February Snow Results


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

road closed sign

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


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.


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

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Website Update: New Purchasable GTW Map!


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


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


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


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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