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Mineral King, Sequoia NP


toejam
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I'm also past due for a contribution. This was a quick trip I took to the high country mid June. Mineral King is off the tourist path - 25 miles up a road that takes over an hour to drive. Because it's in the national park, you have to stop by the ranger station for a permit. I left my place on the beach before dawn and arrived shortly after they opened, just in time to join a crowd getting a lecture  about toilet paper, bear canisters, and campfires. It ended with marmots attacking the brake and electrical systems of cars at the trailheads. Then I waited in a slow-moving line to have an irritatingly large amount of money charged to a credit card for the privilege of carrying all my stuff on my back and sleeping on the ground. I left my car in the marmot-free zone near the ranger station and hiked up the road to the trailhead.

The great thing about Mineral King is its elevation. The trailhead is at 7800' and the hikes start in spectacular fashion. DSCF1304.thumb.JPG.b61688ec027da10fa5723The crowd usually heads for Monarch Lakes, but I've wanted to see Crystal Lake, so I headed that way and arrived at lunch time. My head was a little cloudy from the morning's 11,000' elevation gain, but I was really jazzed to be there. I headed off-trail behind to lake looking for a place to cross the ridge.

I hadn't found a safe place to cross the ridge when the first clap of thunder echoed across the peaks. It occurred to me that Crystal Lake was a fine place to stop for the night and I scrambled down the ridge. I set up the tent on a flat spot near the upper lake and crawled inside to ride out almost 4 hours of violent thunderstorms and hail. The weather broke just before sunset and I was glad to come out and survey the frozen landscape.

 In the morning I took the trail to Monarch Lakes and up the sandy slope on the other side to Glacier Pass. My destination was in sight, but it was still morning, so I went over Sawtooth Pass to take the long way around. On the horizon Mt. Whitney sported a snowy cap from the previous night's storm. I didn't know which side of the stream to look for the traditional cross-country route from Columbine Lake to Spring Lake. The far side involved snowy slopes above cliffs, so I incorrectly worked my way down the south side until it cliffed out. Since I couldn’t go down I went up, and eventually made it into the basin below Glacier Pass. Then I followed the old trail to Spring Lake.DSCF1419.thumb.JPG.f73085f7ff34f349749b9Spring Lake

There is a beautiful grassy spot in the shade by the lake. I dropped my pack and was immediately attacked by a horde of mosquitoes, so I moved on down the lake. A large herd of deer vacated, and I remembered the pesky one that woke me before dawn last time I camped here. I stopped in the shade of a giant foxtail pine in an open spot that the breeze kept mosquito-free. After a late lunch, I enjoyed a bandana bath in the lake. Then I pitched my tent in the open, rather than the luxury campsite nearby. The sky was clear, the temperature perfect, and the scenery unbeatable. It’s one of my favorite places in the world to camp.

The next day’s challenge was climbing the snow slope below Glacier Pass in trail runners. Most steps resulted in a posthole, so it was pretty safe. The ancient trail down the other side is faint and sometimes hard to follow, but the route is very obvious. Cars at the trailhead displayed various forms of marmot protection – the tarp diaper, the full tarp, the fence, the open hood. My car at the ranger station was unmolested. It was a great California weekend trip.

My photo album - https://picasaweb.google.com/toejamhikes/MineralKingJune2015?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCJiLns3R5smRogE&feat=directlink

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Nice.  After looking at this report and balzacomms on yosemite, it confirms my intent to return to the area next year after too long an absence.

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