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Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...

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Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
July 31, 2012 09:21AM
I've taken two hikes into the Sierra National Forest and both involved trails that were being allowed to disappear. The first was from the Granite Creek Trailhead down the south wall of the Middle Fork of the SanJoaquin to the bridge at Cassidy Crossing, or Lower Miller Crossing. The trail disappears once you reach the rim of the canyon. It's steep and not too hard to intuit where the trail goes. However, there is a book out about the Theodore Solomons trail, a lower parallel trail to the John Muir Trail. It's also called the California Riding and Hiking Trail. I may have not understood the book, but I don't think a horse could get up and down the canyon walls. The hike up is the same - the trail hasn't been maintained in 10 to 20 years. I spent an hour looking for where the trail left the river to head up the wall. I hiked for three or four miles on trail that came and went before turning around.

The meadow on the south side of the river is gorgeous - the perfect camp spot, or quarter mile of potential camp spots.

On the way back I thought I'd cross the river at Miller Crossing, upstream of the Cassidy Bridge. The map has a trail going from a junction near Rattlesnake Lake along the canyon rim to a trail descending to Miller Crossing. The trail disappears in a small flat of big trees and big fallen trees, and doesn't reappear til the canyon rim and the trail down. I saw more bear scat in the half mile hike through Cassidy Meadows after the big tree forest than I'd ever seen. There were at least 50 piles of poop, and probably lots more. I don't know why as I didn't see anything for a bear to eat.

Even though the trail was non-existent, or I'd totally lost it, the route was pretty obvious from the map. When I reached the little stream the trail was supposed to cross I was jubilant.

The trail down from the rim is totally treacherous, and again, more intuited than visible.

THERE IS NO BRIDGE at Miller Crossing. There is a little cart that slides back and forth on a 3/4" cable from 10' high platforms. I think it's for the water people - there's a shed on the north side. The trail up comes and goes, but is hard to lose. Once up on the rim the trail appears again.

Here's a link to that trip. It's long, so beware!

http://jjolson.org/MiddleForkSanJoaquin2010-2.htm

Jeff...



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/31/2012 09:55AM by Jeffrey Olson.
avatar Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
July 31, 2012 06:28PM
Interesting trip, thanks for posting! The area across the bridge from Cassidy Crossing certainly looks like a real nice campsite (did you see signs of usage there? it kind of looked like an impacted site), though I have the same feelings toward Poison Oak as you do.
Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
August 02, 2012 07:37PM
The flat area just east of the Cassidy Bridge is sandy, flat, and well-shaded with giant pine trees and Maples. I think at the height of the flood - 100 year storm is my guess - the flats get washed. This is not true for the Crossing upstream - Miller Crossing. There are two well-established horse camps at least, with shelves and benchs and fire pits and garbage...

Jeff.
Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
November 23, 2013 11:10AM
Thanks for the great post, Jeff...

Having just run across this site, while looking for information on the TST -- I was surprised to see such a detailed account of a trip to an area that I know well -- very much off the beaten track.

I have possibly been in that area about 50 times in 40 years -- backpacking -- generally solo for a week or so -- sometimes with friends -- usually in the Fall.

As a rule I access the area from the Edison Lake side -- Start at Onion Springs -- follow the closed road up to Bear Meadow, Heitz Meadow, Rattlesnake Lake, Cassidy Meadows, down to the Middle Fork at either Cassidy Bridge or Miller Crossing.

In the older days, one could drive a 4X4 road all of the way to Bear Meadow -- or further or Bohna's Cabin -- or the base of Pincushion Peak. This road was built by John Medley back in the 40's to access his quartz mine below Pincushion.

Heitz Meadow has an old Forest Service cabin that has been allowed to degenerate due to very little demand to use the area & the remoteness to more popular destinations.

Rattlesnake Lake looks like a wet meadow due to the cat tails and lily pads around the perimiter -- it is actually an old volcanic crater that sits on a granite shelf 1500' above the river -- at about 5500'. It doesn't freeze over in the Winter due to warm water coming up from the bottom. I would fish it with a rubber raft -- and caught some very large rainbows over the years -- up to 6 pounds. However, I believe there was some sort of a fish kill about 13-14 years ago. Either that or the fish were killed by the DFG or biologists ridding many of the higher remote lakes.

Balloon Dome is a great monolithic sentry above where the river splits off.

There are many bears in the area, due to its remoteness, access to food and water, and a lower elevation area for foraging year round. Of all of the times I have been in the area, I have probably seen at least one bear 80% of the trips -- and solid bear sign every trip.

One time I came up across a similar way you shared with us -- from Soldier Meadow -- down to Cassidy Bridge -- and up the canyon wall to Cassidy Meadows. It was in early Summer, and the poison oak was rampant. Saw 2 rattlesnakes -- one on the trail near a seep about halfway down to Cassidy -- and another at the flat campground area right at the Cassidy Bridge. When I got back up to my vehicle I saw probably the largest timber rattler I have ever encountered -- close to 5' long and about 3" of girth -- might have had 12 - 13 buttons on its tail. An old soldier -- for sure.

One summer morning -- when checking out the river from above for likely fishing holes, I saw numerous rattlesnakes lying on the exposed rocks below where the sun had warmed up the boulders. Decided not to go fishing down there.

Another time when crossing the bridge at Cassidy I was about 1/3 of the way across watching the rapids intently when I looked up about the same time a cinnamon colored Black Bear happened to be coming in the opposite direction across the bridge. We saw each others surprised look at the same time, and each of us retreated fairly rapidly in the opposite direction.

