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.
Jennie Lakes Loop Quick Facts
No permit required
16.5 miles (add 15 miles for Mitchell Peak)
Trailhead Elevation 7,600′
Jennie Lake Elevation 9,000′
Weaver Lake Elevation 8,700′
Mitchell Peak Elevation 10,365′
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 that 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 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. Then, from Mitchell Peak, I planned to loop back across to Weaver Lake, and then home after that. Mitchell Peak turned out to be elusive, even with my map. This side trip to bag a peak pushed the trip to 30+ in distance.
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 across 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 long way away. I didn’t realize from the topographic map that the I had to cross a deep canyon to get to Weaver Lake. The sun disappears quickly in deep canyons like this and it tends to give me the creeps when I have to hike in the dark by myself in remote places.
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 just 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.