White Chief Meadow
White Chief Meadow is a popular hiking destination for visitors to Mineral King in Sequoia National Park. Robert and I have hiked there many times. But never in our 64th year.
If you don’t know our story, Robert and I met in the first grade at the neighborhood Catholic grammar school, and we have been in each other’s lives ever since. Going “steady” in the 7th grade, sock-hops in high school, and formals in college – we’ve been life long partners.
During our childhood summers, Robert’s family would spend time at his cabin in Mineral King, and my mom, dad and I would retreat to Crestline, near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains, where my father built a cabin. It wasn’t until we were teenagers that we were allowed to spend time together at each other’s cabins. The first time that I visited Robert’s cabin in the Sequoias, I must have been 18, and my mom and dad came with me. It was very different from our little Crestline home. There was no dining out, no stores, no dishwasher, and none of the creature comforts that my dad was used to. It was the last time that he visited!
But because I knew this was a place that Robert loved, I visited many times after that first time, and came to see why Mineral King had such a special place in Robert’s life. We hiked all over the Mineral King area, and had many delightful adventures: getting stuck in a downpour at White Chief Lake and hiding in a cave, chasing aggressive deer who were charging us to protect their fawns, getting soaking wet as we crossed Franklin Creek in the early spring. Simply too many adventures to recount!
And when we had our own children, we introduced them to Mineral King too, and they have been as drawn to it as we were. I can remember them playing outside, dirt from head to toe, wheeling each other in grandpa’s wheelbarrow, happy as clams.
We took them hiking almost as soon as our youngest could walk, and there was only one rule: don’t complain. Surprisingly, they never did. They trekked along, Mom heading the pack, Dad bringing up the rear, with our three beautiful daughters in between, as we sang the soundtrack from the "Sound of Music" on the trail. Now, this place is part of their DNA, and we are glad that they too can find the peace and joy that we have experienced here in Mineral King.
Yet, despite the many hikes that we have enjoyed, each one is unique, in part because the forest is always different. But also, in part, because we are different. This year, in our 64th year, we hiked again to White Chief Meadow – a 7 ½ mile round trip hike with a 1200 foot elevation gain. It’s steep! We started early, because I don’t do well in the heat (but I NEVER complain) and we ate lunch in the shade of the meadow.
And when we arrived I felt a wave of gratitude. Grateful that I have had this wonderful man beside me all these years, through all these adventures, and grateful that our constitutions have allowed us to once again make it to White Chief Meadow, this pristine wilderness that is somehow never the same, and yet always the same each time that we visit.