Trip Report - Kennedy Meadows

Kennedy Meadows (Jody Pritchard) More photos below.

By Jody Pritchard

Nestled just below Sonora Pass on hwy 108, Kennedy Meadows pack station is the gateway to the Emigrant Wilderness, and for the adventurous, it also can serve as a launch point for Yosemite and other areas in the Sierra. As someone who grew up in a home with two paintings of Kennedy Meadows Lodge and family pictures taken around the stables, lake, and river tacked to a bulletin board, I welcomed the opportunity to go back to the place that meant "summer" for me.

My friend Kerry (from the infamous Yosemite bear episode) came down from Oregon to join us on our first ever ultra-light backpacking trip. I'm not sure that "ultra-light" truly describes our packs for the weekend, but by eating food that didn't require heating, and sleeping in Matt's snug little North Face Litespeed tent (Kerry chose to go tentless and sleep under the stars), we were able to shave some pounds off our packs.

I completed the seven mile trail to Kennedy Lake by horseback when I was 12, and retracing our steps up the trail brought back many memories, mostly how much easier it was by horse. For some reason we were all really sluggish on this trip despite our numerous rests for photo stops. Backpacking with two photographers provides several advantages; first and foremost is an opportunity to hang out, check out fabulous scenery, and catch our breath without admitting we're tired.

After reaching the upper portion of the trail where it flattens out a bit, we we're treated to an incredible spring meadow with wild iris and a view into snow covered Soda Canyon. Pictures just can't do this view justice - it's breathtaking and was a welcome oasis after having climbed up the steep rocky gorge. As we closed in on the lake, we were treated again to an even more incredible scene - a meandering river with luscious meadows, wildflowers, and the same snow covered bowl in the distance. Time seemed to stop as we stared - this is the stuff backcountry heaven is made of.

The next morning we decided to get closer to the lake (which turned out to be more of a wide spot in the slow moving river) and the three of us gingerly walked trying to keep our impact to a minimum. After a small stream crossing, Matt met his match - a mud hole ate his legs up to the knees. Not being able to resist the chance, Kerry and I snapped some quick pictures of his predicament between our laughing fits. Matt was not nearly as amused as we were (he laughed later), and headed back to camp to attempt drying his boots. The trip back with the wet boots meant blisters and by the time we reached the lodge we all were looking forward to putting on our Tevas.

Barefoot on the porch of the lodge, we ate our ice cream, and I began to think that my parents had probably sat on the same bench doing the same thing almost 30 years before. "It's It" in hand, we sat in the shade and enjoyed summer in the high Sierra not quite ready to battle the drive back to the Bay.

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