Trail Conditions for SQF in Late August

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Camping at the Little Kern River

During the end of August, I had the opportunity to return to the Golden Trout Wilderness on the Sequoia National Forest side. The trip would start and end at the Clicks Creek Trailhead on the North Road (21S50). Several trails were walked and here is what I have to report to everyone who may be heading out there this fall.

Trail 32E11 (Clicks Creek TH to Little Kern River)

  • Trail is easy to follow down to the third crossing of Clicks Creek. Once you take a left at the junction towards the Little Kern River (right takes you to Grey Meadow), the trail is still visible, but showing signs of little use. Most of the trees have been removed thanks to volunteer work. The trail comes to a four way junction where you would normal proceed straight to continue on towards the Little Kern River. The Mountaineer Trail (32E12) crosses and is fading away due to lake of use.

Trail 32E16 (Junction with Clicks Creek Trail to Grey Meadow)

  • Trail is easy to follow. No down trees at the time. Some cattle trails cross the main trail, which could cause confusion to some newer visitors.

Trail 32E12 (Grey Meadow to Fish Creek)

  • Trail is easy to follow and wide due to livestock use. No problems along this portion of the trail.

Trail 32E11 (Little Kern River to Lion Meadows Trail)

  • Fading but not hard to find. A couple down trees to walk over. At the end where it meets up with the Lion Meadows Trail the sign is gone. Junction is hard to see so it could easily be missed coming the other direction.

Trail 32E02 (Lion Meadows Trail)

  • From the trail junction with 32E11 and going north to the Tamarack Creek crossing the trail is present. Some of the stretches going uphill are filling in with brush and causing users to create a new trail adjacent to the old one. Still very sandy in a lot of spots. Some trees are down and reroutes have been made. The junction with Lion Meadows Cutoff Trail (goes from Lion Meadows to Soda Spring Creek) is no longer visible. No signs exist either so users just have to know where to go. The descent into Tamarack Creek is pretty much gone. So many down trees and no maintenance has promoted users to create their own trails along the hillside to avoid the down trees. A lot of work is needed in this section to re-establish the old route. New route likely to cause a lot of erosion issues.

Trail 32E08 (Lion Meadows to Soda Springs Creek)

  • Several stretches the trail is gone. Users have to know the general direction and look for “clues” along the landscape as to where the trail was located. Lack of use and maintenance is the issues. Guessing the trail will be completely gone in 5 to 10 years.

This concludes the trail report for August down in the Little Kern River basin.

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Milky Way, Jupiter, and Stars at the Little Kern River

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Website Update: New Purchasable GTW Map!

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Image from Calico Maps

A new company called Calico Maps has made a waterproof and tear-resistant shaded-relief topo map for the Southern Sierra! What does this mean? Well you’ll get the entire Golden Trout Wilderness of course, plus more. You’ll have most of Sequoia National Forest and Park and all of the Domeland Wilderness, Southern Sierra Wilderness, Kiavah Wilderness, Owens Peak Wilderness, Chimney Peak Wilderness, and Sacatar Trail Wilderness! The map is light weight and packs down smaller than other purchasable maps. If you are wanting to check out a new map or to expand your collection, give this one a try. It is about $10 at their store. Just head over to the Preparation section and then click on Maps for a link!

 

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Wildfire: Cow Fire Final Announcement

Source: InciWeb

This will be the final update on the Cow Fire unless there are significant changes to report on the incident.

The 1,975-acre Cow Fire remains 30 percent contained. Minimal smoke may be visible from the Cow Fire until the area receives significant rainfall. Firefighters will continue to monitor the fire to ensure it stays within control lines. Containment will steadily increase as crews further secure control lines by identifying and extinguishing sources of heat along the fire perimeter.

The ecosystem within the Cow Fire footprint will benefit from the low-intensity fire effects observed on the landscape. Lightning-caused wildfires have a natural role to play in Eastern Sierra forest ecosystems. Burned materials recycle nutrients back into the soil which enriches it and stimulates vegetation growth. New grasses, shrubs and trees replenish and grow stronger while old growth stands become more resilient. Wildlife habitats are created and an increase in food becomes available for animals to forage. The hazardous accumulation of logs and overgrown surface fuels on the forest floor are reduced which diminishes the risk of severe wildfires in the future. Heat from fire opens the strong resin which holds seeds inside of the serotinous cones of Lodgepole Pine, allowing the species to reproduce.

