Day Three on the High Sierra Trail. Yesterday, we hiked to Big Arroyo. Today, another big 13+ mile day awaited us, as we intended to hike down and out of the Big Arroyo, up the ridge, across high alpine meadows at the base of Mt. Kaweah, take a detour to remote Moraine Lake, and then drop down over 3,000 feet into the Kern River canyon to camp at Upper Funston Meadow.
Time: 6-7 hours
Elevation gain: 1027 ft / 313 m
When to go: July-Sept.
We ascended up over 10,000 along the ridge as we made our way South and East towards Moraine Lake – a beautiful and large alpine lake with a nice campground on a spur trail off the High Sierra Trail.
Moraine Lake is a short detour off the official High Sierra Trail, but a worthwhile one.
When we arrived there, there was nobody there and we enjoyed a beautiful lunch on a warm sunny day. The trail out from Moraine Lake back to the HST hadn’t had any maintenance in a while, and we were forced to climb over and under a number of fallen trees and get a bit dirty in the process.
Once back on the HST, the trail begins its steady descent into the Kern River valley – first with gentle switchbacks and then the last section with relentless switchies that really take their toll. This, other than coming down from Whitney to Whitney Portal, is the only big descent on the trip – and not our favorite day – but still beautiful in every way.
At the bottom, the mighty Kern River reveals itself. Upper Funston Meadow is not the most well developed camp site on the trip – in fact, most people choose to go another 2 miles north up the Kern to the Kern River Hot Springs site. But we were tired and like the solitude, so it was Upper Funston for us.
Upper Funston campground is mainly for people with stock – it has a fence to keep stock in, and a beautiful meadow. There were a couple of testy water crossings to get down to the campground. The water source is a bit more challenging to dip into, but no problem really. More bugs than other spots, but a campfire helped chase them away.
We met up with Kevin Muschter, his girlfriend Amber and their friend Bart. Kevin is the publisher of the Plan & Go | High Sierra Trail – a must have book if you intend to do this hike. It was great to camp with them after three big days and about 35 miles of trail. After that long descent, we were ready for a good night’s sleep.