TR: Mineral King, Sept 1 -6, via Kaweah Gap

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Nozmo King
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TR: Mineral King, Sept 1 -6, via Kaweah Gap

Post by Nozmo King » Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:56 am

We had a great trip in Mineral King, with our hike starting on Sunday, September 1. Day one, we went over Paradise Ridge. (I tried to get a permit to go over Timber Gap but was unable to reserve one in advance.) The hike up to Paradise Ridge was fine, but the hike down was not the greatest. The trail could use some serious maintenance work, & the plunge to 5600' Cliff Creek was excruciating in its steepness. That being said, despite the warnings from the rangers, there was plenty of water along the trail this year. We wanted to camp at Redwood Meadow, which in retrospect would have been a better choice, since it's such a relatively short hike from Cliff Creek, but instead camped in a decent but not great spot near the stream.

The next day, we hiked past Redwood Meadow (saw a beautiful buck hanging out near the redwoods), journeyed to Little Bearpaw (where we saw a medium-sized black bear), continued to Bearpaw & said hello to the ranger at the cabin, & pushed on to Lone Pine Creek. I thought I had read that there was camping at Lone Pine Creek. It's true, there are some marginal campsites there (I would even rate them as "emergency" campsites). We were lucky to find probably the best one, which is just up the trail towards Tamarack Lake. There was a short, unmaintained trail to the creek, where we could easily get water (there's also the remnants of a collapsed, concrete bridge there). The views on this hike of Valhalla as we ascended were tremendous, & we also enjoyed the creeks along the trail as we headed towards Little Bearpaw,

Day 3 was a fantastic hike to Hamilton Lake, then onward over Kaweah Gap. The NPS is working on the trail blowout, but they were just getting started when we passed through. I don't know if I would do it if I were a solo hiker, but with the three of us, it was no big deal. We had one guy climb down, handed him our packs, then the next guys went down while the 1st guy upclimbed to the other side, handed our packs up to him, we all climbed out, & that was that, We loved the tunnel & the vertiginous cliffs, but rain was coming as we clambered over Kaweah Gap, so we didn't have time to fully enjoy the view. We camped near the 1st of the lakes in Nine Lake Basin & had a beautiful evening. We were only in some light showers while a heavier storm hit below us & enjoyed some amazing rainbows & double-rainbows.

I started Day 4 by doing a little trout fishing in the nearby lake. The little trout in that lake were definitely in the mood to chew & I caught one on about every cast. The hike from Nine Lakes Basin towards Big Arroyo was incredible. In fact, I rate the hike from about the middle of Day 2 to the middle of Day 4 as among the most memorable I've experienced in 37 years of backpacking. We took the trail to Little Five Lakes once we got to the trail junction (which was thick with mosquitoes). We had a short day & camped at the 1st of the Little Five Lakes. Although it was somewhat buggy, we took the opportunity to swim, the trout fishing was again remarkably easy, & views of the Kaweahs, especially towards sunset, were spectacular.

The weather changed on Day 5 as storms rolled in. We got a late start, hoping (in vain) to wait out the weather. As we hiked into Lost Canyon, the storm really got going, & as we neared the valley at 10,000', a heavy hail storm hit us. Fortunately, the skies cleared by dinner time, & we enjoyed a decent evening in this spectacular place.

Day 6 dawned clear & beautiful, although it was to cloud up as the day progressed. Regardless, we hiked out past Columbine Lake & then over Sawtooth Pass. Much as I love Lost Canyon (I've hiked through it six times) & don't really mind Sawtooth Pass from the east, the hike down to the west is miserable. (I've hiked up it from the west, which is worse.) I wish the NPS could devote some resources to establish a better trail, although that may be impractical considering the elevation & vast amount of scree. In any event, we got down, stopped for a snack at Monarch, & then continued on the rather long trail to the parking lot.

This was a great trip with two of my best friends, who are also fortunately backpackers, & I'd rate it among the top ten I've ever done. I tried to add photos but am sorry to report that I couldn't figure out how to do it, despite reading the FAQs.

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Re: TR: Mineral King, Sept 1 -6, via Kaweah Gap

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 17, 2019 3:24 pm

Any pictures? Good to hear that the trail above Hamilton Lake is being repaired.

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Re: TR: Mineral King, Sept 1 -6, via Kaweah Gap

Post by cgundersen » Tue Sep 17, 2019 3:51 pm

If you ping the website technical problems section, the moderators can refer you to a step-by-step for posting photos. For me, the usual obstacle is to get the photos under the 2MB limit per shot. This is easy to do by re-sizing in Paint or something comparable. But, I agree with your assessment: I love the Big Arroyo and never tire of that whole segment of the HST! Cameron

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Re: TR: Mineral King, Sept 1 -6, via Kaweah Gap

Post by grampy » Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:43 pm

If you use a photo-sharing app like “Flickr”, you can probably skip the “downsizing photo to under 2mb” step, by pasting properly-formatted links to your photos (rather than embedding them directly in your post). This method is explained in some of the “how-to” threads, as Cameron just mentioned.

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