|The larger of the Twin Lakes|
In summertime the front country of Sequoia National Park is awash with tourists and their associated noise and traffic, but by mid September, it’s much more peaceful and far less populated. Labor Day is past, and most families have headed home from their vacation outings. Many of the campgrounds and services have already closed up for the season so it’s much quieter and much cooler in exposed areas. You are more likely to spot wildlife this time of year. On the downside; this late in the year the trails are dry and dusty, especially in a drought year like 2012. All but a few wildflowers have already gone back to seed, and the snow in the peaks is gone slowing water levels in creeks and streams to a mere trickle. You definitely don’t want to waste your time on waterfall hikes. The tradeoff is obvious. But the late summertime, only days before the fall equinox, is a good choice for day hiking to the more remote higher areas that are mostly exposed sub-alpine and above, while enjoying the cooler temperatures. If you are too early in the year you could find dangerous conditions at higher elevations created by still melting hard-pack. Wait too long and you will have more heat, and will have to deal with the crowds in the campgrounds.
|Towering Red Fir and Lodgepole Pine|
|Black Bear (Ursus americanus)|
|Looking across Twin Lakes (the "big lake")|
The gradual forested uphill continues for about 4 miles before leveling out briefly at Cahoon Gap at 8659 feet. There aren’t any views to be had here to give you any sight bearing as the woods are too thick. Heading back downhill a bit the trail leads down to a lush creek bed area at 8437 feet where you can make a crossing using the rocks. It’s easy this late in the year without much water flowing. Shortly beyond the potential water stop at the creek, the hike transitions quickly back to uphill. After passing the junction for JO Pass at about 8900 feet, the trail soon makes a bend heading more to the east. You can notice how the environment changes as you begin to enter the sub-alpine region. The terrain shows lots of exposed rock and the weathered trees become fewer. The trail gets steeper for awhile and soon breaks out onto a little plateau where the twin lakes lie at 9400 feet. The area around the lakes has lots of tree cover and just beyond is the jagged granite bench where Silliman Pass lies; forming a natural wind break, with the larger lake just below (see photo at the top). On the other side of the pass are Ranger Lake, and Silliman Lake, and camping permits are available for all of them. Twin Lakes even has a bear box and a trail leads to an open air pit toilet. It was unclear to me whether this nicety was designed to be used with WAG bags or not. Who knows how they would pump it? I don’t know whether the other lakes have such fine appointments as that. No fires are allowed at Twin Lakes but apparently this rule only exists on the Sequoia side. Read the signs and be aware.
|View east from Silliman Pass|