Wolverton Trailhead to Heather Lake and back
(8.6 miles, +2,200/-2,200 feet).
I originally thought this was going to be a killer hike for my mom. With more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain to get to an alpine lake, and a good part of the trail cleaved into a granite cliff, it would be the closest thing ZoZoZoom had ever done to give her a feel for my own trips in the High Sierra.
Well, yesterday kind of blew that out of the water. Today’s hike was shorter and had less elevation gain. But it was definitely steeper and, as one hiker we met described it, more “gnarly” with lots of rock steps and even a couple of class 2 moves on both hands and feet when we passed above the sheer granite valley floor.
We started today a little past 7 with a beautiful sky as we ate a warm muesli breakfast.
We got to the trailhead about 8:45am and started our climb up to a lovely ridge between Wolverton Creek and the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River.
We eventually came off the ridge and passed through a grove of yellowing aspens.
By 10am we were at the Lakes Trail junction where it was another couple of miles up to Heather Lake. There are two choices: the Watchtower trail or the Hump trail, and we chose to make a loop and do both, starting with the Watchtower.
The trail continued to be lovely wooded duff with the occasional stream crossing.
By 11:15am we made it up to the Watchtower, a huge rocky cliff face jutting out into the Tokopah Valley.
From our sheer-drop vantage point we could see the Tokopah Falls Trail that we hiked on Friday.
After a nice rest at the Watchtower, we continued on to Heather Lake. This part of the trail was indeed “gnarly” with thousand foot drops to the valley floor below.
We got amazing views of the Tablelands, a part of Sequoia with no established trails that I would love to explore in the future.
Eventually we left the vertigo-inducing part of the trail as we curved east towards Heather Lake.
Near Heather Lake I saw a dried up tarn with a lovely square boulder in it that showed lines from the water level in different years.
By 12:15pm we were at Heather Lake, where we had a bit of lunch, explored, and snapped some pictures.
When we were done exploring, we headed cross country to rejoin the trail and found the route up to “The Hump” at a saddle above the lake. The clouds started to roll in, finally threatening the rain we had expected all weekend.
From The Hump it was all downhill. We walked quickly as the clouds rolled in to avoid the rain.
The Hump trail eventually rejoined the main trail and we continued down towards Wolverton.
It didn’t start raining on us until about the last mile or so. It would start for 5 minutes and then stop, each time getting a little more intense. But even at its worst, it was not enough to completely soak the trail. Instead, it just gave the woods a brilliant green and mysterious look.
By 3pm we were back at the trailhead, ready for naps, beer, and food!
Epilogue: the next day we drove out of the park and I could not resist sharing at least one picture from the beautiful sunrise.