07 July 2013

Mineral King: Franklin Pass

Sequoia National Park

Locate the trailhead.

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5

Day 5. I woke up and pushed aside a surprisingly dry bit of tarp to find there was already a bright and beautiful day going on without me. Eventually, I managed to overcome the pull of the Earth's gravity enough to get together breakfast and pack up. The original plan had two days to hike out from Forester Lake, with notes about how to go up to two 12k foot peaks that shadow Franklin Lake to fill out the day over the pass. We seemed to have decided to ignore the peaks and just finish the hike. Admittedly, I do usually leave the peaks alone. The day started with a gentle drop among a couple streams to Rattlesnake Creek.

meeting a small stream
A small tributary to Rattlesnake Creek.

After a very short "0.9 miles", we were near the creek and joined the trail coming up from Kern to start a fairly long "2.2 miles" as the trail climbs even more gently up. The area is green and somewhat open. We came upon a pack supported camp with one fellow just sitting out in the meadow by the junction with Shotgun Pass and then gradually start to climb more in earnest. We started to speculate about which notch or curve might be the pass.

flat, grassy valley and steep, rocky sides
Well spaced trees stand away from the grassy creek bed of Rattlesnake Creek.

flowing over smooth rocks
Rattlesnake Creek flowing over smooth granite as we climb higher.

still green valley in the middle, a line of green up the side shows the creek coming down
As we start to climb and hit the tree line, everything opens up. Across the way, a small green line shows where Rattlesnake Creek enters the glacial valley it calls its own.

We passed a stash of tools and hard hats for a trail crew, but didn't see any work to be done. Maybe they were already by to do it. Eventually, it goes from rocks to sand, but still seems pretty solid under foot. The sand shows every switchback cut in the past and one bit that looked like old trail. The reroute allowed some views that wouldn't be had along the old trail, but was likely a bit longer and seemed to brought us out to the pass even higher up the edge than shown on the map.

a line of trail in the sand
Hiking higher on the pass through sand and looking out over Rattlesnake Creek.

granite sticking up in the air
A series of bumps to speculate as to where the pass is among them.

Foester Lake from above
An indication of how far we have climbed today: looking down on Forester Lake.

looking down on a lake that drains into Soda Creek
A few steps out to the ridge edge by the trail and we can look again into the drainage for Soda Creek, including this lake that is just west of Little Claire Lake.

At the top, two broken sign posts mark the pass and the signs have vanished. I sat down for a bit of lunch at the high point and Sung was starting to act a little twitchy. He tends to get a bit too ready to get on to the next thing and forgets to enjoy finishing the current thing. I tried to distract him by pointing out Florence was a class 2 on the east side of the ridge, but he wasn't quite ready to believe it about some stuff near the top. He was planning kiteboarding for the following day.

stub of a sign post at the top of Franklin Pass
There was once a sign, but there is no indication of where it might have landed. This is looking toward the old, lower pass and Florence Peak.

looking back over the ridge between Soda Creek and Rattlesnake Creek
Soda Creek on the left, Rattlesnake Creek on the right, and the eastern Sierras in the distance. So many puffy white clouds today and not a hint of frightening sounds to hear while crossing passes. This is part of a panorama.

red rocks of Tulare Peak
Looking over the as yet unseen Franklin Lakes to Tulare Peak, rising red from them. This is also part of a panorama.

Starting down, the trail comes to another break in the pass, which is where the map shows the pass. We peeked through for one last look at Rattlesnake, then started down the trail to Franklin Lakes. The trail travels very gently downward, which must be great for climbing, but became interminable as we were going down.

Franklin Lakes
Franklin Lakes along the red base of Tulare Peak and a puddle closer to us on the trail.

bumble bee at a flower
A bumble bee at one of the flowers high on the pass.

mountain leaking water leads to a green patch
The mountains seem to be leaky, leading to patches of green here and there.

rocks changing color abruptly
To the side of Florence Peak, the rocks suddenly change color and they seem to be soft at the intersection.

composite flowers in bright yellow
A couple composite flowers that really show off their structure.

Coming above the lake, we could see a bear box and camping sites below, but nothing but use trails to get there. The bottom of the lake was dammed long ago although today the water is seeping underneath to get out. Many of the local lakes were dammed, according to the map. Below the lake, there is another bear box for campers.

dam at the end of Franklin Lake
The dam at the bottom of the main lake in the Franklin Lakes group. Presumably, this is leftover from the silver mining.

The trail continues at a far too easy pace for downhill as it follows the side of Franklin Creek. It started to feel a bit on the hot and humid side as we hit a layer around 9600 feet. As we went, we tried to spot the Lady Franklin Mine in the wall across from us. The map seems to put it just inside the trees, or at least right on the edge of it. Water coming down to the trail suggest it is a little bit to the east where we couldn't see anything. There was a use trail near the water, but we didn't take it. There seem to be a few spots where the trail has been rerouted on this side of the pass, too, each with a "trail closed for restoration" sign.

view downhill along Franklin Creek
Looking down Franklin Creek toward Farewell Canyon.

Franklin Creek cascading down from near the dam
Looking up Franklin Creek at the cascade shortly after the dam.

Farewell Canyon from the trail up to Franklin Lakes
The view as we come around the edge of the hill heading for the intersection with the trail up Farewell Gap.

There seems to be a bear box just up the Farewell Gap trail from the intersection. We were finding ourselves among day hikers now and there were quite a few as it was the weekend. As I hiked down Farewell Canyon, I was thinking there was a second thing strange about it, something besides how very straight it is. Eventually I realized that it is a sharp canyon of erosion and not glacial. We made our way down it, along the steep wall, crossing into ever more uncomfortable hot and humid layers and then one that was actually a little more comfortable near the bottom.

sharp valley of erosion
Looking down Farewell Canyon, which looks to be the result of erosion instead of glaciation.

Franklin Creek cascading down to cross the trail
Franklin Creek cascading down the rocks into Farewell Canyon. A couple day hikers we were following down stopped here to soak their feet and play in the water.

A few use trails along the way might go down to the soda spring marked on the map, but the old trail seems to still be there albeit marked by rocks across it and a sign saying the trail goes the other way. We left that one alone as well. We finished off the trail and then hiked the road down to the car by the ranger station. The caterpillar plague was still on and quite a few insane individuals were trying to cross the black road in the hot sun.

Crystal Creek cascading down
One more cascade of water coming down into Farewell Canyon, this one part of Crystal Creek. The trail to the soda spring is a few feet past this crossing when coming up.

The last two days would seem to show that I could have made it down to the hot spring in spite of my cold. It's hard to balance small failures of just not going everywhere planned against bigger failures. I'd have been fine to stay out an extra day, but I have to think of others as well. Most everyone else we saw didn't make it to the hot spring either and we had plenty of nice bits of land to stare at.

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 14 July 2013

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