South Fork Road (Mtn. 348) leaves Hwy. 198 at the town of Three Rivers. Drive this road approximately 13 miles to its end. The first 10 miles are paved. The last 3 are good dirt, suitable for all vehicles at this time.
The Camp: South Fork Campground, a lovely spot situated at 3,600' along the South Fork of the Kaweah River, is located at the terminus of Mtn. 318. There are several shaded sites, and I believe there is no fee, as no registration or fee requirements were posted. Bear boxes and bear warning signs abound. The campground is located within Sequoia National Park.
The route chosen was the "Jim Jenkins Wildroute." from Self-Propelled in the Southern Sierra (Vol. 2) (Trip 71, Maps 43-45), by Jim Jenkins. This is a route that an adventurous, strong party with good navigational skills can do as a dayhike. Naturally, an early start is a good idea--hiking out of this wild country in the dark could be troublesome. I recommend bringing a photocopy of Jenkins' write-up and maps. Also, I wore two layers of old, "throw-away" clothes for this one. The "trail" has not been maintained for many years, and nature is reclaiming it. Homers Nose. named after the nose of Joseph Homer, is not to be sneezed at. It is one of the harder Southern Sierra peaks. Elevations in this write-up are taken from 7.5 min, topos.
At 7:00 AM, May 25. 1996, my two companions and I embarked on our ascent. Taking the signed, excellent Ladybug Trail from the eastern edge of the campground, we crossed the Kaweah River on a bridge, then headed east along the river. Approximately 1/4 mile beyond the bridge and 50 yards or so before reaching Pigeon Creek (which was dry) a faint unsigned trail heads N.E.. then switchbacks before heading due north above Pigeon Creek. Care is essential here for a couple of reasons: (1.) The trail is very faint and brushy, and (2.) There's a lot of poison oak. The trail contours and climbs gradually for a mile or so and the hiker must duck down or even crawl in places, especially during the first 1/2 mile. At approximately 5.000' it changes direction and goes west, contouring grassy slopes. At this switch-back point a couple of pink ribbons tied to branches guide the adventurer, as the trail is still very faint and easy to lose. This grassy section is nice because the poison oak and brush disappear (but only for a while!). At about 5.200' (at the "K" on "PARK"--7.5 min. topo) the trail disappears. It is still open and grassy here. My companions and I reached this point at 9:30 AM. Dark clouds were gathering and they were very concerned about them as well as the poison oak so they decided to stop. I "needed" the peak so I continued alone. Heavily laden with survival gear, dry clothes, and an ammo box summit register, I charged onward, upward, N.E. for 400' gain (still in grassno trail), following occasional pink ribbons tied to oak tree branches. At 5.600' the poison oak and brush reappeared to greet me. I headed north here, over bump 5.800'+, through brush and poison oak following sporadic pink ribbons, then dropped a little on the east side of the ridge where I picked up the trail again. After climbing over or around fallen trees. I followed the trail to the level,: saddle al 5.720'+. The trail then crosses the ridge at a level area and contours Burnt Camp Creek Canyon (BCCC). The last poison oak I saw was just before the saddle. The trail traverses BCCC to the 5,800'+ saddle N.E. of Pt. 5,p57'. This 1/2 to 2/3 mile section is easy to follow. but very brushy in places. At the 5.800'+ saddle, a good, relatively brush-free trail heads N.E.. dropping slightly to Surprise Camp (5.720'+). A full-flowing Bennett Creek was found here. No table (the old surprise) was found as the camp is buried in a logjam. Crossing the logs. I found the trail on the other side, headed west. then N.E., following the Wildroute. The brush is not bad here but new obstacles appear: the trail is still faint and fallen trees make the going quite tedious. As I continued, I passed a neat, thin, tall waterfall (described as the "horsetail fall" in Jim's book). The trail contours in a backwards "C." more or less, to a lovely. pine!: flat spot at approx.;. 6.500'. Just before this spot. fallen trees and brush make the going slow. The trail then contours north for maybe 1/4 mile or less to a faint junction. The book says a cairn is here. I found a 2-rock duck (the first one I'd seen all day). If you pass this point, the trail starts downhill (N.W.) toward Salt Creek Ridge and the Case Mtn. Grove. I missed the junction and sensed something was wrong as I began hiking downhill. So I backtracked and found the duck. I then hiked east through lovely pines on the very faint trail which I found, lost, and found again to a tiny creek (the "snow-melt tributary" in Jenkins' write-up) at approx. 6,900', which I stepped over, and continued on the trail which I lost for good in a nasty tangle of manzanita at approx. 7.000'. I then went straight up, more or less, weaving between brush and boulders to Salt Creek Ridge which I reached at about 7,700'. The Jenkins Wildroute shows the "path" crossing from north to south sides of the ridge from time to time. I'd disagree with the route here, because the south side of the ridge is quite brushy, but the north side is a beautiful forest. So after getting tangled in brush again on the south side, I simply avoided it. Passing below Pt. 81323' on the north side. I then gained the ridgecrest until the flat, sandy 9.023' summit was reached at 1:15 P.M. Occasional ducks reassure the traveler along the final mile. It began to sprinkle little snowflakes and was quite cool as I delivered the ammo box in a cairn next to the benchmark and tucked in my pack, to my chagrin, a cast aluminum cylinder. I made a quick scan of the register notepad (which I put in the ammo box, of course) and noted that in recent times, only 1-2 parties sign in each year. El Cap's nose (in Yosemite) gets much more traffic than Homers Nose! At 1:30 I began my descent under threatening skies, and charged down to the 6,900' level where the trail crosses the tiny seasonal creek. There I put on dry shirts, got water, and finally had lunch. While resting I contemplated my beautiful, wild surroundings. Although I'm partial to the High Sierra this place was kind of neat and I decided that future visits to this part of the Sierra are a must. Enough said I retraced the route as I was afraid of what a tempting short-cut could lead to! At about 3:00 the rain began, and lasted for 1/2 hour. While it was raining I got slightly off course descending bump 5.800'+ (I was too far west). Jenkins warns of this in his write-up. I climbed hill 5,355' to get my bearings, found the turn (at the "K" on "PARK"--7.5 min. topo), and got back on the route. The last mile was not enjoyable--wet poison oak and brush! Shortly after 5:00 P.M., I reached the wonderful Ladybug Trail which seemed like a dirt road. Back at camp, while depositing my clothes in a nearby trash can, I shared the epic saga with my awaiting companions (thank you for waiting). An ascent of Homers Nose is a walk on the wild side!
14-15 miles R-T, nearly 6.000' gain; Class 1+ (difficult cross-country).