Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Big Granite Trail

Julie, a tremendous hiker, sent me this account of her recent adventure on the Big Granite Trail.

The Big Granite Trail or BGT leads down to the North Fork American just below the Royal Gorge. It starts at 6600' and hits the river at 3000'. It was damaged by logging in 1991 and then again in fall of 2004. It has become hard to find and follow. Ron Gould and Catherine O'Riley and I have been working on it and have restored some small sections but much remains to do.

Hey, I finally had the opportunity to try your handywork at Big Granite. A friend and I were there and I remembered that you guys had done some reclamation. We were able to follow it for the most part, drifted off of it a time or two, and then of course just sort of spilled out onto the road just a little below the trail . So were you saying that the area there sort of along side the creek in that flat area is Four Horse Flat? Because I have never been quite sure. I had been thinking more up the hill and on the other side of Little Granite, say that flat area before the current Cherry Point Trail comes down and hits the logging road. I have explored around up there and seen plenty of great sights, but nothing to suggest Four Horse Flat. Well, the hike was really beautiful, and it was good to finally reach the river. You might remember it has taken me a few journeys there, searching , and finding, then searching again. Kasa and I first looked for it coming down from Loch Leven, via Cherry Point. We hit the logging road, crossed Little Granite Creek, and walked on and on... no Big Granite. Next we headed in >from Salmon Lake, down Cherry Point, onto the log road , across the creek and voila! suddenly the trail appeared! The reason we had not seen it before was very high buckbrush growing along the road, which had been bulldozed for the recent logging. Suddenly the trail with a sign and everything were right there for all the world to see! The day was late but we proceeded for a bit, staying on the , what would it be... west side of the trail, rather then crossing near the top. Waning daylight sent us back once again. Next I headed in from your directions off of Forest Road 38, through the hunter's camp. But I had a bit of trouble with the log skidding area. Next , Kasa and I returned , with directions from you, and were able to thread our way through the skid trails and water bars, and finally arrive at the large landing where the road is the trail...On that wonderful day we were able to continue quite far down into the canyon, but just shy of Big Granite Creek we turned back, with Kasa having knee problems. And so, after all thes previous attempts, imagine how pleasing it was to finally reach the river.All the creeks and the river were very low , of course. What Kathi and I did when we reached the sign post overlooking the river, was to turn right ending up at Big Granite Creek and the pretty pools and waterfalls. We had lunch there, and explored around the creek Observing the American River Trail on the other side we decided to cross over and scramble up to it. There were some thickets of poison oak to get through, and some manzanita fields, that hindered us a bit. Once on the other trail, we thought we would follow it upriver until we could see where it would cross, we just assumed we would see the crossing, come back across, and hop on the trail , then just zip along the trail and head home. But, as often happens in the canyon, what we thought were trails when looking across the river, were just high water courses and gravel bars, meandering back to the river. We crossed back over at the Sailor Flat Trail, and wandered around on this and that almost could kinda be trails. We scared a small bear from the brush and he bounded away , looking fluffy and appealing We crashed around through the brush, up this hillside and back down, searching, thinking we had struck a trail, only to be dissapointed. Odly, in the most tangled and brushy area, a pink flag appeared. But it seemed to point to nothing. Scratching our way through the most obscure thickets, we encountered these flags sveral times , but couldn't really make sense of them. Finally we returned to the river and decided to cross again.I was quite worried about daylight by now and felt we would make better time if we hit the Americam River Trail, and hightailed it back .This we did, While Kathi crossed and was putting her shoes back on, I went to see if the trail was near us at this point., and I encountered another one of the flags. Using the open trail we hurried along. I felt sure that waning daylight was going to be an issue, and I sort of pushed us along rather quickly.What worried me was the idea of navigating those skid trails near the top of the trail, in the dusk. We were able to cross again on wonderful big boulders without having to take our shoes off. Then it was just a matter of scrambling back up to the trail and moving along. I was very aware of impending dark, and I'm affraid I pushed along rather heartlessly... but all for nought.We did indeed walk in the dark. The dusk had hit profoundly by the time we had come up most of the steep portions. Once darkness came, I quit rushing us: what was the point now? The stars were magnificent. When we reached the log road we got out Kathi"s light (She had one!) I looked for , and found the sign on the tree positioned for hikers coming up, but not down... Kathi observed that , due to all the logging roads and skid trail confusion, the signs don't really help anyone, because the only people who see them are people who already know where they're going. Good point.In the full darkness it was very slow going through the skid trail, and up to the hunter's camp, making me think how it would be great for some of us to put that last bit back into trail...You can sort of see a trail in the dark if you gaze ahead and let your eyes relax, but in those mazes of bulldozer mounds it's just not the same.Well, the hike was supperlative in every way. And I suppose, given the shortness of the days, our decision to do so much exploring could be viewed in one of two ways... as either ambitious, or unwise! Thanks for all the tips in helping us find the trail. Julie

No comments: