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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Trip Report from 6-21 to 6-30

 

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Backpacker Phil Sallaway headed out to the Sequoia side of the Golden Trout Wilderness for several days in June. Here is what he has to report about water levels in some rivers and the trails he hiked.

Started 6/21 at Jerky Meadows, the trail to Trout Meadows is in great shape only minor debris and a few dead falls. The Little Kern is running Fast, Cold and Deep. The Spring at Trout Meadows is running. The meadows are lush & wet in places see Pic.

6/22 Hiked to Kern Lakes, the first part of the trail is ok, as you approach Hocket Peak it gets much harder to follow. Lots of debris, dead falls, and the trail is washed out, with lots of cobbles in the trail potato to grapefruit sized in places. Since the Canyon in narrow it is hard to get lost but it is slow going. Once you drop into the Big Kern River Valley the Trail is better. Little Kern Lake Pic, and pick of cascade Just down river of Lakes.

6/25 Hiked down to Trout Meadows spent the night, then headed over to the Big Kern. The trail was good with some debris and a few dead falls. The trail up river to the bridge was good. After the Bridge it was slow going, the trails  is almost non-existent washed out, faded, lots of dead-falls, and debris. Have hiked this trail for 25 years and it was more like bushwhacking than trail walking.  Went as far as Manzanita Creek which was passable. If you haven’t been up this trail before I do Not Recommend it until someone does some serious trail work.

Thanks Phil for the update!

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Trail Report: A Loop from Horseshoe

Thanks to Tony for providing detailed information on his trip into the eastern side of the Golden Trout Wilderness. Here is what he has 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.

All the best, Tony

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Trail Reports: Opposite Sides of the GTW

Two different trail reports came in today. One was from Brook regarding heading to Summit Lake while the other was on the opposite side of the wilderness. The opposite side being Horseshoe Meadow and Mulkey Meadow area. Let’s start off in the west.

Brook reported heading out to Shake Camp to hike the Long Meadow Trail on July 1. It was a short hike, but she did send in a photo of Redwood Crossing below. She warned the river was raging and the only way to safely cross was on the down redwood tree itself. No further information about how the next couple of crossings are like, but if the lower one is raging along you can bet the next two crossings further up were just as dangerous.

RedwoodCrossing_July12019

Redwood Crossing

Now as for the eastern side of the GTW, Dan took a few days hike starting in Horseshoe Meadow. He headed south into Mulkey Meadow. Here is what he had to report from his adventures.

June 27 – 29, I backpacked from Horseshoe Meadow to Trail Pass, on to Mulkey Meadow, and then hiked to Mulkey Cow Camp. These three sections of trail had no blowdowns across them, nor any significant brush or tread problems. The trail was easy to find and follow, for both stock and hikers. Actually, it looked real good considering the large amount of runoff after this winter, even in the upper switchbacks and the lower area of regular rutting in the section between Trail Pass and Mulkey Meadow.

Good water was easily available from all three sections of trail. However, all that water out there this year has also produced a lot of mosquitoes. There was no snow anywhere on the trail, nor even much to be seen. More details about the trails, general area and my trip are provided in the captioned photos at http://tinyurl.com/y5hcf3do

Thank you Brook and Dan for your trails reports this season. I am sure others will benefit greatly. To all, please feel free to send in your trail reports no matter how short or long they may be. People benefit from them greatly!

 

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Remaining Roads are Still Closed

The 4th of July weekend is the second “busiest” weekend for outdoor activities, especially related to camping/hiking in National Forests. Many of you are probably itching to get out to the Summit Trailhead or even Clicks Creek Trailhead. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait some more. As of 815 AM this morning, the North Road to those areas remains closed. There may be some good news for folks though wanting into the GTW.

