Thursday, July 16, 2020

~ Reflections ~

"Live close to nature - climb the mountain, treasure the woods, the flowers, the rock-giving strength to body and soul." - John Muir

Sawtooth Peak stands majestically on the horizon.

It was our first pack-back trip in the early 1970s into the Sierra wilderness of Sequoia National Park.

Once we began our ascent of Sawtooth Pass in Mineral King, I'm not sure that we would survive.  It was a sketchy, cross-country trail at best.  I had never been here before and I relied on a topo map with scribbled notes from an earlier ascent by friends.

She reluctantly follows as we leave the established trail at Monarch Lakes to ascend the cross-country route over the 12,000' peak.  The steep granite slabs quickly begin to drain our energy.  The route is slow and difficult.  Each step is deliberate.  Our packs are heavy, our steps unsteady.  Near the summit, we pause to rest and assess the route before us. The views far below stretch for miles and we spot two mountain lakes; I think the map showed them to be Little Five and Big Five Lakes.

Honestly, I wasn't sure if we could make the first lake before dark.

We didn't have the latest camping gear.  Our backpacks were aluminum with heavy cotton sleeping bags.  We didn't have a full tent.  Our open tube tent was our shelter and the dark clouds concerned me.  The light rain quickly turned into a typical Sierra storm.  Sleep is poor as our tube tent provided a modest relief from the storm.

In the morning, the sky is clear and we quickly dry out our gear.  We fish at the first daylight and catch a few trout.  Denise and I are in awe of the wilderness before us.  The pristine lake warms our souls.  Wilderness and the sound of solitude were deafening.

We continued with our adventurist cross-country trip back to Mineral King via Hands and Knees Pass. The name perfectly describes our grueling descent back into the Mineral King Valley.  The weather had turned bad and our visibility was a mere 10 feet.  I remember setting up our tube tent and heating some hot chocolate, waiting for the weather to improve.  It never did.  We descended hoping to hit Mineral King Valley.

We did make it out!  Reflections.

Those are my thoughts, some fifty years later, as I gaze fondly toward Sawtooth Pass.

Today, we are spending the night at a friend’s rustic cabin in Silver City.  We did hike the 3 1/2 mile Cold Springs Nature Trail absorbing the tranquility of Mineral King Valley from the shimmering aspens to the peaceful mountain stream and an occasional mule deer.

Small steps, big moments, Sawtooth Peak in the background.

We stop for lunch next to the cool East Fork.

Our steps are slow and deliberate. She has made remarkable progress since her stroke on April 29, 2020.  We share a few pictures and memories over Sawtooth Pass.

Dinner at an awesome outdoor restaurant.

Dinner today was a great improvement over a camp dinner years ago.

The Foxglove Cabin at Silver City.

Reading about the history of Mineral King.

Coffee in the serenity of Silver City soothes the soul.

We bid Mineral King Valley, farewell.


  1. Bob, Just read this as I finally had time to sit down and spend some "quality" time at the computer. Brought tears to my eyes as Mineral King was the first place, in 1971, that my dad took me on a backpack trip. It has been my favorite place since. While I never actually went over Sawtooth Pass, I did climb it twice. Once from Glacier Pass to the NW and once from the saddle behind Monarch Lakes. Columbine Lake, Cyclamen, and Spring Lake are spectacular. I enjoyed your stories and photos immensely and your final photo saying "Farewell" was clever. :)

  2. Thanks Jody. Denise and I hiked to Spring Lake on another trip and loved it. Your dad likely inspired me to go backpacking in Mineral King. It takes someone with a keen eye and who hiked those mountains to catch the meaning of “farewell.”