The Theodore Solomon's Trail (southern portion), Sierra Nevada - July 6, 2017

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by scatman, Jul 28, 2017.

  1. scatman

    scatman Member

    Salt Lake City
    Let me apologize at the beginning as this will be a long report (image wise). I thought about breaking it up into separate days, but I believe that I am too lazy for that, so for those who dislike wading through long reports, just bite off little pieces every now and then. :)

    I had originally planned to hike the John Muir Trail during the summer between my son's final year of high school and his first year of college. So I submitted my request for a permit to attempt the JMT starting in July, but unfortunately we did not draw one of them for our time frame. This left us with plan B which would be the Theodore Solomon's Trail (TST).

    The TST essentially parallels the JMT, to the west, through the Sierras. It is 272 miles long and begins at Glacier Point in Yosemite and heads south to end at Horseshoe Meadow , which is roughly 10 miles south of Mount Whitney. The idea was conceived back in the 1970's as an alternative to the JMT, though over the years it never received an official trail designation from the Park Service or the Forest Service whose land it passes through. Because it is not recognized officially, there are sections that have not been maintained for years (decades maybe?). So, potential route finding along the way may be necessary.

    The Theodore Solomon's Trail

    We decided that we would attempt the TST in the opposite direction, from south to north. Along the way, we would have three resupply points: The first at Silver City Resort (three miles from Mineral King), the second at Cedar Grove Visitors Center (six miles from Road's End) and the last at Huntington Lake Post Office (six miles down the road from the trailhead). We also understood that there was record or near record snowfall in the Sierras this year and runoff from the snow melt would be an issue. Particularly worrisome would be the ford of the Middle Fork of the Kings River at Simpson Meadow (roughly the halfway point). The footbridge that spanned the River washed away in the 70's and it has never been replaced by the Park Service. So we agreed that if the river was not fordable, then we would call it a trip.

    Once we made it to our second resupply point at Cedar Grove, I walked up to the pack station to see if the horsemen new if the Middle Fork of the Kings could be forded by a backpacker. The owners told me "No!" They were not even going to attempt to take horses across it until September. This essentially ended our trek at eleven days.

    We had planned to hike approximately ten miles a day, though some ended up being a little shorter and one day much longer at 17.5 miles due to resupply issues and backtracking to cross a river. We saw wildlife throughout that included bears, deer, marmots, grouse, owls, lizards, hawks and one snake. The wildflowers along the route were in full bloom and the scenery was breathtaking. The only people that we saw in the backcountry were near tourist points such as Mineral King and Cedar Grove, otherwise we had it all to ourselves. Creek and River Crossings were sketchy if not treacherous and trail conditions were all over the map. Water was everywhere and we ended up naming our trip "Rager" for all the fast moving water we encountered and heard.

    Well, I'll let the images tell the rest of the story.

    The tap room at the Tonopah Brewery on our way to Lone Pine, CA. These folks surprisingly have excellent barbecue.

    Mount Whitney on a rainy afternoon

    The switchbacks up to Horseshoe Meadow as seen from Lone Pine, CA

    Day 1 - Horseshoe Meadow to campsite along Golden Trout Creek

    At the Trailhead in Horseshoe Meadow

    On top of Cottonwood Pass

    Big Whitney Meadow

    Day 2 - Golden Trout Creek to Natural Bridge

    Golden Trout Creek

    Red Fir country

    Day 3 - Natural Bridge to Coyote Pass

    Looking in the direction of Coyote Pass

    Footbridge that spans the Kern River


    Hocket Trail

    View looking back at the Trout Creek Drainage as we are hiking up towards Coyote Pass

    Falls on Coyote Creek

    Upper Coyote Creek

    View to the east from Coyote Pass

    Entering Sequoia National Forest - this sign is on Coyote Pass

    Day 4 - Coyote Pass to Green Meadow

    Red Fir on trail - these were big trees and hard to climb over and a long way to walk around - these were common occurrences.

    View to the north towards Farewell Gap and Vandever Mountain and the headwaters of the Little Kern River

    Old Quin Cabin

    Day 5 - Green Meadow to Deer Creek

    Sand Meadows

    Ranger Station at Hockett Meadows - lots of deer to the south of the cabin

    I slipped off this log into Clover Creek

    Sunset on Deer Creek

    Day 6 - Resupply Day - from Deer Creek to Silver City Resort and back to Mineral King

    Ranger Station at Mineral King

    Silver City Resort - where we picked up our 5 gallon resupply buckets

    Day 7 (a) - two part map - from Mineral King to Bearpaw Meadow - this was our 17.5 mile day

    Day 7 (b) - When we reached the Middle Fork of the Kaweah, we had to backtrack (it was not fordable) to the footbridge. This added about 2.5 more miles to our day.

    I had to take a picture of this at the Sawtooth Trailhead. People secured tarps underneath their vehicles in order to keep marmots from damaging them

    Looking back at Farewell Gap, Vandever Mountain and Florence Peak

    Timber Gap Creek

    View of what lays ahead of us - looking down Timber Gap Creek

    Cliff Creek

    Redwood Meadow Grove - The image on Hugh Jr.'s face was priceless when he saw his first Sequoia tree.

