Spiderwoman thru-hiked the Kings Canyon High Basin Route in 2017 with her partner, The Brawn. These are her “tips” about the route, a term that does not do justice to their comprehensiveness and detail. The information has been split into eight posts to improve readability:
- Section 1: Tablelands
- Section 2: Great Western Divide
- Section 3: South Fork Basins
- Section 4: Cartridge Basins
- Section 5: Ionian Basin
- Section 6: Monarch Divide
- Reflections, campsites, conditions, and comparisons
She has shared all of her photos from her trip, available here.
We skipped Ionian Basin due to Skurka’s cautionary advice. Our less-than-perfect encounters with King Col, Should-Go Canyon, Woods Creek, Dumbbell Pass, and Amphitheater Pass were still fresh in our minds. Connecting our steps via the Middle Fork Trail still gave us that special brand of satisfaction that a thru-hike brings. We also got to see the very pretty gorge that the Middle Fork passes through, meet a trail crew (who, upon seeing us, expressed satisfaction with feeling their labors were justified – it’s an overgrown trail, especially up near the JMT, and apparently infrequently used), and later run into Emily, the packer out of Cedar Grove Pack Station. She’s the epitome of the capable woman. I hope she’s still at it in 50 years.
We passed a kayak stashed way up in the brush that looked a lot like one of the two we saw on our way to resupply out Bishop Pass a few days ago.
It was crazy. We had been taking a break on a slabby bank of the Middle Fork when out of nowhere popped a couple kayakers. We got to watch them scout the drop they were about to make. Kicking back in my front row seat, I whooped and clapped at each of them as they got to show off their whitewater skills to an appreciative audience. They were grinning and even managed to briefly look straight at and wave at me – the brief connection made me feel giddy as a kid. Then the questions started, where did they come from? Where did they launch? How did they get their kayaks and gear down? Is this normal, or especially adventurous?
Back to the Middle Fork Trail. The kayak was tucked up off the trail, kinda hidden but not really. Hmmm. We wondered what that meant? One person kayaked all the way, while the other walked out? We hoped the guys were okay. Really hoped they were whole and okay. The whitewater we’d been passing did not look like child’s play.
We camped on the bank of the Middle Fork Kings River, just a mile and change upstream of Simpson Meadow. Skurka warns this is the “Most difficult ford of the entire route”. We had been super curious (and on edge) about this ford since before leaving home, so we were stoked to check things out in person.
We found a campable area, dropped our packs, and made a beeline to the water’s edge. Well well well. Crossing the Middle Fork would have been do-able after all. Don’t get me wrong – the crystal-clear water was moving for sure, and the round rocks on the bottom were big enough that I would have been appreciating having The Brawn to balance with while crossing. The depth was hard to gauge – probably above my knees? But nothing about it was treacherous. And it could have gotten even safer: wait for a morning crossing and do it down in Simpson Meadow. Damn!
The uncertainty of the safety of this ford was the primary reason I skipped Ionian Basin. We’ll never know how the rest of Ionian Basin, and descending Goddard Creek, would have gone for us. That’s the thing about accidents. We’ve probably racked up more than one near-miss in the course of our lives, and we’re none the wiser to them. But if I was to bet, I’d bet it would have gone just fine. Shoot!
But that’s one of the most wonderful parts of this lifestyle: the object of your affection will be there another day…unless it’s strip mined, or melted away, or submerged, or mismanaged/fire suppressed, or sold to Extractionists (as The Brawn calls them), or turned into a fee-heavy paved-over permit-driven Humans First! wonder of the world that selects for people with financial, transportation, pre-planning, and digital means… okay, big breath. Back to our walk.