Early Season Windswept Domelands Trek

  • Updated: April 06, 2015
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

April 4th & 5th, 2015
[Pics] [GPS]

We have a grand plan in the works for this years Memorial Day Massacre and so that calls for some warm-up trips.

Normally I'd be hoping for some snow climbs this time of year but the record breaking sad state of the snow pack and reports of people bailing off rotten snow higher up made me look further south.  Unfortunately the lack of open roads leading to the trailheads this time of year means you have to get a bit creative (or head over Olancha / Haiwee Pass yet again)

We originally eyed doing a trek through Golden Trout heading up the Kern river covering the area between Junction Meadow and Hockett but we couldn't make the mileage work for the three days we had available.

Instead we looked a bit further south to Domelands.  There are 3 SPS peaks down there all of which I've done before but it's a neat under appreciated area if slightly hard to access early season due to Cherry Hill Road not being cleared.  You can access it from the north via Kennedy Meadows or the east from the Chimney Creek Road area but the later requires crossing the Kern.  When I did that a few years back to get Rockhouse it made for quite the adventurous swim.

This time we came in from Kennedy Meadows on the Mahogany Creek Trail planning to do a big loop. So we were going to do some decent mileage getting into the meadows but on the plus side we weren't going to have to deal with the crowds of hunters that had made the trip to get Taylor & Siretta somewhat nerve-wracking.

We didn't leave OC until after 9 pm so even though we had a relatively short drive up to Kennedy Meadows we didn't get up there until around 1 am.

And it was cold!  The dash on the Subaru read 20 degrees and the wind was blowing.  So much for the forecast of mid 30s to 50s.

We pulled into Fish Creek Campground and found we had it to ourselves.  We didn't waste any time throwing out bags and passing out.

We didn't get moving as early as I would have like the next morning, blame the late night and the cold.

The dirt road to the Mahogany Creek Trail had a few bumps here and there but Kristen's Subaru handled it with just a bit of care.

It was still quite cold and the winds just made it damn unpleasant.  It made for a somewhat reluctant start.

Once we got moving the trail heads southwest and meets Sherman Pass Road several times.  It was frustrating walking along a clear road but the closed gate at Blackrock necessitated the extra mileage.  If you came here later in the season you could just park at the top of Dark Canyon and you won't be missing much.

Along the way we got our first real view of Domelands.  Unfortunatly it's looking down through one of the several old burn areas but it gives you a sense of the area.

We took Dark Canyon down to Woodpecker Meadow / Trout Creek just to make it more of a loop but I'd recommend the trail just east of that for future visits.  Dark Canyon was largely unremarkable with a few bad sections of brush where we lost the trail and had to bushwhack.  The other route we took back had a really nice trail at a good slope for pounding out the mileage.

Once down to Woodpecker Meadow we swung southwest and did a long climb up towards Siretta Pass.

The tentative plan had been to camp in the meadow just north of the pass.  The patchy snow had started around 9,000' but we could have found a clear spot to camp.  We were really hoping for running water so we could have a campfire and the meadow was rather exposed to the incessant wind so we pushed on.

The colors are from the new Luci solar lanterns I've been playing with
We ended up doing about 18 miles and 4500 ft of gain total before we found a running spring and (with some difficulty) a place nearby to camp.  We were all beat and the camp spot we stayed at wasn't super obvious or easy to find via headlamp.

We even had a fire pit there though we were all to tired by the time we stopped to make use of it.  Instead we cooked and quickly sought refuge inside our sleeping bags.

The second morning we continued dropping down to Big Meadow.  This is the trailhead I used when I did Siretta last and there's ample car camping and fire pits.  It was a lot nicer without all the traffic and hunters.  We did hear a few dirty bikes off in the distance but never saw them.

Looking southwest across Big Meadow
The wind was bitterly cold so we didn't spent a lot of time enjoying the views here before climbing east towards Manter Meadow.

We'd heard Manter was very pretty but we never had a standout view.  There's some sort of a building at the northwestern corner we took a brief stop by but again the wind drove us on.

We took the trail north of Manter which climbs up to a trail junction.  We'd wanted to take the Tibbets Creek branch but decided against it due to the extra mileage and a report we found in the Big Meadow trail register saying the trail was obliterated and very hard to follow.  Instead we continued north and looked for a campsite where we could hopefully make a fire and warm up.

We were ready to camp well before we could find water.  The promising looking areas with intermittent streams I'd been hoping to camp by were burned out and dry.  We were grateful for the ribbon markers someone had set to get through the worst of the brush.

Finally below that the trail comes down a rock ridge and there were some decent campsites and limited water.

We almost stopped here but the wind made us really want something more protected.  In nicer weather however you'd have a wonderful view looking down at Woodpecker Meadow and there was a fire pit.

We went a bit further down and found a decent spot slightly protected with access to some only quasi stagnant water.  Even after pumping it came out a little yellow through the Katadyn but most of us had had far worse.

And finally we had our fire.

Due to the wind we had a very restrained fire in the name of not adding another burn area to Domelands but after two days of sweating inside our layers and cursing the wind it felt amazingly pleasant to get truly warm again.

The last day we just had to descend back down to Woodpecker and then climb back out.

The trail from where we camped down to Woodpecker Meadow was clear and we soon found ourselves taking a nice break beside Trout Creek which was flowing with some of the best water we'd seen the entire weekend.

We drank our fill, soaked our slightly dusty feet, and headed up the trail

As I mentioned before the trail we took out was much nicer than Dark Canyon and we set a steady pace out to the road.

From there we followed Sherman Pass Road rather than take the slightly longer OHV road and soon made it back to the Subaru.

We'd thought to stop at Grumpy's in Kennedy Meadows to eat dinner but sadly they were closed.  So instead we settled for our favorite Mexican food restaurant in Boron.

We would have made it home at a decent time except once again the 15 was under construction going over Cajon Pass  This time it was a combination of accidents and the fact they reduced everything to a single lane right before the 15 / 215 split.  It really looks like the 14 -> 395 is going to be the preferred route for us this season.

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  1. I am going on solo road trip the 3rd week of sept. 2015 to revisit my youth (cir. 1960-64) when my brother Tracy, my dad and I hiked Domeland and camped at Trout creek with the Boy Scouts. I want to visit the lookout tower on Bald Mountain and day hike down to Trout Creek from Sherman Pass road. Donovan O'Brien of Seattle, WA. obriend67@yahoo.com

    1. It's a pretty area it's just liable to be warm in September especially through the burn area. I hear the view from Bald is absolutely spectacular.