Rowell Meadow

Trekking Solo in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness

I loved my solo on Timber Peak so much that I decided to go a little longer and farther – in one of my favorite places. My parents used to take us to Weaver Lake when I was a kid. In fact, every year we’d camp at Stoney Creek Campground in Sequoia and often make the hike up to the lake. I love the Jennie Lakes area for its sheer beauty – and there is no permit required for overnight hikes. You just get yourself there and you’re on the trail without all the red tape of a big trip.

Big meadow in Jennie Lakes Wilderness
Big Meadow, Circa 1979

Day 1 – Jennie Lake

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.

Jennie Lakes
Jennie Lake

Day 2 – Mitchell Peak and Weaver Lake

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.

Jennie Lakes

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 the warm weather, heavy pack, and swarming bugs made it a bit more challenging. The bugs were so bad I had to wear a net over my face while I hiked.

Rowell Meadow
Looking across Rowell Meadow to Ball Dome in the distance

Rowell Meadow is a classic Sierra meadow with Ball Dome in the distance. I was tempted to divert from my plan and climb the dome, but I didn’t have a good map to get there, so I stayed on the trail. I even had an animal encounter at Rowell Meadow. I followed what looked like a squirrel from behind, but bigger, When it turned to face me I realized it was a beaver. He faced off with me, daring me to come closer. I’ve 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?

Jennie Lakes
Facing down the beaver!

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 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.

Mitchell Peak
The view from Mitchell Peak

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.

Weaver Lake
The crag behind Weaver Lake just before sunset
Weaver Lake
The crag behind Weaver Lake just 10 minutes later

Day 3

When I got up on day three, I was only three 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.

Elevation Profile

Jennie Lakes Loop Elevation Profile

Trail Map

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