National Trails Day – June 2

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Image from American Hiking Society

Mark your calendar for June 2 as it is National Trail Day! There are various way you can participate this year from simply just going on a hike to maintaining trails to special trail events and more. You can also donate financially to the cause and get some swag in return. To learn more, you can check out American Hiking Society website.

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Last Snow Survey of 2018

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The last snow survey results are in for 2018! May is the final survey for the area near the Monarch Wilderness. Unfortunately the results are bad. The Kings River Basin is at 36% of normal for this time of year. If you are wanting to find sheets of snow, you’ll need to get high in elevation.

Anything less than 8,000 feet to be exact had no snow on the course. This does not mean people passing by won’t see a patch or two of snow at lower elevations. It is just not enough snow to record on the actual snow courses. If you did not know, these snow survey courses have been surveyed in the same spots for decades.

Going into the summer backpacking season, make sure to note your water sources. If you head out into the wilderness, please consider sharing a trip report or sending in info on where creeks were flowing. This will help others going out to plan accordingly. It is greatly appreciated.

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Free: Backpacker Magazines

Some may already know this, but here it is for those who do not. If you are interested in reading through older Backpacker Magazines, then you are in luck. Google has archived dozens, if not hundreds, of the publisher’s magazines. Best part? They are free for you to enjoy. Great way to “go back” to a time period to see the best gear for that season, how trails were being shown, trips that are still viable today, and more. Enjoy!

Google Books’ Archive of Backpacker Magazines (2009 and older)

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The April Snow Survey Report

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The important April 1 snow survey results are in…well most of the stations have reported their findings to the State of California’s CDEC. What are the results? For the Kings River watershed, the snow pack sits at 64% of normal. A nice jump up from last months norm, but not enough to hit at or close to our average snow pack conditions.

What will this mean for the summer backpacking season? Potentially one could see dryer conditions, lower flows in perennial creeks, lower lake levels, and a higher risk of wildfire danger. Users will need to plan their water stops accordingly and share information (hopefully share it with us!). If the wildfire danger is elevated to certain levels, as we have seen in the past, this could eliminate camp fires for wilderness users. Stove use has been allowed even in fire restrictions. It is not certain when and if this will happen, but the past years of drought show a continual use of fire restrictions applied to the National Forests and Parks up and down the Sierra Nevada mountains.

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Snow Survey Results: Is That All?

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The snow results are in for the March 1 survey. Currently the Kings River Basin only has about 16% of the normal amount of snow for March. If the mountains do not receive anymore snow for the rest of the year, it will be at 14% for the year. This is looking to be another bad water year for the Sierra Nevada mountains as well as the valley below. However, do you noticed something in the image above?

What is not accounted for in the snow surveys is the recent storm. The snow survey dates are back in the early to mid 20’s of February. The most recent storm could potentially drop about 4 feet of snow for elevations over 7,000 feet! The results would not be included in the data above as the storm went from March 1 to March 3. We will have to wait to see what the results will be in the April 1 survey.

Do you have any photos from the past weekend? Want to share for others to see? Feel free to post and share!

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What to Do?

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Marvin and Family by Tom Armstrong

The snow pack is not doing so great as of the February 1 survey. However, we still have this month and March to go. They are both typically the wetter months. If the snow pack does not improve significantly, what will you do? Will you plan an earlier trip into the wilderness or go at your usual time?

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Into 2018 We Go!

Happy-New-Year-Greeting-Card-2018

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Video: Deer Cove Trail

Come along with some volunteers from Wild Places and Forest Service employees as they open up the Deer Cove Trail within the Monarch Wilderness this past summer. The Rough Fire in 2015 burnt over the area and post-fire impacts affected the trail. Thanks to people such as these individuals in the film, we can all benefit for years to come from their hard work. Thank you!

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Fall Trails Report

As the backpacking/hiking season starts to slow down with winter on its way, Wilderness Ranger Jeff has provided everyone with a final trails report. Some of the information will be incorporated into the “Plan A Trip” section of the website too. Thanks Jeff for all of you and your teams hard work this summer!

1) Kanawyer Trail (#30E04)

Kennedy Meadow trailhead through Evans Grove and down to Boulder Creek:

NOTE: The Kanawyer remains closed to the public until further notice, due to lingering safety concerns post-Rough Fire (2015). The section past the wilderness boundary sign was ravaged by the fire and is unsafe. A trail report from a few years ago, however, explains the hike if and when we are able to re-open the trail to the public in the coming years…

A very short ascent from the trailhead will take you past excellent views south and east into the heart of the northernmost section of Sequoia National Forest and past the Kennedy Grove of Giant Sequoias about a mile below. After a quick mile or so you drop into the Evans Grove of Giant Sequoias. Continuing on about a ½ mile you will pass two old junctions that lead west into the heart of Evans Grove. Immediately after the second one, you will arrive at the Monarch Wilderness boundary sign. Beyond the boundary a very sharp descent begins that takes you straight down the canyon to Little Boulder Creek. See if you can spot several other Giant Sequoia Groves (Agnew, Deer Meadow, Kennedy) east and south across the valley. The total hike is a short 3.5 miles in distance, but very strenuous particularly when climbing out of the canyon with a full pack (it’s over a 2,500 foot elevation change in about a mile.)

