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Fern on the Four Mile Trail, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is New


Re: Bald Mountain Buck Brush Bash

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Bald Mountain Buck Brush Bash
October 31, 2016 08:14PM
I met up with the Advance Party at the Big Oak Flat entrance station Friday evening after a pleasant and uneventful drive from the Bay Area. The weather was quite mild for fall, and the forecast was for more of the same.

After rearranging our gear a bit, we headed towards our trailhead, stopping first at the Aspen Valley gate to leave a car for the return trip. At the trailhead we set up a nice "frontcountry" camp and enjoyed grilled hotdogs while watching the sunset.

The next morning, after breakfast and packing up, we headed down a steep hill to where a short TrailQuest segment left the park. After touching the gate where this faint trail crossed out of the park, we headed back into the park.

We had to hike another short section of trail to finish off the connector from the Lookout Point trail to the Base Line Camp trail, where we got a few peeks at the now-flowing Wapama Falls.

For the next several hours our "trail", which passed through areas burnt by the Ackerson and more recent Rim fires, would have significant shrub-fest sections.

This is the trail

The trail heading over Bald Mountain towards Aspen Valley was barely visible.

Bonus points to anyone who posts a TR of the trail to Ackerson Meadow from the Bald Mountain trail

The many post-fire recovery shrubs were at least displaying their fall colors, and the weather was mild enough that the hike through open terrain was pleasant. Not surprisingly, we got off the trail in a few places, but we always looped back to ensure we got correct TrailQuest credit.

Yes, this is the trail.

The buck brush was thick enough in places that squeezing between clumps on the "trail" often resulted in a few thorny encounters.

Still on the trail!

The crossing of the now-swollen Middle Tuolumne River required a bit of careful rock-hopping, after which the trail entered terrain where the forest had not completely burned.

After another creek crossing, the trail began its climb to Bald Mountain. There were unfortunately still a few sections where the brush was thick.

Of course she's on the trail...

We stopped for lunch near a small meadow that had a few aspens displaying their fall colors.

After lunch, we continued to the spring near the top of the trail, where we topped off our water bottles. The Pink One left us shortly thereafter to search for a few boundary markers while JKW and I continued along the trail.

After wandering along the Bald Mountain ridge for a mile or so, the trail began its descent to Long Gulch. The fire had impacted this portion of the trail as well, and it was challenging to find in places.

She's right on the trail.

Part of the way down we passed by another meadow with a few more aspens glowing the late afternoon sun.

We had not yet decided where we would camp for the night, but once we reached the Old Tioga Road--where JKW finished her last trail segment in this part of the park--we decided to head up Long Gulch a few miles to a nice campsite the Advance Party had located a few weeks ago. This would also give me a chance to do the western part of Long Gulch.

Unlike the faint, brushy trail, the old road was quite straightforward to follow.

This is also the trail.

As we neared the camping area, I heard a loud cracking sound nearby: maybe 20' from me a large branch--maybe about the size of a 2x4--fell from high up in a recently-burnt tree, landing with a loud thud on the ground. This confirmed that we had made the right decision not to camp under the "widowmakers" closer to Aspen Valley.

JKW and I arrived at the campsite a bit before the Pink One, successful in his marker hunt, arrived via a different route.

I dropped the heavy gear out of my pack and headed up the road to where it crosses the river to complete this segment of trail. The idea was that I could finish the "other" side from White Wolf without having to worry about crossing the river when it's much higher.

The walk to the washed-out bridge was very pleasant---this section of forest had not been impacted as much by the recent fires, so it had the normal smells that I associate with red fir forests in late season. At the former bridge site I stepped across the river before returning to camp.

There was an odd assortment of leftover materials from the former bridge--some concrete blocks on the north side, and several nailed-together 2x4s on the south.

I arrived in camp just as the sun was setting, and soon thereafter I was in the tent ready for dinner and a good night's rest.

After breakfast the next morning we all went our separate ways. The Pink One went in search of another boundary marker, JKW would head out to the car via the Old Tioga Road, and I would try to get to the Merced Grove parking area by connecting several short TrailQuest sections that would be new to me.

The stroll down the road was nice, and near Aspen Valley I turned off onto the faint, but not brushy, Long Gulch/Tamarack Creek trail.

Once a few miles past the Aspen Valley junction, the trail began its descent to the South Fork of the Tuolumne River, where there were a few nice views of distant waterfalls and pools. I had been warned about the crossing of Long Gulch Creek and the South Fork--the rocks had been slippery a few weeks ago--but I had no problems when I crossed at this very pleasant spot on the river.

From there the trail climbed with a well-engineered grade to the new Tioga Road.

At the road, I was able to reach the others on radio and confirmed that I would push on to at least to Crane Flat.

Falling trees? Check. Washed out trails? Check. Trees blocking trails? Check. Rodents of unusual size? I don't believe they exist.

I had been warned that OD considered the trail from the road to the now-closed Tamarack Flat campground a slog, but I found it quite pleasant. The upper part was in burnt-out open brush--but at least the trail seems to have received recent maintenance.

It went by a few meadows, some of which had aspens still in their prime fall colors.

At one spot on the trail were many obsidian shards--perhaps historic, or perhaps due to the annual activities that take place at Tamarack Flat campground.

Farther down, the trail entered the forest, and in a few places I could see how deep the creek had cut into the forest floor.

Just in time for lunch I reached the campground, where I took advantage of a picnic table to enjoy my lunch of a sandwich and chips.

