August 15 and 16 will be the last of three weekends this summer that the entrance fees for all National Parks are waived.
So……how about visiting a gem in the Sierras, the Mineral King valley in Sequoia National Park? The road to Mineral King is open seasonally, starting in late spring to early fall, so summer is a great time to visit this serene high mountain valley.
from the National Park Website: Mineral King Valley, an open glacial canyon hemmed in by the peaks of the Great Western Divide, has a special place in the hearts of many park visitors. Accessible only by a long, slow-going road, the valley is a place where nature, not man, dominates. This road to this area closes from November 1 to late May. Road is steep. RVs and trailers strongly discouraged. Read about day hikes in the higher elevations from Mineral King.
Wilderness designation heals wounds of Mineral King battle: In 1978, the U. S. Congress resolved the question by transferring the land to Sequoia National Park with the instruction that no skiing facilities would ever be constructed there…Now, decades later, Congress has again acted with regard to the management of the Mineral King area. This time it has decreed that the high bowl areas of the 1978 park addition that were once proposed for ski lifts should be designated as wilderness, a status that will preserve them forever as wild and undeveloped. This new wilderness, created with the assistance of local Congressman Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, will be known as the John Krebs Wilderness.
read rest of article by Bill Tweed in Visalia Times Delta, July 25, 2009
from the blog editor, a Mineral King memory: It was late Spring in 1979 when I drove up the Mineral King road in my little red fiat, camera on the seat beside me, hoping to see wildflowers blooming. In those days I used to call myself a photographer and during the years from 1977-78 I was graced to have known Gene Gray, a long time resident of Three Rivers and famous photographer in his own right, who loved to tell me how the old Mineral King stage road used to go right in front of his house, 40 years before the house was built.
On October 15, 1978, I came to visit Gene in the late afternoon, and I found him with a large bound document in his hand. With joy and awe infusing his words, he proudly proclaimed it was a copy of the Congressional Record of the bill that had put the Mineral King Valley under the care of the National Park Service. He spent several hours that afternoon recalling the great debate and challenge to the proposed Disney ski resort. I wish, with all my heart, that I had a tape recording of all that he said to me as I sat in his living room, with such a glorious view up the Kaweah River canyon to Alta Peak. Later that evening, Gene died unexpectedly at the age of 72.
The next spring, there I was on another one of my solitary photo adventures I used to take often. (Note to self: how about doing this more often now?) Because the Park had taken over responsibility of Mineral King, I found my car blocked at a gate several miles outside the valley. I am not sure now exactly where that gate was, but it had not been there before on other trips up the road. Not knowing how far I was from the valley, but thinking it was not too far, I started walking. I was wearing canvas Ked sneakers (no hiking shoes in those days.) It was early in the morning, sunny and green and beautiful. I had seen no other cars on the road, and now walking, I saw no one else. Soon I came upon some patches of snow on the road, and just walked around them on the dirt. I remember how warm the day was and how the snow seemed out of place.
As I walked higher and higher, more and more snow appeared and I had to make a decision. I could see that the mouth of the valley was very near, but by then there was no escape from having to walk in the snow. My heart was set on being in that valley, and so I did not give up. I walked on in, finally almost knee deep in snow, my feet freezing. But I had seen a large rock coming up out of the snow to the left, and that became my goal. I made it and thawed out both feet and wet shoes on the warm granite face. I stayed there for quite some time.
It was a Sunday in that beautiful high mountain place. I was the only living human as far as I could see. Totally alone in Mineral King that day, I experienced a new sacredness. No man-made church matched that mountain one. It’s still there.
[Yes, I know it probably was not the wisest thing to do, to walk on like that all alone….]
Photo essay about Disney and Mineral King: see photos from 40 years ago Join Jim Hill & Nancy Stadler for a drive high, High, HIGH into the Sierra Nevadas to visit the exact spot where Walt Disney wanted to build a ski resort. Enjoy all of the beautiful scenery … but keep an eye out for marmots!
Earlier times visiting Mineral King in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s:
from mineralking.org Beginning in June until after the 4th of July celebrations in San Jaoquin Valley towns, men escorted their families up the Mineral road in “buggies”, on the horse drawn stage or in freight wagons, hauling all the staples needed for a two or three month stay in the mountains. The men might visit their families occasionally during the summer, but it was a long two day trip each way. There were casual delivery and mail services by those who did go up the road but they were intermittent, so the responsibilities of Mineral King living lay almost entirely with the women. They became a large, extended family, helping and caring for each other’s needs with a constant sharing of supplies with friends.
An artist’s view of Mineral King: from the blog of Jana Botkin local artist, famous for her Mineral King drawings and paintings, and recent mural of Mineral King in Exeter, CA.