This difficult hike, however, is a botanist’s delight because with the drop into the canyon, you will pass through almost every Sierra altitude range after leaving the trailhead at Kennedy Meadow. It is also the only hike in the Monarch or Jennie Lakes Wilderness where you pass directly through a Sequoia Grove. Enjoy White and Red Firs, Jeffrey and Ponderosa Pines, Sugar Pines, Incense Cedars, and Grandpa Sequoia along the higher elevations. Follow the marking on either of the two junctions you pass in Evans Grove and head west into the heart of the grove for an excellent day hike among the Giants. As you descend into the canyon you will pass Black and Live Oak, the rare Single Leaf Pinyon Pine, Mountain Mahogany, Yucca, and Quaking Aspen. In the heart of Summer, abundant wildflowers also blossom in the canyon. The hike will be further rewarded when you arrive at the always flowing Little Boulder Creek, one of the best water sources and swimming areas in either of our Wilderness’. Fill up your water here!

Note: after the creek and the old washed out bridge (going east up towards the Deer Meadow Trail) the trail basically disappears due to the recent wildfires and is not easy to navigate. We recommend that you do not venture past the creek.

2) Deer Meadow Trail (#30E05)

Deer Meadow TH up to the Monarch Wilderness sign:

NOTE: Past the Monarch Wilderness boundary this trail remains closed to the public, due to lingering safety concerns, post Rough Fire. This trail connects to the heavily burned Kanawyer Trail.

Another victim of recent wildfires, the higher sections of the Deer Meadow Trail are in need of a lot of maintenance, particularly as you pass the wilderness sign and near the junction with the Kanawyer Trail. However, from the trailhead up to the ridge overlooking Kings Canyon is a great day hike and, if you bring water, can be a nice overnight. Look for the old fire ring right on the edge with a great view directly west up Kings Canyon. We do not recommend going past the ridge and the section beyond the chewed up and broken Monarch Wilderness sign is still closed to the public until further notice. The 2+ mile climb up to the ridge does gain some altitude but is not a difficult hike. There are some great views south into the heart of the Jennie Lakes Wilderness to the south from the rocky section of the trail. On the way up to the campsite you’ll also pass Deer Meadow itself and the remains of an old cabin.

Note: Although we recently installed a new trail sign at the Kanawyer/Deer Meadow Trails junction, from the section that splits west down to Boulder Creek and northeast down into Kings Canyon, the trails are all but gone and there is heavy fire damage all throughout this area. We recommend that you not venture past the campsite at the ridge.

3) Deer Cove Trail (#30E01)

Deer Cove trailhead up to Wildman Meadow & Grizzly Lakes:

For the wildest of wilderness experiences in the northern section of Sequoia National Forest, Deer Cove is your spot! A very challenging hike will lead you to isolated peaks and a pristine lake. But you have to earn it. The hike up to Wildman Meadow is a difficult but rewarding saunter, and offers an isolated overnight near the meadow. Grizzly Lakes is an excellent spot for isolation and absolutely beautiful high Sierra views, as seen by the epic Kings Canyon National Park backcountry that you can gaze into over the Monarch Divide. Mount Harrington, the highest point in the Monarch wilderness, stands at over 11,000 feet, and lies just to the west of Grizzly Lakes. Just north of the lake sits Mt. Despair, another stunning high Sierra peak. Above the Lakes the entire span of the Monarch Divide towers over Kings Canyon proper and the spectacular backcountry of the park. We recently completed a two year trail maintenance project in this area and the trail is in the best condition it has been in perhaps 20-25 years. As of August 2017 we had cleared most downed trees and the tread between the trailhead and up to the junction splitting off up to Grizzly Lakes and Frypan Meadow inside Kings Canyon National Park. Only the section from that junction up to Grizzly Lakes remains unmaintained and rugged.

The Deer Cove Trail is very steep for about 3 miles as you head towards Deer Cove Creek (a good water source, fill up!), before flattening out for the mile-long section that crosses the Deer Cove Saddle. Arriving at the junction to Choke Creek means you’re more than halfway to the meadow. Note that the spur trail to Choke Creek is not maintained and has not been used in some time – keep an eye out for the bear damaged trail sign. You will continue along another mile-long steep climb up a rocky face above the Deer Cove Saddle before dropping smoothly down to Wildman Meadow.

Wildman Meadow is home to the old hunter’s camp. Used by generations of locals this is an isolated and pretty little meadow. There are a few old structures around the meadow but no real campsites. With regular snow and rain, the meadow will flow with water, but in dry seasons we do not recommend camping near here as there is no reliable water source. However, just past Wildman Meadow, at the junction with the trail sign, you can go about ¼ mile west towards Happy Gap to find a good water source (East Fork Creek) and flat ground for camping. Past the creek, the Happy Gap Trail is also un-maintained and quickly becomes covered by downed trees, thick overgrown whitethorn and brush. We do not recommend venturing further on towards Happy Gap as this trail is virtually non-existent.

