Tag Archives: PCT

finally!

My latest trip was primarily for trail maintenance on the PCT, and after  11 years, I feel caught up. I removed the last brushed-in section, between what I call Two Towers (Lord of the Rings reference) and Twin Peaks. Of course in order to get done, I had to accept many places that could use brushing, and leave them for the future. In particular, the pine mat manzanita and sagebrush is pushing into the trail and narrowing the tread. It isn’t hard to clear, but is a lot of detailed work that I’ve often put off “for next year.”

The reason I pick this part of the PCT to work on every year is not just that it needs brushing, but that I so love spending time on this ridge. The views east are spectacular, over Lake Tahoe and the weather over the Carson Range, often thunderstorms developing when the main crest is clear. The views west are intriguing, down into the wilderness, where the real wilderness is, and beyond, to the coast ranges. When the valley air is clear, not often, the details of the coast range and Bay Area are clear, and at night the lights in the valley, kind of neat at a distance. Usually thunderstorms develop over Nevada, the Carson Range, and sometimes move west to the crest, but on Wednesday moisture coming from the west developed some thunderheads, thunder, and light rain for a half hour, while the Carson Range was mostly clear. 

When there is snow on the ridge, usually in banks on the east just below the ridge where it gets blown during the winter in strong winds, I can melt snow and stay up here for many days. I use my black Jetboil pot to melt, and I can keep up with my daily use if I stay on top of the melting. 

I went in on the Granite Chief Trail from Squaw Valley, which has a few trees down but easy to get around, then south along the PCT. Granite Chief saddle has a lot of snow on the north side, but the route is not hard to find. People southbound rarely have problems here, but many northbound hikers drop too far down into Shirley Canyon and have a hard time finding the trail again. The trail from the saddle south to the TRT/PCT junction is in good condition, a few tress down but surprisingly few, some trail erosion but not bad. 

I hiked out the TRT to Tahoe City, so don’t have anything to report about the TRT/PCT south to Barker Pass, but I’d guess many snow banks but no big issues. Other than snow banks on the upper portion, the TRT trail down into Ward Creek and Tahoe City is in good condition, having been logged out already by a TRTA trail crew. 

The PCT thru hikers are out in force, but interestingly, about half were going south, having skipped over the high Sierra to Donner or even Ashland and now heading south to pick up the section with somewhat less snow. Looking into the Desolation Wilderness, however, snow there is still deep and must be much deeper at high elevations to the south. Dicks Pass is 9400, but the highest pass on the PCT is 13,143, Forester Pass. There were people who had come through the high Sierra headed north, but I have to say that they all looked beat and not very happy. I think the route flippers were much happier. 

The next big project on my list, for next year, is to work on the Powderhorn Trail. If anyone hikes that and has conditions to report, please do so. I think the middle section is in horrible condition, brushed closed in spots, but I haven’t been there in two years, so I’m guessing. 

Photos on Flickr (more later, these are ones from my iPhone which are easy to upload, but I also used my regular camera)

PCT trail maintenance trips

I’ve had two backpacks this year doing trail maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail through the Granite Chief Wilderness. Since almost all my time was up on the PCT, I don’t have anything to report about the rest of the wildneress, but since I have two more backpack trips coming up, will have a report on much if not all of the trail system.

I brushed from Granite Chief trail on the north to Five Lakes Creek in the middle, and the trail is in good condition except for a short 0.1 mile part between Whiskey Creek Camp trail and Five Lakes trail that I didn’t get done, though it is not bad. I also did the Whiskey Creek Camp trail since it was getting a bit brushy. While in this area I spent some time exploring around Five Lakes Creek and Whiskey Creek, looking for the old trails that were there before the new PCT alignment was completed. In some places these old trails are easy to follow, but no always. I still think there is a trail on the south side of Five Lakes Creek to Big Spring Meadow, but so far I haven’t located it.

On the second trip I focused on the PCT north from the PCT/TRT trail junction near Twin Peaks. There are several sections here that are very brushy, and a few that are essentially closed in. I got all but one of these opened up again, to a point where they should be OK for about five years. But there is one very brushy section that I did not get to, and will be very bad by next year. It is about 0.2 miles. I did spot brushing on the remainder, and it is in decent shape but could use work. I think this year I accomplished what I have not in several years, keeping up with the rate of brush growth, though not gaining on it, which is why there are some badly brushed-in sections left. Next year perhaps I’ll get those last very brushy parts done, and be “caught up” at least for a couple of years.

PCT trail before

PCT trail before brushing, overgrown with tobacco brush

PCT trail after

PCT trail after brushing, cleared to five-year width

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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short PCT and brushing

GCW_PCT-ridge-north

north along the PCT across Whiskey Creek basin

A short three-day trip into the Granite Chief Wilderness this week. I went in at Squaw Valley on the Granite Chief Trail, which is the most convenient entry point for me because the TART bus stops a hundred yards from the trailhead. I’m glad to have completed brushing on this trail last year, as it makes for a nice walk. The trail has been logged out, so is in good shape, but there are erosion problems on some of it that make it rocky going. I turned south on the PCT where there is a new trail sign to replace the one that had deteriorated and eventually disappeared. Two small creeks still cross the trail here, but both are small and will probably dry soon.

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First trip

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.

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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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Along the PCT

Powderhorn Canyon from the mesa edge

I had a wonderful five day trip, one of my non-driving trips on which I took the Amtrak to and from Truckee. I walked from Truckee up to and along the Donner Lake Rim Trail, then headed south on the PCT past Donner Pass, Mt. Anderson, the North Fork of the American River (which becomes the Royal Gorge downstream), and into the Granite Chief.

I did some brushing work on the PCT, particularly the section between Five Lakes Creek and Twin Peaks that was completely brushed in four years ago and got me into doing maintenance on the PCT. So the trail is now reasonably clear again, though it needs brushing every year.

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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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