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Fern on the Four Mile Trail, Yosemite National Park

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Re: Ladybugs, Old Trails, and Paradise

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Ladybugs, Old Trails, and Paradise
February 07, 2017 06:32PM
A few weeks ago the Advance Party headed to the South Fork trailhead in Sequoia to knock off a short 1.7 mile section of TrailQuest. Unfortunately, due to the actual trail being, well, a bit longer than 1.7 miles, this ended up being a recon trip. We decided to remedy this situation a few weeks later.

The morning was chilly when we headed up the South Fork Kaweah River towards Ladybug camp. It had once again snowed the previous week, and fresh snow was still visible on the south-facing sides of Homers Nose and the adjacent dome.

Despite the recent storms the first "major" stream crossing was a non-event. On the ridges in the distance ahead of us we could see the crowns of some of the specimens from the Garfield Grove.

I again was not responsible for the group decision to not carry snowshoes. Fortunately the snow was only a few inches deep at Ladybug Camp. JKW even saw a ladybug there.

A tree had fallen across the trail in one place requiring some careful side-stepping. While waiting for JKW to navigate this obstacle, we saw a conspicuously tall tree below us.

We encountered more and more snow as we headed towards Cedar Creek, but the snow was firm and we didn't regret our decision to skip on snowshoes.

At Cedar Creek we entered a small sequoia grove. None of the trees were huge, but there were several mature ones near the creek.

Cedar Creek is the official end of the maintained trail--and thus concluded the TrailQuest portion. However, we decided to see how far we could follow the unmaintained portion. We were able to keep our feet dry with some careful stone-stepping across Cedar Creek. Not far from this crossing, we came across an unexpected sign marking the junction with a trail that isn't on any recent maps (and is in a different place on older ones...)

One website indicated that there was a significant slide that blocked the trail a bit past Cedar Creek. It seems someone had recently done some maintenance in this section to stabilize the trail.

After dropping for a bit, our trail reached a small flat area near a creek that had a few medium-sized sequoia logs. We guessed this was Whisky Log camp.

We didn't have any whisky or other spirits, but we still stopped here for lunch.

Ravioli pollo

Past Whisky Log camp, the snow was almost deep enough to make us wish we had snowshoes, but the scenery of the fresh snow distracted us.

We could see a few sequoia across the creek from us, but it wasn't until we had hiked another mile or so past Whisky Log Camp that we once again were among these large trees.

One web resource claims you have to go past Trail's End Camp to see any sequoia, but there were easily a dozen or so near the trail before reaching this camp. As with the small grove near Cedar Creek, none were huge. In fact, there were several larger incense cedar and pine trees, many of which seemed to be dying.

As we approached Trail's End camp, it was hard to follow the trail and we were a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to tell when we reached its end. Fortunately a sign indicated the end of the line.

We took a few pictures of the creek and the area around the camp, but it had taken a fair bit of time to reach Trail's End Camp, so we didn't linger long.

On the return, we did have a chance to enjoy the scenery a bit more since we weren't trail hunting as much.

The evening sun made the snow-covered face of Dennison Ridge look almost as if it were pure marble.

Homers Nose was catching the last bits of daylight behind us.

We returned to our car with just a few minutes of light left; darkness fell just as we left the park. While I had completed a TrailQuest segment, and we all had completed a "TQX" segment, we had also identified a new section of trail to add to the SEKI list.

The Advance Party had asked me to bring creek-crossing shoes since they had been stymied by their attempt to cross Paradise Creek a few days ago. Equipped with such footwear, we all set off the next morning to tick off another short low-elevation segment of Sequoia trail.

From the direction of Paradise Creek Moro Rock seemed much more like a fin or pinnacle than the broad dome it resembles from either the west or east.

The climb was mostly a nice stroll along a pretty creek.

We used our alternate footwear for the crossing and immediate re-crossing of the chilly creek. After drying our feet and putting back on our boots, we continued to the end of the maintained section of trail, near a nice waterfall on a tributary to Paradise Creek.

On the topo map the trail continues a bit past this creek, but it seems like no one goes past the small waterfall. We slowly made our way through underbrush as we followed the eroded trail. We could see in the distance that it would once more be in the sun. Immediately after reaching an almost-flat spot in the sun--on the trail!--we stopped for lunch, enjoying the warmth of the sun.

From our lunch spot, we could look into the upper drainage of Paradise Creek--now far below us--and the high ridges surrounding us. A long time ago the trail continued up the canyon and eventually crossed this ridge before dropping to the Atwell Mill area. The Pink One and I decided to see how much of this old trail still existed while JKW rested in the warm sun.

In most places the "trail" was nothing more than a narrow track along a steep grassy slope.

In a few places the engineering that went into this trail was more obvious.

But, in more than a few places, the trail was mostly in our imaginations.

We eventually reached a section where some dense manzanita blocked further progress. Most likely, there was still a lot of good trail remaining as well as a few places where it has faded into history. The trail had apparently once been an important route into the Mineral King area, but there are far easier ways to get there now, and without any other obvious attractions, such as giant sequoias, and given its low elevation, it's doubtful it would see many travelers even if it had been maintained.

It would take a long time for some potential future intrepid explorer to push through to the top of the ridge.

After returning to a rested JKW, we packed up and slowly made our way back to the end of the maintained trail.

We opted to keep our hiking boots on and risk getting our feet wet instead of changing shoes for the return creek crossings.

We made good time heading down the trail and arrived at Buckeye Flat campground with enough time for some "bonus coverage" exploration of some things JKW and the Pink One had found a few days previously. First, there was a series of off-stream dams--perhaps an old fish hatchery?

More interestingly, on the far (south) side of the Middle Fork was a well-constructed trail that traversed high above a gorge on the river.

Our hunch is that this was the original route between Hospital Rock and Paradise Creek, dating from before the Generals Highway was constructed. Near Hospital Rock is a short trail that goes down to the creek, and one viewpoint is clearly the old abutment of a former bridge. It's not clear why the trail was constructed on the steep south side of the river when the north side seems a more obvious alignment.

After taking a few more pictures of the gorge and cascade, we headed back to the trailhead.

We still had a fair amount of sun left, but we also had a long drive back home ahead of us.

As with the previous day, we had completed another short "official" TrailQuest segment, but had also discovered several new old trails to explore in the future. It doesn't seem like we will run out of things to do in Sequoia for quite awhile.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/07/2017 06:32PM by basilbop.
Re: Ladybugs, Old Trails, and Paradise
February 07, 2017 07:36PM
Stunning photos as always! At the rate you guys are doing this TrailQuest...where will you go after you finish SEKI? Redwood National? Lassen??
Re: Ladybugs, Old Trails, and Paradise
February 07, 2017 09:04PM
Oh, it's gonna take a LONG time to finish!!! Logistics tricky.

And we still have other things we want to do in Yosemite.. and if we decide to do Boat Quest in SEKI... more time.. and ..

TQX in both parks will take a long time too!

Hope is... never-ending quests and exploration in our beloved chunk of Sierra. Have always said Yosemite to Sequoia is my favorite play zone!
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