Trekking Solo in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness
The Jennie Lakes Loop with a side trip to Mitchell Peak is a 30+ mile trek through lush Sequoia forests.
I had a meeting in Bakersfield with a client on the way up, then got to the trail at 2 pm. It was pretty hot, and it’s never easy strapping on a heavy pack at high elevation (8,000 feet compared to the 1,000 I had come from). I hiked in the six miles to Jennie Lake. I really felt the altitude that first day — I got so lightheaded setting up my tent I had to get down on all fours. It passed soon enough, and after dinner I took in the sunset on the rock face across the lake. It had a very magical feel to it, like something out of a fairytale. When the sun sets in the Sequoias, watch for a rock face and you can see it turn a brilliant orange and light up everything around it.
On the morning of day two I got up feeling great. No trouble with acclimatizing like the day before. My goal for the day was to hike across a network of trails to Mitchell Peak. From Mitchell Peak I planned on a loop across to Weaver Lake, and then home after that. Mitchell Peak turned out to be elusive, even with my map. Altogether it was a 30+ mile loop.
I couldn’t find the turnoff toward Mitchell Peak at Rowell Meadow, so I ended up walking back and forth about a mile until I found a tiny sign pointing to a fork in the trail called Marvin Pass. This led me up to Mitchell Peak, which wasn’t a huge trek but it’s never easy with warm weather, a heavy pack, and swarming bugs. The bugs were so bad I had to wear a net over my face.
Rowell Meadow is a beautiful setting, a classic Sierra meadow. In the background is Ball Dome, a huge granite dome. I was tempted to divert from my plan and climb the dome, but I didn’t have a good map to get there. I figured I should stick with my schedule instead.
I even had an animal encounter at Rowell Meadow. It looked like a squirrel, but bigger, with a large tail. When it turned to face me I realized it was a beaver. He faced off with me, daring me to come closer. I’d heard stories of beavers not being too friendly, so I kept my distance and took a quick snapshot with my phone. Then I backed up, giving him space. Being attacked by a bear or mountain lion makes for a cool story. But being attacked by a beaver? How do you tell that story?
Being attacked by a bear or mountain lion makes for a cool story. But being attacked by a beaver? How do you tell that story?
I hit Mitchell Peak that afternoon. It was a breathtaking view I’d never seen before. The entire crest of the Sierra spans about a 200-degree view. To the north you can make out the chain of crags that make up Mount Whitney. I spent a half hour taking in the views before I remembered Weaver Lake was a significant distance away. I didn’t realize from the topographic map that Weaver Lake was across a fairly deep ravine. The sun didn’t light up much of the ravine; it always makes me nervous to enter a dark canyon without light.
By this point I was hiking as fast as I could. The day seemed to be dragging on forever. I must have put in close to 15 miles that day, maybe longer, when I finally reached Weaver Lake as the sun was setting. I was so tired I barely had enough energy for dinner. Once again, I took in a sunset display, this time against the rock face over Weaver Lake. The water was perfectly still, giving off the reflection of the orange rock.
When I got up on day three, I was only 3 miles from the trailhead. I had a quick breakfast, packed up, and got back to the car in time for a hot cup of coffee before the morning ended. I got home by late afternoon, took a shower, and shared all my photos with Bec. What a magical place. I can’t wait to go back.