The Jennie Lakes Wilderness is cool. I’m not sure how else to describe it in one sentence.
Now I’ll try to describe it in a few paragraphs.
Laura and I are in the middle of a road trip and we wanted to set out the first day on an overnight trip in Sequoia. My friend Victor mentioned the Jennie Lakes Loop, which is a 21 mile lap around the Jennie Lakes Wilderness, beginning at Big Meadow, and that is saddled around Shell Mountain. Laura had been training some for this but has also been sick the last few days. We decided we’d play it by ear and have ourselves a nice overnight trip, no matter where we’d end up.
We parked my Civic at around 2pm or so and followed the well laid out trail up a gentle and consistent 15% grade through lodgepole pines. The views on this trail are…cool… and we were able to see all sorts of distant peaks I have yet to learn the names of. We started out around 7500′ and change and ascended about 500′ each mile. After 2 and a half miles or so of rolling and gentle grade, we reached a fork in the trail, denoting Jennie Ellis Lake to the right and Weaver Lake to the left (note: this is also the first real water replenishment area). Illness and late start considered, we decided to set out to the shorter destination in Weaver Lake.
The trail continued to ascend to around the 8800′ mark for another mile until we witnessed our first human contact since arriving: women screaming. Fortunately for all involved, they were happy screams of people jumping into Weaver, and not injury or fear based. Yay. We followed the hollers and set up camp alongside the western side of the lake, overlooking Shell Mountain. Besides the playful voices of the few others at the lake and the buzzing of multitudes of peaceful honeybees, silence reigned. It was beautiful.
At this point in time, we were hungry. Usually I bring my Jetboil but for some reason we couldn’t find that at home, so I rented an MSR WindPro from work. However, I made a bonehead move and forgot the titanium pot. I had two solutions: 1. Mold the included malleable foil windscreen into a bowl or 2. Cut off the top of the extra Isopro fuel can we brought. Fortunately, the windscreen idea worked well and I can save that other fuel can for another day.
Laura enjoyed her Mountain House Chicken Fajita (dairy free) meal and I loved my MH Buffalo Chicken Wrap creation. The sun was setting, now, and so we scurried to filter our water for the night, set up our sleep systems, and, finally, hit the hay.
The night was long, partially because of non stop coyote barking that was cool at first but annoying after awhile, but we both ended up with at least 4-5 hours of sleep. I always have struggled with sleeping at elevation but I woke up at 6:55 feeling pretty refreshed. I hooked up my Osprey bladder to a tree via a trekking pole and we had ourselves a nice gravity-based faucet for washing up in. Laura was a big help with packing up everything and we began our happy descent back to the car. Overall, this was a very fun and enjoyable beginner backpack trip.
GPS Log forthcoming
Time: 2:50 up, 1:30 down
Elevation gain: 1700′ total
Distance: 7.5 miles, give or take a bit
Weather: 70 and clear during the day, 45 and clear with gusty winds at night
Calories consumed: 400 for Laura, 200 for me (wasn’t hungry, darned elevation!)
Calories burned: I was probably around 2000 while hiking, I’m not sure about Laura
Water consumed: 1.5L for me, 2L for Laura
Getting there: Take 180 into Sequoia/Kings Canyon ($20 entrance fee unless you have an America the Beautiful pass). Stop at any ranger station to get a backpack stove permit; you don’t need any permit to backpack Jennie Lakes Wilderness, as of the time of writing this. Turn right on 198 and take that about 10 minutes until you see the Big Meadows turn on the left. Follow that well paved road and go about 4 miles to the trailhead parking loop. Park there and begin your adventure!
Other considerations: We had no mosquitos at all, surprisingly. This area is supposed to be crowded in peak times, but we shared the lake with like 6 people…so late August is a good time to go. In Winter, this area will be covered with snow. Water sources we encountered were a very light spring a mile in (too light at this time of year to do much with), a stream at the trail fork 2.5 miles in, and of course the lake itself. We had strong winds from the west at night and would have been smarter to set our tent up on the leeward side of a rock or tree that could act as a wind block.