John Muir Trail Day 24: Hiking in Rare Foxtail Pine Forests

The rare foxtail pines


Daily Neet Beat
It is great to share breakfast and the day with Gina and Deb. They are hiking out with us over Kearsarge Pass to Independence, CA. We will stay tonight at Mt. Williamson Motel and Basecamp in Independence. The next day Gina and Deb will drive to Reno, NV and fly back to Colorado. Ray and I are planning on taking a zero day in Independence, CA. to cleanup, repack our packs with the resupply bucket we sent to the Mt. Williamson Motel and Basecamp, and then head south again for our last week on the trail.
Breakfast is still my favorite meal on the trail. Most mornings Ray and I have had granola with freeze-dried fruit (usually strawberries) and powdered milk and protein powder in a vacuum-sealed bag. This is easy, just add a little water to the bag and eat. No messy dishes to clean. I also have a hot (or sometimes cold) via coffee with a chocolate carnation essentials (to get vitamins we may be missing with hiker food) and a tablespoon of hazelnut powdered creamer. The breakfast is a whopping 700+ calories but that is what you need out here.  I am surprised I haven’t gotten sick of this breakfast. I still love it.
We hike up and over Kearsarge Pass. On the way up from Charlotte Lake we walk through beautiful southern foxtail pine forests (Pinus balfouriana astrina). These are a rare pine species that only grow in California in Sequioa Kings Canyon National Parks and surrounding forests. They are related to the bristlecone pine and can live for several thousand years. They have a beautiful dark red deeply fissured bark with irregular blocky plates; the trees can grow over 60 feet tall and can have trunk diameters in excess of 7 feet. Gina decides this is her new favorite tree. It is certainly special. As we begin to hike down to the Onion Valley trailhead, I see the parking lot full of cars below and I begin to feel a little claustrophobic about getting back to civilization. The car seat, though, is very comfortable as we wind down the road from the trailhead and head to Mt. Williamson Motel and Basecamp. It feels good to get cleaned up and have a shower.

Just the Facts
Charlotte Lake to Mt. Williamson Motel and Basecamp
Miles: 7.9
Total Miles: 260.6

Photos of the Day

Taking down our tent at Charlotte Lake

Gina, Deb and I at the junction of the John Muir Trail and Kearsarge Pass trail
Gina next to the stately and beautiful foxtail pine. Note the reddish bark with deep furrows and plates.
The Kearsarge Lakes with the Kearsarge Pinnacles in the background
Ray, me, Gina and Deb near the top of Kearsarge Pass



  1. The foxtail pine bark reminds me of the leathered legs of the perpetual JMT hiker you met several episodes ago. You remember, the one who had legs you thought impenetrable by mosquitos? But not seriously folks, do you think it’s the sun doing this to all things organic?

Leave a Reply