The Bridge at Mineral King

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Submitted by Steven Jones, Seal Beach, CA

Ira Jones backpacking in the high Sierras in the 1930s

My father, Ira Jones, was born in Oildale, near Bakersfield in 1907. As a boy, he spent many a summer with his family running cattle into the high meadows of the High Sierra.

I am the third of four brothers. Beginning in the early 1950's, my father and mother would pack us into our 1946 Mercury, and later our 1948 Buick, for a yearly week of camping in Mineral King. Our first trips were to the campground that is now only a memory, just downstream of the cabins on the south side of the river, just below where the old store used to be, that was called "Sunny Point". We would have to walk in front of our car the last 1/4 mile, to watch out for boulders that once cut the oil pan of our engine. Later we would always camp at Cold Springs, after Sunny Point was closed to camping. Each trip to Mineral King always seemed to include a long stop at Atwell to visit Grace Alles.

Our trips continued to well into the 1960's. As I and my brothers became old enough, Dad would take us on long, long day hikes to literally all the surrounding lakes of Mineral King, often returning to camp by flashlight. I remember vividly stumbling down the old Mosquito Lakes trail to Cold Springs Campground, with only one flashlight to light the way for all five of us.

Our hikes were understandably difficult, hand-over-hand to the peaks, and often cross-country between the many lakes, carrying just a small lunch. Afternoon rains would find us huddling under a tree at timberline, until, as it always seemed to do, it let up. We would not carry water, preferring to quench our thirst when we found a stream or a lake.

As we reached our later teens, we would back pack into the Kern, over Sawtooth Pass, Franklin Pass, and Farewell Gap, sometimes even to Independence on the other side of the Sierra. Another feat we accomplished was the entire John Muir trail in 1964.

We became strong men at Mineral King, enduring what I now realize was my father's sort of training for life, making us tough, which lead to self confidence, success at sports, and successful careers.

As a young 15-yr old, I came to my father one evening after dinner at our Southern California home, asking for help in writing a poem for a high school contest. We sat down at the kitchen table until well after midnight, as I watched him author his poem, "The Bridge at Mineral King." At that time, I did not appreciate its meaning, just wanting to get another homework assignment turned it (The poem actually won the contest). However, as I matured, and especially after my father's passing in 2002 at the age of 95, the true meaning of this wonderful poem seemed to surface all on its own.

I now realize why my father wrote this poem in my voice; for me to read after his death, and understand how "the efforts we made to gain the pass, were part of my training, my growing".

The reference to the "Bridge at Mineral King" is the small bridge over the river just down from where the old store once stood, now the Eagle/Mosquito trailhead parking lot.

The Bridge at Mineral King
by Ira Jones 1963
(Written for his son, Steven Jones,
for a 10th grade class assignment)

I paused at the bridge in the turn of the road
and gazed at the torrent beneath.

I went with the waters to the mountains beyond,
and climbed once again in the tree darkened glens.

I climbed with my father in my happiest summers,
when of old we were pals in the time-dimmed past.

I climbed with my father to the snows beyond,
when we struggled for footholds to gain the pass.

We strove together in the face of the storm,
with the lightning and thunder around us.

We gained the pass to the forest beyond,
with its shelters and comforts and warm campfire.

I gazed at the torrent beneath the bridge,
and my mind was strengthened with knowing.

That the efforts we made to gain the pass,
were part of my training, my growing

Steven Jones and son on the bridge at Mineral King
Steven Jones and son on the bridge at Mineral King

 

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