Tag Archives: Hell Hole Trail

First trip, down Five Lakes Creek

For my first trip of the season, July 4-10, much later than recent years, I headed in at the Five Lakes trailhead and went down Five Lakes Creek. There were only snow patches on the trails, and they would be gone by now. There are a few trees down as far as Whiskey Creek Camp, and a moderate amount of winter debris, the branches that come down over the winter and can be throw off if one has the time. From Whiskey Creek Camp southward, there are more trees and more debris, with the biggest issue being young firs bent over the trail. More snow than usual at these middle elevations bent these trees.

From Diamond Crossing south to Steamboat Creek, there are a lot of trees down, and a lot of winter debris. In fact, this trail segment has become quite difficult to follow. When you leave the trail to go above or below a fallen tree, it is very challenging to see the trail and get back on it, being so covered with debris that it looks just like the rest of the forest floor. If this trail doesn’t receive some maintenance within a couple of years, it is done for. Bears provide a lot of the trail maintenance on these lesser-used trails, and there is evidence that the bears are starting to prefer other, easier routes over the old trail, and if so, that is the beginning of the end. 

All of the named creek crossings were wet ones. Some are probably rock jumps now, but some may still be wet. The snow melt has created tread erosion in a number of places. No surprise. When you combine an almost complete lack of water control structures on the trails with a wetter winter, erosion is the result. 

I spent two days doing maintenance on the lower third of the Powderhorn Trail. The doghair fir is pushing into the trail, so the hiker has to push through it. I cut those back, so the trail is in good condition, with a bypass around one down tree. However, another down tree that can be bypassed by hikers may well be a barrier for equestrians since it is on a steep side slope in a dense forest. The real issues on the Powderhorn are in the middle third section, where doghair fir and whitethorn brush have essentially closed the trail. Though the alder section below the postpile formation has been an issue in the past, I’m guessing that it is still passable. I did not have time to work on the middle third, so good luck if you go there. 

I met a Forest Service wilderness ranger, Nathaniel, on the Five Lakes trail. This is the first time in many years that the Granite Chief has had dedicated staff, so I’m looking forward to more attention being paid. 

The flower show is just developing, with pentstemons, mules ears,and a few others. 

I did not go north or south on the PCT, nor any of the other trails in the wilderness, so have nothing to report on them. As always, I welcome comments from others on trail conditions, creek crossings, and water sources. 

Photos on Flickr

Rubicon & Desolation 2014-08

Big Meadow

Big Meadow

I missed posting about a trip last summer, so here it is. I did not notice until I was catching up on posting photos to my Flickr site that I had an entire trip not yet labeled and uploaded. I must have been waiting until the photos were up before I wrote a post, and then forgot about both.

I went in at Alpine Meadows trailhead, walking up from the TART bus on the highway. There had been thunderstorms during the day, but nothing by the time I got in. There were footprints and a few people between the trailhead and Whiskey Creek Camp, but nothing and no one past there. I camped the first night at Big Meadow, always a favorite campsite.

Continue reading

Through the watersheds

Drummond’s Anemone, near Little Needle Peak

I had a great six day trip through the Granite Chief Wilderness, plus some additional country to the north. I went in at Alpine Meadows Trailhead, and out at Squaw Valley Trailhead, with at least 67 miles in between.

Since some people read this blog for trail conditions: Five Lakes Creek cannot be crossed anywhere downstream of the PCT trail crossing, except on logs. The Middle Fork of the American River cannot be crossed at the Picayune Valley trail crossing, but can on a log downstream. The Five Lakes Creek Trail is mostly clear of snow. Upper Grayhorse Trail, upper Picayune Valley Trail, and upper Granite Chief Trail are largely under snow, but the trails can be followed with attention.

Continue reading

Down in the Rubicon

ridge south of Little Needle Peak

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.

Continue reading

Off-trail explorations 2009-07-16

Washington Lily

On a four day backpack from Barker Pass, I did quite a bit of exploring off trail and on old trails. The snow has really disappeared since I was last in the wilderness in June, with just patches on or close to the trail now. And of course there are a lot more flowers now, except on the ridgelines where the flowers were already great.

I explored Grouse Creek from the PCT down to the Five Lakes Trail. In the upper part I stayed as close to the creek as possible, but in the lower canyon it becomes too difficult to do so, and the bear trail led me out onto the ridge to the northwest, with great views back up Grouse Creek and up and down Five Lakes Creek. Washington lilies were poking up through the manzanita thickets on the ridge, and down along the ridge a number of dry rocky plants were blooming.

Continue reading

Hell Hole & Bear Pen 2008-08-08

Rubicon watershed

Rubicon watershed

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.

Continue reading