500 TREES ON KINGS CANYON
On June 18th, I drove up to the pack station near Jennie Lakes Wilderness, on the west side of the Sierra, met up with my group and set up camp for the night. The following day, I rode a horse with the packers and all the gear for our trip into the Kanawyer Trail, which runs from the south side of the Kings Canyon trench, down to the canyon floor. It is a historic trail, that was used for trade by indians from the east to west sides, and there are archeological sites along it's length. The Kanawyer Trail sits in the Monarch Wilderness, one of the least visited areas in the Sierra.
I had been involved in a previous trip, 4 years ago, to clean an access trail, the Deer Meadow Trail, that hits about the middle of the Kanawyer. This is how we accessed the trail this time. At the intersection of these trails, we hung a right, and travelled downhill about 1/4 mile to a small stream, where we set up our week-long camp.
The group consisted of three leaders from the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew (trailcrew.org), a cook, and 15 volunteers from a Catholic seminary from the midwest. These seminarians are all in training to become Catholic Priests. I found them to be engaging, intelligent, and unbelievably enthusiastic for the work...I don't think I've seen a harder working crew. They had a tough time with the altitude and walk in (they carried their own gear), and took the following sunday off, which they put to good use in prayer.
I rode a horse, rather than walking, as I have a significant problem that inhibits my ability to work strenuously, and I'd have not gone, except for the need for a certified saw leader, which I am. On that sunday, the other two crew leaders took off in opposite directions after breakfast, to recon the trail that we'd be working. One headed west, and had about a 4 mile hike, 2k loss and gain. He was back around 2pm, with a report of only 13 major trees, and a lot of trail finding to do. The other leader headed east, with a planned return time of 4:30. He never showed up. We sent a party out to look about a mile out, but no contact was made. We sat phoned out a SAR request, however, he had already gone cross-country after falling into a stream when the trail collapsed under him, and made it to the Kings Canyon floor. However, he was on the wrong side of the river from the highway, and the river was raging. He attempted to flag down drivers, which apparently worked. Unfortunately, a series of misidentifications ensued: As he was carrying a shovel and happened to be latino, the Park authorities thought him to be a marijuana grower. They called the Sheriff, who sent up a helicoptor with the apparent goal of discovering his pot farm. There was also a report of a lost kayaker, and apparently some thought his shovel was a paddle! Finally, a CHP chopper came in with the gear to be able to lift him (no place to land), and lifted him to the other side of the river, where he was able to establish his identity, and get together with another work party of ours on the canyon floor. He had minor injuries that prevented him from hiking back up the trail, but rode a horse in on Tues.
In the meantime, on the monday, I took over his Crew, and did the chainsaw clearing of about a mile and a half down the trail to the east, along with the other crew leader. I really paid the price with pain that night, and was not able to do substantial work the next day.
Major drama of the trip over, we did meet up with the crew from the valley floor to the east, and we cut out the trail for two miles to the west, to the uncrossable Boulder Creek. This all took until the friday after the Sat we entered. We saw a number of deer, a couple of bears. We cleared 10 miles of trail that had not been cleaned in about 20 years, cut over 500 trees, and cleared many miles of brush that obscured the trail.
The trail is remarkable. It has a number of amazing views into Kings Canyon, as well as points west, north, and east. While the snow we encountered was minor, the High Sierra still looks socked in to me. The trail is now in excellent condition for hikers, although not for stock. We did not see anyone, anywhere, not related to our trip.