Monthly Archives: August 2008

Website for Granite Chief Wilderness

After some experience with this WordPress blog, I’ve realized that some kinds of information would be better and more easily presented on a regular website, so I’ve created one at Check the links in the right hand column under Companion Website. For now, the Trail Conditions and Water pages will be available in both places. Resources have been moved to the website.

Granite Chief Trail 2008-08-24

Squaw Creek meadow and Granite Chief

For the first time, I hiked up the Granite Chief Trail which links Squaw Valley with the Pacific Crest Trail just north of the wilderness. I went on to the top of Granite Chief at 9006 feet, with a clear view in all directions.

The trail starts literally at the right side of the main fire station in Squaw Valley, which is just north of where the main road turns left towards The Village. There is a traditional Granite Chief Wilderness information sign, and a Granite Chief Trail sign, but no destination or mileage sign. The trail climbs past a ropes course and then steeply through private property below houses to a dirt road leading left to a large water tank, then becomes a trail again. The trail alternates steep rocky eroded sections with gentle smooth grades, all the way to the crest. I few seeps and creeklets are still flowing in the lower half of the trail. There are two major side trails, unsigned, that take off the trail in the lower half, not that noticeable going up but quite noticeable and confusing coming down. At the first split coming down, the right fork connects to the Squaw Creek – Shirley Lake trail, so take the left to stay on the main trail. At the second split coming down, I didn’t follow out the left fork, but the right is the main trail. When coming down past the water tank, the trail is not marked but leaves the road to the right not far down.

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FH 03 – where was it going?

Last week I explored around the Barker Pass area, including walking out to the west end of Forest Highway 03, which is the Barker Pass Road. The road has a consistent grade and width that indicates it was going somewhere important – but where? It wasn’t constructed to these high standards just to pull out a few trees up on the ridge, which was all that was done. I think the road was headed towards Five Lakes Creek drainage, and then on to the mills in Foresthill. There are some really valuable timber resources in Five Lakes Creek, and I think the plan was to grab them and haul them right on down to the mill. Designation of the Granite Chief Wilderness put a stop to the road and to any plans there might have been to cut. Some engineers were probably most unhappy. I’m not sure when this part of FH 03 was constructed. The only clue I have is a culvert under the road on the east side, in Blackwood Creek, that says 1969. The wilderness was designated in 1984, protecting those trees in Five Lakes Creek watershed forever.

Hell Hole & Bear Pen 2008-08-08

Rubicon watershed

Rubicon watershed

I had an interesting trip through the Granite Chief and surrounding areas last week, starting at Barker Pass and coming back to it after some wild times through the Rubicon River drainage, Hell Hole Trail, and Bear Pen.

I started at Barker Pass, walked south along the PCT/TRT to Miller Creek, and then headed west on the Rubicon “trail” which is an OHV trail. I’d heard about this trail for years, but had avoided it, and certainly never driven it since I have only a passenger car. I actually enjoyed the people I talked to along the way. Hiking up out of the Rubicon River, the OHV trail gets worse and worse, but the traffic seems to stay low and the people friendly and responsible. From Buck Island Lake north, closer to “civilization,” however, the people get worse and worse. More trash, more blaring music, more frowns, more toilet paper everywhere, more transmission fluid on the ground, fewer Jeeps and more breakdowns. I was glad to leave the OHV trail and head north along a logging road. Of course on that road there where whining crotch rockets, zooming up and down, for entertainment value. It is interesting to see when things cross over from people who use their vehicles, of whatever sort, to access nature, and when they use them simply for entertainment and could care less about nature.

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There are some sources of information about the Granite Chief Wilderness online, but they are all missing something, so I’ll do my part to contribute those missing parts. Though I’ve spent a lot of time in the wilderness over the last four years, much of it has been on the PCT, and I’ve not (yet!) even seen all the trails.

The Granite Chief Wilderness was established in 1984 as part of the California Wilderness Act. It is about 25,000 acres, and almost entirely in the headwaters watershed of the Middle Fork of the American River (and the Rubicon River, which flows into the Middle Fork).