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Old 07-09-2012, 01:15 PM   #1
DelawareMike
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Sequoia National Park - Mineral King

My wife and I went to California to visit family and built in 4 days for hiking. We were looking for a 3-night trip that offerred some solitude and big mountain scenery. After some research we selected a 30 mile loop out of Mineral King, which is a trailhead and ranger station at 7,800 ft located in Sequoia National Park. It is accessed from the town of Visalia on the southwestern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The drive to Mineral King is 23 miles on a winding, mostly one-lane road. It is not for faint of heart. We began our trip up the road at 6 pm. After seemingly endless turns and switchbacks the road winds around massive sequoia trees indicating we were near the top. The car thermometer which read 95 degrees at the bottom was in the upper 60's by this time. We arrived at the Cold Spring campground near the Mineral King ranger station around 7:30 pm (90 minutes for 23 miles!). We only had time to set up our tent and have a quick fire before settling in for the night. The mosquitoes were active but we did not have to use head nets or repellent.

We arose at 7:30 to cool temperatures and a deer grazing near the tent. After packing up we headed to the Silver-City Resort to grab some breakfast. This resort is privately owned and was grandfathered into the park's space. After breakfast at their cafe it was off to the ranger station to secure permits and the trailhead to begin. At the trailhead we noticed that several cars were surrounded by netting or chicken-wire to keep hungry marmots from chewing up wires and hoses. Unaware of this problem we could only hope our rental car wouldn't fall victim. After a half hour of food organization and packing we were off!

A map of the hike can be found here: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=760890

Pics here:
https://picasaweb.google.com/1073721...arkMineralKing

Day 1: Timber Gap to Pinto Lake
The objective of the day was to hike from the trailhead (7,800 ft) over Timber Gap (9,500 ft) down to a trail junction (7,000 ft) and then up to Pinto Lake (8,500 ft). The trail begins switchbacking immediately from the parking lot to the first junction. We huffed and puffed slowly up the first 500 ft or so feeling quite unadjusted to the altitude. We continued slowly through some beautiful pine forest and meadows to Timber Gap, taking about 1.5 hours for the 2 mile trip. Atop the wooded pass we found a beautiful open forest and had our lunch. The long descent from the pass to 7000 ft was tiring and took over 2 hours to finally arriving at the low point, a trail junction along a river. This junction had a bearbox and some decent tent sites which tempted us to camp. Since it was only 3 pm we decided to make the 3 mile trip up to Pinto Lake and camp there. The ascent to Pinto Lake started in the forest along a buggy river but opened up into a canyon. 10,000 ft mountains loomed along the sides and a waterfall several hundred feet cascaded down ahead. As we proceeded towards the lake I felt exhausted and my pace slowed to a crawl. The first day of hiking at higher altitudes with a heavy pack had wore me down but luckily this was the most tired I'd feel at any point of the trip. We hiked slowly up the drainage of a small creek arriving near the lake after 6pm. The mosquitoes were active and biting so for the first time we donned our head nets. My wife Erika set up the tent and I went to the stream to replenish our water. After a quick dinner of mac n' cheese I hung my sweaty clothes to dry and we retired to the tent, feeling quite exhausted. We were awakened several times during the night by the sounds of animals moving around. I had seen several deer before dark but also noticed some bear scat so I wasn't sure which animal was making all the commotion. Fast forward to the morning and all my clothes that were hung out to dry were now soaking wet. It did not rain and everything except my clothes was bone dry. I smell the clothes and its definitely not urine soaking them. Weird! Did a bear take my clothes to the creek and soak them and bring them back? I was pretty sure an animal was somehow responsible for this but had no idea what really happened.

Day 2: Blackrock Pass to Little Five Lakes
The goal was to hike from Pinto Lake (8,500 ft) over Blackrock Pass (11,600 ft) down to the Little Five Lakes (10,500 ft). As we set off we encountered another party who had attempted this hike the previous day but were unable to locate the trail and had to turn back. I asked them if a bear had messed with their clothes and they explained to me that a deer had chewed on one of their hats, and that they do so for the salt. Mystery solved, my clothes were soaked in deer saliva........great. Wearing my saliva soaked hat we set off for Blackrock pass at 9am. This group had explained not to start hiking in the meadow (which seemed like the obvious choice) to find the trail but instead start up the side of the canyon. Against my better instinct we followed their advice. We hiked cross-country up the canyon over large boulders but did not find the trail. After 20-30 minutes of searching we descended a bit and located the trail. The 3 mile hike we were embarking on had over 3000 ft of elevation gain so we expected a slow go. The first set of switchbacks took us into a new green canyon bordered by jagged 11,000 ft peaks on each side. We immediately began ascending the new canyon towards Blackrock Pass. We took our time up the seemingly endless switchbacks to rest and admire the scenery. At around noon we were nearing 11,000 ft when we saw a buck descending the pass. He sauntered down to a nice flat spot and laid down for a rest. We continued slowly and made it to the pass after 1 pm. We stayed on top of the pass for a while exploring, resting, and enjoying the scenery. Then it was a quick descent to the Little Five lakes to camp. The Little Five Lakes offered some of the best backcountry camping I have ever seen. The campsites have a bearbox and room for at least 15 tents but we had it all to ourselves. They sit adjacent to a meadow peppered with large boulders that leads to the lake. Just perfect. The wind was blowing at the lake which kept the mosquitoes down enough to strip down and take a swim. We spent the afternoon enjoying the scenery and reading.

