by Rena Moore

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Many thanks to Rena Beth Moore-Smith, who so graciously shared this epic Sierra poem of her mother's 1964 Sierra Crossing on the High Sierra Trail (HST) from Crescent Meadow in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park to Mt. Whitney and Whitney Portals on the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada in Owens Valley. A trip of some 80 miles.

rena moore
Rena Moore in 1964

Photo courtesy of James Austin

great western divide
Great Western Divide, and Kaweah Gap in the skyline, from Alta Meadow on the HST
(Photo courtesy of Asa Hopkins)

We crossed the High Sierras
In eleven days, on foot
A rumored record of eighty days
Is a matter of dispute.
We scaled the mountain barriers
Against wind and hail and rain,
And crossed the barren ridges
Where recent snow had lain.

Days of high adventure
In a country big and wide,
With mountain peaks and canyons
Spreading out on every side.
Swollen streams and winding trails,
Small campfires in the night;
Brilliant dawns and sunsets,
Mornings calm and bright.

Trudging through the midday heat
And rainy afternoons,
Mostly clear by evening
With nightly stars and moons.
Some waterways were difficult
But many streams were shallow.
The trail stretched out, up and down,
And were sometimes hard to follow.

giant sequoia
General Sherman Tree - NPS photo

For years I waited for someone
To walk this trail with me
This year a grandson, Jeffrey Moore,
Volunteered to be
My 'Sierra Crossing' partner,
To walk and carry packs,
Sleeping bags and food enough
In knapsacks on our backs.

We started from Giant Forest,
Where the General Sherman tree
The largest living tree on earth,
Is a spectacle to see.
We climbed the highest mountain pass
Found in the U.S.A.
Except for Mt. McKinley
In Alaska, far away.

It took some rugged walking
Through eleven thrill-packed days,
But was a grand experience
To remember for always!
We were mostly in high country,
Through spacious untouched land,
With now and then a snowbank
Along a lonely span.

Hamilton Lake
Hamilton Lake, Kaweah Gap to the right in the background
(Photo courtesy of Tom Reynolds)

bearpaw sign

Kaweah tunnel
Tunnel on the HST on the way to Hamilton Lakes
(Photo - Bill Davis)

Sparkling lakes of deepest blue
And mostly cloudless skies
How wonderful it was to be
Where so much beauty lies!
The unseen grumblings of a grouse,
Hidden in the brush.
And often we heard coyotes
Disturbing our evening hush!

Nature sounds all day and night
Were welcome things to hear;
Singing birds and twittering
Are music to the ear!
Cheerful campfires cooked our meals
Morning times and night
Lunch was mostly snacking
On nick-nacks, good but light.

At noon we always tried to stop
Beside a stream or spring,
So we could make a 'fizzie'
Or some other cold drink thing.
Panther Creek then Bearpaw,
And on Tuesday afternoon
We made our camp at Hamilton,
With nature all in tune.

I was so lovely by the lake
We spent the next day there
Fishing, washing, resting
Relaxing without a care.
Thursday we made Kaweah Gap,
Then swung along down hill
Along the Big Arroyo,
And the day was calm and still.

We camped that night in trail-side sand
And it was not very long
Before the wind began to blow
And taunt us, loud and strong.
But morning dawned in rosy calm
And sunshine warmed our camp,
But sand had blown into our packs
And left our spirits damp!

Breakfast was quite reviving
And we soon were on our way
To a place called Chagoopa Plateau;
We walked six miles that day.
Next day was Saturday, and bright,
With intoxicating air,
The great Sequoia wonderland
Was all about us there.

Big Arroyo
Top - Big Arroyo looking NW to Kaweah Gap

Bottom - Big Arroyo looking SE to Moraine Lake
(photos - Bill Finch)
big arroyo

skypalor meadow
Sky Parlor Meadow with the Kaweah Peaks in the background
(Photo - Bill Davis)

moraine lake
Moraine Lake on the Chagoopa Plateau with the Kaweah Peaks in the background
(Photo - Bill Davis)

chagoopa falls
Chagoopa Falls
(Photo courtesy of Tom Reynolds)

kern canyon
Kern Canyon looking south from the Chagoopa Plateau
(Photo courtesy of Tom Reynolds)

kern canyon
Top: Kern Canyon looking south from
the Chagoopa Plateau

new 09/21
kern river bridge
Kern River Bridge
(Photo courtesy Lyndon Scott)

Fantastic scenes of beauty
Were revealed at every turn,
And then the rugged down-hill trail
To the Canyon of the Kern
We camped at Upper Funston,
By the shinning, raging river
Remembering how cold it was
Still brings a little shiver.

Next day we crossed the wide, wild Kern
On a rustic wooden bridge,
Then climbed the easy uphill trail
Below a pine-tipped ridge.
A Sunday bath at Kern Hot Springs,
Then on along the trail
Past Whitney Creek and Wallace Creek,
O'er gentle hill and dale.

We camped that night among tall trees
Beside the surging river
Stars peeped through pine branches,
And the moon was just a sliver.
We rearranged our backpacks
As food became more scant
Our packs still seemed quite heavy
But we felt a little gant!