If you didn’t know yet, hikers can access the Lewis Creek TH out by the Golden Trout Wilderness Pack Station. Drive the North Road (21S50) about 4.5 miles till the pavement ends. Keep going straight at the “Y” onto a dirt road. Follow it and the signs to the Pack Stations. Keep going past it and you’ll arrive at the Lewis Creek TH. This is a popular way to access Grey Meadow and the Little Kern River Bridge. Except stream crossings to be flowing really swift and cold too.

If you really want to get to Maggie Lakes this weekend, expect snow. The lakes may even be frozen too. Only access is an 11 mile route starting at Shake Camp. If you do go this route, expect winter-like conditions above 8,500 feet. The trail may “disappear” under the snow, stream crossings flowing faster and higher than normal, and down trees are not cleared. This route is not recommended for those who are no well experienced with route finding and cross country navigation.

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Blackrock Trailhead is Open!

The Sherman Pass road has been official open as an official news release from the Sequoia National Forest today. They also said the Blackrock Trailhead is open, which means users can access the Inyo side of the Golden Trout Wilderness from that entry point. No word yet on whether or not access down to Jordan Hot Springs is allowed though.

Roads and Trails

Opening slowly as the winter’s storms have left their mark

Kernville, Ca. June 26, 2019 – The Kern River Ranger District of the Sequoia National Forest announces partial openings of road systems across the Kern Plateau. Later season openings are due to the welcomed wet winter.

  • Cherry Hill Road: Open to Horse Meadow Campground, Big Meadow, Pine Flat and Cannell Meadow. Be cautious of fallen trees and portions of trees extending into the roadway.
  • Sherman Pass Road (#22S05): OPEN All the way across – west above Kernville through Kennedy Meadows and Hwy 395 to the east.
  • Blackrock Trailhead: Open – NO WATER.
  • Smith and Powell Roads: Open
  • Monache Meadows: CLOSED
  • Osa Meadow: Open
  • Beach Meadow: Open
  • Mahogany: CLOSED– active spring in the middle of the road.
    Be advised some roads and trails have many trees down and are too wet for travel. Road and trail work has started on the district – information changes daily.

Please call the Kernville Ranger District Office, open 7 days a week, (760) 376-3781, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or the Blackrock Ranger Station, open Thursday through Monday, (559) 539-2607 #2276, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
(Forest Highway 90 from Greenhorn is open to Johnsondale and Posey).

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Sherman Pass Road Opens!

The Sherman Pass Road is now open to Kennedy Meadows. However the connecting road that takes users to the Blackrock Trailhead and into the Inyo side of the Golden Trout Wilderness remains closed. As soon as this route officially is open to the public, you can expect an update from GTW.org

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Wildfire: Jordan Fire at 60% Containment

Incident Start Date: 6/09/2019   Cause: Lightning   Size: 523 acres   Containment: 60%      

Incident Type: Full Suppression

Vegetation Type: Brush and timber

Agency: Inyo National Forest, U.S.D.A. Forest Service

Resources Assigned: Engines: 1   Helicopters: 6 Crews: 5   Total Personnel: 205

Current Situation: The Inyo National Forest Type 3 Incident Management Organization is managing the Jordan Fire led by Incident Commander Todd McDivitt and Incident Commander Trainee Don Shoemaker.  The Jordan Fire has been determined to have been caused by lightning. The fire has remained at 523 acres for the past two days due to completed fire control lines and reduced fire behavior.

With fire line construction complete, crews continue to extinguish hot spots adjacent to the line with the aid of water dropping helicopters. Continued warm and dry weather cautions fire managers to keep a limited number of firefighters on the fire to guard against increased fire activity. Fire crews no longer required on the Jordan Fire are being flown back to Lone Pine Incident Command Post to start the demobilization process. After showers, clean uniforms and necessary paperwork, crews will be released to head home to rest and prepare for their next assignment.

