jetstream clouds at sunset
I did my first trip through the wilderness June 24-27. How much difference a year makes! Last year, a month later, I was crossing regular patches of snow on the trail, and sometimes walking on snow for long distances, but this year I only crossed a couple of patches. Last year the creeks were so high that they were difficult or impossible to cross, this year all were easily crossed.
I went in at Granite Chief Trail, and did an afternoon’s work brushing the trail, and then much of the next day. I’ve completed the portion to about half way up where the trail crosses a creek near a mules ears meadow. Probably another day’s work yet to do to finish it off to the top. Huckleberry oak, white thorn, and pine mat manzanita have died back in a number of places along the trail. Is it from too much snow last year, or too little this year, or some other reason? I camped out on a granite ledge that hangs over Squaw Creek canyon, but slept very little with the wind howling all night.
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.
snow on the trail at the wilderness boundary
On two short backpack trips from June 11 to 16, I surveyed the PCT from Barker Pass to Tinkers Knob. About half the trail was snow covered at the time, so I can’t say too much about tread conditions, but I did record the downed trees, of which there are a moderate number, some from last year (or several years ago in one case), and some from this year. Since over a month has passed since these trips, I won’t post the details about snow and trail conditions because they have changed.
There is a sign at the junction of the PCT and what I call the Western States Trail that says Tevis Trail and points at an angle for the trail departing to the west. I don’t remember seeing this sign before, thought it is well weathered, so perhaps it was on the ground and only recently placed back on a post. I still think this trail should be called Western States Trail since it seems to be the most common route of that trail over the years. The course for both the horse and running races has changed many times over the years.
Since the road to Barker Pass was still closed by snow, I walked up the 4WD road and back down the paved road. Once was enough, for both.
2009-06-11 to 2009-06-16
photos on Flickr
I had an interesting trip through the Granite Chief and surrounding areas last week, starting at Barker Pass and coming back to it after some wild times through the Rubicon River drainage, Hell Hole Trail, and Bear Pen.
I started at Barker Pass, walked south along the PCT/TRT to Miller Creek, and then headed west on the Rubicon “trail” which is an OHV trail. I’d heard about this trail for years, but had avoided it, and certainly never driven it since I have only a passenger car. I actually enjoyed the people I talked to along the way. Hiking up out of the Rubicon River, the OHV trail gets worse and worse, but the traffic seems to stay low and the people friendly and responsible. From Buck Island Lake north, closer to “civilization,” however, the people get worse and worse. More trash, more blaring music, more frowns, more toilet paper everywhere, more transmission fluid on the ground, fewer Jeeps and more breakdowns. I was glad to leave the OHV trail and head north along a logging road. Of course on that road there where whining crotch rockets, zooming up and down, for entertainment value. It is interesting to see when things cross over from people who use their vehicles, of whatever sort, to access nature, and when they use them simply for entertainment and could care less about nature.