Friday, February 17, 2012

Kings Canyon

My second weekend back in California, Jenny and I decided to take advantage of the last of good backpacking weather of the year, so we headed south to Kings Canyon National Park, stopping in Jenny's hometown Fresno on our way there. Friday afternoon I got off work early and we drove to the remote southwestern corner of the park, Mineral King, an extension to Kings Canyon added in the 1950's to prevent Walt Disney from purchasing it and turning into a resort and amusement park. The drive was around 4.5 hours, though we spent the last two going the 22 miles up into Mineral King (racing to get a permit before the ranger station closed!). We started our hike and the first thing we noticed was the deer. Oh deer. The summer pack station was closed down and housing dozens of deer (see how many you can find!).

In the fading light we quickly began ascending, quickly gaining 2000 feet for some stunning views (and another deer in the foreground...).

We arrived at Franklin Lake just as the sun set and rain moved in, so we threw up camp and cooked as fast as we could, watching lightning flash on the lake and nearby peaks.

The next morning we woke up and started cooking breakfast at which point the wind started picking up and then all hail broke lose (haha)...

For the next four hours it hailed/rained/stormed off and on. Around 1:30 we decided to make a break for it during a calm spell and we ran up to Franklin Pass at nearly 13,000 feet for some awesome views east into the Sierras. Below is a photo of my altitude sick hiking buddy,

a shot of me looking east,

and a view back down to our camp at Franklin Lake 2000 feet below.

On the way down we even encountered my favorite sun-bathing high-altitude animal, a marmot!

After we got back to camp the wind was picking up and it was hinting at rain, so we decided warm beds sounded better than another rainy night and hiked on out. While we didn't get to do all the hiking we wanted, the weather was still a cool experience and the Sierras are always beautiful.

The next day we even had time for a fun hike on the San Joaquin River near Fresno.

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