    Ranger Station at Redwood Meadow

    Looking up the Middle Fork of the Keweah towards the High Sierras

    Jr., after falling in Eagle Scout Creek - nasty crossing

    Middle Fork of the Keweah

    Heading up towards Bearpaw Meadow - looking east towards the Great Western Divide

    Looking back in the direction we had come.


    Heading up towards Bearpaw Meadow - looking east towards the Great Western Divide

    Heading up towards Bearpaw Meadow - looking east towards the Great Western Divide

    Heading up towards Bearpaw Meadow - looking east towards the Great Western Divide

    Day 8 - Up and over Elizabeth Pass and down into Deadman Canyon - From a mountain scenery perspective, the best day of the trip

    Picture opportunity as we stopped to refill water bottles


    The mountain views started rolling out in front of us (in this case behind us) as we made our way towards Elizabeth Pass


    Looking down into the Middle Fork of the Kaweah Valley

    Not the best sun angle, but the scenery was overwhelming. I just wanted to stop and take it all in. - Looking towards the Great Western Divide


    The High Sierra Trail switchbacks on the opposite side of the valley

    Looking north from the trail towards the Kings-Kaweah Divide

    Impressive waterfalls along the way too.

    A peak into the Lone Pine Drainage and basin

    A look back down into the Middle Fork of the Kaweah Drainage

    The High Sierras

    First good look up to Elizabeth Pass

    Looking up at the Kings-Kaweah Divide

    Jr. - taking a break after crossing the creek that flows from Lonely Lake

    A deer comes to visit

    Looking up at Elizabeth Pass - the ground at this point is just covered with running water

    Hiking through snow at this point

    He was pretty tired at this point - almost to the pass

    On top of Elizabeth Pass

    A peak down the north side of the pass

    A look down into Deadman Canyon

    Jr., starting to lag behind a bit

    We had to cross the snow bridge at the edge of the falls in this shot in order to get down. I was pretty nervous when crossing :cold:

    Day 9 - Hike down Deadman Canyon to the Roaring River Patrol Cabin - another great day of mountain scenery

    View to the east of our campsite

    camped on Deadman Creek

    Looking down Deadman Canyon

    Deadman Canyon

    Looking back up Deadman Canyon

    Deadman Canyon

    Deadman Canyon

    View to the west in Deadman Canyon 70.jpg
    Fording Deadman Creek - these fords wore me out and i didn't like hitting them late in the day when I was tired

    Deadman Canyon

    Roaring River Ranger Station

    Roaring River

    Day 10 - Roaring River Ranger Station to Bubbs Creek - the best trail of the trip was heading up Avalanche Pass

    View on our way up to Avalanche Pass

    View heading up Avalanche Pass

    On Avalanche Pass

    View of the High Sierras heading down the north side of Avalanche Pass - we lost the trail numerous times coming off the pass

    View coming down Avalanche Pass

    Granite stairs, complements of the CCC, built into the granite cliff on our way down to Bubbs Creek

    Day 11 - Bubbs Creek to Cedar Grove

    Bubbs Creek

    A view into Kings Canyon

    Fording Bubbs Creek


    The view in Kings Canyon

    Fire still smoldering along the trail near Road's End

    Sign at Road's End and you'll get no argument from me.

    At this point we made our way down to Cedar Grove for our second resupply. The rangers did not know the condition of the ford at Simpson Meadow, so I had to head up to the pack station to find whether of not the Middle Fork of the Kings was fordable. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the end of our trip when they told me we could not cross, but an excellent one none the less.


    Attached Files:

  2. Cuberant

    Cuberant Member

    Morgan, UT
    I've been waiting anxiously for your report on this trip. Definitely one for the memories book!

    The water crossings look pretty scary but glad you got to go as far as you did. Thanks for sharing!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    scatman and Jackson like this.
  3. Wanderlust073

    Wanderlust073 Member

    "way too many pictures of beautiful nature in this report" - no one, ever
  4. Scott Chandler

    Scott Chandler Wildness is a necessity- John Muir

    Whoa! For stinking cool!!!! :frantic: Love it!
    scatman likes this.
  5. Jackson

    Jackson I like to go outside.

    Salt Lake City
    So good. What awesome scenery and beautiful creeks. Bubbs Creek looks very interesting with the trees in the middle of it. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I've been looking forward to hearing about this one.
    chandlerwest and scatman like this.
  6. Tim Valentine

    Tim Valentine Member

    San Diego, California
    Awesome report! When you mentioned you had a Sierra trip planned for the summer I knew it would be something creative and challenging. You hit the mark on both of those expectations. That snow bridge crossing looked like a make or break turning point. So glad it held for you. Thanks for finding a seldom used trail through the heart of the Sierra. I hope to utilize parts of it in the future!
    scatman likes this.
  7. BryanG

    BryanG Member

    San Diego, CA
    scatman likes this.
  8. LarryBoy

    LarryBoy Hiker Trash

    Salt Lake City
    Awesome report and a meaningful adventure with your son. Love it!
    scatman likes this.
  9. ramblinman

    ramblinman Member

    Awesome report. Not bad for a "backup" adventure ;)
    scatman likes this.
  10. scatman

    scatman Member

    Salt Lake City
    Thanks for all the positive responses everybody. It is much appreciated. I was hoping I could report on the northern part of the trail to everyone but I picked the wrong year to attempt it. I do have a friend who says that he will take me to Cedar Grove next September so that I can complete the next leg (9 days) up to Huntington Lake where he will pick me up. I'm contemplating taking him up on it because I would sure like to see Simpson Meadow and Tehipite Valley. Not only are they remote, but I hear they are gorgeous. I'm going to have to recruit another person to go with me if I decide to do it.

