Middle Paradise Valley to John Muir Trail campsite
(17.1 miles, +5,200/-1,500 feet).
Today was the least enjoyable day of the trip, but I’m happy to report that it ended on a high note.
We started from camp early, hoping to beat the heat and the bugs. We beat neither! By 8am it was buggy and steamy.
We got nice breaks now and then as we followed the Kings River down towards the junction to Road’s End, like a water stop at Mist Falls.
The bug nets worked pretty well, though, so we were able to enjoy the lower altitude ecosystem and its dense foliage.
Pretty soon, we made it back to the same bridge we crossed with our kids two years ago on a day hike from Road’s End.
The rest of the day would be a climb for us, up from our lowest point at 5,120 feet. We crossed over a series of bridges to make our way up to the Cedar Grove Trail.
We passed some hikers who also had bug nets on. We asked them “Does it get worse?” They said “Instead of Bubbs Creek, they should call it BUGS Creek!” So we planned to take a break on a bug-free set of switchbacks that took us far from the river. It was a good plan! We had peace and an extraordinary view of Kings Canyon.
As the day heated up, we saw tons of lizards.
And the higher we got, the dryer it got as well. Soon the midges and mosquitoes were gone, but we did have to contend with a few Yellow Jackets.
One reward (of many) for enduring the bugs and the heat was a feast of wild berries, right by the trail. We picked as we hiked and they were delicious!
The trail continued to go back and forth to the river, passing through large areas of ferns in the wetter areas that were havens for mosquitoes. I really grew an aversion to ferns on this trip!
Mid day we found a nice campsite to set up the tent and take a nap. It was lovely! We then hit the trail and by about 3:30pm we made it to Junction Meadow at 8,170 feet.
We had a pretty steep climb up from the meadow and soon were back in dry chaparral.
Around 5pm we spotted a deer on the trail. It backtracked, but found a place to graze nearby where we could see it as we passed.
Although the wildflower bloom was already done down below, they continued to bloom once we got back to a high enough elevation.
Around 5:30pm we found a secluded spot to rest and make dinner.
After dinner we joined with the Pacific Crest Trail (my first time on this little section!) and climbed another few hundred feet to a campsite near a crossing with the Bullfrog Lake outlet creek. We couldn’t believe what an amazing spot it was. Although mosquitoes still swarmed by the creek, 100 feet away there were beautiful bug-free flat spots on a ridge to set up our tent and enjoy the sunset views towards East Vidette mountain to the south. This might be my favorite campsite ever!