“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
“It’s a barnburner. It’s cooking,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
The Manter Fire in July of 2000 raged through 55,000 acres in California’s Domeland Wilderness and Sequoia National Park. Since the 2000 fire, dead trees have continued to fall every year and rapid growth of whitethorn, a waist-high thorny brush has encroached on much of the trail system.
Fortunately, I experienced Domeland Wilderness in my early days of backpacking before fire ravaged the land. My memories are filled with green meadows, running creeks, tall trees, granite domes, and the expansive views from the top of Siretta Peak. Every spring I think about going back.
Last weekend, fifteen years after the fire, Dan and I headed out to revisit Domeland armed with outdated maps and little current information on the condition of the old trails. It was a good opportunity to explore, test new gear, and get some training in for my upcoming summer treks.
Our semi-loop planned route looked like this: Kennedy Meadows trail head, south on the PCT, west on Rockhouse Trail, climb Rockhouse Peak (tallest peak in the wilderness), to Manter Trail, climb Taylor Dome, back to Manter Trail, north on Woodpecker Trail, east on Domeland Trail, and retrace our steps to Kennedy Meadows.
An ambitious 3 day plan.
The trip was enjoyable, but very challenging due to non-existent trails with miles of bushwhacking through thorny bushes, climbing up and over downed trees, and lack of water due to California’s drought. Most year-round streams were dry. Manter Creek and the North Fork of the Kern River on the east and west sides of Domeland were running freely. Evidence of bear activity (prints and scat) was frequent throughout our route.
Climbing Rockhouse Peak was fun, very rewarding, and the highlight of our trip. The second peak to climb was Taylor Dome. At the end of the second day, we reached the last pitch to the top of the dome. Dan and I both felt uncomfortable with the exposure of the class 3 move required to reach the top of the summit. After much apprehension, we decided it wasn’t worth it, took a photo, and headed down. I think it was a smart decision, but a bummer because the cross-country approach was not an easy climb.
The regrowth and renewal of the forest was encouraging, but trail maintenance is badly needed for visitors to safely navigate the riches of this wilderness.
To celebrate, we enjoyed chatting with northbound Pacific Crest Trail hikers, while eating burgers at the Kennedy Meadows Store. Thru-hikers are leaving Kennedy Meadows heading into the Sierras leaving the desert behind. Coincidentally, I even saw a few hikers I had given Cokes to while trail angeling with Goaltech on the trail a week ago on the PCT in Tehachapi. Jill, a PCT thru-hiker even wrote about it on her blog, Day 36 – Tehachapi and Trail Celebrities. Now that was cool.
TRIP DATE May 23-25, 2015
LENGTH 49.7 miles on maintained trail, faint use trails, and cross-country
ELEVATION GAIN 8,029 feet
SUMMIT ELEVATIONS: Rockhouse Peak elevation 8, 360, Taylor Dome elevation 8,802
TRAIL HEAD Kennedy Meadows, CA on Nine Mile Road, 1/8 mile west of Kennedy Meadows Store
DIFFICULTY Strenuous on maintained trail, faint use trails, bushwhacking, cross-country travel, and class 2 and 3 climbing
NAVIGATION GPS and good map skills required
BEST TIME TO HIKE Spring and fall (hot in the summer)
EXTRA INFORMATION Rockhouse Peak and Taylor Dome are on the Sierra Peaks Section list
LINKS Rockhouse Peak and Taylor Dome climbs on SummitPost
Day 1 – Kennedy Meadows to Saddle below Rockhouse Peak
Click once on any photo below to view full size. Flip through all photos by clicking arrows on the sides of photos or on mobile device, swipe. To exit slide show, click X in the upper left hand corner.
Day 2 – Saddle below Rockhouse Peak to Domeland Trail
Day 3 – Domelands Trail to Kennedy Meadows
- Trip photos on Flickr