though, why the Sierra Club opposed naming the lake, Buck Lake?

avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 03:03PM
Did California ever have moose?

They do at those lodge things.
Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 03:35PM
After spending a majority of my life in the Rockies, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that the Sierra is a very special place.

Basilbop grew up in Colorado, hiking and backpacking in the Rockies. I met him at school here in California. He told me about the Rockies, I took him to Yosemite. In 25+ years of being together, he's never once tried to get me to go live in Colorado. We love the Sierras. They may not speak to everyone the same way... but I adore them. I adore the vast wilderness between Yosemite and Sequoia. I've said it before and will continue to say it until it no longer holds: I've found the Rockies to be a great outdoor experience.. But the Sierras are more of a wilderness experience, and I hope we can keep it that way. And there is something about our granite and water formations... Everyone has their own personal preferences, and I respect that...but I'm still hopelessly stuck on the Sierras.

And thank you for the birthday wishes!

I'm sorry if you posted about your trip already, but which route from TM to Valley? One of my favorites is all trail, but lovely - TM to Vogelsang (ideally by Ireland Lake trail past Evelyn) and then over Vogelsang Pass down to Merced Lake. Though I do like Fletcher as well. And I just adore the Merced River canyon! If dayhike... hm... I've done it in reverse in a day, so do-able but long, Cathedral Lakes TH past Sunrise down to LYV to Valley.. but I think I'd opt for Sunrise TH over Clouds Rest to Valley for a day hike. Shorter, but still a haul, and a lot of downhill any way you cut it. Hope you have a blast! Love taking first-timers to Yosemite! Can't wait to read about your trip!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/02/2013 03:35PM by JustKeepWalking.
Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 04:48PM
Colorado is great. But the granite and water and a thousand other things keep coming back to the Sierra!

We are going up Lyell Canyon and spending the first night at Lake Evelyn, then a quick trip down to Florence Creek (where we will do lots of exploring) then past Lake Merced to one of my favorite camp spots, south east of Bunnell Pt. Then down through the almost Mist Trail to the backpacker's camp. Then beer and pizza and watching my brother-in-law gawk at the beauty of the Valley. I have only done the Fletcher/Rafferty side of this trip, I have never seen Vogelsang Pass or Lewis Creek, I am now counting the seconds!!
Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 08:49PM
Sounds perfect to me!!! Have a fabulous trip and write it up!!! I'm thankful for all the time and effort people put into sharing their experiences. The stories are the way to give back to those who share their knowledge and advice, and I'm sensing people are getting that better now... At least I'm hoping so... Happy trails!
Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 03:18PM
Yeah, I tried and tried and tired... but wife just wouldn't bite on the trip.

Truly, *I* understand!!! For me, after a couple of years of being stymied by injuries, I'm just super happy to get back to the mountains... but I was sure as heck going to do what I wanted to do on my birthday! As much as I'd have loved to have you join us, I fully supported your wife's choice! You're a good hubby to take care of her!

And, you know...the Sierras, they aren't really going anywhere fast... knock on wood..

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/02/2013 03:20PM by JustKeepWalking.
avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 11:07AM
Thanks for an excellent trip report from the two of you. It's fun to read two people's perspectives of the same trip. The photos (including the photosynths) were great to look at as usual.

Such a great way to celebrate one's birthday. Happy Birthday, JKW!

Re: Moose in the Mist
August 02, 2013 03:11PM
It really was great! As I grow up, even though I love my toys... I love having and sharing great experiences more...

And thanks for the birthday wishes, plawrence!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/02/2013 03:12PM by JustKeepWalking.
avatar Re: Moose in the Mist
August 03, 2013 03:12PM
There was a bad link on the Sierra Trails issue on the tablelands, but this link should work: http://www.doylewdonehoo.com/tablelands/table1.htm

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/03/2013 03:13PM by yosemitejim.
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