Logistical support of firefighters is critical to their efficiency, safety and wellness. Equipment like hose, pumps, fittings, fuel cans, and food storage boxes are sent from centralized fire warehouses to the fire base camp then on to the fire lines. Replacement items such as fire-resistant clothing and gloves are available to firefighters when they return to base camp. Batteries, chain saw gas and oil and other expendable supplies along with food and medical supplies are sent out to the spike camps near the fire lines. Every item is ordered, received, dispersed and accounted for by Logistics Section Chief Doug Winn and his staff. Medical Support is provided by Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedics on the fire lines responding to any illness or injury and providing medical supplies like foot powder, sunscreen and medications. Timely and complete logistic support has been critical to meeting the control objectives of the Jordan Fire.

Incident Commander Todd McDivitt said, “I am proud of the hard work and professionalism of the men and women who responded to this early season, high elevation fire. This first major fire of the year in California is a good test of our readiness for what will likely be another long fire season throughout the western United States.” Command of the Jordan Fire will transition to an Inyo National Forest Type 4 organization on Wednesday.

This is the last Update for the Jordan Fire. As needed, any significant information will be posted on the information outlets below.

For the latest information try these sources:

Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6384/  Face book: www.facebook.com/inyonf

Twitter: @Inyo_NF

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Wildfire: Jordan Fire Grows

Photo from InciWeb

The Jordan Fire grows to over 580 acres. This has resulted into trail closures that are near the area. See the image below for closures and descriptions. Following the trail closures, the official announcement and current status report is available.

Jordan Fire Update

June 12, 2019

Media Contact: Kirstie Butler

Kirstie.butler@usda.gov

Jordan Fire Info Line: (760) 920-7149

Incident Start Date: 6/09/2019

Cause: Unknown

Size: 581 acres

Containment: 5%

Incident Type: Full Suppression

Vegetation Type: Brush and timber

Agency: Inyo National Forest, U.S Forest Service

Resources Assigned: Engines: 1 Helicopters: 4 Crews: 6 Total Personnel: 180

Current Situation: The Inyo National Forest Type 3 Incident Management Team is managing the Jordan Fire led by Incident Commander Todd McDivitt. The fire grew by approximately 250 acres to the east and south but remains south of Nine Mile Creek and north of Manzanita Knob. Manzanita Knob is a prominent peak on a ridge that forms the boundary between the Inyo and Sequoia National Forests. Close coordination between the Forests is taking place in mutual support of the Jordan Fire objectives. The fire is approximately 26 miles southwest of Lone Pine, California in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Firefighters work to minimize the impacts of line construction and camping to maintain the wilderness character of the land.

Additional crews and other resources are arriving to suppress the Jordan Fire. After a briefing at the Incident Command Post in Lone Pine, crews and all their equipment are flown to within walking distance of the fire lines. These crews will stay at the fire for multiple days at one of two spike camps as helicopters provide food and supplies. These additional crews increase the rate at which fire line can be safely built. As more crews arrive at the fire, the logistical needs to supply and feed the crews increases. Pack mules are on order to relieve some of the logistical missions for the helicopters so they can increase the availability of water drops on the fire. Direct and indirect line scouting and construction are the principle tactical objectives again today. Crews achieved 5 percent containment of the fire perimeter yesterday.

Fire fighters are exposed to risks due to the steep ground and high concentrations of standing dead trees killed during the McNally Fire. In addition to these risks commonly associated with fighting the fire, crews are also exposed to the risk of a chance encounter with a bear or rattlesnake. District Ranger David Andersen reported both animals have been observed in the vicinity of the fire.

A team of Fire Investigators visited the Jordan Fire yesterday to determine the point of the fire’s origin and if possible, determine the cause. The investigators identified the probable point of origin but due to the hazard of falling snags (standing dead trees) they could not safely get close enough to confirm the fire’s cause.

For the latest information try these sources:

Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6384/

http://www.facebook.com/inyonf

Twitter: @Inyo_NF

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Horseshoe Meadow

Photo from Peter Fulks

Thanks to Peter Fulks for Sharing his photo from his trip up to Horseshoe Meadow. Apparently he had a good day fishing using his tenkara rod. According to him, “they are biting!”

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