The public is encouraged to avoid the fire area. Post-fire hazardous such as fire weakened trees and burning stump holes may be present.

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Wildfire: Cow Fire at 1250 Acres

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Map from InciWeb

Here is the latest information on the Cow Fire. The image above is a progression map showing the fire moving in a more north to north eastern direction.

Firefighters continue strengthening line around the Cow Fire as it moves east towards Fat Cow Meadow. The shape and size of this fire is being determined by the existing rocky ridges, green meadows, running creeks and recreation trails that firefighters are strengthening to contain and confine it. This is the safest, most efficient way to stop this fire that is consistent with wilderness values. It has remained a low-intensity surface fire, consuming ground fuels with very little tree-torching. “This fire is burning in a natural mosaic pattern on the landscape” according to IC Jason Wingard.

The Cow Fire is staffed by 4 crews in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Supporting those crews requires careful logistical support for getting the right supplies in the right place in the time they are needed. Fire management staff are using two methods of transport: helicopters for transport of crews, and both helicopters and pack strings for equipment and supplies. At this point, firefighters have most of the equipment they need; now it’s a matter of keeping them supplied with potable water and fuel and back-hauling empty containers.

Mules carry about 150 -200 pounds per animal with 5 mules per pack string. Mules can get to and back from the Cow fire area within a day from the Black Rock trailhead on the Sequoia National Forest. The helicopters can take up to 900 pounds per load to and from the fire area in less than 2 hours as well as drop supplies in areas inaccessible to mules. A pack-string can transport the same weight of supplies in a day that a helicopter can do in one sling but is less expensive and is less disruptive to wilderness than helicopters. For the Cow Fire, a combination of pack strings and helicopters are key to transporting supplies to firefighters.

 

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Wildfire: Cow Fire up to 871 acres

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Smoke South of Templeton Meadow – InciWeb

Source: InciWeb

The Cow fire is approximately 871 acres with a growth of 100 acres and 15% contained. Yesterday crews continued to burn to the east along Division Z, strengthening the control line. In Division A, crews held and mopped up what they had burned over the last two days. The interior fire did actively back throughout the night.

Smoke Kennedy Meadows may see Moderate conditions overnight and into the morning. As the inversion lifts, air quality will improve.

Webcams: The best webcams for Cow Fire is Bald Mountain Webcam #5 and Bald Mountain Webcam #2

 

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Wildfire: Cow Fire

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Photo from Inciweb

A lightning caused wildfire is burning on the Inyo side of the Golden Trout Wilderness. It is known as the Cow Fire. Here is the latest information and trail closures.

The Cow Fire, burning in the Golden Trout Wilderness, has increased to 600 acres. This is part of the contain and confine strategy: 100-200 acres of new fire growth daily is expected as crews complete backfiring along control lines. Final fire size is anticipated to be about 2,000 acres in about 2 weeks, weather and crew availability permitting. The fire continues to burn on its own within established control lines. The main fuels are dead and down trees, branches and duff. The trees of this lodgepole pine and red fir forest are rarely catching fire; this is an understory fire. Areas of active burning are burning slowly, at low-intensity, allowing firefighters to keep the fire within the natural and augmented barriers of the planning area. Most of the smoke produced is from large down logs. Some of this smoke may be visible along Highway 395, near Olancha and in Kennedy Meadows and in the Kern River drainage.

The Cow Fire has reached a series of wet meadows and an unnamed creek on the western perimeter and is close to Schaeffer Stringer on the southeastern border. It is burning slowly towards the Long Canyon Trail (3511) that has been reinforced with handline on the fire’s eastern edge. The barriers on the northeast perimeter are farther away and firefighters are working to strengthen the natural fire lines of Strawberry Creek and Schaeffer Meadow.

There are 3 wildfire modules and one hotshot crew divided between 3 spike camps near the fire area. There has been at least one wildfire module on this fire for the last 30 days. The fire is being supported and managed from the Mt. Whitney Ranger Station in Lone Pine. “We are pleased with the fire effects on the ground; we’re getting a low severity fire” said Jason Wingard, IC for the Cow Fire.

