Sequoia NP - Franklin Lakes Panorama

19 Days to WSER: Mineral King

After my week-long stay in Yosemite I had overnighted at a motel in Fresno and then set out early in the morning for my next camping and running adventure aided by the National Parks Service. My next stop would be Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, which are separate parks that are managed as one entity. I had researched the running within the park and would need to relocate my base to visit the different interesting areas for my runs. I had loosely planned out four days of running.

I travelled to the south of the parks to enter through Sequoia National Park and would eventually exit to the more-northerly west exit. My first visit was to the visitor center just inside the park to gather some information. After listening to the two groups in front of me explain to the ranger that they would be visiting the combined parks for a single day and didn’t want to walk too far, I went up and started off by informing him that I have as much time as needed and would like to travel as far as possible. We chatted about some options for the different areas of the parks, and then I headed off to commence day one.

I started day one by heading back out of the entrance I had just arrived through to enter a little visited section of Sequoia National Park. Turning off the major highway you proceed 25 miles (40 km) down a rough and windy dead-end road to arrive at Mineral King in a little over one hour. I first visited the Cold Springs campground, selected one of the numerous empty sites, setup my campsite, and placed all of my food and toiletries in a bear locker. Then I put on my running gear and went to pay a visit at the lonely ranger station located across the road.

It was already mid-afternoon, and when I advised the ranger of my destination he was quite surprised that I could fit it in until I explained that I would be running. He advised that some afternoon thunderstorms had been forecast and that I should turn around if lightning looked likely. I thanked him and headed off.

There has been a problem with marmots destroying cars by eating through cables and hoses when parked at the particular trailhead I needed to start from, so I ran from the ranger station back to the campsite and then followed a roughly 1-mile trail to the trailhead. The trailhead was located at 7,500 ft (2,200 m) of elevation and I would climb to over 10,000 ft (3,000 m) in order to visit Franklin Lakes.

I expected to be walking most of the ascent to the lakes but surprisingly found the gradient of the trail to allow me to gently run most of it, with only short stints of walking up the steeper sections. Each time it looked the weather might be worsening I would experience a break in the clouds and it would then appear that maybe it would clear.

Then when I was less than a half mile from my turnaround point some heavy clouds came in and precipitation started. Unluckily it was in the form of hail. I ducked behind a rock and took off my pack to water-proof my phone and car key. I then put on my rain jacket in preparation for a return journey, thinking that it is time to turn early even though I was so close to my destination. But as I put my hydration vest back on I realised that not only had the hail stopped but another clearing in the clouds had appeared. There were no other ominous clouds in sight so I decided to continue to my planned destination.

A few minutes later I arrived at the lower of the Franklin Lakes. I was a bit disappointed to notice the concrete dam at one end of the lake. I had driven 25 miles away from civilization and then run another 7 miles further down a canyon only to arrive at a sign of humanity. It still was a nice view so I took a few photos and then decided to make my return journey before some persistent bad weather did arrive.

Sequoia NP - Franklin Lake
Sequoia NP – Franklin Lake

I turned around and started the descent back to my campsite. It was a nice downhill gradient the entire way back to the trailhead so I made good time, and then made my way back along the trail to my campsite. That ended my first day in a new park. The following day would start with the drive back down the one-way road.

For further details on the run check out here.


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