I’m not sure when my blog turned into a travel blog, but I think I may have found what I’ll do as my next career 🙂

I’ve been very fortunate that work has taken me to interesting places, and I am able to jump off and see other interesting places. A few weeks ago I went to Dubai on my way home from Amman Jordan (where I’m working on an ESB project for Microsoft and the Jordanian government). I’m writing this in a taxi as my wife and I head to Petra (Jordan) for the weekend, then I work for another week in Amman before we head off to Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt) where I’ll be doing more scuba diving in the Red Sea, and we’ll be doing a side trip to Cairo for a few days to see the pyramids and Sphinx.

But those are all future posts, this one’s about last week when I went backpacking in the Sierras with my son.

A few years back my daughter and I backpacked out of Mineral King up to Franklin Lake. I was inexperienced so we had far too much stuff, and to make it worse, we had more food than would fit in our bear canisters, so we had no choice, we had to make it to the lake where there were bear boxes. In my naive inexperience, my stretch goal was that we’d keep on going up over Franklin Pass and down to the lakes beyond. The trip up to Franklin Lake almost killed us. We needed a day to recover before we could even day hike up to the pass, and we never went over.

This year, armed with far more backcountry experience, better gear and an irresistible drive to finish what I started, I went back with my son, determined to make it to the other side. And we did.

Here’s the route we took:

If you can’t read a topographical map, this one basically say “ouch”.

The Mineral King valley is just perfect, very picturesque. If I set out to design “the prefect mountain valley”, this would be it. Here’s a picture of me as we’re just starting out:

Then we began the climb up, this is the valley as seen from above (which gives you a great sense of the altitude gain):

We made it up to Franklin Lake in pretty good time, we had lots of daylight left.

People mean different things when they say “camping”. To some it’s “load up the RV”, to others, “roughing it” means a state or national park where they have to line up for showers. For me, it means being as far from other humans as you can, being totally self-reliant, knowing that if you get in trouble you have to also get yourself out. Doing it my way takes you to much more interesting places! Here’s our campsite overlooking Franklin Lake. There was another group (3 people) there that night, but they were far away and we never heard them.

And here’s a view we had from our site. You can see we are almost above the tree line, and notice there’s still snow around (in mid-August)

So, can you drink the water? Sure, but first you have to filter it, which is the hardest part of backpacking. I share the load with my kids though, here’s Steven getting us our supply for the night:

Sometimes there are little surprises in the backcountry. Like a toilet. This one was probably built circa-1900, and has one and half walls still (barely) standing, but…. talk about a throne with a view!

The next day we hiked up to Franklin pass, given us a total altitude gain of some 5,000ft, taking us to 11,700ft, which means hiking with a backpack gets a whole lot more strenuous as the air is quite thin (particularly if you live at sea level like we do). Here’s a view looking back at Franklin Lake, this again, gives you a great sense of the climb we did.

Then, looking over the other side of Franklin pass (roughly east-wards), we see where we’re heading:

For two nights, this was our campsite at Forester. We had the whole lake to ourselves for those 2 days. I saw another group of people in the distance once, but they were just passing through on their way somewhere else. What really struck me about this lake was the silence. It was so absolutely quiet.

Here’s another view of “our private lake”:

Here’s a shot of my “little boy” as we were chilling and enjoying our time at Forester:

And me taking a break on the way home:

We had planned to do the trip out in 2 days, but when the sky turned black and the hail started, we thought it would be best to do it all in one shot. That means we had an elevation gain of approx 2,000 feet (topping out at 11,700 feet, where the air is thin), followed by a drop of 5,000 feet (yes, almost a mile of elevation loss, which is really hard on the toes and feet). And all that was over 12 miles, with lightening in the next valley over. At the end of that, we had a 1.5 hour trip (about 25 miles) down a mountain road with 1.5 or so lanes, sometimes dirt road, lots of blind curves and multi-hundred-foot drops. It’s a nerve-wracking drive, which acts as a natural filter as it keeps a lot of people out of the valley 🙂 Then, thanks to various energy drinks and greasy food (pizza tastes incredible after a few nights of dehydrated backpacking food), we made the 6 hour drive home.

It seems I say this after almost every backpacking trip, but, this was the most physically challenging and demanding thing I’ve done in my life. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The aches and pains have faded, but the memories we made will last our lifetimes.

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