After lunch I filled up my water bottle and started my road walk back to the new Tioga Road. The wind had picked up a good bit, and pine cones and small branches were falling from the trees all around me, making me somewhat glad I was walking along a wide road instead of a single-track trail. On the other hand, the asphalt was making my feet feel somewhat pounded, and at one rest stop I looked at how far I had hiked so far: about 16 miles.

Just after crossing the Tioga Road again I heard from the others on radio: they were still hiking out of Aspen Valley, so I confirmed that I had enough time to make it to the Merced Grove parking lot. The winds were still blowing a good bit, and some light clouds were starting to blow in, but the temperature was perfect for hiking.

From one point on the old road from Crane Flat to Gin Flat I could see my next destination: the Crane Flat fire lookout.

After crossing the Tioga Road near Crane Flat, I dropped into the meadows to see if I could top off my water bottle at either of the springs--and to avoid walking along the narrow road. The springs were at most damp, muddy ground, so I passed them and continued toward the Tuolumne Grove parking lot.

From this parking area, I headed up the winter ski route to the fire lookout. At the top, I climbed to the lookout tower to take in the panoramic views.

I was able to reach the others on radio; they had just arrived at the trailhead we had started from and were getting ready to leave. After chatting for a bit, I headed down a use trail into the Rockefeller Grove area. The trail was at first a rocky path, but once near the grove it became an old logging road/railbed.

Unfortunately while some of the large sugar pines had survived the Rim Fire, many more had not.

The hike through the grove and down to the parking lot was a bit of a slog. Perhaps it would have been more enjoyable if I didn't already have about 20 miles behind me, but I was somewhat relieved when I finally reached the trailhead--and the various snacks and drinks that were available from our cars there.

The Advance Party had noticed that the "No Parking in Yosemite Valley" sign had been on when they drove back into the park late Sunday evening. The only other people I had seen over the course of about 37 miles of hiking had been at the various road crossings, proving once again that even when Yosemite is crowded, it's really only crowded in a few spots, and there are still plenty of places to get away from everyone... If you don't mind eyeball-deep buck brush and falling trees.
Re: Bald Mountain Buck Brush Bash
October 31, 2016 09:00PM
It's been a while since I've spent some time here commenting on the various threads.. miss it... but have been busy doing what I love.. hiking!

Anyway, this was a great trip.. we started just after the rains from two weekends ago now... and were a bit worried about making it to the trailhead, since it was on a Forest Service dirt road... but we made it without difficulty! YAY!!

Can't tell you how much I've enjoyed walking every damn foot of the trails I've ignored over the years. It's not been easy.. but it's given me a huge appreciation for the variety in the park! And I've grown to love scenery that I used to dismiss. (I was a high-country snob...)

In any case, one thing I DO NOT love about the lower elevations... the damn shrub and the spiders!

On shrub:

Of course she's on the trail...

Well, I'm still covered in scratches, punctures and small gashes from that weekend's adventures. I think I react to the bits of brush that break my skin. I'm allergic to so many things... no surprise, but it's the gift that keeps giving for weeks.. Joy. But I'm more willing to put up with scratches using breathable clothes rather than the less breathable stuff I'd have to wear to protect myself better..

On spiders:

OMG. TWICE there was a big spider (this particular size can no longer be called HUGE after the one in Hetch Hetchy campground in August) in the tent because one or the other of the guys decided it was warm enough to leave the tent door(s) open! I have a phobia. They are quite understanding.. But after I shot out of the tent at night, leaving them to deal with the invader, I heard Chick-on mutter "I think I got it out..." and I picked that up and I asked "what do you mean *you think*???"... at which point, Chick-on says: "You weren't supposed to hear that." Sigh.

The next morning, Basilbop has already packed and left, Chick-on is finishing packing outside the tent.. I'm in the tent finishing packing myself up... and I pick up my top lid to attach to my backpack.. and there is a spider that looks suspiciously similar to the one the previous night... and I scream and shoot out of the tent ... again... I hear Basilbop immediately on the radio "Is that a scream I just heard? Spider?" and Chick-on, after hearing me say that it looked just like the one last night... did TWO get in? Did it crawl back in... or did he NOT get it out?!?! Well... he admitted he really wasn't sure they got it out... All I can say is at least this one had all his legs intact and functional when I saw him last...

I swear. Two strong guys. I may scream, but they don't like dealing with the big spiders, either!!! Shudder...

Anyway, after that shock, I was fine packing up the tent on my own and putting out of the campsite on my own to enjoy the peaceful morning. Chick-on had already left to go hunt his marker... Gotta love the radios! They came in handy all day as we split up and met up on and off throughout the day!

Cannot think of anything I'd rather do than be out there hiking, exploring and sharing experiences with dear friends! Even if that means I have to deal with spider encounters every so often... as in almost every trip...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/31/2016 09:06PM by JustKeepWalking.
Re: Bald Mountain Buck Brush Bash
October 31, 2016 10:00PM
Lovely stuff, Basilbop. Thanks for posting.

I've been flying way too much this month---no time to get out and enjoy what you were able to bring into my computer. Thanks,

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
avatar Re: Bald Mountain Buck Brush Bash
November 01, 2016 01:21PM
Thanks Stick N Fedders.
Great TR as usual

After this last weekend... JKW has only about 15 miles of trails left
(less than 20 if include Wawona Meadow Loop) ...
Pretty impressive!

Been so much fun

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Bald Mountain Buck Brush Bash
November 02, 2016 04:59PM
I'm trying to think of some words to describe these glorious photos, but what's the use?

The one with JWK in the tree trunk shadows is underrated and might get overlooked by Hall of Fame voters. (it shouldn't)

Thanks for taking the time and effort to share these incredible shots, and of course, for doing that hike.
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