Kings Canyon NP - Kings Canyon Panorama

16 Days to WSER: Road’s End to Junction Meadows

Similar to my journey out to Mineral King a few days earlier, my run from the Road’s End trailhead would require me to drive around 30 miles into Kings Canyon park down a dead-end road. I left early from my campsite in Sequoia National Park and crossed through Sequoia National Forest into Kings Canyon National Park for the journey to the place where the road ends.

I arrived at the end of the road with nothing ahead of me but trails proceeding into the wilderness of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains until reaching civilization on the other side of some very high peaks. I had planned out my intended run for the day but went up to the ranger station for a quick chat to determine if there were any better options available. He was in agreement with my selected route although a bit surprised that I planned to run it.

I set out from the trailhead and followed the Woods Creek Trail for a couple of miles before turning onto the Bubbs Creek Trail. I crossed over a bridge and soon came to a series of switchbacks that would allow me to gain most of my elevation within the first 2 miles of the trail. From the top of the switchbacks I would then have a gradual ascent for the remainder of the climb up to Junction Meadows, my final destination and turnaround point.

I started up the switchbacks, hiking quite a bit but still managing to run some sections. Then I turned one of the switchbacks only to spot a bear on the trail just 50 feet (15 metres) away. It was slowly ambling along the trail in the same direction as me. It was a small bear, but luckily big enough that mama bear was no longer around. It peered around at me before continuing its journey along the trail. I decided to sit down for five minutes and wait for it to make its way along, and hopefully off, the trail.

After five minutes I took off at an easy walk and then slowly built my pace back up. I had spotted a couple of places where the bear could have conveniently left the trail and became comfortable that it had done just that. Then I turned another corner and spotted the bear once again, this time still over a hundred feet away. This time I decided to give it plenty of time, so I sat down on a comfortable rock and waited for just over 20 minutes. I then got up from my rest spot and once more took off up the climb. Just as the switchbacks gave way to a more gentle ascent I spotted two hikers headed towards me. I asked whether they had sighted a bear, and when they responded negatively I knew that the bear had clearly left the trail. They asked where I was headed and when I mentioned my final destination I was informed that they were just returning from there, and that it was “awesome”. I warned them that a small bear was somewhere near the trail and we headed in our separate directions.

I decided that I wanted to run up the remainder of the climb wherever the gradient allowed. The climb was perfectly gentle and I managed to run all the way up. I reached the expected distance of the meadow, and was at the predicted elevation, but was still entirely enveloped by a canopy of trees. I continued to run for a couple of minutes and then suddenly the trees ended and I found myself in a perfect alpine meadow.

Kings Canyon NP - Junction Meadows Panorama
Kings Canyon NP – Junction Meadows Panorama

I walked up to the stream meandering through the meadow, enjoyed the stunning views and snapped off a few photos. Then it was time for my return journey.

Kings Canyon NP - Junction Meadows
Kings Canyon NP – Junction Meadows

It was an easy downhill run all the way back to the trailhead and soon I was back at the ranger station. I had a further chat with the ranger and found out that he was new at the job, only having started three weeks ago. I informed him about my bear sighting, and that my journey had taken just over four hours including the 25 minutes waiting for the bear. He shook his head at the thought and informed me that some people apparently even went so far as to run the Rae Lakes Loop, a popular 44-mile hiking trail. I decided not to mention that I had eyed off that very route, and would have taken it on if it hadn’t been nearing my target race for the year.

As usual you can find the details of this run at MovesCount.com but this time you can click here.

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