03 July 2013

Mineral King: Timber Gap

Sequoia National Park

Locate the trailhead.

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

A plan was set for a week of wilderness travel starting in Mineral King and taking three days and drop down into the Kern gorge to visit the fabled Kern Hot Spring for an evening, then take another four days to climb our way out over the Great Western Divide again by a somewhat longer route, maybe even hitting a peak or two along the way. The reservation was made and with seven days to the start, my sinuses started to take on that unmistakable feeling of coming down with a cold. I can deal with the tail end sniffles of a cold which should be similar to dealing with whatever mild allergy to something up in the Sierras it is that I've got. The fever, which I don't usually have with colds, set in by evening and more symptoms than I've ever had at once piled on over the next day. And thus sickness rose and dwindled while I was hoping to be getting ready for a few long days hiking at altitude. We set out to get to the trail by noon and with a rather dreadful navigation mistake and the congestion coming over the Grapevine, we were just in time to pick up our permit before the ranger station closed at 3PM and we wouldn't even have time to get up to the first planned campsite. The new plan was to camp when we hit Cliff Creek and then have two long days down to the hot spring where only one was a bit long before. We took a moment to scratch our heads at the various marmot protection measures for cars in the trail head lot and started up toward the short Timber Gap among a veritable plague of caterpillars.

Monarch Creek coming down from Sawtooth
Plenty of water coming down the hillside off Sawtooth in Monarch Creek. The weather is looking threatening in that direction.

The going seemed slower than it ought to be, even with the tail end of a cold requiring frequent handkerchief use. Still, the climb is always nice as views become more expansive. Less than a mile in, a trail junction offers the opportunity to go over Sawtooth Pass instead. Grey skies over the gap and the pass thickened and even thundered a bit as we climbed. The rest of the sky stayed blue with a few fluffy clouds. Whenever we started to feel a little hot, a bit of thick grey would come along to shade us, then there would be a bit of rumbling to try to scare us out of climbing. The hillside has a few springs and we crossed a couple tiny streams full of flowers as we climbed.

lupin and some composites coloring a small stream
Lupin and paintbrush and some sort of daisy relative burst in fairly primary colors around a small stream.

Farewell Gap is a straight shot
Farewell Gap in the distance on a surprisingly straight line from the valley below.

Timber Gap trail on its way into the timber on the gap
The trail near the top of the timber covered Timber Gap.

Reaching the top, the view is hard to get a good look at. Trees cover the gap, making the name quite sensible. The map shows a trail up to the old Empire Mine, but we didn't notice it or really look for it with the time constraint. We started down into the valley on the far side. At first, we crossed dry stream beds, then sections off the trail started bursting with flowers and a little water could be heard to the side. Eventually, we were hiking down between a couple big gullies. To our left, water flowed over tall cascades and down a deep valley quite a ways below us.

trees and the valley of Timber Gap Creek
The view at the top of Timber Gap is obscured by the trees that give it its name.

frist sighting of water in the creek bed
First sighting of water in the creek bed as we climb down along Timber Gap Creek. Green fields and flowers along the way told of moisture above.

tiger lilies or Humboldt lilies
A few of the smaller Sierra Humboldt lilies along the trail.

soft rocks in the bottom of the canyon lead to deep gorges in this area
The rocks we are climbing down seem to be a particularly soft sort and the creek has cut and steep sided valley through them.

Eventually, the trail left the inaccessible Timber Gap Creek and popped over to Cliff Creek instead. We could hear a roar far below as we headed down the last bit of steep switchbacks. As we got to the creek, we also found a selection of small, but very flat and well established camping spots and tucked into these for the night. The GPS claimed it was a minute to sunset as I dropped my pack.

among the timber, looking up the canyon of Cliff Creek
Starting down the side of Cliff Creek, there are a few spots too look out through the trees at what is to come in the climb tomorrow.

We ate as it got dark, then settled in for a warm night by the roaring creek at just 7100 feet.

Continue reading: day 2

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 11 July 2013

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