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Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

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Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby schmalz » Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:05 am

I rarely see the Golden Trout brought up here, and I'm having a hard time getting much info on it via google searches. Is anyone here familiar with the area? I have a few questions, which I'll just throw out here.

- Is a Tom Harrison Map realistic in terms of maintained trails?

- How common are rattlesnakes in the area?

- A trip that I'm considering for late may that looks good on a map is to go from Cottonwood Lakes > Monache Meadow > Templeton Meadow > Mulkey Meadow > Cottonwood Lakes. Should I stop considering that?



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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:06 am

Considering Tom Harrison shows the trail from Jordan to Red Rock Meadows as a normal maintained trail I would say no it's not reliable. Despite us taking hundreds of trees off of it we still were not able to get it open and it remains technically closed. There was almost no tread either on allot of the locations we worked.

Golden Trout Wilderness suffers from having too many trails and not enough funding or volunteers to complete the work. Also it does not have the usage to place it as allot of priority on the Forest Service's radar. There are lots of people working on it but just not enough.

I'd say call some folks in the Kernville district to get info on it since there are allot of great people working there. Your hike is in Inyo National Forest though and I feel they may have less information on it considering they have far more used areas to think about but you never know they might be able to give you reports on it.

I'd just use altitude rules for rattlesnakes. The higher you go the less common they are going to be. I have seen one at 9000 feet but only once and it was on the edge of the Kern Canyon so probably crawled up from below.
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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby Hobbes » Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:19 am

schmalz wrote:A trip that I'm considering for late may that looks good on a map is to go from Cottonwood Lakes > Monache Meadow > Templeton Meadow > Mulkey Meadow > Cottonwood Lakes. Should I stop considering that?


Brian, you're gonna be sorry you asked - I've been researching and planning on hiking the GTW for years. You want links - boy, do I have links.

First of all, all the meadows were subject to years of litigation where the FS pursued terminating grazing right allotments for a number of ranchers. Over 10 years ago, they reached a settlement where some of the meadows were set aside in order to evaluate their recovery. Here's a couple of research reports that cover the rationale and results:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q ... 6809,d.cGU

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q= ... GU&cad=rja

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q= ... GU&cad=rja

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q ... GU&cad=rja

Now, a lot of these reports are focused on golden trout habitat, but - as I recall you're not a fisherman - the key take away information is the quality of the restored meadows and overall environmental impact.

Secondly, after years of planning and cancelling, Jim and I are planning on hiking in July through the GTW to reach the Kern river, then hike up Kern Cyn to Mav's meet-up spot in the Kaweahs. Because we were interested in route selection and meadow conditions (we didn't want to sand slog through degraded meadows that resemble deserts), I followed up with some emails to the authors of the reports listed above. In addition, I spoke on the phone to one of the staff biologists heading up these efforts to get even more detailed information.

Bottom line is that the meadows have made a remarkable recovery. The person I spoke to really likes Mulkey through Bullfrog, so that's the way we're going to reach Little Whitney on day 1. Rather than hike all the way to Monache via the PCT, you could head over Trail pass to Mulkey, then head over B!tch pass to Templeton, then hike back through Ramshaw and head up either through Big Whitney and Cottonwood pass, or walk up Tunnel mdw back to Mulkey and out Trail.

PS I have both T Harrison and some 1:24 maps for the region. The main trails identified on the Harrison maps should be fine.

PPS And, because it's FS, you can take Callie, no?
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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Wed Feb 04, 2015 9:10 am

I can't add much to the pool of knowledge, having only been there for a few days, but I was there for fishing (which was very good) and in those three days I saw (and heard) two rattlesnakes, one of which was quite large. A bit more arid that further north in the Sierra, but it is still a beautiful place and certainly worth a trip.
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." --Jeff Lebowski

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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby schmalz » Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:14 am

Rogue - Thanks for the intel. Have you hiked the trail that I mentioned? Or the loop that Hobbes mentioned? Those are the general routes I was interested in.

Hobbes - Thanks for the links. Very interesting reading which will give me more to think about when I'm out there (if I make it). Yes, Callie could, and would come along. That's obviously a big motivating factor. I'm beginning to have a hard time finding new areas in the Sierra that are dog friendly and withing a reasonable drive from LA. Also, the main reason I chose my particular route is that I'm interested in that stretch of the PCT including Olancha Peak, and hiking from Kennedy Meadows to Cottonwood is a logistical pain.

