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Make a difference--work on a trail crew!

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I managed to fit in one last adventure with Chip Morrill in the Mokelumne Wilderness last weekend, this time hiking down the Mokelumne River from Hermit Valley to Deer Creek and beyond.  This is a really beautiful area with deep pools in the river, wonderful views, and great campsites. 


But this is also very isolated country.  In fact, the sign at the trailhead pretty much discourages anyone from hiking down more than a few miles. 

On the other hand, the scenery in amazing, and we had a great time trying to make it more accessible to more people.  We hiked in on Friday morning, a crew of four volunteer and Chip.  We did a bit of lopping and trail work on the way in, and set up camp at the confluence of Deer Creek with the Mokelumne.  The trail to this point was not bad...and M and I had hiked it years ago, and we managed to follow it to the cascade at the bottom of Deer Creek.


But then came the crossing of Deer Creek.  This creek is fed by the outlet from Meadow Creek Reservoir, so it runs all year with a good flow.  Our crew spent at least an hour and half just looking for the best possible place to cross:  the perfect solution would include a nearby dead tree to drop across the creek to form a bridge.  After a lot of bushwhacking and consulting, Chip made the call, and we got to work with the saw.  Before you knew it, we had a bridge that would withstand high water and was pretty darn stable.  We used it for the rest of the weekend as we worked lower down on the river. 


The next day we hiked the trail, lopping bushes where they impeded progress, cutting through logs where they blocked the trail, marking the trail with logs and branches where we could find them, digging out duff through the forest floor, and putting up cairns where the trail went over solid rock.  Hard work, but we got a lot done. 


Day three began with Chip suggesting that we might want to take a quick one-hour hike up Deer Creek to see the cascades.  I think we were all perfectly happy to get to work, but also really appreciated Chip's desire to make sure that we really enjoyed the trip.  We happily followed him on a bushwhack up the creek...which turned out to be a two and a half hour adventure up granite, through manzanita, under trees, and over logs.  What fun!  And the views we attained were really amazing. 


Once back in camp, we loaded up our tools and headed down the Mokelumne.  Another tree sawn through, more work with McCleod and loppers, and we stopped for lunch on the gravel beach of a lovely deep pool.  From there the trail became a bit confused, and we finally determine the best route through the last bit of forest...and then it opened up into the granite of the canyon itself. IMG_0053.JPG

We followed cairns and did some minor work for another stretch of the trail, until it dipped down around a small granite dome.  We were done for the day, so hiked up to the top of the dome and took in the view--well worth three days of trail work! The next day we packed up our camp, packed up the tools, and hiked back up to the trailhead, stopping to fix one section of the trail that had really been mixed up, and lopping whenever we got the chance. 


By 11 we were back at the cars, and driving off on our separate routes back to civilization.  We had seen only a handful of other people over four days.How much fun was this trip?  Jan and Vicky, excited about the work, decided they would come back in the near future to finish off the lopping and trail clearance nearer the trailhead.  A great way to spend a few extra days in the wilderness, with good people and glorious weather. 


The photo album is here:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/QwsoHm9Vjwf6rMua8

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We used to work on a trail crew...

 ... Then the AT said "no more caches", and we found a huge oil pipe crossing  the trail close to where our caches were....


Noticed you still haven't logged any caches yet.  Curious if you know about CITO  (Cache In Trash Out) ?


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Hi Cerberus.  I do most of my hiking in Wilderness areas, so no caches allowed.  We do take trash out, but we don't leave anything behind.

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Sounds like a fun adventure! I've had a longing interest in joining a trail crew, but found that the programs in my area seem to demand it to be a 40-hour a week gig. It gives me that small feeling of worrying that if I do drop everything to see if being on a trail crew is right for me, it'll be that much harder for me to get my life back to where it was if I end up not liking it. I still would like to try and see if it's something I'd be happy to do in the long term.

Which leads me to ask, how did you get involved in joining a trail crew? Did you immediately get into this as a full-time gig or did you do anything prior to see if this was something you wanted to do?

Edited by CheshireCrab
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Check with your local national forest office,.  They usually have a "volunteer coordinator" who manages all the volunteers and their tasks.  Some serve as docents, some work the permit desk, some do "solitude monitoring" measuring foot traffic on trails....and some of us get out for a few days to whack away a bushes on a long neglected trail....

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New Season....more work to do!


Yep--the trailheads may not all be open yet, but it is time to get out and clean up some of those trails.


This was a day trip from the Tanglefoot Trailhead above Bear Creek Reservoir into the Mokelumne Wilderness, one of the least traveled parts of the Sierra, especially the Grand Canyon of the Mokelumne.  Our group repaired trail signs, fixed some of the drainage in the wet parts of the trails, lopped back brush, cut through about ten or twelve logs across the trail, and cleared debris from the first 3-4 miles of the trail.  And the snow plants were out in force...


And we had fun. 

As is usual in this neck of the woods, we saw a total of TWO groups of hikers during the whole day, and both of them had visited the relatively accessible Shriners Lake. We saw nobody other than our own hard-working selves once we passed that junction. 

So we hiked about seven miles, did trail work from 9-4, and went home happy and just a bit tired. 

All in a day's trail work.

The rest of the photos are here:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/7A1StNiyy5jmuKE68

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I enjoyed my trail crew trip to Carson Pass last week so much that we went back this week to see more of the area.  And while we ran into huge crowds at Carson pass itself, our hikes into Thornburg Canyon and Castle Point were blissfully lonely.  We only saw a few people on the former, and all but two of them were within 500 yards of the trailhead.  And we didn't see another soul on the Castle Point Trail.  This despite the fact that the trail has the quickest payoff of any trail we've hiked: within about 300 yards you get a stunning view of the whole Caples Creek Valley, often including the Crystal Range west of Tahoe in the background.  And from there, you wander along the crest of the ridge, looking down over precipitous cliffs, passing by an amazing collection of ancient junipers, and finding terrific views of Thunder Mountain on the other side.  That's great value in the first mile.


Thornburg Canyon started with a waltz through a cornucopia of flowers for the first half mile, then great views from the top of the ridge. That's the view in the panorama above. And once we went over the ridge, we were alone.  We camped on a bluff above the creek, in the breeze and above most of the mosquitoes.  And we reveled in the sounds of nature--and nary another soul to see.  Or hear. 


We topped off the trip with a hike to Granite Lake along the Minkalo Trail--one that I had not seen before.  It includes a lovely 40-foot waterfall, two delicious creeks, a few isolated glacial tarns, and Granite Lake itself.  All this in a mile and a half from the trailhead.  In fact, the most complicated part of this hike was finding the trailhead, which is unsigned for much of the route on the narrow roads behind the Kit Carson Lodge.  There were a few hikers at the lake, but there was also plenty of room for us all. 


Meanwhile, back at Carson Pass, there were hundreds of hikers on their way to Winnemucca and Round Top Lakes, in what must have been a very different kind of hiking experience.  The parking lots were so full that cars were idling, waiting for a spot.  And the USFS information office had a full staff of volunteers manning both the inside office and the table outside.  Quite a contrast to what we saw on the trails a bit further afield.


Photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/iYvhvnva8P7tGbcV6

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