July 15, 2014
I left my house at 5pm, stopped in SLO for dinner and continued my drive up towards Courtright Reservoir and the Maxon Trailhead. My plan was to stop either at one of the little known campgrounds on Dinkey Creek Rd or dispersed camping if I couldn’t find anything. I arrived at Swanson Meadow around 11:30pm, climbed into the back of Zippy and had the best nights sleep in a week! I love driving at night and waking up in a while new place; it feels as if I’ve been given a “free”day.
July 16, 2014
Maxon Trailhead to North Fork Kings River. About 11 miles
I woke around 5 and decided to sleep a bit more. By 7 I was ready for coffee! I headed out towards the ranger station to pick up my permit. Had a nice chat with the ranger about bear canisters, trash and trails. Then off I headed to the trailhead. Courtright reservoir, like all the water sources in California, was quite low but still looked inviting with the granite rocks hugging the shore.
I was on the trail by about 10:30. The first part of the hike was through dense forest occasionally popping out onto granite slabs which I absolutely love!
My new pack, the Gorilla by Gossamer Gear is comfortable and distributes the weight well. I am pleased. My pack with six days of food and two liters of water weighed in at 28 lbs! And, most excitedly I was able to stuff six days of food into the baby bear can!
There were bugs! Lots of bugs. Mosquitos and black flies. I told them to go away. They did not listen. I like to see how long I can go without putting on big juice. It is now evening and I haven’t cracked open the bug juice. I hate that stuff.
The weather for the next few days is unstable… Rain showers, thunder and lightening predicted every afternoon. By 11 the clouds were making their presence known. Dark and ominous to the north, white and billowing to the south. Due to the certainty of rain in the afternoon I kept a steady pace; stopping briefly to swat at annoying biting flies.
The trail was beautiful today, passing through small meadows, abundant wildflowers: lupine, shooting stars, tiger lilies and columbine. There were many small dry streams and a few larger creeks with only a trickle of water. Sad.
I chatted with a few people, one of whom told me about a great campsite on the north Fork of the Kings River. I am camped here now. Because of the unstable weather and the certainty of more and harder rain the higher I climbed I opted to hike my planned loop counterclockwise. The impending storm kept me at a full tilt boogie all day. When I tried to stop for lunch the flies were so bad that two ended up on my peanutbutter tortilla and the rest were so annoying that I opted to hike and eat. Where is the wind I wondered? And how come no matter what direction I’m riding my bike or paddling I always seem to be going into the wind! But now when a slight breeze could send these flies on their way, the air is still. These are some of the things I ponder as I try to out run the thunder all afternoon. Kaboom! Kaboom! It is getting closer!
The sky looks like it is going to open up any second and pellet me with rain and maybe hail. I keep moving. No lightening… So I feel safe. Just as the rain begins to fall the trail opens up onto the glacier polished granite slabs of the Kings River. It’s magnificent! I get my tent up and dive inside; safe and dry and comforted by the warmth.
When the storm blows over I explore the area and find 3 beautiful, sparkling, inviting pools. I must go in. One nice thing about a low water year is the ease and warmth of navigating in and out of the river. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a backpacking trip in the Sierra where I’ve gone swimming after dinner! How lucky can I be?!