My second trip of the season was in at Alpine Meadows trailhead, past Five Lakes, and camping near Whiskey Creek Camp. I did some brushing and winter debris removal on the Whiskey Creek Camp trail, and then headed down Five Lakes Creek trail. This trail is worse by the year, more down trees. Though backpackers can climb over or walk around all of the trees, not so for equestrians, because going around the down trees leads into thickets of down trees. I think this trail has to be considered closed to equestrians now, and will be, until and if the Forest Service eventually logs out the trail. I have given up on this trail, not doing any trail work on it. This is ironic since I’ve spent so much time working on the Hell Hole trail, for which the Five Lakes Creek trail was once the main access point. My trail work is brushing and winter debris removal. I have no capability to cut out down trees over about six inches.
I camped near Five Lakes Creek below Diamond Crossing, where the creek pools below riffles. A beautiful spot to spend time. The next two days I worked on the Powderhorn trail, clearing winter debris, very heavy in spots, and cutting brush, not too bad but growing into the trail. Much of the trail has abundant white fir and red fir reproduction, so there are sprouts everywhere along the trail. A few of these will live, and crowd the trail, so I remove them when I can, keeping the trail corridor open. If I let them go, many grow to a point, and then die, leaning into the trail with what I call spars, waiting to rip clothing or skin. It is a lot of work pulling up young sprouts, nipping older sprouts, and fanno sawing young trees. My work only cleared about a half mile of trail, leaving a lot of trailwork for future trips.
The Powderhorn trail is similarly no longer accessible to equestrians. Though there are fewer trees, and easier bypasses than the Five Lake Creek trail, one down tree has no safe bypass. In the past an equestrian group went into Big Spring Meadows every year via the Powderhorn trail, and cut downed trees on their way in, but that group seems to have given up on the trips as more and more trees have come down.
It saddens me that the Forest Service has given up on keeping trails logged out and open. I realized they are being almost forced by political concerns to spend nearly the entire budget on fire fighting (meaning fire suppression). Years of fire suppression have left overly dense forests, and so the agency thinks it must continue to suppress fires. Of course, with fire, the question is not IF an area will burn, but WHEN. The Granite Chief Wilderness has overly dense forests, waiting for ignition. Of course the forest is gradually thinning itself in a natural way as large numbers of trees die off. But this will leave trails littered with down trees, and difficult to use or even unusable.
After the trailwork, I headed out the Powderhorn trail, walked the road to Barker Pass and went back in on the PCT/Tahoe Rim Trail, camping near the PCT/TRT junction on the crest. The last day I walked out the Tahoe Rim Trail to Ward Creek, which is being maintained and is in good condition. I walked out Ward Creek to the west shore and caught the bus into Tahoe City. Though I enjoy the Page Meadows section of the TRT in the spring with wildflowers and in the fall with aspens colors, it is boring during the summer.
- Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720301364503
- Granite Chief collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157637640215275