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Mineral King 2008 Trip

Day 1 of 5

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Wednesday, June 11th
Drive to Mineral King

We've visited the Sequoia/Kings Canyon area many times, but never visited the Mineral King area before. It's accessed via the southern entrance to Sequoia, on a twisting narrow 25-mile road. We were actually planning to visit it years ago, I think in 2002, but our plans fell through. Then we were busy with two little boys. But they're old enough now that I figured we could make the trip.

We left the Bay Area around 11am on a Wednesday. Traffic was light. We took 580 through Livermore and made our way over to Highway 99 south, which we took down to Visalia. Normally when we visit Sequoia we go to Fresno and then take Highway 180 east. Since Mineral King is accessed from the southern entrance, though, we went down to Visalia and took Highway 198. I made sure to stop in Visalia for gas, since there's no gas in Mineral King. If you want to wait, you can gas up in Three Rivers, which is the town just before Mineral King Road. But gassing up at Visalia is fine; you'll still have plenty of gas.

I was a bit worried about Mineral King Road, since I've read the term "harrowing" to describe it. But it was fine; it's mainly just long. The bottom section is a bit narrow, but you just have to drive slow and be prepared to slow or stop to let another car pass from the opposite direction. I think we only encountered about 10 other vehicles on the 25 miles of road to the campground. After about 10 miles or so, there's a sign which reads "End County Maintained Road." I didn't know if that was good or bad. It turned out to be good, as the road beyond that is noticeably wider (though still not divided by a line). The road is paved and in good condition; a friend told me that they just recently (last year) repaved a lot of it. At about 11 miles, there's a self-service pay station which accepts credit cards ($20 per vehicle). As we approached Atwell Mill campground, I saw a bear for I think the 4th time ever. He was just off the road and scrambled quickly up the hillside as I approached.

We finally reached Cold Springs campground after about 80 minutes from the start of Mineral King Road, about 5 hours 20 minutes of driving from the Bay Area (almost 6 and a half hours of real time). We didn't have reservations since the campground doesn't take any. We didn't need any, in any case, since it was only about 1/4th full on this, a late spring Wednesday. There were still patches of snow on the ground making a couple of the camp sites muddy, especially sites 5 and 6 at the far end. There were several sites (2 through 6) right next to the gushing Kaweah River, but we didn't like the thought of our boys playing near the steep drop-off into the river. We eventually settled on site 32 at the other end, which is not next to the river itself, but is next to a small run-off which feeds it (possible dry later in the year), and has great privacy and space since there's no neighbor on two sides.

Sites at this time are $12 a night. After setting up camp and self paying, we had dinner. While we did so, a whole family of mule deer walked around our site and ate their dinner in front of us. At night time, the temperature was a bit on the chilly side (maybe 40 degrees in the middle of the night), but it was fine and would get warmer later in the week.

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