Lyell, Evan, my Dad and I went backpacking in Mineral King last week. Mineral King is on the western edge of Sequoia National Park, and varies in elevation from about 8,500 feet to 11,500 feet. Back in the 1950s and 60s, Disney tried to build a ski resort there, but environmental groups held them off and Mineral King was annexed into Sequoia National Park in 1978.
We drove down there on Sunday, 7/27 and came back on Saturday, 8/2. We camped at the trailhead the first and last nights. Our route took us over Timber Gap to Pinto Lake (Day 1), over Black Rock Pass to Little Five Lakes (Day 2), a layover (Day 3), past Big Five Lakes through Lost Canyon to Columbine Lake (Day 4), and over Sawtooth Pass past Monarch Lake back down to the car (Day 5).
Here's what our trip looked like on a USGS topographical map (here's a good free source of USGS maps).
I brought my handy GPS along for the trip in order to geotag the photos I took. A nice side effect is that I recorded the distance (27.9 miles), total climbing descent (about 10,000 feet), and maximum elevation (11,679 feet). Nice. You can see the raw data and export it from here.
We met up on Sunday with Tom and Doug, two co-workers of my dad, and Doug's son Chet, who works as a hunting guide in Alaska. We took off Monday morning on the trail.
There was late snow this year, so we ran into quite a few creeks and fields of wildflowers.
We stopped on Monday night when we came across a bear box and some nice looking campsites. We couldn't find Pinto Lake and were a little bit unclear on where exactly we were.
The next morning we started up Black Rock Pass, and could clearly see Pinto Lake now that we were above it. I came across a few marmots on the trail and made it up to the top of Black Rock Pass around noon.
From Black Rock we descended into Little Five Lakes and setup camp beneath some trees. Interestingly, a married ranger couple was living out there this summer off of a few thousand pounds of supplies brought in by helicopter. They had a yurt surrounded by an electrical fence powered by solar panels to fend off the bears. Once we setup camp, we had some tasty dinner and passed out for the night.
The next day (Wednesday) we didn't move camp and mainly sat around reading. Doug and my dad did some fishing and Lyell managed to get caught on the wrong end of a fly fishing line. We also caught some nice photos of the sunset over the mountains. The mosquitoes were out in force, and there were typically 10-20 of them on you at any given time.
On Thursday we parted ways with Tom, Doug and Chet, who decided to stay another day at Big Five Lakes. We headed down into Lost Canyon and back up, following a creek to a nice climb to reach Columbine Lake.
We played in the snow a bit, looked at Black Rock Pass from a completely different perspective, and enjoyed the relative dearth of mosquitoes. That night the stars all over the place and the Milk Way was a stripe of milk foam across the sky.
We headed back to base camp the next day (Friday). On the way down we came across a few more marmots and covey. We camped back in the realm of toilets and running water that night and had a blueberry cake to celebrate Lyell's 18th birthday.
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