Jeffrey looked some thinner
And I had lost weight too
We still had soup and rice and tea
Enough to see us through,
But these things needed cooking
As we would soon find out;
Without a fire we couldn't cook
And so we did without!

Grayish clouds began to spread
Across the azure sky
Thunder rumbled, lightning flashed
And the breeze became a sigh.
Sudden rain began to fall
From dark clouds overhead;
We donned our ponchos hurriedly
To protect ourselves and bed.

It was quite difficult to see
Through the heavily pouring rain.
Then suddenly it was over
And the sun came out again!
All day we had this weather change,
From clear, to rain and hail
It was really very trying
But we slouched on down the trail.

new 09/21

kern hot springs
Kern Hot Springs on the Kern River
(Photo courtesy Lyndon Scott)

kern hot springs
Kern Hot Springs on the Kern River
(Photo courtesy Lyndon Scott)

kern hot springs
Kern Hot Springs on the Kern River
(Photo courtesy Lyndon Scott)

kern hot springs
Kern Hot Springs on the Kern River
(Photo courtesy Lyndon Scott)

Sierra Storm
Summer storm on the Kings-Kern Divide near Forester Pass
(Photo courtesy of Jennifer Yu)

Rain gear on, rain gear off,
All along the way
Wind and rain then sun again
The balance of the day.
I was discouraged,
We were wet and weary too;
So when we came to Wallace Creek
We just splashed right on through.

This was Upper Wallace Creek
And all the wood was wet
With a fire we couldn't cook,
So were feeling quite upset.
The rain had stopped, but we were drenched,
And then, to our surprise,
A New York teacher and his wife
Were Angels in disguise!

They shared their fire and food with us;
We soon were warm and dry
And spent the night in comfort,
Thanks to two who camped near by!
The next day we were storm-bound
By wind and rain and hail,
But Thursday we were up and packed
And early on the trail.

sierrra storm
Summer storm in the Sierra backcountry.

wallace creek
Wallace Creek, middle, with Kaweah Peaks in background

Friday we were on our way
With storm clouds in the sky;
A threatening one would drift our way
Then slowly pass us by.
Timberline lake was posted,
Closed to campers and to stock
A mountain sign is powerful
And strong as any lock.

Of course, there are violators,
That's true of any place
Those who ignore laws and rules,
To litter and deface,
Are very few and far between
Off the beaten path
We saw traces of a few
And we were filled with wrath!

We climbed up scores of switchbacks
The seemed to never end;
Up around and up again.
The same at every bend!
We'd had no food since Tuesday night,
Except wafers and corn snacks.
So had to make it o'er, and down
Before we could relax.

sandy meadow
Sandy Meadow - between Wallace & Whitney Creeks
(Photo courtesy of Tom Reynolds)

kern canyon
Kern Canyon from Wallace Creek
(Photo courtesy of Tom Reynolds)

sandy mdw
Sandy Meadow
(Photo courtesy of James Austin)

crabtree mdw
Crabtree Meadow
(Photo courtesy of James Austin)

guitar lake
Guitar Lake
(Photo courtesy of James Austin)

timerline lake
Timberline Lake and back of Mt. Whitney
(Photo - Bill Davis)

consultation lake
Some of the 97 switchbacks with Consultation Lake in the background.

whitney hut
Smithsonian Hut on the summit of Mt. Whitney

guitar lake
Guitar Lake
(Photo courtesy of Dominique Brodbeck)

The base of Whitney loomed above,
And the, at last the Pass!
We stood on top to look about
At all that rock mass.
The down-trail was rough and steep;
Three miles of slips and slides
More switchbacks, downgrade rocky
Below and on both sides.

Three miles they seemed like ten!
To level ground again.
Then Trail Camp barren, boulder-bound,
But we found shelter then
Behind a barricade of rock
We spread our sleeping bags
No campfire and no dinner
There in those rocky crags.

But finally came the morning;
Sunny, clear and bright.
This was our last day on the trail
We'd have dinner sure, that night!
It still was rugged going;
The trail was very bad
Past Consultation, Mirror Lake
Then signs that made us glad!

Outpost Camp, Lone Pine Lake
With lighter step, we hurried on.
Reaching Whitney Portals
Before the sun was gone!
Beth and Matthew met us
Near the bottom of the trail.
Susan, Jim and Freddie waited
Where hot food did prevail!!!

We crossed the High Sierras
On foot it's quite a ways!
Then motored to Death Valley,
All in eleven days.
We soon forgot the hardships,
The hunger and the cold.
But we'll recall this journey.
And years can't make it old!

trail crest

sky pilot
Sky Pilot - the 14,000' flower

mt. whitney
Mt. Whitney from the Alabama Hills

lone pine lake
Lone Pine Lake
(Photo courtesy of Dominique Brodbeck)

Golden Trout Camp  

Mt. Whitney Pack Train's Chrysler & Cook Brochure  

Chrysler & Cook's Mt. Whitney Pack Trains  

 Panoramas of the High Sierra


 Ghosts of the Past - Cottonwood Sawmill & Owens Valley Aqueduct


20 Mule Team History


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This page was last updated on 24 September 2021