Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

A place to explore the natural setting (geology, flora & fauna), people, constructed infrastructure and historical events that play and have played a part in shaping the Sierra Nevada as we know it today.
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limpingcrab
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by limpingcrab » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:20 pm

Dillonwood Grove, Oriole Lake and Milk Ranch Peak are on my list for this spring. Any tips on finding the use trail to Oriole Lake from the road terminus?

Also, I read that Paradise Cave is off the Milk Ranch Road. Anyone ever been able to find it? I see an old road or trail that leads south from the Milk Ranch spur just west of Grunigen Creek that looks like it may barely be off NPS land; but possibly on a BLM easement. Anyone know where that path leads? Better yet, is access to Milk Ranch Peak even legal? It looks like the road may pass through a private holding before reaching the BLM easement.
When I solo hiked out to Oriole Lake I don't remember any navigation. It's been a while but I just walked the road and ended up by the lake near some cabins. There was a very nice woman there who told me stories about the place and warned me about the mountain lions. Considering I don't remember any navigation issues I assume it was straightforward.

They used to leave the first gate unlocked and you could drive to the junction and even go left up to the gate where you'd park for Paradise Cave. However, because there have been repeated illegal marijuana grows on Squirrel Creek you can't drive much of the road anymore and have to go on foot (or bike?).

Milk Ranch Peak is really really cool. You do have to walk the dirt road through a small private property section but when I saw the cabin owner there once he just waved. I spent an afternoon in the lookout in a snowstorm and it was a memorable experience. I assume you've seen the Milk Ranch Peak Webcam?

Paradise Cave might be hard to find if you haven't been there. I hope you understand that's it's not really a good idea to post locations on the internet. I remember it being pretty cool and not trashed, but it's been a while.

Just to pique your interest, there is another cave sort of on Paradise Ridge that goes quite deep with squeeze rappels and water and the full experience. At the furthest point that's been explored there is a passage filled with rubble. So much wind is coming out of the rubble that the room fills with dust and you can hardly breathe. That point has not been dug out yet but some suspect it might be the deepest (not longest) cave in the park based on how much air is coming through that section. Strong wind often indicate large chambers as well. Stronger wind than Hurricane Crawl Cave.

Lots to explore!








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cb83
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by cb83 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 7:38 pm

Thanks for the response - that is very helpful, and the whole area is very fascinating to me. I'm looking to take my Mountain Bike up in this area and from what I can read from the most recent Compendium that should be OK - as they only explicitly state bicycles are prohibited on the old roads out of North Fork; yet only states "vehicles" are not allowed on the Oriole Lake Road. I also see there is a pretty decent sized Sequoia grove up Squirrel Creek that I'll try to make my way to as well once I dismount and start exploring the lake and cave.

Which I believe I have found the location of Paradise Cave and may give it a shot; but looks like a tough climb. I have no intentions of actually going in it, but like the idea of finding something so remote that others have visited but only rarely. I'm a little baffled by the cave secrecy thing, but I'll oblige.

It sounds like a cool experience you had at Milk Ranch. I look at the Milk Ranch webcam often and it does look very interesting to me. I'm planning to visit a few other lookouts this year before the High Sierra starts to open up; but the access to Milk Ranch seemed questionable. Happy to hear you didn't have any issues with the cabin owner.

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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by bobby49 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 10:22 pm

cb83 wrote:
Which I believe I have found the location of Paradise Cave and may give it a shot; but looks like a tough climb.
Paradise Cave shows on my topo map. It can't be too much of a secret.

In some jurisdictions, bicycles are classified as vehicles, although they are not motor vehicles.

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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by limpingcrab » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:49 am

Which I believe I have found the location of Paradise Cave and may give it a shot; but looks like a tough climb. I have no intentions of actually going in it, but like the idea of finding something so remote that others have visited but only rarely. I'm a little baffled by the cave secrecy thing, but I'll oblige.

It sounds like a cool experience you had at Milk Ranch. I look at the Milk Ranch webcam often and it does look very interesting to me. I'm planning to visit a few other lookouts this year before the High Sierra starts to open up; but the access to Milk Ranch seemed questionable. Happy to hear you didn't have any issues with the cabin owner.
Paradise cave is not the kind of cave that'll you'll get lost in, if that's your concern. In fact, of the 300+ caves in the park, the only one's that have a high probability of getting someone hopelessly lost are the 7(ish) that are gated.

As far as the secrecy thing goes, once the info is on the internet for anyone with google to find then you don't know who will look it up. I used to think the secrecy thing was dumb until I started to notice the vast difference between publicized caves and "secret" caves. Some people are either intentionally jerks or just don't know any better and caves get trashed. It's normal to take people to caves or tell individuals, but posting locations for the public can backfire.

You should go to Milk Ranch Peak. My favorite view of any lookout I've been to, but maybe it's because I'm partial to the Kaweah drainage.

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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by bobby49 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 2:22 pm

One of the strange things (to me) about the caves of this area is the fact that they are so high in elevation. In other parts of the country like the Midwest, the limestone caves are mostly located in the bottom one-third of a hill around the water table. Occasionally, they are in the middle one-third of a hill. In this part of the Sierra Nevada under discussion, many of the caves are in the top one-third of a hill. That's hard for me to wrap my head around.

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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by limpingcrab » Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:11 pm

Ya! Have you ever been to Palmer Cave, bobby? Right on top of a ridge in the forest with no marble around, just dirt and some granite. It's bizarre.

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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by bobby49 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:12 pm

No, I have not visited Palmer Cave.

I started as a young spelunker in the Midwest (too many) years ago, and all of our caves there were limestone karst. So, I got used to crawling through mud until I looked like a refugee earthworm. I got all of my initial rappel training 50 years ago and later instructed it. When I moved to California, I discovered that caves here are mostly marble and granite, so I really don't know how to think about them. Additionally, I've been in lava tubes and related caves.

Do we need to form up an expedition to see Palmer Cave? Do I need to get my rope and rack out of mothballs?

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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by bobby49 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:54 pm

Close examination of topo map reveals some of the locations.

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limpingcrab
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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by limpingcrab » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:58 pm

I'd go back to Palmer in a second (depending on free time). I was there again two weeks ago so the route is fresh in my mind.

As for cave locations on maps, depending on the age and source of the map the cave locations are often intentionally misplaced. I learned that the hard way. I also learned the hard way that many that are on maps are gated or destroyed :(

Caves are fun! Still more to be discovered in SEKI!

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Re: Exploring the History of Oriole Lake

Post by Shawn » Sun Mar 18, 2018 7:30 pm

Any tips on finding the use trail to Oriole Lake from the road terminus?"
Hey cb83 - As noted, it's not difficult to find, at least back in 2014.

Back then, a couple of the cabins were still in use. The USFS had locked the gates prohibiting vehicles, except for property owners. I spoke to a supervising ranger then, he told me the FS was transitioning the area to "wilderness" and once the property owners are gone it will be managed fully IAW the wilderness act.

It is a magical area. After my trek I received quite a few emails from people that had been in the area many, many years ago telling me of various features, trails that have since been overgrown and other memories of the area. I may get up there again this year myself.

Anyway, the use trail generally follows the south side of the creek (Oriole drainage).
map.jpg
Coincidentally, here I am literally pointing at the trail.... :)
pointing.JPG
Cheers,
Shawn
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