April Snow Surveys are Still Coming

The COVID-19 issue has sure disrupted a lot of things locally. One of those areas are the snow surveys. The State of California uses their own employees as well as federal and private to complete the surveys up and down the Sierra Nevada. Early reports show the snow pack for the Kern River is around 50% of normal for this time of year. However, like many parts of the Sierra Nevada, the snow surveys not fully complete. The 3rd of each month is the last day for the survey. This then means the results could be posted that same day, but by the 4th at the latest.

If some of the early snow surveys are any indication, we will be around 50% of normal for the month of April. March’s storms were a nice boost as many areas were projecting almost 10% less if March remained a “dry” month. If additional reports to trickle in, there will be another update to follow. Stay tuned!

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March Snow Survey Results

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As many of you local California residents have experienced, we are not doing so well regarding rain and snow. The numbers from the March 1 snow survey reflect the dry month. The Kern River Basin is at 45% of the average. If we do not get anymore snow come April 1, we will be at 40% of normal. The good news is it shows how much water content we do have in the current snow pack is rather well. It will only drop 5% in a month. Many are hoping for a “Miracle March.”

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Trail Report from August 2019

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Back in August of 2019 Phil headed out of the Forks of the Kern Trailhead to Painters Camp. Here is what he had to report. Should help with some planning this season.

Hiked from Llyods Medows – Forks of the Kern up to Painters Camp late Aug 2019. From the Forks up to the Stock bridge (about 10 miles in) the trail is good. There are more deadfalls – fallen trees across the trail than usual. Expect about 1 every half mile or so. After the Stock Bridge it gets a whole lot worse the trail has one ever few foot ball fields of trail. The Trail fades in an out starting about 1/2 mile past the bridge. I have done this trail 25 times in the past 30 years, know the land marks and it took some serious work to stay on trail. If you have never been past the bridge I strongly suggest planning for a lot of extra time to sleuth out the trail. It generally parallels the river, BUT there is a section 1/2 mile or so past the bridge that turns inland goes over a rise then fades out in a meadow. This meadow has several bark-less dead tall trees – Widow Makers just waiting to fall over, not the place where you want to be stumbling around. The best I can suggest is to look to the far end of the Meadow on the left is a Large Granite bolder head to wards it, and pass on the left and slightly down hill the trail picks up just among a patch of a few trees. After that the trail fades in an out, and eventually comes within sight of the Kern River. At Manzinita Creek go across and diagonally across the gravel river bed the trail picks up the far slope. About 3+ miles in The trail down to painters is marked with a Carin. That will take you down by the Kern about 1/4+ mile up you come to Nine Mile Creek the ford is to the left of where the trail kind of meets the creek. Just across the creek about a football field or so is Painters Camp.

Thank you Phil for taking the time to report back to everyone on your trip. For those that went out last season, you can still send in your trail reports. It is never too late and can always help in planning for next seasons trips!

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February Snow Results

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Snow survey results are nearing completion for the Kern River Basin. Tomorrow is the last reporting day and likely not to vary too much from what is currently being reported now. The snow pack is currently setting at 74% of normal for this time of year. We shall see what the two wettest months (February and March) bring to the Sierra Nevada.

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Roads Closed for the Season

The remaining roads are now closed due to snow and winter conditions. In the mean time, if you’d like to track the snow pack you can check out the website below. It shows the snow pack for the Golden Trout Wilderness as well as other parts of the Sierra Nevada. Enjoy!

US Forest Service – Snow pack interactive map

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Roads are Closing

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It is that time of year again where access to many trailheads begin to close down due to winter conditions. The recent winter storm has dropped several inches of snow across the Sierra Nevada. Currently access to the Golden Trout Wilderness from Mineral King, Inyo, and Mountain Home is closed. No reports in yet for the remaining access points, but likely they are or will be closed here shortly. Stay tuned!

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A Fall Adventure

Backpacker Tony headed out into the eastern side of the Golden Trout Wilderness. He never saw one hiker once out of the Horseshoe Meadow area. Read his trip report below.

I returned earlier this week from a week-long loop trip out of Horseshoe Meadow. I headed over Trail Pass on 10/8 and returned via Cottonwood Pass on 10/14.

I am no spring chicken–I’m 60 years old, so I usually take my time, minimize my daily mileage, and enjoy layover days. I saw no other hiker at all, nor any indication of recent hikers, once I was outside of the Horseshoe Meadow “bowl.”

I spent my first night on the trickle of water that was the seasonal remains of the creek below Trail Pass, adjacent to Mulkey Meadow. After that, there was no shortage of water anywhere. I camped on the South Fork of the Kern at the McConnel Meadow Trail junction, and then along Golden Trout Creek near the Barrigan Stringer Trail junction, and then at a spot near the Siberian Pass Trail just above Big Whitney Meadow that I like. There was an unavoidable foot-soaking ford of Golden Trout Creek, but all trails were in superb condition with no downed trees blocking the route. I visited the old Tunnel Station, too, which is a landmark I always enjoy saying hello to.

Plenty of firewood; tons of water; great camp spots; low temps around 20ish I suppose each night; days in the 50s and low 60s; clear, cloudless skies. I carried a Kelty 5500 Super Tioga as an experiment, and loved it. Much easier to pack and to lug than an overstuffed Gregory Baltoro. An internal frame pack would be preferable if not too heavy and for a shorter trip, but for over-packed me out for a week, it was great. I also experimented for the first time with a Banks Fry-Bake pan, and made biscuits in it on several occasions, and otherwise just used it as my frying pan. If you haven’t heard of it, you should check it out on-line. I recommend it.

Lastly, a shameless plug for the book, “Log of a Snow Survey,” which is funny and beautifully written, and covers the GTW. I had a great week. It is hard to find solitude along the John Muir Trail Freeway, but it’s everywhere in the GTW–especially after Labor Day. I’m already looking forward to my next trip, in the Spring.

Thanks Tony for the report! There is still time to get outdoors this fall. Just keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan accordingly.

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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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