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Trip 1995, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National ParkReturn of the Backpacking Home
1995, The first two years we had absolutely beautiful weather, blue skies, and mild breezes. The second year we even went late enough to avoid most of the mosquitoes. For personal and mosquitoistic reasons we now always go during the third or fourth weeks of August. The only slight drawback to this planning is that many of the Sierra's summer thunder storms occur during this time frame. After two years of reasonable success and ego building, Mother Nature decided to give us a pop quiz. We did have three of the most beautiful days imaginable at Forester lake, just beyond 12,000' Franklin pass in the Mineral King area of Sequoia. And then the skies opened up. We were supposed to hike the 6 miles back to Franklin lakes, spend the night, then hike the last 7 miles out the next day. By the time we got to Franklin lakes we were walking sponges, and figured what the hell, lets just keep going. And so we did, literally, and have, figuratively.
The 7.1 miles to Franklin Lakes are deceptively difficult and by 5 miles in we're wondering why it is so tough. My only explanation is that the trail head, at 8,000', is 1,000' higher than any we'd started from in the past and we were headed up to 10,500', from the 1000' elevation we'd started at in the car that morning. An ardous task in the best condition, which we never are..., and all the books tell you to gain no more than 1000 feet per day. Unfortunately we never have time for that. Franklin Lakes are two ice-cold, crystal clear lakes full of the smallest trout you could ever try to catch on a treble hook... We spent one night at Lower Franklin lake then headed up Franklin Pass. Once you leave the lakes you're pretty much above tree line, and it's quite a breathtaking site looking back toward Mineral King as you clinb toward the pass. The trail is made up of several l o n g switchbacks, that make a pretty constant rate of ascent.
When we got to the pass it was blanketed in several feet of snow. There were a couple of cowboys up there trying to cut a trail through the snow that thier horse team would follow. They didn't have any success with the horses but they managed to cut a nice trail that made it rather safe for us to get down the other side of the pass. We spent about an hour at the top enjoying the views, taking pictures and watching the Marmots. The descent to Forrester Lake is pretty rocky and as with all eastern mountain faces in the sierras the tree line is several hundred feet lower. There was quite a bit of snow since it was such a heavy snowfall winter. Forrester was amazing, we had three days with not another soul in site. We took a day hike over to little claire lake about 1.5 miles away and enjoyed an afternoon thunderstorm under some boulders.
I highly recommend the Mineral King area. It is uncrowded, since it isn't easy to get to, it is rugged with some of the highest peaks and passes in the Sierra and it is absolutely beautiful!