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What to do when the GCT is closed by FIRE!

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What to do when the GCT is closed by FIRE!

Postby balzaccom » Tue Aug 04, 2009 10:21 am

We had our permits all arranged, but didn't count on a major fire in the center of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Dang!

We overhead the Ranger at the Big Oak Flat Wilderness station explaining over and over about what trails would be filled---including anything going out of Tuolumne Meadows. He offered Illiluoette Canyon, but we had done that trip last year, (Loved it, but didn't want a repeat.)

I remembered that I had researched the Kibbie Ridge trail for a trip we were going to take in late May. Because of the snow levels, we opted for a lower trip in Emigrant WIlderness, but I still thought I rememebered most of the details. So without too much delay, we found ourselves headed back out to the Cherry Lake area to get to the trailhead for Kibbie Ridge.

ONe note--the wilderness ranger did give us an earful on protecting our food from bears. We are veterans, but had never heard a ranger so vehement about protecting the food---even to the point of saying: "You cannot let the bear win. You have to keep him from getting the food, no matter what the situation."

Spoken like a true idealist who may not have ever been in that kind of situation! (In the end, we never ever saw a bear, so his pep talk was just that...)

The road to the Kibbie Ridge trailhead is fine except for about 30 feet where we were VERY happy to have the higher clearance of our little Ford Escape. From the trailhead, the trail goes straight up for a little less than a mile, very steep, and then tapers off at the junction with the Kibbie Lake trail. We met a group from Camp Tawonga here, a bunch of kids, but then met very very people after the junction.

The trail climbs about 5-6 miles from the junction, always following the ridge. There were fabulous flowers, and no bugs to speak of, but an old fire did leave this area looking a little worse for wear.

Because of our late start, we were walking in the heat of the day, and the climb began to get tiring by the time we finally reached the first really good water of the day: Sachse's Spring. Beautiful spot, with lovely fresh pure water, but the only really buggy place we found on the trip.

We decided to push on over Styx Pass...and that took us into the Cherry Creek drainage. This was a slow, tough descent for about a mile...very steep and rocky. Not what we wanted at the end of the long day. At the tiny junction with Boundary Lake trail, we chose to keep going downhill, and a mile later were at CHerry Creek.

A beautiful spot, but the creek is seasonal, and was drying up to some lartge pools connected by a very small flow of water. Very few small fish here, but we were delighted to rest our feet, wash up a bit, have dinner, and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

We did find a pair of boots and a camelback along the river here--anybody missing? And we did meet a group of four hikers who had started just fifteen minutes after we did...and arrived two hours later. So we weren't going that slowly after all!

The next morning we decided to take life easy. We made the small, two-mile climb to BOundary Lake, and camped there before lunch. Had a nap and then explored the region by climbing a small ridge to the southwest of Boundary Lake, and following the various channels of Bartlett Creek around through a chain of seven lakes, back to Boundary. On the way we couldn't resist climbing the granite dome in the middle of these lakes--the one we had walked completely around.

That evening we did see a lone hiker...walking along with a day pack in sandals and shorts---no shirt. I have to wonder how he got there and where he was going!

Day three had us up and walking by 9 a.m., and we were not sure how far we were going. Initially we were planning to walk back to the Spring, so we could have an easy hike out on the last day. But we stopped to climb Mercur Peak....with simply stunning views. And then ate lunch. And still got to Sachse's about 1 p.m. No lake, no fishing, and lots of bugs.

So we kept moving and took along enough water to camp wherever we wanted. But as we walked, we started thinking about how close we were getting to the trailhead...and how it was all downhill from here.

We hit the car about 4:40 and drove into Tuolumne City for a burger and a salad.

This was a great hike--I am glad that I have done it. But it's not one that I would repeat. The Kibbie Ridge trail is long and uphill on the way in...and for six miles it isn't all that scenic. Once over Styx Pass, the scenery is stunning. But I like to fish, and there really isn't much here to offer...unless you make it all the way to Huckleberry Lake, which is another 6-7 miles. And if I want to go there, there are more scenic routes.

Still..five people in three days...perfect weather, stunning scenery. Much better than not going!

Here are the photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/balzaccom/B ... 9661786290

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/

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