Before I started working again and before the snows hit the Sierras, I drove down from the Bay Area, into the smoke-choked central valley - billowing with smoke from the biggest fire of 2015 spreading into Kings Canyon. I drove to the seemingly infamous Mineral King trailhead in Sequoia National Park. Peter Beckman, founder of the delicious Santa Cruz sourdough bread company of his name - who also drives a VW diesel wagon - advised me to take a cross country route (i.e. no trail) over a few high mountain masses before connecting back to a trail for my 50 mile loop to Kern Hot Springs.
The smoke was starting to clear up the further east I pushed. Atop the first pass...
Descending to Spring Lake...
Heading up to the next pass
And later the same day from Mineral King I made it to the top of aptly-named Hands and Knees Pass. The loose scree and lack of trail with my backpack full of food made the climb a bit sketchy but also exhilarating.
Solo hiking means more selfies.
Next morning closer to a real trail at Little Five Lakes
wild (and delicious) sierra onion
The air was fairly clear during my hike but mid-afternoon the second day - the smoke started pouring over the 12,000 ft high mountain ridges that had been blocking the smoke in the central valley from coming up into the mountains.
Descending down into Kern Canyon...
the tub...and the water is dang hot from the source!
mellow path in idyllic kern canyon
Does a bear shit in the woods? Yes.
Although the clouds were rolling in, I held hope that it would suddenly clear up for a sunset view atop Franklin Pass.
Instead I faced thick clouds with high freezing wind with hardly any visibility. I was worried about losing the trail up top but managed to stay on the mountain and on the trial.
A hike isn't an adventure unless you add a harrowing moment.
Brrrr! Frosty morning at Franklin Lake
Black bear near Mineral King trailhead
27 mile hike to Kern Canyon hot springs - 23 miles back to the car