Our 7 day backpack started at Mineral King in Sequoia
National Park on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Right from
the get go the trip proved to be an unforgettable adventure. Just to get to Mineral
King included 25 miles of driving on a long (90 minutes worth) and narrow road
that sported 698 curves, yep 698 curves. Mineral King Valley is an open glacial
canyon surrounded by peaks of the Great Western Divide. Because of the
difficult access road and the fact that the majority of trails go straight up
to quickly access the high Sierra, makes this an isolated part of the park. On
our first day after picking up our permit from the ranger station, we climbed
4000 feet up to Sawtooth Pass. The countryside was exquisite. It had every bit
of the feel of the Swiss Alps or even the most remote areas of the High Sierra.
From the top of Sawtooth Pass the expansive views extend
north and east of scores of peaks, Monarch Lake, Columbine Lake, Lost Canyon,
Mineral Peak, Mount Whitney, and the San Joaquin Valley. We then descended to
Columbine Lake and then traveled through magnificent Lost Canyon following its
After camping along Lost Creek in beautiful Lost Creek
Canyon, we headed up to Big Five Lakes and Little Five Lakes. One of the
unnamed Upper Little Five Lakes provided a perfect rest and snack stop that
cradled a striking foreground for the Kaweah Mountains.
After we descended into Big Arroyo Canyon that follows the High Sierra Trail, I
had the surprise of seeing one of my co-workers and her sister out backpacking.
How cool is that? They were on a 6 day loop trip and were having a great time.
Soon after, we experienced a significant lightning and hailstorm. We took
cover under my tent ground cloth (no trees or rock overhangs to be found) and
was protected from the pounding hail, rain, and wind. Violent quick-moving
storms are typical in the Sierras during August.
We left the trail for the cross-country part of the trip and camped at the
heart-shaped lake above Kaweah Gap. The next morning we woke up to a perfect
sunny day that was great for climbing the upcoming Pants Pass, one of the more
challenging routes into the remote Kaweah Basin.
The route we chose led through numerous unnamed lakes with views of the
Kern-Kaweah River, Colby Pass, and Milestone Peak, We then headed up to Picket
Guard Lake at the base of Picket Guard Peak and to the unnamed pass that was
the gateway to Kaweah Basin.
Our next day we climbed up the pass and followed Picket Creek to a low saddle
that overlooked the famous and scenic Island Lake, upper Kaweah Basin, and the
east side of the Kaweahs.
After enjoying this famous lake in Kaweah Basin we retraced our steps to the
Picket Creek drainage and camped at the lowest Picket Lake. This lake was
amazing, every detail from the waterfall at the inlet, to the framing of Mount
Whitney, and even the placement of trees, flowers, and plants had the
appearance of being hand placed.
The next morning we headed diagonally down to the Kern-Kaweah River that led to
the High Sierra Trail paralleling the Kern River. It was fun to see just where
the mighty Kern River begins. Heading south on the trail to Kern Hot Springs,
we visited from afar this favorite hot spot that was occupied by a big Boy
After a great night along the Kern River, we headed up Rattlesnake Canyon to
Franklin Pass. Franklin Pass is steep and the trail enters the pass in a very
interesting way, traversing the ridge then entering the pass from above.
Our last night we enjoyed golden
Alpen glow at an abandoned mine along side Franklin Creek. We celebrated end of
the trip with a black bear sighting and a fantastic breakfast complete
with french pressed coffee at the Silver City
Resort just a few miles from the trail head on Mineral King