I don't think the "rangers burned the cabins" In 85 a couple of fire crew guys and I actually did a burnout to protect the remnants of the "headquarters" complex. As I understand it the headquarters was not "defended" during the next fire. This area had been picked over so there was nothing but the brokendown structures. There is a preserved "reconstructed, really" cabin a couple of hundred yards below the last, (highest) ford in in cloud canyon where the trail starts to go up and around the north end of the Whaleback and on to colby lake and pass.
It is my sense that the park service tends to manage western parks much more for their "natural" features than for their human history. It is as if we should feel guilty that we explored, trapped, ran cattle, and mined before the parks were parks. We don't even focus on the activities of native americans in the high sierra. There are a bunch sites, including bedrock mortars in sugarloaf valley, some immediately adjacent to the trail! There is even a bedrock mortar in the middle of the trail in cloud canyon near cement table meadow. There are signs of a camp high above big bird lake if you know what to look for.
I spent more than one night at remote sites that I knew had been occupied more that once by native americans. I could (and I'm not "spiritulally gifted) sense the presense of families escaping the heat of the san Joaquine Valley with children playing in the water and mothers and fathers relaxing in the sun, not much different than what we do today.
Whoa did I get carried away ...
Cloud Canyon or Deadman? It is about 5 miles to the lower end of Big wet meadow where you get the classic view of the Whaleback. It is 7 miles and more elevation gain to upper ranger meadow and the view of the U shaped upper Deadman Canyon and Coppermine pass and "Death Falls." I bet virtually no one in the park knows that place name. Where the trail goes up the east side of the canyon to top death falls is one of my favorite flower gardens in the sierra, to but that makes a long day trip. I agree that as a whole the trip up deadman is more scenic and Lower Ranger, about 5 miles up provides a pretty incredible view of Big Bird Peak. But if I only had 10 miles round trip in me I'd opt for lunch on the big square rock at the lower end of Big Wet Meadow in Cloud canyon.
Have a good trip.