FlyGuy - Thanks for the intel.
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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby Ska-T » Wed Feb 04, 2015 1:24 pm

A couple of friends and I did a GTW loop out of Horseshoe Meadow about 13 to 14 years ago. IIRC, the trip was over Memorial Day weekend of a normal snow fall year. From Horseshoe Meadow we went south over Trail Pass down to Mulkey Meadows. From there we made our way over to Templeton Meadows. In that stretch we lost the trail in the numerous cow paths that crisscross the area and meandered a bit in Ramshaw Meadows before finding Templeton Meadows. There was a good size bear grazing near the South Fork of the Kern. We slept near Templeton Cow Camp. In the morning we headed south on the trail to the pass at the top of the Toowa Range and then headed west to the top of Kern Peak. The views north were nice.

From Kern Peak we post-holed down the snow slope north toward Kern Peak Stringer and made camp near the dome to the west of Ramshaw Meadows. The plan was to return to the car via Big Whitney Meadow and Cottonwood Pass, but we didn't think we had time for that. So we walked east through Tunnel Meadow and Mulkey Meadows and returned to the car over Trail Pass.

The trip was excellent with one major exception. I have never seen so much cow crap and trampled ground. It was early in the season and the cows hadn't been brought in yet, but the cow pies from the previous year made us uncomfortable with the water quality. The stream damage was extensive.

-Scott
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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby Hobbes » Wed Feb 04, 2015 5:26 pm

Ska-T wrote:I have never seen so much cow crap and trampled ground. The stream damage was extensive.


Exactly. Once the region was designated Wilderness, the Forest service went to work attempting to terminate grazing right allotments many ranchers had since the 1880s. In fact, good old Anheuser-Busch was one of the litigants:

http://vault.sierraclub.org/planet/199703/alert.asp

Part of the reason I kept putting off trips (which would have mirrored your route) was the fear of wasting precious Sierra time hiking through degraded meadows. When Jim & I began to plan our route through the GTW in order to get to the Kern, I re-visited the issue and followed up with some of the rangers.

Apparently, the meadows have made a comeback over the ensuing 10-11 years since a federal judge ruled against the ranchers. The FS staff biologists (+CA fish & game) go out every year to take water quality samples, photograph meadow/stream site lines (for comparison to prior years), estimate fish populations, etc. The links I included above have some .pdf presentations that show the improvements.

The initial decision setting aside certain meadows and restricting others, in order to have a valid base for recovery evaluation, is subject to amendment, so the FS stays on top demonstrating before vs after evidence for continued prohibition. As I mentioned above, one of the primary contacts likes Mulkey, Bullfrog & Little Whitney. I asked her point-blank which route she would take; she didn't hesitate, so that's the way we're going.

Btw, here's a few more links:

Best overview - power point presentation:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q= ... Gc&cad=rja

A really good research report with lots of photographs:

http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/ab ... 262746.pdf

Complete listing of litigation status, research reports and other project information documents:

http://data.ecosystem-management.org/ne ... ject=34380
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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:09 pm

No I have not hiked any of that area.
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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby Kmowelk » Thu Feb 05, 2015 6:25 am

My husband and I have done three trips through the Golden Trout Wilderness over the last two years. The last time we went through Mulkey Meadow was Labor Day 2013, a low water year. We hadn't had any issue finding water up until that point in our trip, but the stringers through Mulkey Meadow just under Trail Pass were dry so keep that in mind if you intend to head out later this Summer.

We've never actually seen any cows, but certainly the dry cow patties heading back toward Trail Pass from Tunnel Meadow are reminders that they - at some point - have been there.

As for the Tom Harrison map it can be hit or miss. E.g., the trail leading up Kern Peak is much better maintained than you might imagine from looking at the map and we've never had an issue finding any of the trails throughout the GTW. Basically if you've done your research you shouldn't have trouble figuring out where you're heading with the aid of the map.

As someone else mentioned you're more likely to see rattlesnakes at lower elevations. We've seen some huge rattlesnakes in the corridor heading to and from Grasshopper Flats from Lewis Camp Trailhead to Little Kern Lake (particularly once you're past the ranger cabin through the Devil's Staircase), but never any up near Big Whitney Meadow or any of the elevations above 8,5k.
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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby schmalz » Thu Feb 05, 2015 1:49 pm

Thank you so much everyone, this was an incredibly helpful topic. I've decided against my initial plans, but now I have 5-7 day loop planned in the southern area of the wilderness, which I hope to do within the next few years.
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Re: Is anyone here familiar with the Golden Trout Wilderness

Postby SweetSierra » Thu Feb 05, 2015 3:53 pm

I've been to the Golden Trout Wilderness over Mulkey, Trail, and Cottonwood passes several times. You often have the trails and meadows to yourself. The last time I was there the conditions of the meadows seemed much improved. Here's a good guidebook on the area by local hiker and guide Suzanne Suedo:

http://www.ebookmall.com/ebook/hiking-c ... oCfurw_wcB
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