Mariposa County Highpoint Trip Report

Dates: September 1-3, 2007
Author: Brad Young

My daughters and I are trying to get to the highest points of all 58 California counties. There are 56 such highpoints. We've done a bunch to date. My wife often joins us and my father when he can. Dad's 72 and lives in Mariposa. This spring he started pushing me to schedule to do the Mariposa County highpoint this summer.

The high point is 600 feet from the summit of (and 100 feet lower than) Parson's Peak. The county border misses the actual summit by a touch but the easiest way to get to the county highpoint is over the summit, so one gets credit for a Sierra Nevada peak and then a county highpoint. The peak is 12,140 feet or so, the climb no more than a hard hike at class 2.

When dad mentioned doing the peak last spring I read the description in Gary Suttle's book about the county highpoints. It was an 18 mile round trip from the Tuolumne Meadows trailhead to the summit and back. No problem for me, my 12 year old was a cinch. Dad and Tricia (my 5 year old) would be fine if (as planned) we did the trip in 3 days. Tricia is tough - she's done many hikes this year already of 9 miles or more. Also along was our Belgian AFS student Maruschka who's never backpacked and never hiked to the top of a mountain.

We got permits and started on Saturday. My 12 year old Katie carries her own pack, with group food and fuel. No problem for her, since her legs make up almost all of her body. Dad's fine, Maruschka seems good, and Tricia cruises along carrying a small pack with 2 pounds of clothes. Then comes the first trail sign. It makes no sense at all. Two signs show 11.4 miles to Ireland Lake but the peak is well beyond the lake and these signs are inconsistent with a total 18 mile round trip. So the signs must be wrong.

Long hike to Ireland Lake. Tricia and Dad make it but they're tired. No problem for Maruschka. "Legs" seems to make it in 25 steps.

Up the next morning and up to Parson's. If the whole trip is 9 miles one way, proportionally, from the lake to the peak can't be more than a mile. Long mile but I figure it just seems long because of the uphill at a 5 year old's pace. Back to camp by 1:00 PM. Time for me to run up a class four route on Amelia Earhart Peak and back to camp. At Dad's request, we pack up camp and move back down to the river for our last night. Seems like a long hike but we make it to a nice spot near the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne river. Everyone is tired.

Dad wanted to keep the photocopied pages from the highpoints book. I'd never even looked at them since we'd left (and didn't when I copied them, either). So, I handed them over. "Son", he says. "Son, according to this book it's not an 18 mile round trip." I looked at him like he was dumb. Of course it was 18 miles. I knew it since I'd read it. I'd never looked again since I knew what I had read (it's like that with stuff you know - when's the last time you looked up your mom's name?) "Gimme that", I said (yet again I've got to correct the old guy's mistaken reading). I look at the summary from the highpoints book. There it is, clear as day: "round trip 27 miles." Oh.

Well, I guess my 5 year old is pretty tough. In 3 days she did 27 miles all on her own, carrying a pack (except to the summit, which was a 5 mile round trip from the lake, cross country). If Dad gave me half my genes, I may be doing this for a long time to come. And Katie? Well she turned 12 today and I'm wondering how much longer until I'll have to struggle to keep up with her. Maruschka only said "I'm only 18 and that's too young to die", one time (and she's still speaking to me).

Fine trip.