How to get there: near Sonora, California, on Highway 108 before crossing the Sonora Pass in the Western Sierra.
Campground: Baker (there are many surrounded by 100-foot red cedars right by the Stanislaus River).
Where to eat: the Kennedy Meadows Resort & Pack Station, opened in 1917, and called the “Gateway to the Emigrant Wilderness”.
Nothing says you can’t ease into your backpack.
I live at sea level (literally — 50 feet on the cliffs above the ocean) and the drive to the mountains can be a shock to the system, especially if you drive in a few hours from sea level to 9,000 feet or more.
Although I have never had altitude sickness, some people do. A good way to avoid it is to give yourself a day or two to acclimate at altitude before strapping on your pack and heading into the wilderness.
Besides the solitude of the wilderness, what could be better than fishing for dinner during the day along a pristine river, then enjoying a dinner of raindow, brookes or brown trout, pasta pesto and a caesar salad with crisp glass of chardonnay around a blazing campfire with great friends?
If you read my previous posts about our horrible experience with mosquitos in the Emigrant Wilderness, then you will see how I could feel this way. Although I’ve been on 40-50 backpacks over the past 11 summers, I never have found great joy in miles of butt-kicking uphills or bugs. Even a lightweight backpack doesn’t compensate. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a wilderness wimp in that way. Some conditions don’t bother me, like the night I was eating my pasta beneath my broad-brim hat two years ago as sheets of rainwater came down or the fact that I burned 114-pages of a novel I was reading to get wet wood started for a fire.
Anyway, Kennedy Meadows Lodge was our breakfast destination each day because of the great food, wonderful waitresses and history. The lodge was the location for one of the great old classic movies “For Whom The Bell Tolls” (1943) with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman.
After fishing the first half of the first day, we hiked over the hill to Kennedy Meadows, which appeared to be a small Yosemite Valley with broad grassy meadow and granite canyon walls. Really beautiful.
If your schedule permits, think about car camping for 24 to 48 hours to get acclimated, then head out for your backpack.
Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.