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Mineral King 2014 Trip

Day 1 of 6

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Sunday, June 29th
Drive to Mineral King

I was originally planning a trip to Trinity Alps, but was getting a bit discouraged by the driving distances between hikes, and the possible heat. Then I remembered that we still had hikes to explore in Mineral King. We'd been to Mineral King once, back in 2008, but the kids were too young to do long hikes at the time. Now they were old enough to tackle some of the challenging day hikes in the area.

The Cold Springs Campground near the end of Mineral King Road was still just $12 per night, but still did not take reservations. I figured we'd have a good chance of snagging one of the first-come, first-served sites if we arrived on a Sunday instead of leaving on a Thursday or Friday like we'd normally do.

I wanted to leave the Bay Area by around 10:30am, but unfortunately we got a late start; after a last-minute stop at REI, we finally left around 12:30pm. We took the 101 to 152 route, thankfully going eastbound while traffic was completely blocked westbound because of an overturned vehicle towing a trailer. Meanwhile, our vehicle was having its own internal issues and we had to stop several times. That plus a stop for lunch prevented us from reaching Mineral King Road until about 6:45pm. If you're going, be sure to fill the car with gas in or near Three Rivers, as there's no gas after that.

Mineral King Road is a winding one-lane road, over 23 miles of it until you reach the Cold Springs Campground. About 9 miles in is an automated pay station (for entering the park), but unfortunately it was broken so we'd have to visit the ranger station the next day. It's somewhat of a risk to drive up this road (which took us about 70 minutes) given that there are no campground reservations, but in addition to the 31 normal sites, there's the Atwell Mill campground (21 sites) about 3 miles back down the hill, and also 9 walk-in sites at Cold Springs.

I am sure some potential campers are turned off by the drive up Mineral King Road, but it's not too bad as long as you take your time and are careful around all the blind corners. Most drivers are courteous and pass with care. If you want to limit the amount of opposing traffic you'll encounter, think about the time of day and day of week you're going. As we were going up Sunday evening, we only ran into about a dozen cars going in the opposite direction. I'm sure we would have run into many more if we had gone up earlier Sunday.

We got into camp a bit before 8pm, and had a decent selection of sites to choose from. We chose site #2, right by the creek. There was ample shade and a large flat area for our tent. I figured the sound of the creek would drown out other campground noise and wouldn't keep us from sleeping. We set up camp and had dinner, then turned in late.

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