Trail Report: Deer Cove Trail

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A trail report has arrived from Wilderness Ranger Jeff Duneman. Hear first hand how opening of the Deer Cove Trail recently went. Here is what he has to report:

Working with Wild Places volunteers and the Backcountry Horsemen, the Hume Lake Ranger District’s wilderness crew completed the first significant trail work in years around the Wildman Meadow area on the Deer Cove Trail. From June 23rd-26th, we spent four days working up towards the junction to Grizzly Lakes and as a result of this work the trail is in the best condition it has been in a very long time. The Monarch Wilderness has been closed since the 2015 Rough Fire due to public safety concerns, but the District is preparing to finally reopen parts of it in July. We will have another volunteer crew coming out in mid-August to continue this long overdue project and clear all trees from the trailhead to as far as we are able to work up towards Grizzly Lakes, near the top of the Monarch Divide.Working with Wild Places volunteers and the Backcountry Horsemen, the Hume Lake Ranger District’s wilderness crew completed the first significant trail work in years around the Wildman Meadow area on the Deer Cove Trail. From June 23rd-26th, we spent four days working up towards the junction to Grizzly Lakes and as a result of this work the trail is in the best condition it has been in a very long time. The Monarch Wilderness has been closed since the 2015 Rough Fire due to public safety concerns, but the District is preparing to finally reopen parts of it in July. We will have another volunteer crew coming out in mid-August to continue this long overdue project and clear all trees from the trailhead to as far as we are able to work up towards Grizzly Lakes, near the top of the Monarch Divide.

Evidence of the fire is everywhere along the trail and it is a vivid lesson in fire damage, repair and regeneration simply hiking up to Wildman Meadow. A new, post-fire plant with bright purple flowers (commonly called Poodle-Dog) can be seen everywhere here; please do not touch or cut it as it can be a serious irritant to skin! From the trailhead, past Deer Creek (best water source – fill up here) and up to the junction with the (unmaintained) Choke Creek Trail, we cleared about fifteen trees and cleaned up parts of the tread as needed. There remain about a half dozen smaller trees, but all are limbed and easy to pass. Near the trail junction, the only major obstacle is a large hanging snag that came down post-fire and requires tools and time that we did not have over the weekend. As with any burnt snag, this tree could come down at any moment, so please exercise great caution when passing around it. There has been significant post-fire growth of grasses and weeds along these lower portions of the trail, but with boots (and hoofs) on the ground this will be sufficiently stomped down over the next few months.

From the Choke Creek Trail junction up to Wildman Meadow all trees save one huge burnt Pine have been cleared and the route is now clear and much easier to navigate. There are some excellent views of the high country when passing through this section. As the Deer Cove Trail is an extremely strenuous hike even in the best conditions, the clearing of this portion of the trail opens up the Wildman Meadow area for much easier public use. With the invaluable help of the Wild Place’s volunteers, we also completed significant work on the tread in the areas directly before and after the meadow and any visitor will quickly notice the enormous difference in the trail conditions here.

Furthermore, thanks to the gracious assistance of the Backcountry Horsemen, we were able to finally remove six large garbage bags of trash and numerous rusted cooking grates out of Wildman Meadow. This trash has been accumulating at the so-called ‘Hunter’s Camp’ on the meadow and we look forward to speaking with local hunters about how to best maintain this area for hunting and family outings. It is crucial that all visitors follow Leave No Trace backcountry ethics when camping or hunting in these areas so that they are safe, clean and maintained for all current and future users – this campsite is an urgent reminder of the problems associated with trash in our wilderness areas across the country.

Past Wildman Meadow we were able to work up to the (unmaintained) Happy Gap Trail junction and about a half mile further to the first junction with Grizzly Lakes and Frypan Meadow (which leads into Kings Canyon National Park’s backcountry). Over the past decade or two, this section of the Deer Cove Trail has seen numerous re-routes and user created trails and so we did our best to follow the original trail and make it very clear where the path goes. We cleared about fifteen more trees and cleaned up the tread along this section and, again, hikers will immediately note a significant change in trail conditions. We will also be repairing and replacing several trail signs along the route to further assist visitors.

Near the first Grizzly Lakes/Frypan Meadow trail sign our weekend ended but once the next crew is here in mid-August this section will be cleared and following the route towards Grizzly Lakes will be much easier. The section beyond the second Grizzly Lakes/Frypan Meadow trails junction (noted by a Monarch Wilderness sign with a big chunk chewed out by a local bear – please check your topographic map for clarification of these junctions), which leads directly up to Grizzly Lakes, has not been maintained in decades. There are dozens of downed trees and many user trails, so anyone hiking beyond this junction should do so with the clear understanding that it will require significant route finding and is a very difficult hike. In August, we will work as far as we are able with the time and personnel we have to clear some of this section, but the work required to clean up this entire length of trail will not be completed this Summer. It will require a professional trail crew and significantly more time.

We look forward to seeing backpackers, horseback riders and visitors again in the Monarch Wilderness and hope that our work on the Deer Cove Trail allows much more accessibility to this beautiful, remote and wild area of your National Forest!

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New Trip: Obelisk

A new two day, one night, trip has been added to the site called Obelisk. The hike is approximately 9.3 miles one way and will take you into a very remote spot of the Monarch Wilderness. In fact, you’ll have to cross through the John Muir Wilderness area first. Enjoy lakes, meadows, granite slopes, and more on this trek into the Monarch Wilderness.