Several back-country trail segments have been closed for public safety and firefighter focus. All segments are on R35E T18S Section 31 and R35E T19S Sections 4,5,6,8,9,17 and 18 of the Templeton Mountain topo map. The segments are:

w 3507 from Templeton Cow Camp east to the intersection with 3412/3512 near Strawberry Creek

w 3510 from the intersection with 3512 near Strawberry Creek east to the South Fork of the Kern River

w 3512 from the intersection with 3510 (near Strawberry Creek) south to Schaeffer Stringer near Iron Spring

w 3511 from where it intersects 3512 south to where it crosses Schaeffer Stringer

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Caution: Poodle-Dog Brush

Post from the Sequoia National Forest to all visitors.

Poodle-dog bush can cause severe irritation to the skin if touched, akin to poison oak or poison ivy. It can raise blisters lasting as long as two weeks or more. The plant is covered in sticky hairs, which can dislodge easily and can be passed on to hikers who touch it or brush up against it. The swelling, rash and itching appear twelve hours to two days after contact. Use caution and avoid this plant.

It is found in nearly all habitat types that have recently burned including conifer forests, chaparral, oak woodland and riparian areas. Poodle-dog bush is frequently found along trails.

Wear long sleeves and pants if you plan to visit the Sequoia National Forest within previously fire burned areas.  This plant was recently found in the Converse Basin area on the Hume Lake Ranger District.  Historically, it has been discovered in areas burned by wildfire which is happening more across the Forest and in Giant Sequoia National Monument. Notes are as follows:

          This native California shrub grows at elevations from 300 to 7,500 feet. It can grow almost 10 feet tall, and has purple bell-shaped flowers.

          It is a perennial, woody shrub with long shiny leaves. It emits an unpleasant, slightly pungent odor.

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Trip Report: Maggie Lakes

Backpacker Christopher headed out to Maggie Lakes recently. He submitted the photo above too. Here is what he had to report.

Hiked from the Summit Trailhead at the end of Forest Service road 21S50. Road was a little rough but doable in most cars if careful. Trail started out nice with a coulpe of small trees across the trail at the begging but nothing major. Jacobsen and Mowery meadow were very green and had water flowing so good and easy places to get water if needed. After Griswold meadow trail goes thorugh a large area of downed trees and the trail get a little hard to find, luckily there are rock stacks to help you along the way. Trail gets a little better as you head down towards Pecks Canyon and there is a creek right before the junction with Pecks Canyon trail(i think thats what thats called but heads to Pecks Cabin.) Trail once again gets difficult to find here. There are some rock stacks but I think due to the fallen trees some seems misleading. But once you start headin up towards the lake it clears again. Great looking campsites right off the lake. Only visited Lower Maggie but seemed like water was flowing out of lower pretty good so they are probably full. All in all a beautiful hike.

Thanks for the report and photo!

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Remaining Roads are Open

North Road (21S50) Opens

Gates are open! – FS Road 21S50

Sorry for the “radio silence” on roads opening for the past couple of weeks. I have been outdoors myself enjoying the Sierra Nevada. Many of you may already know this, but to make it official on GTW the North Road to the Summit and Clicks Creek trailheads are open for the season. The Summit Trail provides access the western most ridge line of the Golden Trout Wilderness and to the popular Maggie Lakes. Clicks Creek trailhead is a little longer route down to Grey Meadow and the Little Kern River, but being on a northern slope it provides a lot more shade than the Lewis Creek TH. Get outside and enjoy!

If you do head in one of these routes, please consider sharing your trail report or adventure with GTW. The write up does not need to be long or even include photos. That is all up to how much you want to share. Whatever amount you share is so valuable to so many people wanting to head out the direction you ventured on.

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Trip Report: GTW on the Inyo

Backpacker Tony Kurlander headed out to the eastern side of the Golden Trout Wilderness for a few days. He started and ended in Horseshoe Meadow. Here is what he had to report.

I drove up to Horseshoe Meadows to acclimate the night of Wednesday, 20 June 2019, and stayed in the walk-in Cottonwood Pass campground. I noted no signs of bear activity. My first trip out of Horseshoe Meadow was in 1974 over Mulkey Pass. This whole area has appealed to me ever since. I am old enough to remember seeing planes land at Tunnel Meadow Air Camp many years back.

