Saturday, August 30, 2003

Big Bend-Devils Peak II

Friday Ron Gould and I returned to the problematic Big Bend-Devils Peak Trail. A few weeks ago we had followed it from Big Bend, climbing slowly east and south to a point south of Troy, on the railroad. We had found it intact, but overgrown, where it traversed Tahoe National Forest lands, and almost entirely obliterated by logging, but possible to follow, we thought, across Section 35 into Section 36.

This trail is on the 1962 TNF map of the Foresthill and Big Bend ranger districts.

On Friday we drove to near Kingvale and took the road south from near Donner Trail elementary school, which leads in to Devils Peak and Huntley Mill Lake. We parked just below the railroad, near a recent "No Trespassing" sign hung over the road by Sinnock Properties, a real estate company out of Grass Valley. Walking up and across the tracks, we soon reached a fork right and climbed 150 feet or so over a quarter mile to the plateau where we had ended our explorations last time.

From here we struck up the hill and south, aiming towards a certain pass between the broad shallow valley of the South Yuba and the deeps of the North Fork American, said pass containing Nancy Lake. The 1962 map shows the trail bending in and out of the ravine north of Nanccy Lake. We hoped to find some unlogged terrain and undisturbed stretches of trail. Ron scouted high and I scouted low as we traversed rocky slopes of glaciated granite, flanking the ravine. Other than some unusual blazes, and some plausible trail alignments, we saw nothing. In the ravine we put our packs down and started ranging far more widely, hoping to pick up the trail, and fully expecting to find blazes on trees.

However, crossing the ravine to the east, we found an area thrashed by logging, bulldozers having scrambled up and down and everywhere, and noted the utter impossibility of surely identifying any part of the trail. Eventually we grabbed our packs and wandered south to Nancy Lake, then climbed to a granite plateau dotted with tarns, most dry, and then returned to Nancy Ravine, and began scouting to the east. Now Ron ran low and I went high.

In such an exploration one has to wander and veer from side to side, and we did all the right things, and really covered the hillside well, until, at last, I started climbing higher and higher on the little mountain (call it Nancy Hill) between Nancy Lake and Devils Peak, around which the trail made a broad arc. I climbed farther and higher than I thought the trail could possibly be found, just to make sure, and then--a blaze.

Ron was not even within hailing distance. I continued east and found many blazes, ancient, blurred with time. Soon the trail coincided with a logging road, from a harvest some 40 years ago, in which only the very largest trees had been cut, and most of the blazed trees along the trail had been left alone. Following this road-trail, I descended into more-recently-logged terrain, in which many but not all the blazed trees had been cut, and once again, a road had been cut directly into the line of the trail.

At last the road-trail dropped to the edge of a large meadow. Skirting the north edge of the meadow, I reached the road to Devils Peak, right on the section line north of the peak itself, which was but a quarter-mile away. Here I sat in the shade and waited for Ron, who arrived shortly. He had found the latter part of the road but hadn't seen any blazes.

We had lunch and rested. On the way back, we actually found an undisturbed section of the old trail, as it rounded Nancy Hill. The trail was as we had seen it a couple miles west, on TNF lands, broad and well-defined, that is, a major trail. There were great views across the upper South Yuba basin, Castle and Basin peaks in view, and the ridges above the Lola Montez lakes, etc.

With high hopes we followed the broad old trail west. However, as soon as it left the rocky unforested area, and entered a forested area, it was erased, completely, by logging. Often a skid trail or minor haul road seemed likely to have been cut into the line of the old trail, but I don't recall that we saw more than a couple blazes, over this half-mile back to Nancy Ravine.

At the ravine, we gave up on the old trail, and made our way north to the road we'd hiked up in the morning, and tromped on down and drove home.

We have now followed the Big Bend-Devils Peak Trail from Big Bend to Devils Peak, over at least 80% of its length, and have found that this trail, like too many others (the Big Valley, Sugar Pine Point, Monumental Creek, Mears Meadow, and other trails come to mind), has been for all intents and purposes obliterated.

This trail made a very gentle climb to the base of Devils Peak from Big Bend. It was broad and well-suited to people and stock. I wonder how many people are still alive who hiked this lovely old trail before it was wrecked again and again by logging.

Footnote: while trying to find out about Sinnock Properties on the internet, I did find that some very large parcels have recently sold over in Upper Jones Valley, north of Cisco Grove, in Nevada County. One is over 1000 acres, the other, 640 acres. At least one has already had a "Minor Subdivision" map filed. These parcels include parts of the ridge-line above I-80 north of Big Bend. We could end up with some view-hogging palaces up there. See

for further details.

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