Following the trail north after the junction, you start to hike right along the boundary with the National Park, and about a ¼ mile up there is another trail junction that leads east into Kings Canyon NP with a good trail sign (“Frypan Meadow”). Continue north another ½ mile until you reach a very clearly marked junction with two trail signs and a Monarch Wilderness boundary sign half-eaten by a black bear a few years ago (if you want to see a bear, this area is also a good bet). After this junction, the trail up to Grizzly Lakes becomes very difficult and you will need to pay close attention to the path and your surroundings. Again, this section is not maintained and there are dozens of trees down. We flagged the route to ease access, but proceed with caution. The trail climbs very steeply about 2.5 miles towards the lakes and there are substantial tread and water bar issues along the way. It is not a trail for inexperienced hikers! The path becomes very difficult to follow in places. After climbing a final ridge and winding over to the west you will see Upper Grizzly Lake below you. You can camp at several old established campsites between both of the lakes. Please do not build any new fire rings, and make sure to camp at least 100’ off of the lake.

You will also have the chance to study a lot of different trees from the Deer Cove TH up to Grizzly Lakes. Climbing out of heat of Kings Canyon, you will pass Black and Live Oak, Quaking Aspen, Incense Cedar, Jeffrey and Ponderosa Pine, Red and White Fir and Sugar Pine, as well as numerous beautiful wildflowers in the Summer. A very challenging, but very rewarding adventure into the backcountry!

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Deer Cove Trail Report

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The latest trail report is in for the Deer Cove Trail. It has been a project to get the trail open and ready to go for some time. Wilderness Ranger Jeff and his crew went out to do some work. Here is what he has to report.

After another weekend of intense trail work, we are very excited to announce that for the first time several decades the Deer Cove Trail in the Monarch Wilderness has been completely cleared up to the main trail junction splitting off to the Grizzly Lakes/Monarch Divide and Frypan Meadow in Kings Canyon National Park. With the invaluable help of several volunteer groups and individuals, the Hume Lake Ranger District’s wilderness crew has put in many days over the past two summers clearing trees and tread in an effort to re-open the trail after the Rough Fire burned large areas in 2015. The fire, combined with a decades-long lack of maintenance had resulted in very difficult trail conditions and severely hindered access to this most remote of wilderness areas in the Hume Lake Ranger District.

Given the inherent difficulty of the Deer Cove Trail, this work finally allows a significantly better hiking experience up to Wildman Meadow and also opens the Grizzly Lakes area to easier access. *Please note that the trail section from the junction up to Grizzly Lakes/Monarch Divide itself is not maintained and is for experienced and fit hikers, but we flagged a route to assist in the ascent. The classic High Sierra vistas provided by the Monarch Divide (Mt. Harrington, Mt. Despair, Grizzly Lakes) are spectacular and this area is easily the most isolated and wild of all designated wilderness in the northern district of Sequoia National Forest. For backpackers seeking that sort of backcountry experience (and physically able to complete a hike of this difficulty!) we cannot recommend it enough. In addition to the trail work, we spent a day scouting the area around Grizzly Lakes and were simply in awe of the views provided from the Monarch Divide.

The trail route begins down at Deer Cove, next to the Kings River (4,000 ft. altitude), and quickly climbs over three thousand feet in about six miles heading towards Wildman Meadow. It is a very challenging hike! Especially so on the sun-filled south facing slopes, but remarkable views of the canyon are your reward. In the past two years, we’ve cleared no less than 50 trees and improved trail tread conditions throughout this section. Near Wildman Meadow, we re-defined the trail and cleared dozens more trees on the way up to the junction of Grizzly Lakes/Frypan Meadow. The trail flattens out a bit here as you travel right along the border with Kings Canyon National Park. Veteran hikers in the Monarch should note drastically improved trail conditions along this route. As noted above, from the junction up to Grizzly Lakes, the trail becomes very difficult to find and there are dozens of trees down. The route here climbs another two thousand plus feet up to the lakes and hikers should expect another very strenuous section of trail. Much of this route seems to be stock created user trails. However, as noted above, we flagged the path to ease access, for now. Once at the Grizzly Lakes, there are still a few old fire rings and we ask that you camp away from the water to help preserve the still pristine conditions of this area. Leave No Trace!

We want to thank the Student Conservation Association (SCA), Wild Places, Wilderness Volunteers and the Backcountry Horsemen for their assistance in this long overdue project, and we want to invite wilderness lovers to climb to the Monarch Divide and visit this gem of Sequoia National Forest!

Thank you for all your hard work! Thank you volunteers who helped reopen and fix issues along the Deer Cove Trail. It will benefit users for years to come!

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