Hiked over Trail Pass the first day and stayed at the extreme east end of Tunnel Meadows. I was last on that route in May 2015, a drought year. Then, the South Fork was not much more than a trickle. This year, a heavy snow year, the South Fork was raging! I was surprised at how challenging the initial ford was near the old McConnel Meadow trail. It was not dangerous, but I took my time and used trekking poles. It was interesting to see the old telephone line along parts of the route, and to see, high on a tree, the old sign indicating the trail to McConnel Meadow. There was lots of water, and lots of green grass, in Bullfrog Meadow on the way in.

The second day was a very short day, only to where the trail crosses Golden Trout Creek, just past the site of the old guard station and still-remaining snow survey cabin. I waved to a fisherman on the creek, but he was only the second person I’d seen once I got past the PCT at Trail Pass.

The third day I headed toward Little Whitney Meadow, after a nearly hip-deep wade across Golden Trout Creek. I crossed at the main ford because I did not want to fight my way through the bushes elsewhere, even if the crossing might have been a bit shallower. Lots of golden trout…and lots of water–another pleasant change from 2015. This time, I took the short, unmarked trail to Groundhog Meadow to see it for the first time ever–it was a remarkable emerald color, and absolutely beautiful.

Once I got to the next crossing of Golden Trout Creek, which is just shy of Little Whitney Meadow, the creek was pretty high. I am almost 60 and had a heavy pack, so I decided not to wade across but, instead, to clamber over the rocks on my side of the creek and head toward the cow camp/snow survey cabin at the north end of the meadow. That’s what I did, although the trail petered out after a couple of hundred yards. So, I sloshed through the meadow and waded across a couple of creeks. Once at the cow camp/snow survey cabin, I picked up the faint trail toward Salt Lick Meadow. I camped near Salt Lick that evening.

The trail to Little Whitney Meadow was excellent! There were no trees blocking the way, and several days later I bumped into the local trail crew. Three guys–they were young, enthusiastic, and did a great job clearing the trail. In contrast, the trail to Salt Lick Meadow and beyond–up, up, and up before finally dropping into Barrigan Stringer, was, in places, very difficult to follow. I lost the trail about a dozen times. However, I am not complaining–it gives one a sense of accomplishment to follow a less-traveled path, and one feels a real sense of achievement finding the trail! I cannot take all the credit, though, because rangers had at some point put blazes on some of the trees, and some thoughtful hiker or hikers had placed ducks in various places to mark the trail. I found the blazes and ducks of immeasurable assistance. I recommend that folks take this route to Big Whitney Meadow. It is off the beaten track and very scenic.

Barrigan Stringer was just beautiful! I camped there, just above 10,000 feet, and the next two days I camped at Big Whitney Meadow. I’d never visited Big Whitney Meadow before, and camped near the junction with the Siberian Pass Trail. Lots of water in Big Whitney. I do not know whether cattle still graze at any of the meadows I visited, but the cow camp at Little Whitney Meadow looked in disrepair, all the drift fences were in poor shape, and I didn’t see any cattle at all on the trip. Which, quite frankly, was nice. (I later ran into a patrolling ranger named Matt, and he told me he did not think that cattle are still grazed in those northern meadows–of course, these meadows were historically used for grazing for many decades–hence, the cow camps at Mulkey, Little Whitney, Templeton, and elsewhere.)

I saw just two folks total from Trail Pass to Big Whitney Meadow, but at BWM saw about ten more folks–that industrious trail crew, a couple of guys my age, and several 20-something hikers. So, if you absolutely want to avoid seeing people, stick to the less-frequently maintained trails and camp out of sight of a trail.

The weather was great the entire time. It got close to freezing most nights, but the days were sunny and warm. The mosquitoes were slightly annoying at times, but generally were unproblematic. The hike out over Cottonwood Pass was fine–plenty of places to get water, generally a well-graded trail, and no logs blocking the route. This was a very enjoyable, week-long trip.

I do recommend a visit to Groundhog Meadow, Salt Lick Meadow, and Barrigan Stringer. There is plenty of firewood and water, and a plethora of camp spots.

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