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Mineral King 2008 Trip

Day 3 of 5

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Friday, June 13th
Farewell Gap Trail to Aspen Flat

Friday morning I noticed two cars in our campground with chicken wire around the bottom. I wasn't completely sure, but I thought this might be to keep marmots out. I had read that marmots have a tendency to chew through radiator hoses. Apparently, for whatever reason, they're attracted to the anti-freeze. The books I read simply said to check under the car before driving off; none of them actually mentioned any preventative measures. I also didn't consider Cold Springs to be marmot country. I usually see marmots near or above tree line. So I wasn't too concerned.

Mushrooms at our camp site (the same ones found on the Cold Springs Nature Trail)

Flower at our camp site

After breakfast, we drove to the end of Mineral King Road to start a hike there. We arrived at around 11:15am. There were a couple rangers there. I approached one to confirm the location of the trailhead, but all she could talk about was marmots. Half of the 4 other cars in the lot did not have any chicken wire around the edges, and she said they were 100% guaranteed to have damage from marmots. She said that we should go down to a shed across from the ranger station (near the campground, about 5 minutes back) and see if there was any extra wire there. Barring that, we'd have to drive all the way back to Silver City (10-15 minutes away) and rent some from the store there. Now, I'm sure her 100% statistic was an exaggeration, but in truth I had already seen a marmot on the drive up to the parking lot. Even if it was a 10% chance, it probably wasn't worth risking having our trip ruined. If it was 1%, maybe I would have just taken my chances, but given her warning I decided it was worth it to drive back.

So I headed back down the hill and found the shed. I retrieved two bundles of chicken wire and drove back to the parking lot at the end of the road. We started to spread the wire around but quickly figured out that it wasn't enough. Aggravated, I drove back to the shed again and retrieved the remaining two bundles of chicken wire, drove back to the parking lot, and spread the wire around, anchored by rocks. I should also note that some people decide to avoid this problem altogether by hiking up along the road from Cold Springs Campground, rather than driving and parking in marmot country. But with two small children, that wasn't an option for us.

It wasn't until noon that we were able to start off on our hike on the Farewell Gap Trail to Aspen Flat.

After the hike, we returned the chicken wire, then drove down to the store at Silver City. We asked why several unattended cars had their hoods propped up back at the ranger station. The clerk laughed and said that some people thought it dissuaded marmots from eating the hoses, but that it was stupid to let them get in so easily and that we shouldn't do it.

We got some ice cream and a few supplies (they sell, among other things, chocolate, marshmallows, a limited supply of stove fuel, and extra radiator hoses). After the kids played in the playground a bit, we returned to our camp. We noted that despite the fact that the campground was nearly full on this Friday night, we still didn't have any neighbors on one side. It was a small site next to the bathroom, with mud in the parking area and not bordering the river. We probably saw a half dozen groups drive into it, ponder, then decide to camp somewhere else. More privacy for us.

I should mention that most of the camp sites are right next to the river. That's nice, but I think I preferred not being next to it. It was quite loud even in our site, which was about 100 feet from the river. I might not have been able to sleep if we were right next to it!

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