With the deep snows of winter still lingering, I have been spending my backpacking time on the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which generally follows the ridge lines around the San Francisco Bay. There are 375 miles completed of an eventual 550 or so, and I’ve done about 64%.
My first trip to the Granite Chief will be July 15, and I’ll have some information on trail conditions at the end of that trip. The best source of trail conditions I could find is the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s Current Trail Conditions page. Though the TRT only edges the Granite Chief Wilderness, the elevations are similar and trail conditions might therefore be similar.
If you, dear readers, have anything to report, please either comment on this post or send me an email (email@example.com). Since I’m out backpacking elsewhere, I might not get to posting for you for a few days, so better to comment directly, but whatever works for you works for me.
I have not been on all the trails yet this season, but will report on ones I have been. The PCT is in good condition; the Granite Chief Trail is in good condition; Five Lakes Creek Trail is in decent condition, some down trees but nothing that can’t be bypassed; the Powderhorn Trail is becoming quite brushy and though I did some work here, there are many days left to do, and there is a tangle of down trees about 2/3 of the way from the top that could not be bypassed by horses due to the terrain; Western States Trail is in decent condition from Whiskey Creek Camp to the saddle, with some brushy sections and some down trees, but the section just below the saddle dropping into Picayune Vally is a mess of down trees and the trail hard to follow; the lower section of Western States in Picayune Valley has had some trail maintenance and is in good condition.
Dan McGee commented on the Shanks Cove Trail on the Trails and Maps post. I think I had reported the issues with that trail, but now can’t find it, and it certainly was not on the Trails page. A number of years ago there was a significant downfall of huge red fir trees in the gully just past the small seasonal drainage south of the Western States Trail junction. This has never been cleared, and has gotten worse by the year. As a result, the whole trail is becoming less used, and is brushy and obscure in other places. I don’t have anything to report about the south section of the trail, from Greyhorse Trail down to Five Lakes Creek Trail, but will after my next trip. Unless you are good at route finding and enjoy clambering up and down over huge trees, this is a section to avoid until the Forest Service clears the trail again.
Water is still moderately plentiful at the normal spots in the backcountry, however, the lower elevations are getting really dry and the higher elevations will dry soon. By the end of the season, I’d expect only the largest and most reliable sources to be running.
As always, your trip reports and trail condition comments are welcome. I no longer am able to get in early in the season and review all the trails, so I and others depend on YOU passing along information.
People have been asking me about snow conditions in the Granite Chief, and I’m sorry to say I don’t have any information for you. I will be going in on a backpack trip Monday, July 3, and may have a chance to post briefly while I’m on that trip (there is some cell reception from the crest, though none in the rest of the wilderness), but if not, then at the end of the trip about July 11.
If you have information, or trip reports, please share them by replying to this post. If you had an approved comment in the past, your comment will go up immediately, if not, I have to approve it, but again, may be able to do that when I’m on the crest. If there is still a lot of snow up high, I’ll head down into the Five Lakes Creek basin, where the bears have never heard of cell phones.
I went backpacking this last week along two sections of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, in part because I figured there was still a lot of snow in the Granite Chief. But a week of very warm weather may have opened up some of the trails, and I’m anxious to get into the high country.
I’ve had two backpacks this year doing trail maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail through the Granite Chief Wilderness. Since almost all my time was up on the PCT, I don’t have anything to report about the rest of the wildneress, but since I have two more backpack trips coming up, will have a report on much if not all of the trail system.
I brushed from Granite Chief trail on the north to Five Lakes Creek in the middle, and the trail is in good condition except for a short 0.1 mile part between Whiskey Creek Camp trail and Five Lakes trail that I didn’t get done, though it is not bad. I also did the Whiskey Creek Camp trail since it was getting a bit brushy. While in this area I spent some time exploring around Five Lakes Creek and Whiskey Creek, looking for the old trails that were there before the new PCT alignment was completed. In some places these old trails are easy to follow, but no always. I still think there is a trail on the south side of Five Lakes Creek to Big Spring Meadow, but so far I haven’t located it.
On the second trip I focused on the PCT north from the PCT/TRT trail junction near Twin Peaks. There are several sections here that are very brushy, and a few that are essentially closed in. I got all but one of these opened up again, to a point where they should be OK for about five years. But there is one very brushy section that I did not get to, and will be very bad by next year. It is about 0.2 miles. I did spot brushing on the remainder, and it is in decent shape but could use work. I think this year I accomplished what I have not in several years, keeping up with the rate of brush growth, though not gaining on it, which is why there are some badly brushed-in sections left. Next year perhaps I’ll get those last very brushy parts done, and be “caught up” at least for a couple of years.
PCT trail before brushing, overgrown with tobacco brush
PCT trail after brushing, cleared to five-year width
One of my purposes of my Picayune Valley and Shanks Cove trip earlier this year was to create GPS tracks for the Western States and Shanks Cove trails. In the area of the saddle between the Five Lakes Creek basin and Picayune Valley, the trail alignment shown on the National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps is incorrect. It turns out, now that Trimble Outdoors has added National Forest roads and trails as an available overlay in MyTopo Maps, that the Forest Service base maps are incorrect.
Dan Lutz, Assistant Recreation Officer for Trails and Wilderness for the Truckee Ranger District of Tahoe National Forest, sent this trail maintenance information on August 4:
Glad to hear you were out in the wilderness and noticed the hard work the crews have put in there so far. We have had a couple crews go in there – one was a fire crew we try to go in there together annually. They help us out logging out the trails as they work on some training exercises. We get alot of work completed with this 10-person crew for 4 days. They were in Big Springs area and working north-south and then also the Shanks Cove trail. Additionally, we had a volunteer group spiked at Diamond Crossing and they worked on the Hellhole trail for about 5-6 days. Lots of maintenance needed there. Then we had our regular trails crew on the northern portion of the PCT from Squaw to Five Lakes.