Trailhead Elevation: 7,280 ft.
Top Elevation: 9,600 ft. @ Pear Lake – 10,500 ft. @ Moose Lake – 11,300 ft. @ Un-named Peak
Total Gain: 4,020 ft.
Distance: 14 miles r/t
Labor Day weekend, 2010 – Clay, Sam, and I woke up after a two-hour sleep. We had ventured up from Los Angeles to Sequoia National Park the night before. We came into the park around 2am, and camped out in a reserved campsite that was vacant. In order to be able to hike “The Lakes Trail”, we had to be at the ranger station around 7am. There were 25 permits for this trail, per day, and there was already a line of about 8 people when we arrived. Shortly after, the ranger opened the doors and everyone lined up inside. It turns out you could come the night before and get the permits – which wasn’t an option for us because we were still in LA. We ended up barely making it, grabbing permits # 21, 22, & 23. Yikes!!!
It felt great to get such an early start. We finished packing our backpacks with food, water, gear, etc. and began hiking by 8:30am. The trail was dusty, but we were happy. Early morning light gently cascaded through the trees, giving us an incredibly peaceful morning.
After a couple hours in the forest, the trees started to thin out and eventually we started hiking along a granite ledge. The views started to open up and we could see far down the valley that we came from. We hiked along the trail for another couple of hours and came to the first lake in a string of four. It was called Heather Lake, and it was magnificent. I started to get very excited because the usual trend is the higher you go, the more epic the lake.
After briefly stopping for a break at Heather Lake, we continued on. We passed by two more lakes (Emerald and Aster Lakes) but decided to continue on without stopping. The trees were starting to thin out, the high country was approaching. I started to get pretty exhausted – I think the air was thinning out a bit and it was starting to be slightly noticeable. We rounded yet another bend and after several hours from leaving the car, Pear Lake came into view.
It was incredible. High altitude lakes always take my breath away (both literally and figuratively!) It was fantastic. Every time I hike to places like this it reminds me why I do it. Nothing else gives me such satisfaction. It was still very hot out so we decided to partake in a few pulls of whiskey and enjoy a refreshing dip.
After a couple hours of enjoying the lakeside and setting up camp – Clay and Sam played some Cribbage while I explored the hillside. There were a few other groups of people here but we didn’t really notice them. Our first day was extremely successful.
We woke up early, after the sun rose. Our plan for the day was to venture off the beaten path, and head cross-country farther into the Tablelands. After a solid breakfast and some coffee, we left the comfort of Pear Lake and began our 2 mile & 1500 ft. climb.
After an arduous climb out of the lake basin, we reached a flat stretch. It was proving to be much hard than we anticipated. The route was clear, but there were thousands of flat rocks, positioned like stairs, that we had to climb up. It was a very long morning. After about 3 hours, we crested a ridge at about 10,900 feet. The view over the other side was like nothing I’d seen before. Moose Lake glistened in front of us (and down about 500 feet).
We were giddy. The lake looked amazing from above and as far as we could tell, there was not a single soul anywhere to be seen. This was a stretch because Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest, if not THE busiest, backpacking weekend of the year. There was an unnamed peak to our right, and after some debate, we decided to head for the top. It only took about an hour but we finally made it. This was the highest point that I had ever backpacked to. Here you can see the valley in which we started out, way below in the distance.