Had another wonderful five day backpack in the Granite Chief last week. A lot of the trip was just re-visiting places I’d been before, some of them not in several years though.
As a new trip I went to Little Needle Lake which I’d heard other people mention but not been to. It is a shallow, alder and willow bordered lake in the volcanic rock below Little Needle Peak. It is a pretty setting, with soggy wet meadows surrounding the lake and a spectacular cliff above. The route is is a vague trail, and there are some seldom used campsites at the lake. To avoid the thick mosquitos at the lake, I camped to the north on a granite bench, where there were some really cool trees and a great view of the end of the day down the Middle Fork American River canyon. The next day I headed up onto the ridge and south, following the divide between Picayune Valley and Five Lake Creek, eventually reconnecting to the Picayune Valley trail a little east of where it climbs out of Picayune Valley. The ridge does not have a trail, but the going was pretty easy, with great views and a different perspective than I’ve gotten elsewhere.
I had a wonderful five day trip, one of my non-driving trips on which I took the Amtrak to and from Truckee. I walked from Truckee up to and along the Donner Lake Rim Trail, then headed south on the PCT past Donner Pass, Mt. Anderson, the North Fork of the American River (which becomes the Royal Gorge downstream), and into the Granite Chief.
I did some brushing work on the PCT, particularly the section between Five Lakes Creek and Twin Peaks that was completely brushed in four years ago and got me into doing maintenance on the PCT. So the trail is now reasonably clear again, though it needs brushing every year.
Middle Fork of the American River at Picayune Trail crossing
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.