Date: August 20, 2015
Place: Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, California
Coordinates: 36.446535, -118.594293
Length: 4 miles to our first night stop
Elevation gain: 1900 feet
This trip started with a big bang.
I had planned to go backpacking with my younger chika while the elder one spends that week at the 4H camp, just like we did on the previous year. Not wanting to waste our recent altitude acclimation from Lassen Volcanic NP I chose to go to Mineral King: an area of Sequoia National Park I had always wanted to explore beyond a day hike perimeter. And so, after seeing my elder chika off to camp, I started south, with one excited chika, in a reasonably new car loaded with backpacking gear.
We nearly made it. We were east of Visalia, the mountains looming ahead, crisp in clarity. We had almost got to our promised land when we were rear-ended by another car and were sent spinning acxross the road coming to a stop on the opposite shoulder, facing west.
We were extremely fortunate to come out of the accident with only minor injuries. The car, however, was ruined. And so was our backpacking trip.
A nice vacation in Southern California which included a hike at Mt. Pinos and a splendid day at Oso Flaco had uplifted my spirit considerably and, although I was still in the middle of therapy, I decided to salvage what I could of the last days of summer break and of my original backpacking plan.
That trip was supposed to be a special time for me and my young chika, who doesn't get much of an individual time with me. It was also a chance for her to 'get ahead' of her older sister on certain things, which is very important for her.
So after some discussion with Papa Quail, I left the elder chika in his care and took off to the road again with my younger china, this time in Papa Quail's tiny hybrid car.
In many ways that was not a wise choice. We had already lost our altitude acclimation and my back was still hurting from the accident. Also, school was about to begin in less than a week and there was still much to get done beforehand.
But the call of the mountains was too strong for me to ignore, so off we went.
This time we arrived at the town of Three Rivers without incidents. The air was so murky that I couldn't see the mountains at all, not even from right beneath them. We had stopped for dinner at a local restaurant where my chika had an enormous chocolate cake and I inquired with the staff about the intense smell of smoke outside and found out that a wildfire was raging at Kings Canyon National Park, about 30 miles north of us.
The road from Three Rivers to Mineral King isn't very long: it's 25 miles. But it is very narrow and winding, and full of potholes. It was a very slow drive during which day turned to night and my chika fell asleep in the back seat.
It was already late when we arrived at the Cold Springs campground so I quickly pitched our tent and we crashed in our sacks.
I had no prior reservations so on the following morning we were the first at the Ranger's Office door to obtain our wilderness permit. After that we took our time eating breakfast, breaking camp and organizing our packs. And also to photograph that pretty penstemon next to our campsite.
|Brewer's cinquefoil (Potentilla breweri)|
|Long-lived Hawk's Beard (Crepis acuminate)|
Lovely summer bloom was all around us and as my chika was tossing pebbles into the water I wandered a little without my pack and enjoyed the colors.
|Marsh Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris)|
|Sierra Linanthus (Leptosiphon pachyphyllus)|
|Bigleaf Lupine (Lupinus latifolius)|
|Mountain California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum ssp. latifolium)|
|Rising above Franklin Creek|
|Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)|
My chika sat down and I built our camp of the night. The cleared space was very small indeed, but so is our tent. Then i had to go down and get water. My chika wanted to go with me but I convinced her to stay on the ridge where she could see me. I went down slowly, noticing pretty flowers and making mental notes to photograph them tomorrow morning.
The creek right below our campsite was dry, but water emerged from the ground a bit further down and there I went to refill our bottles.
I treated the water as quickly as I could but as I made my way back up my chika, stressed by being left alone again, had already started downhill to meet me. I helped het back uphill, promising her that next morning I would let her come down with me to refill on water.
She felt much better after dinner and even helped me clean our mess kit. I thought she might ask that we go back home the next day but she was set on going on - she wanted to get to the lakes up on the ridge.
Just before getting not the tent myself I looked back north in the direction of Mineral King. A huge pillar of smoke rose above the mountains, where the Rough Fire, as it was called, raged. I went into the tent and tried to ignore the strong smell of smoke that filled it.
I fell asleep eventually, after deciding to leave the decision for the morning.