We took our time packing up and getting moving this morning, wanting to hang around to see the colors in Precipice pop with the mid-morning sun. There was another group that had stayed at the lake as well and had been a bit frustrating – I’d smelled cigarette smoke wafting in the air throughout the night, and when I went to the lake shore to fill my water and take photos, I picked up fresh butts they had left floating in the water. I’m sure I’ve unknowingly dropped my share of wrappers and litter, but these sure didn’t look like an accident. Ugh, stay out of the back country if you’re that lazy – I shudder to think about what else they are leaving behind.
Anyways, after seeing Precipice in yet another combination of colors, we headed up to Kaweah Gap to cross to the other side of the Great Western Divide. It’s a short and easy climb from Precipice and passes through some nice wildflower packed meadows. At the Gap we took in the view and pulled out the map to identify some possible future trips into 9 Lakes Basin. Greg pointed out that we had spent the night *on* the Great Western Divide – kind of cool.
The descent into Big Arroyo is another great stretch of trail. Wide open views down the canyon, back up into 9 Lakes Basin, and towards the Kaweah Ridge keep your attention for miles. There is a stream crossing with a nice foot soak and fishing pool where Paige caught the first trout of the trip on her second cast.
Shortly after the crossing the trail descends below treeline again. At a junction, we dropped our packs and walked the 500 feet off our route to check out the Big Arroyo Cabin. It looks strong and sturdy but is all closed up. I wonder what it is used for and how old it is?
After the junction the trail climbs out of Big Arroyo and up to Chagoopa Plateau. I’ll admit this is not my favorite stretch. The climb, although less than 2000 feet, feels longer than the previous day’s 4000 feet at times. Hot and exposed, it just goes on and on. Also, don’t believe any maps that show a lake at the top of the ascent. It’s now a dry lake slowly being taken over by the surrounding meadow. Not a drop in sight – fill up at the creek that crosses the trail about 600 feet below the top of the climb (which will be dry by mid to late August this year).
After the dry lake, it looks like a simple hop skip and a jump over to Moraine Lake. The trail is simple and easy, shaded and gradual – all that an easy hike should be. But for some reason this stretch just drags too. Maybe it was because I was looking forward to a swim in the lake so much, or maybe I was so spoiled from the previous day’s views that I was bored by the forest. All I know was that I was glad to finally see Moraine!
We set up at our favorite campsite at Moraine (this was the third night in a row that I pitched my tent in the exact same spot I’d pitched it last year), swam, did laundry, and had a nice campfire. After sleeping the first night on slanted ground and the second night on an exposed and sloped rock, I finally had a good night of sleep on the soft and flat forest floor.