California's Best Kept Secret

by Kelly Crawford on October 20, 2018


“It’s not about the latest gear or the perfect mountain top selfie. It’s about real moments with real people.” ~ Adventure Aide

This is first time sharing a map to a journey that is near and dear to my heart. I am a bit nervous to release such a gem to the general public because it’s lightly visited road is what makes this unfrequented part of paradise so peaceful to me. When I was 20 years old, myself and a dear friend traveled to a land where time stood still. For six days we were caught up in heaven by this little corner of California…the space between the head and the heart; just far enough from the hustle of LA to experience an unadulterated evening sky that is scraped by green, piney giants whispering back and forth.

Settlements in Mineral King Valley

Tucked in the back of Mineral King National Park is heaven on earth. Old settler gold mining cabins are nestled unevenly scattered through the trees of the forest; the oldest cabin I have seen dating as far back as 1879. On each cabin is the last name of the family that founded that homestead; and still maintains it through the generations (if the cabins are not maintained by the family and collapse, the land will forfeit back to the National Park; falling out of the family’s namesake). My favorite building is the post office before the clearing, by the river. In 1965, the possibility of mass exposure threatened this lush, protected landscape when Walt Disney stumbled across this sleeping beauty. Not many remember and few travel this one lane, two hour, un-maintained road to the gates of Yesterland; which is probably what drew Disney to this haven to begin with. Disney fell in love with the fertile mountains, abundant forests and free roaming creatures that called Mineral King their home; but many would argue that his understanding of what made this place beautiful was misplaced. Disney began plans to construct a $35 million dollar Alpine Village Year Round Resort in the heart of Mineral King. Research began and the National Park Service awarded the rights to Disney to begin plans to build; but by 1977 opposition still rang strong and Disney abandoned their efforts; redirecting their budget for the resort to Lake Tahoe.

Mineral King Valley Post Office

To this day, the same inconvenient, janky road that protected this peaceful landscape from millions of visitors still serves as it’s pathway to paradise. Wildlife still roams free, and only a handful of residents reside year round after the pass closes because of the treacherous road.  I would encourage you to take on this landscape and make the journey; it would be a true gift to your soul that will never be regretted…Seeing is believing. Always be sure to check online before making this trek to see what date the pass will close each year.

There any many beauties to behold but take my word for it and ONLY pack the essentials I’ve listed below; taking great care to maintain your base camp. (Like a newb, I made the mistake once of leaving my toothbrush out in my tent which turned into a 3am wrestling match with a poor, unsuspecting black bear). Being that it is untouched and peaceful, wildlife will frequent your path so this trip is not for the faint of heart, nor the ignorant. Educate yourself and take precaution.  Most important of all, be ready to experience the most beautiful gift that California has to offer.  There are countless trails, beautiful flowing rivers and historical gems around every corner. See below for what I pack on a 6 day trip, my favorite campsite and directions on how to get there. While you’re at it, click on the links below and see what this paradise looked like in years passed.

Happy Adventuring! Keep it real,

K.C.

FOOD PACKING LIST

Because the wildlife is abundant in this area, I encourage you to pack light and only items that are completely
sealed and unrefrigerated. Your gear is up to you, but note that this excursion will require you to hike for long
periods of time so pack accordingly and pack for colder nights (not freezing). This will keep you under budget
and allow you more time to pick up and explore.

PRO TIP: BUY YOUR FIREWOOD BEFORE ENTERING THE NATIONAL PARK

Grocery list I pack when I go for 6 days – (5 Nights and 6 Days)
Menu – 6 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 5 Dinners, and Snacks

Kitchen Equipment
1. Jet boiler or kettle safe for fire
2. One metal or carbon fork
3. One metal or carbon spoon
4. One stainless steel bowl or fire safe bowl
5. One stainless steel mug
6. Three travel sized tissue packets
7. Six Ziplock bags (gallon size)
8. Two Gallon of water for cooking
9. Two Gallons of water for drinking

Shopping List (hellooooo Costco!)
1. Cup of Noodle – 24 count
2. Bumblebee Tuna Salad Snackers – 9 count
3. Bumblebee Chicken Snackers – 9 count
4. Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal Individual serving packs – 52 count
5. Kirkland Organic Applesauce pouches -24 count
6. Kirkland Protein Bars – 20 count

Breakfast – Oatmeal
Snacks – Applesauce pouches (2)
Snacks – Protein Bar (2)
Lunch – Tuna or Chicken Salad (1)
Dinner – Cup of Noodle (1)
Keep in mind that you can burn most of these wrappers in the fire pit at the end of the day.


‍*ALWAYS STORE YOUR FOOD IN THE BEAR COOLER; NOT YOUR CAR OR TENT. THAT INCLUDES ALL
SCENTED ITEMS THAT COULD ATTRACT WILDLIFE (TOOTHBRUSH, TOOTHPASTE, ETC…)*

DIRECTIONS AND PRECAUTIONS

Before you go-

  • You will need to bring at least $60 for park entrance fees, campsite fees and unforeseen circumstances
    like buying a piece of pie in town ;)…
  • Fill your tank before you get to Ash Mountain Entrance. Keep there are no gas stations within the
    park boundaries.
  • If you drive a car that has diesel, the last diesel station before Ash Mountain is Valero – 1236 E Houston
    Ave, Visalia, CA 93292 (I always pack two diesel cans in my trunk just in case of emergency on the
    mountain)

Directions to Cold Springs Campground-

  • Head South on California 198-West for about 2.1 miles
  • Turn left on Mineral King Road and continue driving for 23.4 miles. The road is narrow and at times, you
    will come in contact with a car headed the other direction. Drive slow.
  • Turn right off Mineral King Road onto the wood bridge to enter Cold Springs Campground

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