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.
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.