Camping and Hiking at Cold Springs

Last weekend Pam and I went camping and hiking at Cold Springs Campground in Sequoia National Park. We were joined by our friends Jason and Lina. The campground is in the Mineral King Valley, a beautiful area that the Walt Disney Co almost turned into a ski resort. The only way into the valley by car is via an old logging road. It’s slow going, with hairpin turns, narrow passages, and no guardrail–though I would not describe it as harrowing or terrifying like I’ve read on some online reviews.

Pam and I arrived on Friday in the early afternoon. We claimed a site and went hiking on the Nature Trail. It winds across the bottom of the valley, somewhat following the East Fork of the Kaweah River. The plants are wonderful: quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), redstem dogwood (Cornus sericea), false hellebore (Veratrum californicum), and streamside bluebells (Mertensia ciliata) to name a few.

Quaking Aspen

Hiking through the quaking aspens in the Mineral King Valley.

We saw some mule deer along the trail, very close to where we saw mountain quail as well.

Mule Deer

A mule deer with antlers in-progress.

A mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus) picture from a hike last weekend in Mineral King.

A post shared by Benjamin (@barre7) on

The late spring and early summer are prime marmot season in Mineral King. The furry little rodents emerge from the ground and chew on things. They have been known to destroy cars by targeting brake lines, fan belts, wiring, insulation, and basically anything they can chew. The park service recommends wrapping cars in tarps in the worst marmot spots during this time of year (the trail heads are the worst locations). We hiked by a trail head and saw many wrapped cars.

Marmots

Three out of four cars are practicing marmot protection.

On Saturday we hiked along Mosquito Creek, which took us up toward Miners Ridge. Just below the ridge sits the first Mosquito Lake, which was our destination. By direct line the hike was 1 mile, though in the Sierra Nevada a direct line is rarely possible. We took a route that appears as 1.5 miles on a map, however that route involved many switchbacks that stretched the distance out beyond that. I think it involved ~1,800 ft of elevation gain, with Mosquito Lake sitting at 9,065 ft.

Hiking 6

Hiking near Mosquito Creek.

Hiking 2

Stunning views in Mineral King.

Hiking 7

I was happy to see Dicentra pauciflora in bloom.

Hiking 5

I was fascinated by bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens ).

Hiking 3

The high elevation meadows were very cool–notice the snow.

Group Pic 1

The hiking party at Mosquito Lake.

swimming

Three out of four hikers went swimming, the fourth was not swayed by peer pressure.

From what the rest of the group told me, the water in Mosquito Lake was very cold. I was content to sit in a hammock eating bison jerky while they shivered.

Ben and Pam

Posing with my hiking buddy on a ridge in Mineral King.

On our hike back from the lake I was watching for animals. I really wanted to see a bear. And I did. It was watching us intently through the trees.

Bear Watching

The curious bear.

A good day of hiking makes peanut butter and jelly, jerky, and an apple taste like a feast.

On the way home Sunday we stopped in Silver City. We had sandwiches and pumpkin pie at the little store/cafe. The pumpkin pie is usually not on the menu, but they had hosted a wedding that morning and sold out of their famous fruit pies, and the pumpkin pie was leftover from a wedding request–so we got it.

It was a good weekend in the woods.

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