K9 Friendly Alpine Hiking


Introducing Milliken: he is a new addition to our hiking family as of January. He is 6-months old and is a very energetic Labrador. I’m happy to report that he is strong on the trail, doesn’t like to stop, and wants to keep moving forward. We’re working on that, because his human caretakers don’t quite move that fast. He’s athletic.

We recently took him on his first camping adventure to Rock Creek Lake, a popular trout fishing destination where anglers of all ages cast their lines. It was a challenge at first, to say the least. It took some getting used to sleeping in a tent, but by the second night he had learned the drill. It helps to have a full day of hiking to calm him down!

National Parks do not allow dogs on trails, only on developed sites along the road. Any backcountry travel is prohibited. However, National Forests and Wilderness designations (typically) allow dogs. Rock Creak Lake is within Inyo National Forest. The Lakes Valley trail to Morgan Pass, or the Mono Pass to Ruby Lake trail are opportunities to pass into John Muir Wilderness–with a pooch! Of course, it’s best to keep them away from anglers, but it’s easy to find solitude for a dip.

We bought the red Olly Dog pack from The Clymb, and unfortunately I can’t seem to find a retailer who has it in stock, all sold out. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from.

When camping with your dog, a fun alternative to developed campgrounds is “dispersed camping” and the term only applies to USDA regulated National Forests. You can pull off a dirt forest road, park and make camp in the woods off of the road and pay no fee. This can be done in conjunction with a fire permit, where allowed. This certainly is not always the case all of the time so pay attention to signage, but generally dispersed camping can provide privacy and a unique camping experience. Adventure Pass may apply. Just follow all posted rules and be educated.

Franklin Lakes – Mineral King Valley, Sequoia NP


The trail to Franklin Lakes wanders through meadows and over streams, up the slopes of impressive peaks and into an alpine bowl. It is easily achieved in a day and most travel beyond Franklin Pass as a portal, but the lake itself makes a nice place to camp.

Basic Info:

Franklin Lakes at EveryTrail

Trip Report

Mineral King Valley in early spring is an inspiring place, yet the season makes it fantastically unpredictable. We drove there late on a Friday night, a 30% chance of snow showers forecasted. When our headlights washed over the base of Mineral King Road, well past midnight, the skies were clear and the stars were twinkling brightly. An hour later, we encountered heavy snow when we pulled into Atwell Mill and made camp in the cold night. By dawn, the tent lay under a heavy blanket of snow. Higher up, the ranger station was seeing more snow, with reports of hikers turning back. The weather curtailed our plans, and we stayed closer to Atwell Mill for the first day. By late evening, the storm had dissipated and the skies were clear.

Stopping in at the rangers station, we advised them of our change of plans for our permit and planned for one overnight at the lakes. The snow melt was well underway, gorging the rivers with fresh water, although crossings were still easily negotiated under these conditions. Having the night and subsequent day to acclimate had done us a favor for our push to the lakes. We felt good and the wind was at our backs. From the bottom of Mineral King Valley, meadows ramp up the sides of Vandever Mountain, Farewell Gap and beyond.

After several switchbacks and one fork to the left away from Farewell Gap, our group started to feel the burn, but the alpine air proved easy to breathe. The Lower Franklin Lake is situated roughly at 10,000 feet elevation and is dammed at the south end. There is a bear box before the base of the dam, near the stream. Beyond that, the rocks table out above the lake to reveal a spectacle of peaks in a beautiful alpine bowl. This is where we made camp.

The scouting report turned up an enormous boulder to use as a wind break, in case there was a drop in pressure that evening. We set up the tent on a flat spot near its base, and erected our tarp for further protection. The weather seemed to be holding well, as the sun drifted slowly down, excitement grew for the alpine show yet to unfold. As we had our dehydrated dinners on the sandy shores of Lower Franklin, the bowl started to glow. But, as soon as it had started, whispy forms began to grow from the base of the lake, like a ghostly vine growing into the sky. The cloud slowly swelled over the dam and crawled up Florence Peak, until the entire bowl was awash in white. In minutes the scene had vastly changed.

My immediate reaction was to begin preparations for the night. Everyone turned on their headlamps because visibility was severely limited to 10-15 feet. I navigated the hill to a proper distance above the lake and away from our settlement to hang the bear canisters together. We opted to do this instead of the bear box which was too far away. I managed to launch the line over a good branch to hang them. Not long after I had found my way back to camp, the whiteout began to fade.

Slowly, the sun reclaimed the alpine bowl, and it was glorious. The warmth returned with beautiful orange and purple colors, spectrums only seen at upper altitudes. It became obvious that a cloud had flown through the bowl, rather than widespread fog. We enjoyed another half hour or so, and then all over again, the whispy white tails crawled over the dam, like a slow motion swell. Another cloud would rise over the dam and fill the bowl, only to be reclaimed by the alpine sunset. These events happened several times and each was spectacular to witness.

