Kennedy Mountain via Lewis Creek After the Rough Fire

  • Updated: July 31, 2016
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

July 30th & 31st, 2016
Kennedy Mountain (11,433')
[Pics] [Map]

This was originally going to be a rest weekend between big trips but with my post surgery knee doing fairly well I couldn't resist running out of town again.  So on short notice Jen and I decided to head back to Roads End and grab Kennedy Mountain.

We'd been out this way last year and seen an early part of the Rough Fire just starting off in the distance.  Though we were never in danger of the fire reaching us we had an unfortunate amount of smoke blocking the views though Harrington was a fun enough scramble to make up for that.  Then due to two of us coming down sick the last morning we'd skipped Kennedy but consoled ourselves with the fact we'd get to camp at Frypan Meadow again when we came back.  It's a nice enough campsite that was something to look forward to.

Then the area burned during the latter part of the Rough Fire.  We were anxious to see if Frypan was completely gone.

Due to work circumstances we left Orange County late and it was almost 2 am when we pulled off onto a dirt road near Cherry Pass and passed out.  Sleep is for the weak (or the fortunate.)

If we couldn't have a decent night's sleep at least we managed a decent breakfast.  And coffee...

There are two trailheads that can be used for Kennedy or Harrington.  Deer Cove is the first one you come across while Lewis Creek is a few more miles down the road.  Last time we went up Lewis and down Deer and even if Deer Cove hadn't been closed due to having burned (the fire actually jumped the road) I'd have gone back via Lewis Creek.  It's more forested and just all around prettier.

The permit situation for Lewis Creek and Deer Cove is somewhat iffy.  According to everything I can find Deer Cove does not require a permit for overnights however camping in the backcountry does.  And if you call around and ask about this a good chunk of the people you talk to are only aware of one or the other of these rules.  So YMMV but I went for the permit both times.

The ranger station at the literal end of the road is open at 7 am so at least it's convenient to pick up.  The ranger there also has an awesome mustache and is a really nice guy to chat with.  We swapped stories about various out of the way spots in the surrounding mountains and then I was off with my permit.

Lewis Creek was a little less green than when we were there last year as the fire took a real toll on the north side of the road.

The south side was still looking about normal and there are some out of the way spots to swim in the river after you're done hiking.  Considering this is a hot and dusty trail it's a really awesome way to finish a trip.

There are bathrooms and bear boxes here.  And unfortunately for us there was also a rather large group of Boy Scouts who were intending to hike up to Frypan and camp.  We decided we would change out plans since there's really only one large site there and I'm still a bit bitter over a Boy Scout defecating on the Tahquitz fire lookout incident a few years back.

The initial section is warm and the cover has all been burned away now.  Hopefully it'll recover since I'm getting sick of hiking through these burn areas.

The burned trees lessen a bit as you get higher but it was apparent the entire way that there had been a fire.

We arrived at Fry Pan and found the area surprisingly intact.  The trees were a little scorched but the vegetation in the meadow must grow back every year.

This is the campsite at Fry Pan.  Notice the bear box in the background and there's a running stream right behind that.  There's a lot of room for tents but if the Boy Scouts were going to show up there wasn't room for us to have a fire separate from them and we didn't feel like dealing with the crowd.  We decided to hike on and aim for Kennedy Lakes or someplace along the way.

It's really a shame since at night when you have a big fire going it lights up the tall trees around that camp.  Ah well, next time!

The trail was decent -ish for a time but soon hit a major burn area.  There was an impressive amount of wildflowers again which has been a perk of our first almost average snow year in a while.

Soon it became hard to impossible to follow the trail even using a GPS.  We did our best at first and then just tried to get it over with as quickly as we could.

Yes, this is actually the trail

We got past the worst of it and found an established camp just past a stream with a nice view across the canyon.  We decided to stay here and dayhike Kennedy in the morning.

And there was even a fire pit waiting for us.

After an exceedingly pleasant night spent sipping red wine beside a fire and watching the stars we were up early and powered up the pass.

The view over the pass made me wish I had a few days to keep going.  I love doing longer trips that go deeper in but gainful employment usually limits those to a few a year.

Our initial plan to camp at the pass would have worked though the nicer camps by the lakes would have been a fair detour. Personally I'd recommend where we stayed.

Kennedy is just a quick scramble up from the pass.

Unfortunately we were once again getting smoke from one of the endless fires that always seem to punctuate summers in the Sierra.  So it was pretty but I still felt like we were missing out.

The smoke was getting noticeably worse and we had a long day ahead to get us back to Orange County so we cut short our enjoyment of the summit and descended back down to camp.

We met the boy scouts while we were filling up our water next to camp.  They were looking a little worse for the wear after coming through the aforementioned bad section and promptly pulled out sleeping pads and collapsed in the shade.  They were headed over the pass to spend a few days fishing at Kennedy Lakes and were quite relieved when we told them the trail got better from here.

Coming down we did an even worse job of sticking to the trail in the bad section

The bushwhacking wasn't the worst I'd ever done but the combination of ash mixed with dirt wanting to collapse under our feet every few steps and a large number of spike balls which coated our pants had us more than ready to be done with it.

Past that the trail went fairly easy though it was dusty thanks to the ever present ash.  We debated trying to grab Stag Dome but smoke was bad enough it seemed pointless.

This is what the end result of a dusty trail + burn area is.  Yes we were wearing pants while hiking.

Problem solved

We had an impressive sunset through the smoke as we drove out of the canyon.  Sadly we were late enough that it was around 2 am by the time we arrived back in Orange County.  Fortunately I had a few days of gainful employment to recover before Jen and I left town for a long haul 3 day road trip to grab the DPS peaks Wheeler (Nevada) and Humphreys (Arizona).

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