TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

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TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby jimmeans » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:35 pm

In 2016 the first of my two weeklong hikes started during the 4th of July holiday weekend. Steve Fry and I laid out an itinerary that started on the west side of the Sierra at Mineral King and ended on the east side at Horseshoe Meadow. We left Steve's car at the Cottonwood Pass trailhead at Horseshoe Meadow. My sister Nancy who lives in Ridgecrest then drove us around to the west side. We couldn't find accommodations very close due to the busy holiday weekend, so we spent the night of July 2 in Visalia.

Day 1
It was the first time for any of us to visit Mineral King. The road itself is a small challenge, about 24 miles of twisty, mostly 2 lane road. When we got to Mineral King we also saw the bizarre spectacle of marmot-proofed vehicles left at Mineral King.

We were treated to a beautiful day to start a hike. The weather was perfect, and the general area was very lush. We hiked south towards Farewell Gap until we reached the trail to Franklin Lake, our first night destination. There were a few people around, but not as many as I had expected for a holiday weekend. I was still concerned about finding a camp site at Franklin Lake, and once we reached the lake my concern turned out to be justified. There were quite a few people camped near Franklin Creek just below the lake. On the north side of the lake there didn't seem to be very many suitable camp sites, and they were occupied. We found a bear box about 1/2 way along the north side of the lake, but it was in a really strange location that wasn't easy to get to from the trail. It also didn't have any good level spots nearby, go figure. We wound up climbing past the lake where we found an area with several good spots and plenty of water available. Home at last.

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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby jimmeans » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:41 pm

Day 2
We woke on the 4th of July to another beautiful day. We were soon on our way to Franklin Pass. The trail to the pass was snow free, and it consisted of some very long switchbacks. It was a very easy hike to the pass. At the pass we found a small remainder of the cornice that formed over the winter. We took a nice break there before continuing.

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As we descended to Rattlesnake Creek we encountered a couple of groups that were returning to Mineral King after going out over Farewell Gap and the looping over Shotgun Pass. We continued as far as the trail that splits to Forester Lake, and we took this short detour to camp at Forester Lake. When we first arrived there was a man and youngster attempting to sail their small toy sailboats. Steve and I left our gear on the west side of the lake and took a lap around the lake to scout out camp sites. There were a few promising locations on the north shore, but the other two were camped in this area and we didn't want to crowd together. I had read that there were sites on the east shore of this lake, but we found that there were a lot of downed trees in this area and it didn't appear that many had camped in this area for a while. We decided to camp where we had originally left our gear.

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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby jimmeans » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:45 pm

Day 3
On day 3 we continued down Rattlesnake Creek to the Kern River. Rattlesnake Creek was also very green, and it has a number of cool little waterfalls. The canyon narrows as the trail approaches the steep drop down into the Kern River canyon. In this narrow region we encountered a small pack train, the only people that we saw all day. The switchbacks down to the Kern were in very good condition. When we reached the trail that follows the Kern we continued straight towards the river and found a very nice area to camp, so we decided to call it a day. We had covered 9 miles but were camping by 3PM.

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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby jimmeans » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:49 pm

Day 4
For day 4 we wanted another easy day, so the plan was to hike down to the Kern Ranger station. It was a nice hike, and again we hardly saw a soul. When we reached the ranger station it appeared to be empty for the day, but in the back of the compound we found the cook starting to prepare the evening meal for the work crew who were soon returning. Boy do they get some good grub. We continued from the ranger station towards the river and found a camp site near the bridge that crosses into the Inyo. As we were setting up our camp we saw a gentleman coming down on the Inyo side. He crossed the bridge to our side and came over and introduced himself. He was a retired Naval aviator with the call sign Booger. Booger was a couple of days into a 17-day solo hike. We had a nice chat with him, and I can only hope that I can continue backpacking trips when I reach my 70s.

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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby jimmeans » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:54 pm

Day 5
We started day 5 by crossing the Kern River across a steel bridge. After a short jaunt to the north, the trail starts up the switchbacks to climb out of the Kern River canyon. We had got a reasonably early start, so this wasn't really that bad of an experience. I could definitely see where it would be more exhausting during the heat of the day. We continued to the Natural Bridge where we took a short break. We then hiked to Volcanic Creek. We had planned to hike to Volcano Meadow to camp there, but there was no water in Volcanic Creek. We decided to continue towards the Tunnel Meadow area. I had been in this area during the spring time before, but this was my first visit during the summer. We found that the horse traffic changes the nature of the trail pretty significantly. Plan B was to camp in the area just where the trail crosses Golden Trout Creek near the Tunnel Guard station, but we found a very large group of people camped there supported by horses. We went a little further and ended up camping very close to the old station.

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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby jimmeans » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:58 pm

Day 6
This morning we made the command decision to complete our trip via Trail Pass. We continued on the trail following the South Fork of the Kern River up Tunnel Meadow and then up the canyon where this river originates. The trail eventually turns east and crosses a low pass to Bullfrog & Mulkey Meadows. Again I could see a huge difference in this trail after it had seen several months of horse traffic. The trail then climbs north over Trail Pass and then down to Horseshoe Meadow. We completed our 55 mile hike in 6 days.

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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby zacjust32 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:30 pm

That looks like a great trip. I've never thought much of hiking further south of Mineral King but you've opened up a lot of opportunities.
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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby balzaccom » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:51 pm

Lovely stuff. That's on our list...and now you've moved it a little closer to the top!
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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby RichardCullip » Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:15 pm

Thanks for the trip report. This brought back many memories. I was over Franklin Pass quite a few times back in the mid-70's and have hiked out of Horseshoe Meadow (Cottonwood Pass to Trail Pass loop) a few times more recently. However I never made the plunge into and climb back out of the Kern River canyon. Thanks for showing me what I've missed.
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Re: TR: Mineral King to Horseshoe Meadow, July 3-8, 2016

Postby sekihiker » Fri Mar 31, 2017 8:44 pm

Neat country. Thanks for posting.
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