Category Archives: background

GaiaGPS maps, and website

I finally finished the project of placing the trails, junctions, and trailhead GPS data for Granite Chief on GaiaGPS. This is my platform of choice, selected after evaluating about 10 possible options, but if you use another, you can download the gpx files and put them into your own.

To view the trail, junction, and trailhead data, go to You can turn on or off (hide) the various elements, change focus, and, if you are a member, overlay and intermix a large number of base map layers. To be honest, GaiaGPS carries through some display elements even when the creator logs out, so I’m not sure exactly what you will see when you go there. Please let me know if you have comments or questions. The element ‘Granite Chief Wilderness’ is the new boundary of the wilderness, after the additions that resulted from the American River Conservancy purchase and restoration of timberlands in the northwest corner.

The trail maps and junction descriptions have been removed from this website in order to reduce the number of things I need to maintain. The trailheads page is still there. You will also see a page specific to the McKinstry Trail, which is the one trail or route that I have not yet been able to get a GPS track for. Maybe this year! I also created a new category of trail, a route, shown in yellow. These are old trails that used to be maintained but no longer are, and have deteriorated to the point where they require higher level route finding skills to use. I don’t want to discard them, but also don’t want anyone to get the impression that they are trails for average users.

This is the key to the map, which unfortunately GaiaGPS can’t display:

  • red = Pacific Crest Trail
  • purple = other trails within the wilderness
  • orange = access trails which are outside the wilderness
  • yellow = routes; these were formerly trails, but are now unmaintained and difficult to follow, and should be used only by people with a high level of trail finding skill
  • black = access roads (Barker Pass Rd)

I also dropped the Conditions page, as it was very out of date. The blog posts serve to share information about trail and snow conditions, to the degree I have the information, and I encourage users of the wildnerness and this blog to comment there.

All in all, hoping to be useful to you while making it easier for me to maintain the blog/website. Just like you, I’d rather be out there!

new wilderness boundary

The Granite Chief Wilderness was expanded in the northwest by a purchase of both logged and unlogged watershed lands by the American River Conservancy. Some of these lands were added to the wilderness, some are undergoing restoration. The wilderness is now about 115 km2 ( about 28,374 acres), an addition of 11 km2 (about 2800 acres) to the original 104 km2 (25,680 acres). These areal measurements are approximate.

The map below shows this new boundary, which can be accessed at The outline came from an official USDA Forest Service geodatabase. This area and map is part of my long term project of getting all the trails mapped via tracing or tracks, and providing that info to you.

No Forest Service information

Tahoe National Forest, USDA Forest Service, has removed almost all information about the Granite Chief Wilderness from their website. There is one paragraph on their Special Places page, and that is all. Even that paragraph is incorrect. The wilderness includes the headwaters of the Middle Fork American River, not the North Fork. The map, description, and trailhead information is all gone. I suppose I should take it as a compliment that apparently they think my website is all you need to know, but still, it is a disappointment to see a public agency removing information rather than adding it.

Granite Chief Wilderness Campaign

The American River Conservancy has started the Granite Chief Wilderness Campaign to protect 10,000 acres of land on the west and north sides of the Granite Chief Wilderness.

The lands are currently privately owned, mostly by a logging company. The parcels include headwaters of the North Fork American River and Middle Fork American River. Since some of the parcels are immediately adjacent to the existing wilderness, they could be automatically added to the wilderness.

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back to Flickr

I’ve moved my photos back to Flickr. Google made PicasaWeb progressively harder to use and less useful, as it removed capabilities and pushed people onto Google+, the social service. I have fixed all the photo links on blog posts.

My Granite Chief Wilderness collection is at In addition to the sets in this collection, two additional trips include a portion in the Granite Chief: Pacific Crest 2008-07 and Western States Trail 2012-07.

back to WordPress

I have moved all the information from to this blog. The website had a certain elegance of organization and design that are not possible on a hosted blog, but it will be easier for me to maintain. There may be some missing pieces and broken links, and if you notice anything, please let me know. The domain will now redirect to this blog.

These changes are to make it easier for me to maintain the information in a timely manner. I expect to be backpacking most of this coming summer, with only brief visits to town for a shower and resupply, so I need to be able to quickly update the blog without spending time on it.

Cairns and ducks

I have some strong feelings about cairns and ducks along trails. Cairns are large piles of rocks, and ducks are small piles of rock (three or so), both meant to mark trails or routes that may be difficult to follow without them. The problem is, they are often put in place by people who are either partially or completely lost. I don’t understand the psychology of building rock piles just at the time when you are becoming unsure that you know where you are, but I have years of experience with rock piles to say that is exactly what happens.

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map in Topo! Explorer

I’ve finally transferred the information in a National Geographic Topo! file to Topo! Explorer online. I was waiting for National Geographic to update the Topo! Explorer desktop software to solve a number of usability and accuracy problems, but this has not happened in many months, and I suspect they have abandoned software development. Nevertheless, the interactive online version may be of some use to you, so I’ve shared it through Topo! Explorer online, at

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.

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.