Day 3: Little Five Lakes to Monarch Lake
The plan for the day was to hike by the Big Five Lakes, up Lost Canyon to Columbine Lake (10,800 ft), to Sawtooth Pass (12,000 ft) and then down to Monarch Lake (10,400 ft). We awoke to frost on the meadow and a beautiful still morning. Soon the mosquitoes were buzzing so we packed up and were off. The first 2 miles of hiking to Big Five Lakes were mercifully flat and downhill and we made it there in about 40 minutes. After that we had to ascend and descend a ridge to gain access to Lost Canyon. The lower part of Lost Canyon is forested. As we ascended higher into the canyon it opened up. Glacially marked granite walls towered over the meadow and stream running through the center of the canyon. The hike through the canyon was pleasant and we took our time to enjoy it. When we reached the top of the canyon we ascended the right side via switchbacks to Columbine Lake. This lake was easily our favorite of the trip. Sawtooth Peak (12,400 ft) and its surrounding ridges line the lake. We followed cairns around the lake and up to Sawtooth Pass, which sits below Sawtooth Peak. The rocky ascent reminded us of the Adirondack High Peaks and was a nice contrast to Blackrock pass which was sandy trail all the way. We didn't linger on Sawtooth pass because of the gathering dark clouds and descended the kitty litter like sand and scree approximately 1,500 ft to Monarch lake. We set up camp just before I started feeling nauseous. I am pretty sure this was sickness due to altitude because it was accompanied by frequent yawning which I think was my body's attempt to take in more oxygen. I recovered in time to enjoy sunset with my wife who took a number of pictures of the beautiful area.

Day 4: Monarch Lakes to Trailhead
The goal was to hike down the approximately 4 miles and 2,500 ft to the car. This trip was scenic and pleasant and we observed some deer and pheasant on the descent. After returning our gear to the car we drove approximately 5 miles down the road to the Atwell Mill campground, parked the car, and hiked 1 mile up to the Paradise Ridge trail to a giant sequoia grove. We sat in the cool grove admiring the trees and soaking in the serenity of the spot.

Thoughts:
1. Overall this was a great trip and I recommend this section of the park instead of the more popular areas to avoid crowds.
2. Having bearboxes at the lakes was great and prevented us from having to stuff all our food into the stupid bear can we brought along.
3. I love California and have to move there.
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Last edited by DelawareMike; 07-09-2012 at 04:32 PM.
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Old 07-10-2012, 07:53 AM   #2
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Awesome trip report! My family and I just visited Yosemite and then Sequoia and Kings Canyon last week. We loved it. We did multiply day hikes. Next time I want to overnight backpack. Those roads were crazy around sequoia. I did 400 miles of driving in just the parks so I know what you mean.
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Old 07-10-2012, 02:59 PM   #3
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Thanks for the TR and photo's. Shirley and I are heading to Sequoia, Yosemite and Lassen in a few weeks. The photo's make my anticipation worse! Can't wait!
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Old 07-10-2012, 04:13 PM   #4
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Klip,

Do you have specific plans for hiking and sightseeing in each?
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Old 07-11-2012, 12:44 PM   #5
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Nothing real specific yet except for a trip up Lassen peak Labor Day weekend. the trail is under contruction and closed most of the time but open that weekend. We're going to stay on the east side of Yosemite and day hikes only. Day hikes only with Sequoia also. any suggestions from anyone?
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Old 07-11-2012, 10:05 PM   #6
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I am assuming you will be coming in to Tuolomne Meadows coming in from the East. We hiked Lemberts Dome. 360 degrees of white capped mountains in the end of June over looking Tuolomne Meadows. Unreal! The visitor centers are great and there are park rangers that will help you plan hikes. We were based just out side the western entrance so we hiked the Valley too. We did Vernal falls and Nevada Falls, which is part of the mist trail. We also drove up to Glaicer Point and hiked Sentinel Dome which overlooks the valley. I loved ever second of Yosemite (4 days) and I am ready to go back now. Enjoy. Sequoia was amazing to. Unfortunately we blitzed Sequoia and Kings in one day. So we saw the popular sites like Sherman tree, Grant tree and Moro Rock.

By the way we met going up Blackhead this winter. I was hiking with my son with heather and the 3500 club. You can friend me on Facebook if you would like to see my pictures.

Gideon Hodulick
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Old 07-12-2012, 11:05 AM   #7
DelawareMike
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I've never stayed on the East side of Yosemite. But I have done some hiking out of Bishop or Bridgeport if you need any ideas in that area.

Is half-dome a possibility?

How challenging do you want your hikes to be in Sequoia? There are great trails all over in Sequoia.
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Old 07-12-2012, 09:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DelawareMike View Post
I've never stayed on the East side of Yosemite. But I have done some hiking out of Bishop or Bridgeport if you need any ideas in that area.

Is half-dome a possibility?

How challenging do you want your hikes to be in Sequoia? There are great trails all over in Sequoia.
Fyi You need a permit for the cable section to summit Half Dome. The permits are only given out in a lottery system. My son and I were denied.
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Old 07-12-2012, 11:21 PM   #9
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I used to live in Visalia and took regular trips up to Sequoia to relax among the big trees. I used to want my ashes spread there - that was until I fell in love with the High Peaks!

Great pics and report... thanks for posting!
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Old 07-13-2012, 03:30 AM   #10
DelawareMike
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Quote:
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Fyi You need a permit for the cable section to summit Half Dome. The permits are only given out in a lottery system. My son and I were denied.
Ugh that's annoying about the permits sorry to hear that. I hiked it before the permit system was instituted.
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Old 07-24-2012, 11:16 AM   #11
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Mike,
Thanks for your input. I've been doing some research and picking places to see. While in Sequoia, I plan to make the drive to Mineral King and day hike out to Monarch Lake and maybe up to Sawtooth Pass. That part of your hike looks fantastic. Our other day will probably be in the touristy sections visiting the museum, small hikes in these areas, hopefully be able to add Moro rock too. Thanks again
Paul

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