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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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 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.