    @Jackson - the true channel for Bubb,s Creek is in the background of the picture. There was just so much snow melt that Bubb's is way outside of its banks. This creek crossing and Coyote Creek (had to cross it three times) were the worst followed by Eagle Scout Creek and the multiple crossings of Deadman Creek in Deadman Canyon.

    @Tim Valentine - You'll have a great time if you end up hiking any of the trail that we covered. Just for you info, the trail coming off the west side Coyote pass was in bad shape. It starts out well as it switchbacks down the mountain, but soon wildflowers are growing in trail. Not much further down, you begin to run into manzanita thickets and another waist deep thorny shrub that I don't know the name of that completely covered the trail. As you contour around the slope before dropping down to the Little Kern River there are numerous Red Firs that have fallen that you must deal with. Needless to say, we lost the trail many times through this stretch but would eventually pick it up again. Also, hiking down Deadman Canyon the young aspen have been bent over the trail (I assume by this years record snow?). There will be significant distances where you will have to lift the trees up and over you to continue. It's still worth all the trouble to get back in there and see the scenery though.

    Manzinita Shrub - branches where a beautiful reddish purple color.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
  11. Jackson

    Jackson I like to go outside.

    Salt Lake City
    That's incredible. And I hope you get to Tehipite Valley next summer. I spent a little while drawing routes and dreaming about going there a few months back. Looks fantastic. I hear there is a healthy rattlesnake population in the area.
  12. Artemus

    Artemus I walk

    better off outside
    Great! Scat!
    I love the detailed account and the photography. I am going there. Or parts of there anyway. Maybe I should walk that northern half with you - but I probably can't hang with you powerwise...

    Some observations/questions
    • What were your typical daytime high temps and the hottest one, do you figure?
    • I empathize that the downfall was harder to climb than our precious Yellowstone deadfall due to log diameter but you like downfall in my experience so you probably underestimated the downfall difficulty ??? :)
    • How many miles that you walked were above treeline, in alpine tundra, do you figure?
    Loved to walk along virtually, pal.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  13. scatman

    scatman Member

    Salt Lake City
    Thanks @Artemus . I think you should go with me on the northern half.

    - The daytime temps were hot. I didn't carry a thermometer with me so I don't know what the exact temps were. If I had to guess, I'd say they were in the mid to high 80's. The worst day was going up and over Coyote Pass. I felt lie it was pushing well into the 90s that day. I drank 8 liters of water that day and didn't urinate once. Hugh II, ended up with some heat exhaustion at the end of the day. He said that he felt nauseous and threw up his dinner. Needless to say, I didn't have to remind him to drink plenty of water from that point on. All the nights were warm too, except the day we came over Elizabeth Pass. That night we stayed just below the snow line and the wind coming from the head of Deadman Canyon kept us cool - a welcome change. When we arrived at the Mineral King Ranger Station, the ranger told us that it was record heat and record water. She had said that Fresno had gotten up to 108 two days before.

    Jr. - sweating like a pig on the way up to Coyote Pass.

    - As far as the downfall is concerned, I didn't expect there to be that much. In my naivete, I expected the trails on the southern portion to be maintained fairly well. Turned out that I was wrong. I was certainly too old to climb over the big trees repeatedly so I ended up walking around almost all of them. I wonder how much mileage I added to the trip walking around them.

    This is a big tree. I should have put Jr. up against it for some perspective.

    - The only time that we were above treeline was when we crossed Elizabeth Pass, so maybe between 2 and three miles. Three might actually be pushing it. We were almost at treeline when we went over Cottonwood Pass on the first day.

    Cottonwood Pass - not quite to the treeline
    Artemus likes this.
  14. Wyatt Carson

    Wyatt Carson Desert Vagabond

    The Desert Wastelands

    Some of the stream crossing look forbidding. That one with the big trees in the stream of white water kind of says flood stage. And good you did not get hurt falling off that log with the rocks below.

    But that whole route is just stunning. Too bad it was cut short but even so it is an amazing experience.
    scatman likes this.
  15. scatman

    scatman Member

    Salt Lake City
    Thanks Wyatt. I didn't get a shot of us fording Coyote Creek because I had put my camera away into a waterproof bag assuming that I'd get wet, but here are a couple of shots of the creek.

    This is where we forded Coyote Creek, right where it flows into the Kern River. While not very wide (12-15 ft), it was raging, belly button deep and scary.

    This is higher up and a bit narrower (10ft) - Unlike the previous crossings, we crossed a wet log on this crossing, which was nerve wracking in itself.