I finally got back into the Granite Chief Wilderness this last week, doing a four day trip out from the Barker Pass Trailhead. The remarkable thing is how much snow there still is in the dense forests and north facing slopes. I spent a lot of time kicking steps in grungy snow, varying from sloppy to rock hard, and got tired of it!
I headed north from Barker Pass to the saddle at Granite Chief Peak, the northern boundary of the wilderness, doing a trail condition survey. There are some trees down here and there, but nothing that can’t be gone over or around. There is light to moderate winter debris. In several places the trail cannot be followed across the snow, though the general trend is clear and it isn’t that hard to pick it up again if you are paying close attention.
I walked out the Tevis Trail to the boundary and past to where the trail meets a primitive dirt road. I took a side trip to the saddle to the north which divides the Middle Fork American River watershed from the North Fork watershed. I then headed down the dirt road to Talbot Campground. This road is now used mostly by quad vehicles, and some parts are so brushed in a regular 4WD would be squeezed. The road is long and not very interesting, but at least it connects together the Tevis and Picayune trails. I then headed back in the Picayune Valley Trail (as I call it, it has differing names on differing maps). The Middle Fork of the American was in flood, and I had to cross it on a log well downstream and then fight the brush back to the trail. It is amazing to see this river, which was a very small creek the last time I saw it in 2008, roaring down the canyon and filling all the channels.
I camped up on the glacially carved rock bench where Picayune Creek comes down through a series of pools and waterfalls. It was also in flood, so I picked a place way up metamorphic rocks to the east to sleep, so I could get some sleep. That day and the next I spent a lot of time looking at flowers, ferns and rocks. This is one of my favorite places in the Granite Chief, and I’ll keep coming back.
Next day I went over the saddle and down to Whiskey Creek camp, then south along the PCT again and camped up on the ridge. And then the fourth day, out to Barker Pass.