Tag Archives: Middle Fork American River

Granite Chief 2016-08

Note: this trip is LAST year, 2016, which I never got around to finishing, but here it is now. I like to post on every trip, in part so that I myself can keep track of trips and where I went. 

A dry year, dogbane turns color early

I went in at Squaw Valley (bus stop) and up Granite Chief Trail to Granite Chief saddle  where I camped for the night. The next day I walked out the Tevis Cup Trail and what I call the Tevis Cup Connector, one of the old Western States Trail alignments. Tevis Cup is easy to follow and has great views, but the trail itself is unpleasant,  climbing and descending repeatedly for no good reason, and poorly maintained. The end of the trail has been re-aligned off a gravel road onto a trail that goes past old ranch or FS buildings (not sure which), but ends at the same green gate as the old route. The Tevis Cup Connector is faded and jhard to follow in some places, as it descends and crosses the Middle Fork American River and then climbs to join the Tevis Cup. 

I headed south on the PCT, doing some spot brushing along the way, and continued to Barker Pass, to Powderhorn Trail and back into the wilderness. Powderhorn is in decent shape on the upper third and lower third, but almost completely brushed in in the middle third, with whitethorn and doghair fir. I camped at Diamond Crossing, explored Bear Pen trail which I’d not beeen on in several years. It is in decent shape, not too hard to follow, but where it crosses Bear Pen Creek before the meadow, eroded banks make it necessary to climb down and back up, awkward with a pack. 

Some sort of bee or wasp is incredible abundant, everywhere but particularly along the edges of creeks. Yellow and black striped body, but no fuzziness and no constriction between the thorax and abdomen. Not sure what it is. Also saw a lot of grouse on this trip, at least 40. 

I went out Five Lakes Creek Trail, which has received some logging out, perhaps by the horse trip that comes in once a year to a Big Spring meadow, and then out to the Five Lakes trailhead. And back to Truckee by bus and back home on the train. 

Photos on Flickr; Granite Chief collection

walking the ridges 2014-06

Last week I walked the ridges to the north and south of the Middle Fork American River. I’d looked at these ridges for years, thinking the scenery would be pretty cool, but had never gotten in a trip.

Lyon Peak Ridge, looking west from Granite Chief

Lyon Peak Ridge, looking west from Granite Chief

I went in at the Granite Chief TH in Squaw Valley, and walked the Granite Chief Trail and Pacific Crest Trail to the saddle beside Granite Chief. I walked up over the peak and continued west, past Needle Peak, over Lyon Peak, and on out the ridge to the saddle between Talbot Creek and Soda Springs. Though the ridge is not called Foresthill Divide in this section, it is a topographic extension of that feature that separates the North Fork American River from the Middle Fork. There is a clear use trail from Granite Chief to the saddle above Needle Lake, so I assume the destination for many is the lake. Again, there is a prominent use trail, part on old logging roads, from the Foresthill Divide saddle east on the ridge. But in between, the trail is vague, indicating that not many people walk the entire length. Though it is somewhat rough, there is nothing too challenging. I skipped going up Needle Peak due to the wind. The wind was blowing at least 30 mph the entire day, with gusts to 50 mph, and one gust that knocked me to the ground and prevented me from getting back up was at least 60 mph. The south wind, and the cold that came with it, was not in the forecast. It was an intense day, with the constant roar of wind in my ears and the need to re-balance with every step to keep from falling. And it was exhilarating!

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Granite Chief Wilderness Campaign

The American River Conservancy has started the Granite Chief Wilderness Campaign to protect 10,000 acres of land on the west and north sides of the Granite Chief Wilderness.

The lands are currently privately owned, mostly by a logging company. The parcels include headwaters of the North Fork American River and Middle Fork American River. Since some of the parcels are immediately adjacent to the existing wilderness, they could be automatically added to the wilderness.

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Picayune Valley and Shanks Cove

falls on the MIddle Fork American River

falls on the MIddle Fork American River

My first trip of 2013 in the Granite Chief did not come until past mid-July. This is despite the fact that with the early and mild winter, I could probably have started backpacking in May. But my life if busy.

I headed in at Alpine Meadows Trailhead, and walked over the saddle to Whiskey Creek Camp the first night. I’m amazed going in here how many people there are day hiking on this trail, even late into the evening. I’ve heard that busy summer days see 5000 people on this trail, almost all of them dayhikers and only a few backpackers. No one was at Whiskey Creek Camp, even though it was a Saturday night in mid-season.

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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.

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Finally back in the wilderness

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.

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