Instead of the usual mad weekend get-away we took Friday off and drove up Hwy 99 to Huntington Lake in the cool of the morning. Had booked a cabin at Cedar Crest Resort, one that supposedly overlooked the lake. First it took me a while to find the place amidst all the forest tracks and finally found their registration with a “closed” sign and a multitude of barking dogs.
Now I knew it was early in their season but I still got this eerie Deliverance sensation about the place. Chris gave me the key and said the cabin was down a steep trail while shouting at the dogs to shut them up, or “give them the hat” as Rose picked up on. Outside was a Deliverance type river character who stuck out his hand and introduced himself as “Barry” the owner. He had weird eyes, a squint or something, and was happy to start telling me all the problems they were having from the pipes freezing over last winter. Looking for something to say I countered with: “We plan to hike up Kaiser Peak tomorrow”. Next thing I know is that old Barry was rattling off all the peaks names and what other peaks you can see from each of them starting with Mammoth Mountain and the Minarets down the escarpment to places I’d never heard of.
I mentioned the route we planned to take and he confirmed my landmark’s and offered that there was a nice lakeside trail that would take us to the official start at the pack horse station. Oh yes, we plan to come down the Loop trail, he did not disagree so I presumed it all OK.
The cabin was rustic but it did have hot water and a kitchen with 1950’s appliances that worked better than some of today’s models so we had cold beer and even an oven to warm our food.
Morning coffee and Rose calls her brother in Ireland to wish him happy birthday and then we’re off along the trail with my trusty GPS in hand. Here is the track of our hike:
A few “map check” pauses later we arrive up a road at the pack station and a friendly local directs us to the real trail head and I feel more comfortable as we settle into our rhythm up through the giant pines. A while later we catchup to 3 women and one insists to take our photo at this rock:
Next stop is College Rock at just under 9,000′ where we pause for some gazing and dried mango to aid our blood sugar.
The three ladies had caught up with us so it was time to move on. The trees started to thin and the trail was not as steep as before. Soon we were into the Alpine zone with stunted pines dotted around and you could see the trail was headed up to a ridge line together with the anticipation as to what is up there. We crested and gazed left towards the peak. There before us was the classic Sierra “backside of the sawtooth” ascent to the real peak. It was kinda refreshing to see and rather than being tiresome the upwards diagonal trail was a welcome sight into the Sierra back country.
It was nice to be hiking out of the forest and where you could see long views in all directions, near the summit I called to Rose to pause to capture the weathered stalk of an old pine.
We stopped and enjoyed prosciutto and cheese sandwiches at 10,300′ while a few other groups came up and lolled around the summit. Decided to continue on with the Loop although I had not studied it on a map it looked like it should Go. A quick look back down the trail we had come up and then off in the other direction.
The Loop trail was not as well defined and we lost it a few times as we bounced along the ridge line running parallel to the lake. I was waiting for it to turn left and head down to the lake, in the meantime suppressing that gnawing feeling that maybe we were not headed where we thought we were. After numerous GPS map checks the trail did indeed turn left when it had found a suitable canyon to take us down. From then on it was nice but when the miles got up to 12 and 13 we were longing for a cold beer and the boots off our feet. Started to see tripper hikers coming up so we knew we were close to the road.
Now I knew we would have to walk back along the road to our little rustic cabin but was not happy about what turned out to be a 2 mile schlepp along asphalt.
Made it. 16+ miles and close to 4,000′ of ups & downs we certainly earned some refreshment.