My first trip of 2013 in the Granite Chief did not come until past mid-July. This is despite the fact that with the early and mild winter, I could probably have started backpacking in May. But my life if busy.
I headed in at Alpine Meadows Trailhead, and walked over the saddle to Whiskey Creek Camp the first night. I’m amazed going in here how many people there are day hiking on this trail, even late into the evening. I’ve heard that busy summer days see 5000 people on this trail, almost all of them dayhikers and only a few backpackers. No one was at Whiskey Creek Camp, even though it was a Saturday night in mid-season.
Sunday I walked the Western States trail over the saddle and into Picayune Valley. I dropped my pack at my favorite campsite beside Picayune Creek and walked the rest of the way out to Talbot trailhead in order complete a GPS track of the trail. The alignment shown on maps in not correct – see below for more information. Coming back up I did some off-trail exploration trying to follow Picayune Creek, but the canyon is extremely rugged and I was not able to do much more than dip in and out. I think there may be some slot canyons and high waterfalls down in there, but it would take more detailed and much slower exploration to find out for sure. I returned to the campsite and had a lazy afternoon beside the creek. Because of the unusual south to north alignment of the canyon, the sun goes down very early, fortunate on a hot day, but sunlight stays on the east wall of the canyon for hours. I thought I’ve have a night of brilliant stars, but it clouded up for most of the night.
Monday I headed back to the Shanks Cove trail and followed it around into the basin of Shanks Cove. As the trail climbs out of the basin to the ridge, it is littered with down trees, which make backpacking difficult and would make equestrian use very challenging. Though two horses had worked their way through, ahead of me. Both the Western States and Shanks Cove trails had quite a number of down trees on them, much more than I would have expected after such a mild winter, but it is only this short section in Shanks Cove basin that I found challenging to get around.
From the end of the Shanks Cove trail, I headed up the Five Lake Creek Trail, back to Whiskey Creek Camp, out through Five Lakes to the Alpine Meadows trailhead, and down to a nights camp near River Ranch in order to catch an early bus to Truckee, and the Amtrak California Zephyr train back home.
2013-07-20 to 2013-07-23