Anyway -- lots of stories, and lots more -- but the area was always very lightly visited in the past. But since the locked gate was put at Onion Springs when it was designated a wilderness area back in 86, or so -- it has been allowed to be not maintained. And that's allright with me -- it really shows how quickly an area will revert to fairly true wilderness when allowed to just be left alone.

Thanks for the forum -- hope to visit it often.

Best Regards,

Fred
avatar Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
November 25, 2013 07:07AM
Neat.

Balloon Dome is an incredible dome. If it was in Yosemite it would be world-known.
Well... ok... maybe not... since whenever I mention Starr King to peeps out der...

Anywho.. If you like following links... there's some photos and stuff about the area
here:
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,56495,56495#msg-56495

or
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,44746,44746#msg-44746

or simply
https://picasaweb.google.com/yosemite.chick.on/BalloonDome

Just a great great dome. Incredible area around the dome with trails which are
not used much at all far enough away that it probably sees only a couple a year
up it.



Picasa Pictures
Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
November 25, 2013 10:30AM
Thanks, Chick-on --

Great links!

Even years ago, this area was so lightly used -- that there was a hermit who lived up above Millers Crossing for at least 20 years -- year round.

Some of the old timers who went into the area would bring him supplies a few times a year. The rest of the time he would live off of the land (deer, acorns, etc.).

Never heard what ever happened to him -- but very few people knew about him.

Sometimes it is good to know where shelter is in an emergency -- there is an old cabin about half way between Bear Meadow and the Western base of Pincushion -- it was built as a base camp to run cattle in the old days. Rock fireplace, pretty nice. And there is of course the abandoned Forest Service cabin at Heitz Meadow.

There are other unnamed places, of course -- but it is good to mark these on your map in case of an emergency such as injury, sickness, weather, etc.

Best,

Fred
Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
December 02, 2013 10:23AM
Every year I cycle the "Sierra Scenic Byway" past Mile High Vista during the "Grizzly Century", and wonder if I should come back and backpack down to the Middle Fork. Having read
Jeffrey Olsen's account, I am convinced to GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!. Thanks for a good story.

Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
December 02, 2013 06:51PM
I just read my own story for the first time in a couple years, and am choosing not to go back there again... LOL

Jeff...
Re: Middle Fork of San Joaquin Trails...
June 09, 2014 03:19AM
Jeff and Fred,

Just stumbled upon your two stories [here and http://jjolson.org/MiddleForkSanJoaquin2010-2.htm] about Cassidy Crossing area. I'm not much of a back packer, but I've probably spent about 2 months of my life near Cassidy Crossing. My father, and a friend and I are going there in a few days actually. My dad was turned on to a spot that's actually between Cassidy and Millers on the "west" or granite creek side of the SJ river. There is a sort of cairn trail that begins above cassidy bridge and ends in a wooden ladder very near river. It's a rough cross country slog and very steep drop. It's the only place I've ever back backed in my life actually. We call this little steep overland part the "secret trail" and it's tough. My father is too old for the secret trail. I have only met one person in 15-20 trips down there in the secret trail spot. I wonder who made and maintains the ladder! Who thought of it and why? I just went with my dad and it started a tradition. Just how crazy the secret trail is [was] becomes more clear with time. Perhaps more so reading Jeff's story. I'm lucky there were cairns and that over time I knew where I was going by using land marks.

So we will camp by the bridge at Cassidy X. My friend who is a backcountry ranger in those parts says the area has low priority trails as few go into Cassidy or Millers. The Minarets pack station will not let you ride horse down there, much to my 72 year old father's chagrin. They will pack your stuff in and let you walk. So we'll do a spot trip and will have to walk but not carry our packs. Hopefully the camp sites down there are cleaned up. We'll do our best to clean up using this information. After reading Jeff's story, I think some 55 gal trash bags are in order. And the mule can carry it out!

Living in the 808 area code, I have not been down to Cassidy since 2003, but I went at least once a year from about 1983-1994 and many times before that as a real young kid. We always access it from Granite creek side.

Fred, I'm pretty sure I met the "hermit" around 1992 or so. We were hiking from Cassidy to Rattlesnake lake and ran into him. [The trail from bridge to the lake was okay back then.] He had a gun, a five gallon plastic bucket in his hands and a saw on his old external frame pack. Of course we'd just ran into a rattle snake on the way to Rattlesnake lake! He was waiting on some people to bring him supplies just as you noted. He said sometimes if he caught a big fish, he'd hike out and hitch hike to Northfork b/c they had a big fish contest somewhere and he could make some cash or something! He mentioned wintering at the lake. I said increduously, "You wintered in the Sierra?!" He deadpanned, "Son, I've spent 27 winters in the Sierra." He said he spent about six winters at R Lake. Probably because it does not freeze as noted by Fred? At any rate, wonderful hearing your stories about a place I love so much.

Fred, have you been to Rattlesnake Lake via Edison lake recently? The packer out of Edison will let people ride horses unlike the other, but did not know if the trail to Cassidy would be good. My backcountry ranger pal confirms the Edison to Rattlesnake lake trail gets low traffic and the whole area not much maintenance. As for the trail from Granite Creek to Cassidy -- he hiked it in and out one day in October of 2013 to scout out possible campsites for his crew so that trail is apparently in good enough shape to follow. Those switch backs were always pretty eroded so I'll give you all a report when I return.

I'll let you all know when I return. Jeff's pics of Cassidy bridge and river looking downstream from the bridge brought back wonderful memories.

Aloha,

Woody



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/09/2014 04:02AM by iwoody808.
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