Place: Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, California.
Coordinates: 36.422040, -118.562655
Length: 5 miles
We woke up at the crack of dawn. I was in not hurry to leave the sack but my chika was up and ready to get out. She wanted to go back to the lake.
It was our third day backpacking in the Mineral King area. It took us 2 days to backpack up a strenuous 5 miles trail to Franklin Lake and this was the morning of what would be our final day of this trip.
|The crack of dawn|
We started with going to the creek to wash up. The weather wasn't nearly as cold as was forecast. The creek water, was very chilly, however. And very refreshing too. As we cleansed ourselves and filled our bottles the sunlight was coming down to meet us.
|Little Elephant Head (Pedicularis attollens)|
|Bog Laurel (Kalmia polifolia)|
|Alpine Shootingstar (Primula tetrandra)|
Now that my chika was satisfied, all she wanted was to go back home and tell her older sister who stayed behind that she had caught a fish. There was no talking her into staying another night at this place, let alone continue on further. Since I also promised her in the beginning that we would go back whenever she wanted, I resigned into breaking our little camp and repacking everything.
|Our way down from Franklin Lake to Mineral King as captured by my GPS|
|So Close: Tulare Peak|
After taking the time to admire the squirrel properly we were on our way in earnest.
We started off with a good pace, and quickly descended to the small meadow vale where we had stopped for lunch on the day before. The valley below was filled with smoke, and we were heading down that way.
Our trail down was the same one we came up.
I have taken the opportunity of this third day blog post to add some flowers that didn't make the cut for the previous posts. Their photos were better on the way back :-)
|Lupine (Lupinus sp.)|
We were also coming back into the woods.
From the trail intersection down to the meadow of our first night camp it is a narrow, slippery path. On the hike up I had to hold my chika's hand there. This time she went down on her own, albeit very carefully. This time I took more notice of the geology wherever it was free of the vegetation cover.
We made it to our first night's campsite and sat down for another break. My chika wanted to have soup for lunch but I didn't want to waste time and energy climbing down to get water from the trickle of the Franklin Creek tributary so I offered her a snack and promised her soup at the first creek crossing. She was fine with that.
|Long-lived Hawk's Beard (Crepis acuminate)|
Perhaps I should have taken the time to fetch the water and cook soup. After the first break there were more breaks to follow, and they became frequent. It seems that after the first big effort to get down from the lake my chika had hit her energy ceiling. All of a sudden her backpack needed frequent adjusting, her pants needed to be pulled up, the straps needed to be tightened or released with every step, and then, of course, little stones crept into her shoes.
Our original plan had another day for the trip and I offered my chika to finish the hike and remain for the night where we had camped on our first night, but she declined my offer. She wanted to go all the way down today. Moreover, she wanted to make it all the way home that night.
I sighed. Getting down to Mineral King was one thing, but getting all the way home meant hours of driving for me. I was not sure I could do it. I certainly didn't want it. I agreed that we hike down to Mineral King, but informed my chika that we will stay the night there and drive home on the morrow.
|Giant Blazingstar (Mentzelia gracilenta)|
|Horsemint Giant Hyssop (Agastache urticifolia)|
|Naked Buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum)|
|Perennial Grass (Stipa sp.)|
And these rocks were endowed with mountain California fuchsia that had bunches of bright, happy red flowers.
|Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja affinis)|
Despite the long break we had our pace was very slow. My chika walked in short, almost hesitant steps. She also kept complaining that her pack was too heavy. While it wasn't any heavier than when we began, it didn't get any lighter as mine had, because I was the one carrying all the food to begin with. I, too, felt weighed down by my pack but I did stop and took some of my girl's backpack contents and transferred them to mine.
|Common Phacelia (Phacelia distans)|
My chika accepted the deal. I helped her hoist her backpack and we continued on.
|Redding Buckwheat (Eriogonum spergulinum var. reddingianum)|
|Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)|
We made it back to the car and my chika slammed on the hood. I helped her remove her backpack, take off her shoes and had her sit inside while I got our stuff arranged in the trunk, changed to sandals (whoa, what a relief!) and had a short, cheerful chat with a park ranger who happened by. She also updated me that the Rough Fire was still going on. Not only it was not yet out, but it was nowhere near getting under control.
And then we drove away. I was sure my chika will crash into sleep but she remained awake, watching the giant sequoia appear and disappear and the road winding endlessly downward to the Central Valley. We stopped only once - for a big tarantula that was crossing the road.
Afterthought 1. On hindsight it was an unsuitable trail for my 8yo child. It had cost us the fourth planned day of the trip. She was pushed to her limit and a bit beyond it. On the other hand, she rose to the challenge and more, and her memories of this trip are happy ones. She does want to go back there again, 'when I'm older,' that's how she put it. Most importantly, this trip had put her ahead of her older sister in several ways. It was a big thing for her, because most of the time she feels overshadowed by her sister. It was a big boost to her confidence.
Afterthought 2. Last summer it seemed that everywhere we went, a large wildfire was developing nearby. This was the third time it happened: the Rough Fire that broke near Kings Canyon National Park blew out of control and raged for over three months, burning over 150000 acres and forcing the park's closure. A few months later I visited the area with a friend and we hiked to the edge of the fire, observing the sad remains.
Afterthought 3. This trip was a milestone for me too. It was the first time I went out to the wilderness being the only adult there, bearing the full responsibility. Having gone through that, planning and carrying out the next backpacking trip for my entire family was a nearly smooth ride.
The mountains still beckon me. It won't be long now.
Many thanks to members of the California Native Plants Society for their help in identifying plants!