Franklin Lakes, Aug. 9-11, 2003
My work schedule changed last minute and I ended up with a three-day weekend! So I
decided to do a BP trip out of Mineral King in Sequoia NP, which is only about 20 miles away
as the bird flies, but it takes a good 3 hours to drive there.
The Mineral King Road is the worst road I've ever traveled. It's 22 miles long, climbs
6,000+ feet, is at best a lane-and-a-half-wide. Most of it's paved, but it is not in the best
of condition. There are at least 642 blind curves, no guardrails, very steep dropoffs, no
signs, no center divider line, etc. In other words, by the time you get back to Mineral King
most of the other tourists have given up. Actually, many of your average tourists don't
even know about this area of the Park. The turn-off is outside the Park and is not very well
signed. So most of the folks that brave the road and get back to Mineral King are locals
and serious backpackers. Sounds like a great place, right?
So I left home on Saturday, showed up at the Mineral King Ranger Station around noon
hoping to get a permit. Well, none of the trail quotas were absolutely full and because I
was a party of one, I had my pick. They also did not charge me the $15 fee I've heard they
instituted this year. Maybe they're just charging it at Lodgepole? Anyway, I decided to
hike up to Franklin Lakes and base camp there for two nights. Certain places have had
bear-boxes helicoptered in and Franklin Lake has two. This meant I didn't have to lug in a
2-lb canister :)
So I took the rest of the afternoon at a rather leisurely pace to get up to Franklin. It's
about 6 miles and the elevational gain is 3,000 feet. But the trail is a remarkably nice one,
full of switchbacks, so you gain the elevation gradually and no part of the trail is too steep.
I got up to the lake right as the sun was setting and setting afire to Florence Peak and the
almost full-moon was rising above it. I got great pics of alpenglow on the mountains!
One of the coolest things about the Mineral King area, which the name suggests, it ain't all
granite. Don't take other kinds of rocks in the Sierra "for granite"! There's slate and
shale and marble and ??? up there. One peak to the north of Franklin lake is called Rainbow
Lake - for a reason. It's a very colorful mountain.
I'd love to go hiking with a geologist up there. I know enough to say, "Um, something very
interesting happened here. These are metamorphic rocks for sure," - but that's about it!
So the second day I dayhiked - scrambled is more like it - up to upper Franklin Lake. I
think I found the southernmost patch of California snow in August! I had that upper lake to
myself, swam, basked on a rock like a marmot, and scrambled back down in the afternoon.
The first night a group of three guys about my age camped near me. The second night
another group of three guys, this time in their 40's-50's, camped near me. So each night I
felt pretty safe from the bears. I feel much better having others close by! Plus, on the
2nd night those three guys offered me a cocktail. These were definitely not ultra-lighters.
They each packed in aluminum lawn chairs and several flasks of liquor. I had some
concoction of vodka and red gatorade. Needless to say, I slept very well that night
So I didn't see any bears, but I had quite a few other wildlife encounters. My campsite
was right below the lake, next to the creek, in amongst willows and stunted foxtail pines.
Several deer shared my site. The second night I was stunned as several doe and their
spotted fawns came quite close to me. At one point a doe was on one side of my tent and
me, her fawn on the other. Has anyone ever heard a fawn call to its mom? Sounds like a
kitten! They were too cute.
A little later on a buck came through and joined his harem. I've never seen a doe let a buck
get close to her fawn, but this one did. At one point the fawn and buck chased each other
around and were playing. It was quite idyllic. I felt like I was in the middle of a Disney
I also saw quite a few marmots and pika. Also saw a raptor of some sort, I'm tempted to
say golden eagle because it was so huge, twice swoop down and catch a pika!
Well, the time came to hike back down out of my idyllic glacial bowl. 5 miles down and only
one more to go, and the last one is basically flat, and my last stream crossing, and, yep, you
guessed it, I slipped and fell. Face plant into the stream! Crash-landed, splash-landed,
whatever you want to call it. Ouch! I dragged myself up and surveyed the damage. I tore
the left leg of my pants and underneath was a nice big, relatively deep cut. It wasn't
bleeding much, however, so I sat for a little bit, applied pressure to the wound, put a
band-aid on it, then limped out the last mile. It was a painful mile! I'm not sure I could've
made it without my hiking poles...
Drove to the ranger station, got out, and said help! Bud, a LE officer and apparently trained
in wilderness first-aid, helped me clean out the wound a little better, iodined it and
steri-stripped it. Then asked, "How long has it been since you got a tetanus shot?" "Um,
8th grade?" So I proceeded to drive down the long winding road and stopped in Visalia at a
walk-in clinic and got the shot.
So now I have a sore leg and a sore arm!
Ah, well, it could've happened 6 miles back and 3,000 feet up, I should be thankful it
happened in the last mile
On the way down I picked up three bacpackers needing a ride down to Three Rivers. They
were very nice and we swapped recommendations of where to go on our next bp trips!
Anyone want to attempt Sawtooth Peak?
They also pointed out a couple of Model-T's that went over the edge a whiles back and are
still down in the canyon! Did I mention that the road is dangerous?!?
Florence Peak reflected in Franklin Lake
Alpenglow and full moon rising over Florence Peak
Deer playing near my campsite
Clouds over Rainbow Peak
along the trail