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Kaweah Gap, Black Rock Pass, and Deadman Canyon Figure Eight

Day 8 of 9

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Sunday, August 21st
Sugarloaf Meadow to Ranger Lake
8.8 miles
2480 vertical feet (ascent)
500 vertical feet (descent)

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GPX File

The sun aimed right for our tent in the morning, and it got warm quickly. Unfortunately I had to go get water again from the death trap/obstacle course, so we were a bit delayed in getting started. We finally left camp around 9:45am.

Forest near our campground near Sugarloaf Meadow

Back on the trail, we quickly came to a sign for the Sugarloaf Meadow bear box off to the right. Had we known how close we were to it, perhaps we would have camped there last night. On the other hand, there's no way of knowing if the camp sites had a decent water source. Considering how low the creek was, that wasn't a guarantee.

Sugarloaf Meadow

In any case, we didn't dwell on it. We kept going on the trail, which starts to climb yet again. Today would be mostly climbing, though it wouldn't be long. Still, the climbing here was steep at times and it was another hot day. We passed three hikers coming the opposite direction before we reached Commanche Meadow. It's a small meadow with a bear box and obvious camp sites next to the trail. Again, I'm not sure how the water supply is here late in the season.

Comanche Meadow

We went a little past the meadow to an intersection and took a snack break here. The signs said we were only 5 miles from Ranger Lake, though the map I had indicated nearly 6 miles remained. I suspect either a mistake on the map or the trail was re-routed after the map was made.

After the break, we continued climbing more gradually for the next 2 miles. The trail passes a lot of dead trees here - some due to forest fire, some perhaps to disease. But there are also dense stands of young trees, looking as though they were planted close together maybe 10-20 years ago. These new trees were too short to provide us any shade, unfortunately.

We took another break at the next intersection, with 3 miles to go. A spur trail from here goes to Seville Lake, but we continued on the trail toward Ranger Lake and Silliman Pass. Almost immediately we crossed a small stream with small fish in them. While we were looking at the fish, it grew decidedly darker, as if someone had turned out the lights. Clouds had moved in, and we soon started hearing distant thunder. It was still dry where we were, though.

Fish in a stream crossing

I like having a GPS with me for navigation, but maybe sometimes too much information is a bad thing. While looking at the GPS, I saw that we should have reached the trail intersection for Lost Lake, but we passed it. The map showed the same information. I thought maybe it was off a little so we kept going a little further. Still no trail intersection. I started to get a little worried. Had we somehow missed the intersection? Were we now headed up (erroneously) to Lost Lake? We went a little further before we sat down for a break and to decide what to do.

I put my pack down. While the others rested and snacked, I headed further up the trail to see if the trail had been re-routed and the intersection was up ahead. I saw a meadow across which I knew the trail would not go, so I turned around. Then I back-tracked several minutes on the trail we'd just hiked, looking in vain for the missing intersection. No luck. Eventually I returned to where the others were resting. We decided we would just keep going. If we were on the wrong trail, we'd just eventually go cross-country from Lost Lake to Ranger Lake. It didn't look too difficult from the map.

I thought this rock looked like Paddington Bear

So, off we went on the trail, passing the meadow. Several minutes later, we reached the trail intersection. Apparently the trail had been re-routed (or the maps were always wrong), and I just hadn't gone far enough to see it. After the trip I got an updated paper map which more closely aligns with reality here. We'd lost about 20 minutes here with our confusion, but were otherwise none the worse for wear.

On the other hand, the clouds were growing more threatening. Again we could hear the distant thunder. The views from the trail started to open up, but we just wanted to get safely to camp now. We made it to the lake at 4pm. There are two bear boxes, a few fire pits, and several nice campsites at the lake. We went up the hill and found a nice site with a view of the lake, in close proximity to a bear box and fire pit. We set up our tent just in time.

Approaching storm

View from the climb to Ranger Lake

Ranger Lake

Campsite at Ranger Lake

Around 5pm, the rain started. Then the distant thunder didn't sound so distant. Nathan was inside the tent while the rest of us waited out the storm outside. It wasn't raining hard, but we could see the lightning and count out... 1, 2...usually about 10-12 seconds before hearing the booming thunder. Which means it was about 2 - 2.5 miles away. Thankfully, it never seemed to get any closer.

While we were counting out seconds, we saw two hikers descending from Silliman Pass. Eventually we saw them at Ranger Lake. They eventually camped on the other side of the bear box from us. The 6 of us were the only ones at the lake that night.

Soon after they arrived, the rain and the thunder/lightning stopped. It was about 6:30pm and time to start a campfire to warm up. I was going to say this was the first time we've made a backcountry campfire with our kids, but actually it was the second, if you count the time we had one with some people we met on the first Sierra backpacking trip we did with the kids (in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness). They're too young to remember it, though, so this was basically the first and they really enjoyed it.

First, though, I had to start the fire. I tore a few pages out of my notebook to serve as a fire starter, but that didn't work. Then I took a few sheets of unused toilet paper, put it underneath the small twigs, lit a match and whoosh! The fire started easily.

While we were enjoying the fire, I noticed the sun was starting to set and it was shaping up to be a nice sunset. There's a hill to the northeast of the lake which provides fantastic views of the surrounding area. I scrambled up the hill as fast I could, taking my camera with me.

Clearing storm at sunset from hill above Ranger Lake

Ranger Lake sunset

Ranger Lake sunset

Ranger Lake sunset

Ranger Lake sunset

Ranger Lake sunset

Ranger Lake sunset

Ranger Lake sunset

Ranger Lake sunset

Tree snag on hill above Ranger Lake

It's hard to say which campsite was our favorite during this trip, but Ranger Lake has to be in the top 3 (along with Hamilton Lake and upper Deadman Canyon). While we couldn't really see the lake well from our camp, the setting is great and the nearby hill provides great views. I would be sure to visit the hill in the morning to take some sunrise pictures.

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