Crag USGS & Deer From Kennedy Meadows WTC Experience Trip

  • Updated: June 11, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

June 10th & 11th, 2017
Crag USGS (9,440')
Deer Mountain (9400ish)
Day 1: 14.7 miles, 4,800'
Day 2: 12.9 miles, 2,000'

This trip was originally a two day to Kern Peak led by Garry McCoppin and Ross Doering.  That changed to Deer and Crag after the trailhead for Kern still wasn't opened a week before the trip.  And then when Garry needed a last minute replacement leader I jumped at the chance to get out from under the aftermath of moving the previous weekend.

I'd already been out this same trail just one month earlier scouting route options on Crag which was a bit of a bummer but on the other hand I already knew a really nice campsite and a pile of firewood that hasn't been used.  And as this trip was primarily intending as a Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course experience trip we had a nice diverse group.

Friday night 13 of us drove for Kennedy Meadows and spent the night at the campground.

Once again there was a disturbing lack of traffic when leaving OC.  Not that I'm complaining exactly as traffic on the eastbound 91 or northbound 5 is responsible for no small amount of lost sleep each summer but you get used to the sea of red lights each week and it just feels wrong when that's missing.

We practically flew and found ourselves at Pearsonville by 10:30 and pulling into the Kennedy Meadows Campground comfortably before midnight.

The next morning we found everyone and started hiking a little before 8 am.

The Kern was still running very high but we seemed to still be out ahead of the mosquitos and it wasn't too hot.

The trail is always busy since it's permit optional and non quota but this time there were PCT hikers everywhere.  I don't think we walked the trail for longer than 10 minutes the entire weekend without running into someone which was bad for the wilderness experience but we did meet all sorts of interesting folks.

Amid all the PCT traffic we ran across a familiar face.  Will had taken WTC this year in Long Beach and had done a makeup with our group the first night of class.  He was now about 700 miles into the trek and seemed to be going strong.

Our plan was to hike to Clover Meadow, drop packs, and climb Crag from the east.

This was the view of our route up to Crag from the PCT.

We hiked about a quarter of a mile back into the meadow and dropped all of our camping gear out of sight from the main trail before continuing with daypacks.  One person elected to wait with the packs when confronted by the hill while everyone else staggered on determinedly.

Except for the short approach to the base of the hillside we basically went straight up.  The grade looks to have been 30% for a good chunk and we did over 2k gain in a mile.  But other than that the terrain went relatively easy with minimal bushwhacking.

People were understandably happy when we popped out up top

Kaweah Group folks.  There was  another experience trip climbing Olancha (behind my arm) from Sage Flats that same day with Lynn Hunt so I'm going to say that there are 5 of us in this picture.

Modjeska Group students and staffers.

Going down went a lot easier than the way up but unfortunately once we reclaimed our packs we still had another 4 miles and 2000' along the PCT to gain to get to our campsite at the south end of Beck's Meadow.

Everyone was starting to drag a bit by now and it wasn't helped by the fact the sun was going down.

There's decent water at the mouth of the meadow.  It's spring fed from the south so you have to worry too much about filtering unless the cows have been let loose already.  Since they hadn't I didn't filter but others chose to.  We had the worst mosquitoes of the weekend here but fortunately we seemed to leave them behind when we climbed the small ridge to the west.  I headed up a little too early but we soon found the campsite Kristen and I had used a month earlier complete with the fire ring and pile of firewood we hadn't had the energy to enjoy.

We had a pleasant fireside happy hour and stayed up surprisingly late.

The next morning everyone was woken up at 5 and told to be packed up by 6:30.

We packed up the tents and after retracing our steps along the PCT did another pack drop at the trail junction leading east to Deer and Haiwee.  We had one person who was really feeling tired after the previous day and they elected to stay and guard our gear.

The remaining 12 of us climbed to the plateau below Deer.  This gave us some spectacular shots of Crag in the background.

Two more people decided to wait at the base of Deer while the remainder of us headed for the summit.  Our general approach was to head up toward the right avoiding the worst of the brush and aiming for the rocks.

This worked ish but it's a lot easier going if we'd just gone a bit further to the east.  That was the way we came down and we mostly avoided most of the tall brush.

The actual summit with the register is back and to the left from the direction we approached.  This took a fair amount of climbing through and walking on top of bushes to get to.

Coming down we swung more to the east which was much easier.  And from here it was practically downhill!

The photo above was taken for us by this guy PCT hiker Dadjokes

We made good time going out mostly because people were looking forward to a post trip meal.  For the first time in years we were out early enough to get to hit Grumpy's in Kennedy Meadows.

It's not the best food you'll ever have but the place does have a certain amount of rustic charm.  When we arrived it also happened to be filled with smoke.  And PCT hikers.

But they had beer and burgers and everyone was happy.

The drive home went so smoothly we didn't even want to stop for coffee.

As far as experience trips go this one was fairly difficult mostly due to the inclusion of Crag from the east.  In retrospect it might have been better to do Deer on Saturday and then grab Crag along the ridge like Kristen and I did before.  This would have added some additional mileage but would have been a lot easier.

We could have also stopped and camped near Clover Meadow which would have saves us a little mileage but all of the sites are close to the trail.  Even the sites near Beck were all occupied and I just dislike camping in high traffic areas.  Camp Croak had the advantage of being completely private, offered nice views of the meadow, and featured a chorus of frogs for most of the evening.

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