Hockett Peak WTC Experience Trip

  • Updated: June 25, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

June 24th & 25th, 2017
Hockett Peak (8,552')
Day 1: 9.25 miles, 2000'
Day 2: 15.3 miles, 4200'

Iiiiiiit's Sierra trip season!  Kind of!

Hockett isn't on any peak list I'm aware of it's just one of those out of the way named bumps that is just prominent enough to make it interesting.  I've been eyeing it for a few years but it was always an aggressive bonus peak on longer trips and never worked out.

So we decided to make a weekend out of it.  The Jerky / Lloyds Meadow trailhead is nice because it's a non quota trailhead that seems to open relatively early compared with some others in the area *and* the only major stream crossing has a bridge!  Perfect for an early season backpack.

The only downside is you need to get there before it gets to warm and we were pushing it here going in late June with forecasts going into the 90s thanks to a heat wave hitting California.  But we figured we could manage.
This trip was primarily aimed at people who had taken the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course though once they are given priority anyone with the appropriate skills are welcome to join.

WTC is a 10 week course staffed by enthusiastic volunteers which runs every year from January to April and covers everything from hiking and  backpacking basics to rock scrambling and even snow travel and camping all for a low low price!

Once the 10 week course and four weekend outings are over there's a requirement to complete two overnight backpacking trips with significant cross country travel throughout the summer in order to graduate from the program earning a certificate and an awesome patch.  Since we typically have 250 ish students pass through the program every year you'll see me lead a fair amount over the next few months to try and meet demand.  More WTC related content written by me can be found here and the official website with registration information can be found at http://www.wildernesstravelcourse.org.

Since this is a non quota trailhead they don't limit how many people can go out it on any given day and permits are a simple self registration slip which can be filled out at the Kernville Ranger Station after hours.

Permit in hand we drove to Johnsondale where a forest road 22N82 splits off and dead ends at the trailhead 20some miles later.  After finding the trailhead camping packed over Memorial Day we elected to camp on the road a bit before the end of the road.

As it turned out we should have just gone the rest of the way as our group was about the only people there.  But ah well, at least we had this view waking up!

The trailhead is a decent one with a pit toilet but no bear boxes.  Parking can get a little tight on busy weekends but there are options down the road where I've seen people leave vehicles.

The forecast was for 90 degree weather so we made the trail time 7:30 am to beat the heat a bit.

There's a fork maybe a half mile down the trail where you have the option of turning north climbing directly over to Jerky Meadow vs adding an extra mile or so to make it more gradual.  We did the shortcut.

It a steep bit of gain right out of the gate but the rest of the day was easy after that.

From the top at Jerky Meadow we took the trail down to the bridge at the Little Kern

Leaving the bridge there's a somewhat arid section before it drops down into the vividly green Trout Meadow.

We didn't have a specific camp in mind and I took us south first hoping to find something suitable more off the beaten path. There's a homestead at the very southern tip which wasn't currently occupied but I didn't want to stay anywhere near them.

We pick up the trail on the east of the meadow though it wasn't so much of a trail vs us just cutting across several smaller livestock areas.

Angora Mountain in the distance

We found several places where we could have set up camp but considering we had a nice relaxed evening ahead of us I really wanted an established fire ring.  Not long after the slightly exhausted (mostly due to lack of sleep the night before) group started to hear thunder off in the distance we found one and decided to call it home.

There were plenty of established tent sites in the area and just enough water was seeping out from beneath a log to the right of the picture above.  And we had 6 hours until dark to get set up and relax by the meadow.

Kristen started it
The water was from a pool coming out underneath a rotting log and we filtered more to get the bugs and particulates out of the water vs any fear or parasites.  And might have started a small squirt fight.

After pumping water we gathered wood though we didn't light the fire yet since it was so warm.  Then it started raining.  Then it started raining harder and we even got a few impressive cracks of thunder right above us.  And we lit the fire because if we didn't it was going to be soaked.

We got a bit wet but with the temperature being so high and a fire to dry off it wasn't too bad.

The rain eventually stopped and we had a long enjoyable happy hour next to an impressive fire.  Normally this is a recipe for a late night but most of us were struggling with the lack of sleep the night before and people started to drop off early.  (Also we ran out of booze)

And morning came early!  Since it was going to be warm again and we had to do the peak, hike out, and drive home we woke everyone up at 4 am and had the group hiking at 5:30.  From camp we headed straight up the hill behind us which was a bit steep and had some occasionally dense brush.

If got a lot easier once we reached the ridge.  To the south we could see a small plume of smoke which I assumed was started by the electrical storm the night before.  As it turns out we were seeing the start of the Schaeffer Fire.

We followed the ridge north and then east to Peak 8,353.

The summit was a small rocky outcropping with an old 1981 register in a Miller Lite can.

From Peak 8,353' we could see Hockett across the way.  Other than a short rocky section right below the summit it was a quick traverse.

The summit of Hockett has a great view since it sticks out above the treeline.

After enjoying the summit and getting our fill of flag photos we decided to descend by a different route and visit the Hockett Meadow listed on the map.  Terrain-wise you can pretty much pick your route just having to avoid the occasional denser section of vegetation.

Hockett Meadow itself was pretty if unremarkable.

Interestingly enough there must have been a horse trail up here at some point because we found the remains of a fairly significant camp.  No structures but there was enough trash and old pots and pans it couldn't have been stocked on foot.

Update: It looks like there is an abandoned trail coming at Hockett Meadows from the north west.  Bob Burd took it here.

After the meadow we swung to the south and dropped down to the main trail a little south of Trout Meadow Spring.  The route down was a bit easier than the way we came up just on account of less vegetation.

The water running by the trail in Trout Meadow was infested with small frogs.  While I couldn't really capture it in pictures when you walked by a shore a mini legion of them would hop out of the way.  We were all pretty thirsty at this point so we took a break and used the opportunity to fill up.

We had a short distance on trail and then packed up camp and headed out.

By this time of day it was really warm and the worse section was Trout Meadow to the Little Kern bridge.  Once across the bridge we started climbing but at least we were in the shade and everyone rallied a bit.

As we went down the shortcut trail below Jerky Meadow we could see the fire had grown from what we saw that morning.

We'd intended to eat at McNallys which is on the way out towards Kernville but they were closed when we pulled up.  The cook was out front smoking and suggested Kern River Brewing Company instead and we made it there just in time to get our food orders in before the kitchen shut down at 9:30.

The food and cold liquid (including beer sample flights) were very much appreciated but we still had a good 4 hour drive to get home from Kernville.  Most of us got home after 2 am which officially made it a rough night.

As a WTC experience trip this was a bit on the challenging end just because of the mileage and gain on the second day.  It was very doable particularly if the weather is a little cooler and there's always the option of making it into a relaxed three day without the early morning start for the summit.

Next weekend, 4th of July and a big road trip to Trinity Alps, Lassen, and more!

You Might Also Like