Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

The snow stake at the former Mineral King Pack Station (elevation 8,000 feet) has nothing to measure. (Click arrows for additional photos.)One of three webcams in Mineral King that allows viewers to check out the high-country seasons year-round without ever leaving home: www.mk-webcam.net.Sawtooth Peak, elevation 12,343 feet.Farewell Gap, elevation 10,600 feet, flanked by Tulare Peak (left), 11,654 feet, and Vandever Mountain (right), 11,947 feet.The Mineral King Road is closed for the winter 9.5 miles from Highway 198. There is a second locked gate at mile 15. Before venturing up the road, obtain access information from the Foothills Visitor Center at Ash Mountain.Cold Springs Campground.The entrance to Cold Springs Campground with Mineral King Road in the background.Trailhead at Cold Springs Campground.Snowy campsite at Cold Springs Campground.Snowless campsite at Cold Springs Campground.Mineral King Ranger Station.Looking toward Timber Gap (elevation 9,500 feet).Looking toward Timber Gap (elevation 9,500 feet).It’s February, but this high-country trail in Mineral King would be negotiable with snowpack only in the shadiest portions.There is no snow to be seen when looking toward Atwell Mill Campground from Mineral King Road.A view of the Mineral King valley (8,000 feet) looking south to Farewell Gap. Not much snow on the Mineral King Road (elevation 8,000 feet).Not much snow at the Sawtooth Peak / Monarch Lakes trailhead.Not much snow at the Franklin Lake trailhead.Not much snow in the Cabin Cove area.

About the Drought

Wet winter in doubt
Sarah Elliott


The Mineral King Road reaches the highest elevation (just under 8,000 feet) of any highway or byway in the area. So with gate-lock combinations in hand, a Sunday drive was undertaken on February 4 to explore winter in the Sierra, or lack thereof.

The midday temperature at road’s end was almost 70 degrees F. In the shadiest places, snow depth was three inches at most.

Is California re-entering a drought cycle? February and March have the potential for being wet months, but since temperatures this time of year trend upward, each day it is becoming more unlikely that there will be a sustained snowpack except, perhaps, on the highest peaks.

Snow Matters
Sierra snowpack is important to California because when the snow melts, the water runs off and refills the state’s reservoirs. The snowpack provides about one-third of the state’s overall water supply. Because of last winter’s record-setting rains, California’s reservoirs are still relatively full. 
“There’s still a lot of winter left,” said Frank Gehrke, California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program chief snow surveyor. “Anything can happen.”
As of February 1 in the Southern Sierra, the snow pack is 13 percent of the April 1 average and 21 percent of normal for this time of year. In contrast, last year as of February 1, the snow pack was 127 percent of the April 1 average and 198 percent of normal for this time of year.