Tag Archives: Picayune Valley

Greyhorse Valley report

head of Greyhorse Valley

head of Greyhorse Valley

A trip report and photos from Keith Wootton on the Greyhorse TH and trail.

Like your website, and love granite chief wilderness. Here is the latest on Greyhorse Creek.  Rode motorcycle in, 10 miles of dirt road, no road markers and it is possible to take some wrong turns.  Seven miles of the road have water bars about every 100 yards, and some trees and large rocks on road. Lots of rock up to baby head size, and the water bars are high, not something to take a car on.  High clearance vehicle, bike, horse, or motorcycle are good. It took me about an hour to get to the trailhead, from French Meadows, which has a Granite Chief map but no other designation. Road beyond trailhead gets worse, and steeper, and I decided I really didn’t need to go to roads-end and another trailhead, although i could have made it, just slow going. Any other method of travel would take more time than motorcycle (i rode up from Foresthill).

Shanks Cove and towards Five Lake Creek

Shanks Cove and towards Five Lake Creek

Trail starts out faint for the first 100 yards, then runs into a sprawling mass of large uprooted  trees that make the trail hard to follow, as you cross a melt water creek and push your way thru a willow thicket. Trees are recently blown over and all from the north, some have root balls 15 feet tall!  I dont think there is any way a horse is going to make it thru. After that trail becomes much better as it switchbacks up between two meltwater creeks. About 2/3 way up hill, trail gets faint, then lost. Working up and to north towards bare rock outcrop with out crossing creek until you get close to rock will reward you with an easy to follow trail tread to the trail fork at the saddle. I continued north, and trail was easy to follow as it climbs, then drops down into Picayune Valley, though there were many more blown down trees.  All with drying needles, and all from the north.

I gave up before reaching the valley, I got a late start, travel time was more than I thought, and it took some time to find my way thru all the down trees. I did do some exploring around, and think next time I will cross the saddle at the top of Greyhorse Valley, get a better look at the Johnson monument, and continue towards Mildred Peak and lakes.

Trails and Maps

One of my purposes of my Picayune Valley and Shanks Cove trip earlier this year was to create GPS tracks for the Western States and Shanks Cove trails. In the area of the saddle between the Five Lakes Creek basin and Picayune Valley, the trail alignment shown on the National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps is incorrect. It turns out, now that Trimble Outdoors has added National Forest roads and trails as an available overlay in MyTopo Maps, that the Forest Service base maps are incorrect.

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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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Picayune Valley

Dried Wooley Mules Ears at head of Picayune Valley

I finally got to Picayune Valley, which rounds out my effort to see all the trails of Granite Chief. I came in from Alpine Meadows trailhead, which is the fastest way into the wilderness, went through Whiskey Creek Camp, and camped at the saddle above Picayune Valley.

Late in the day as it was getting dark, the shadows beneath the red firs were deep but the meadows still light.

Approaching dark
Trail through red firs
Darkness between the trunks
Thick and soft

Then out into the meadow
Wooley mules ears
Radiate the warm yellow sunlight
They’ve captured during the day

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