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.
The next night I camped up top near the PCT/Granite Chief junction, and experienced howling winds most of the night. The hard to, but not impossible to, stand up in strength, I guess to be about 45 mph. The next day I saw a likely explanation in the clouds – I think a branch of the jet stream was overhead. With the high winds clearing out the air, I was able to see Mt. Lassen from the PCT looking north across Whiskey Creek basin, and to see more of the coast range to the west than is often visible.
I then headed south along the PCT, traversing the wilderness. There is relatively little winter debris (the branches, duff, and pine cones that end up on the trail), a few down trees from last year (though some were cut out), and a few new ones from this year, but nothing dangerous or particularly hard to get around. I saw very few people on the trail, just a few day hikers and through hikers. The trail along the ridge is beginning to brush back in, but I think it can go one more year. The part south of the PCT/TRT junction is unfortunately in serious need of brushing.
I left the trail to go up on the tableland between Bear Pen and Barker Pass. This is a practically unknown world, with great views off the edge into the canyons of the wilderness and outside. A great spot to just let the world go by and watch the end of the day.
The last day I walked out to Barker Pass, then the jeep road down Blackwood Canyon, and then, because the bus was very late, walked all the way back to Tahoe City.
Previous years living in Carson City I sometimes drove up to the trailheads and sometimes took public transportation. Now that I’m in Sacramento and car-free, all of my trips are on public transportation. I take either the Amtrak bus or train up to Truckee, catch the TART bus south to the trailheads, and reverse the whole thing at the end. This extra half day of travel on both ends unfortunately shortens my backpacking time, but it works out.