Maggie Lakes Backpack in November

Zoie, our orange and somewhat spunky cat looked at me with disdain as I slowly rolled over from a deep sleep to turn off my alarm clock. “What are you doing?” she asked. “It’s 3:00 in the morning on a Sunday — you’re planning to drive for six hours, strap on a backpack, and then walk 12 miles to a lake, where you’ll probably freeze yourself solid during the extra long November night — and your 14 month old who still wakes up several times a night is off visiting family. You should be using this opportunity to sleep in for at least another six hours, then make some pancakes, and watch football for the rest of the day. That is what a normal person would do.”

She wasn’t impressed, and I must admit, she made some good points.

I filled her food bowl to the brim — enough for three days. That should hopefully get her to pipe down.

And then I closed the front door and hit the road.

I love leaving early on adventures, starting off in the dark and watching the day begin.

The trail starts in the Mountain Home Sequoia Grove.  There are giant Sequoia dotting the forest until the second crossing of the river at about 7,100′.  After that they seem to just go away.  The weather was absolutely spectacular for my hike, a beautiful midsummer day in November.

The Sierras saw their first bit of snow last weekend.  I wasn’t sure how much of it would last through the week, since the weather has been pretty warm.  I drove past a few patches on my way to the trailhead, and as I hiked encountered a bit more of the stuff — never more than four or five inches deep though.


After about five miles, the trail climbs out of the valley to Summit Lake (and crosses into Sequoia Nat’l Park).  Past the lake, I had a small ridge to climb over, and since it was on the north side of the ridge and under tree-cover, the climb up was a bit dark. It was a trudge through melting snow, which quickly began to waterlog my shoes.  I was also starting to feel a bit lonely.  This was only my second solo backpacking trip, and being November, I was likely the only person I would see for the duration of my trip.  I hit a bit of a low in my mood working my way up to the crest.  

Luckily the climb was pretty short, and soon I was descending down the other side in the brilliant late-afternoon sun. 

My mood heightened significantly, and I was smiling while floating my way down to Twin Lakes.  The feeling I had while flying down that hill — when everything in your body feels like it’s working together and you’re just kind of along for the ride.  And the sun shining brilliantly through the trees, casting a golden glow on everything.  And you’re feeling good, even though your feet are beginning to tire, and your muscles are sore — and you just don’t care.  Actually, you do care.  You embrace this feeling.  This is totally worth waking up at ungodly hours of the morning for.

A Bit of a Mishap

I made it to Lower Maggie Lake around 4:00, and I could feel the day quickly coming to a close.  I methodically took care of setting up the tent, pumping water, and beginning to work on dinner.  As I prepared my stove to heat up some water for dinner, I noticed that it began spewing fuel — it bubbled up around the heat adjustment knob, and trickled into the cold ground.  I unscrewed the pump, tightened a few things, put everything back together and had the same result.  I knew enough to know that within the stove, there was probably a cracked rubber o-ring, which helps to keep the pressurized contents where they should be (not on the ground next to the stove).  I didn’t have a way to fix this.

I was looking forward to a warm dinner, but I could easily manage without that.  The coming cold night was my real issue.  On cold nights like this, we have been known to boil water, put that into a water bottle, and throw that into our sleeping bags.  This keeps you toasty throughout much of the night, and I was planning on doing this to help keep me warm — I was planning on doing this a couple times throughout the night if needed.

I was already pretty cold when I got into the tent.  I put on all of my clothes, and snacked and read until eight.  I concealed myself totally within the cocoon of my sleeping bag, tying off the top to keep as much of my warmth inside. I think of all the down feathers it has lost over the years.

It was a cold, and somewhat restless night.  Routinely throughout the night I could feel the cold ground radiating up through my sleeping pad, through the bag, through my layers of clothes.  I would turn over, drift back to sleep, and repeat the process.  I woke up at 1:45.  I read, and did some sleeping bag aerobics to warm myself up.  I went back to sleep. 

And then it was morning!  Woohoo!  I could see sunlight through the crack at the top of my sleeping bag.  I was worried that I would wake up again at three or four or something and have to wait out the rising sun.  I ended up sleeping until seven, it had been light for about an hour!

Lower Maggie Lake

I had a great morning.  I soaked in the sun, ate a leisurely breakfast, explored a bit, took some photos, and slowly packed up my gear. I was originally planning on visiting some more lakes on my trip, but without my stove, I decided that the best plan would be to head back out.  It was definitely disappointing, but with a beautiful mountain lake and a nice little adventure, I could still be totally happy with this trip.

Lower Maggie Lake

Lower Maggie Lake

Home for a night

Backpacking in the mountains, in November, in shorts and a tshirt. I can definitely get used to this.