When darkness fell, the clouds ceased to fill the bowl and the night was clear. We made use of the Star Gazer app to gaze on planets and constellations. The night was fairly warm, in the 40′s.

Poison Ivy and Poison Oak Rash Prevention and Treatment


At this point in my hiking career, I constantly suffer from a poison oak or ivy rash. As I write this, I have a nasty scarlet rash on my left forearm. Why should you listen to someone who is chronically plagued by allergic contact dermatitus? Well, it’s far too late for me, but you may still be spared. If you found this page because you’ve been hit too, I am truly sorry for your discomfort. Good news! I found some great natural cures that really seem to be effective in treating the itch and may even cure the rash itself.

Cold Springs Campground and Atwell Mill – Mineral King, Sequoia NP


To think that Disney wanted to build a ski resort in Mineral King… This land is full of wildlife, lofty peaks, mineral rich slopes, alpine lake gems and streams. It is a wonder, untouched. Hikers who want to tackle Sawtooth Pass or go beyond Farewell Gap may find Atwell Mill or Cold Springs Campgrounds to be a good home base.

Beginners Guide To Gold Panning and Prospecting


Once upon a time, a universe full of supernovae expelled their heavenly contents into the vast cosmos. This intense energy radiated new elements to distant worlds, including our own. One element in particular has driven man to abandon comfort in search of destiny.

Originating from the hearts of stars, this element is thought not to have formed on our Earth. Aeons of cosmic chemistry seeded our planet with this wonder. It has caused great strife to our human condition, unlocking the Pandora’s Box of our greed. Its shiny metallic structure is highly malleable, conductive, and non-reactive, often occurring in nature in its most basic form. It has served as a universal currency for thousands of years.


Summit Lake from Shake Camp – Mountain Home State Forest & Golden Trout Wilderness


Sanctuary to sequoia and redwood groves, Mountain Home State Forest is an often overlooked tour of the lower lying Sierra’s. The trout are abundant in North Fork Middle Fork Tule River and in surrounding creeks. This area was favored by natives during the summer to escape the heat of the San Joaquin Valley. Crossing into Golden Trout Wilderness, beautiful long meadows open into an expanse of green. Summit Lake is within Sequoia National Park (a different permit system), but is very close to the border of Golden Trout.

Death of the Adventure Pass


There has been a long-winded legal battle that has been raging since the inception of the National Forest’s Adventure Pass program, and now it appears that opponents to the program have won. A ruling by the 9th Circuit Court forces the Forest Service to drastically scale back the fee areas, ending a stream of revenue that has benefitted National Forests since 1997.

Although signage throughout certain areas state that a fee is required to park, the fees have always been under “voluntary compliance,” meaning you could park without a pass and not pay the ticket left on your windshield. The decision by the 9th Circuit ruled that the fees were in violation of the 2004 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.

Opponents say that the fees prevent poor families from entering the forests, and that the fees are a form of double taxation, since tax payers have paid for the land already. Some have questioned how the revenue is managed, pointing to a 4% annual increase of revenue that leaves the forests and goes to Washington.

A 2005 article from the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club outlines some of their criticisms of the fee program, including how the fees subsidize mining and logging.

Further reading:
LA Times article

The Clymb – The Gear You Need, Member-Only Prices


If you are not already a member, join The Clymb for up to 70% off retail pricing on outdoor items. I’ve been a member for several months, and it is one of the email newsletters that I actually allow in my inbox. Deals are posted every week and they don’t last long, but you have a great chance at snagging gear very inexpensively. They also have an invitation incentive program, so you can earn store credit for telling your friends. ¬†Full disclosure: I will receive a benefit if you click my link above, sign-up, and make a purchase. Thanks for helping Red Tail Trails bring you unbiased gear reviews.

Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter Review


A clean water source is an essential ingredient for extended trips, and it’s best not to carry large amounts of water in your pack. Having a water filter can extend your range, depending on the geography, for many days. It is a vital component to backpackers and outdoorsmen. I was able to use the Katadyn Hiker Pro at Sykes Hot Springs¬†before I bought one, thanks to a friendly pair of hikers who helped me out. It was August and I drank a gallon of water on the 10 mile hike to the hot springs. Unfortunately, that was all the water I had. I knew I could boil, but I met a father and son who had the filter.

North Dome – Yosemite


Escape the crowds in Yosemite Valley by reaching North Dome, with spectacular 360 views of Half Dome, Illilouette Falls, the Merced River, and distant peaks. An easy day hike or overnight, this trip is a nice escape from tour buses and throngs of people. This trail leads to an amazing vantage over most of the valley. Don’t leave Yosemite without experiencing North Dome.

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