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Wilderness Ranger Update

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The Monarch Wilderness is still closed as trails get repaired. In the meantime, there is an update from Wilderness Ranger Jeff Duneman from the Sequoia National Forest. Here is what he has to say.

Here are some pictures taken just this week of the Deer Cove Trail in the Monarch Wilderness, which has been closed to the public since the 2015 Rough Fire due to severe burn areas. We are working hard to continue trail work and restoration, and are assessing conditions in anticipation of opening several of the Monarch trails this Summer. Once we get the final word from the District, we’ll send out another update. Stay posted!

I am sure many are looking forward to access a rugged and wild wilderness area. Great photos to see how the landscape is recovering since the Rough Fire. Thanks Jeff!

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Wilderness Update!

The Monarch Wilderness has been closed for some time due to the Rough Fire in 2015. However, it sounds like things could be changing for those that have been wanting to return. Here is the latest from the Sequoia National Forest’s Wilderness Ranger Jeff regarding the Monarch.

The Monarch Wilderness is still closed due to dangerous conditions, post-Rough Fire. However, we are continuing trail work and repair, and do expect some trails to be re-opened this Summer. Our goal is to clear much of the Deer Cove Trail and we hope to clear at least parts of the Kanawyer Trail from the Kennedy Meadow Trailhead. Again, *all* of these areas are still currently closed, so before planning a trip, please check with the Hume Lake Ranger District Office for updates and trail information: 559-338-2251.

Even though the wilderness area is still closed, looks like there is a chance for the trails to open up this summer. Lets hope everything goes to plan and users can return to the wilderness area and see first hand nature’s recovery process.

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Happy New Year!

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It’s All Yours

You may have seen this ad on TV before, but the US Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation are trying to get the public involved in getting outdoors and volunteering to make it a better place. If you have not seen it, check it out as well as the link below in the quote below. Enjoy and consider getting involved.

These lands are a gift. Congress began conserving these lands back in 1891 for all of us. More than 100 years later, this gift continues to inspire, restore, and provide. From offering nearly endless ways to play to providing water, clean air, and resources for millions, each of the 174 forests and grasslands highlights the best of America’s public lands heritage. The U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation work to steward these lands on your behalf. So pick a spot, choose an activity, and go. play. Visit itsallyours.us for more information

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Public Invitation from the Sequoia National Forest

The Sequoia National Forest invites the public to see the area burned in the Rough Fire on the Hume Lake Ranger District on Friday June 3, 2016.  You should plan your day to begin at the District office in Dunlap located at 35860 East Kings Canyon Road (HWY 180) between 8:30 – 10 a.m.  From there, you will get instructions on where to go to visit with experts in the field.

Forest and Park personnel will be stationed in pre-designated areas based on information gathered from attendees during the Rough Fire open house held in March.  At this time, the following locations have been pre-arranged.

  • Junction View Overlook in the Kings Canyon “A firefighter’s perspective”
  • Hume Lake Dam “The value of cultural resources”
  • Millwood “A change in recreational experience”
  • McGee Overlook “The effects of the Rough Fire on Wildlife Habitat”
  • Chicago Stump “Enduring groves of Giant Sequoias”
  • Grant Grove “Protecting an icon”
  • Cedar Grove “End of the Road”

Once you pick up instructions at the District office, you will be on your own to visit as many areas as you choose.  We will end the day at 3:00 p.m. so plan your day accordingly.  Bring your lunch and join us for a day in the woods.  If you have questions, please contact Denise Alonzo (559) 539-2607 ext. 72212 or dalonzo@fs.fed.us

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The Last Snow Survey for 2016

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April 1 is the big day in California for snow surveys, but seldom do you hear about the May 1 results. These are some of the last snow surveys until 2017 and the results are in for the Monarch Wilderness. Sadly, it doesn’t look good.

According to the California Data Exchange Center (CDEC) the Kings River drainage is at 52% of normal for the year and 67% of normal for May. The warm weather California was experiencing in April appears to have done a number on the snow pack (see photo above). Once again people are encourage to plan ahead and share information regarding the water sources. The drought is not over yet and we are, once again, below the normal average for the Sierra Nevada mountains.

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Wilderness Trails Closed for 2016

A recent newsletter from the Sequoia National Forest was sent out regarding parts of the Hume Lake Ranger District opening to the public. However, due to the severity of the Rough Fire the trails within the Monarch Wilderness is closed. In the April 25 newsletter, here is what was said. Bold text is specific to the Monarch.

Forest Roads leading to Delilah, Millwood, McKenzie, Dark Canyon, Big Meadow, and Eshom should be open by mid-May.  However, some secondary roads will be gated and closed where hazardous conditions make it unsafe for public travel.  All Jennie Lakes Trailheads are expected to be open by Memorial Day weekend.  The Monarch Wilderness was mostly burned in the Fire, trails are unsafe for travel, and will not be available to hikers this summer.

If  you were planning to venture out into the Monarch Wilderness, it looks like you will have to wait to see what happens for 2017’s summer hiking season.

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April Snow Survey Results

The important April 1 snow surveys are nearly complete across the State of California. In regards to the Monarch Wilderness, the Kings River is the major drainage. Currently 19 of the 22 sites have been posted showing the wilderness is at 80% of normal. This number can still change. However, results will likely remain below the norm for this time of year.

Is the Monarch Wilderness better off than last year? Most definitely regarding water. However, the effects of the drought could be seen elsewhere. Time will tell and as soon as information is made available, it will be posted.

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