Monday July 3rd Ron Gould and I drove up to Yuba Gap and then in past Lake Valley and Huysink Lake to the unmarked beginning of the Big Granite Trail (BGT). This historic public trail was severely damaged by two timber harvests in 1991 and 2004, where it passes through lands belonging to Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).
It so happens that Tahoe National Forest (TNF) has no money to maintain this trail, to repair the logging damage, or even to put a sign at the trailhead. Hence it falls to We the People to fill the breach and do the work. On July 15, we will meet at 9:00 a.m. at the Yuba Gap exit on I-80, which is the last exit, eastbound, before Highway 20 to Nevada City, and drive on in to the trailhead. Ron and Catherine O'Riley have been lining up volunteers, and he thinks at least a dozen will be on hand, but more are welcome and needed. Long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and gloves are required, along with loppers, small saws, rakes, shovels, and whatever else seems good for rebuilding a trail. Mosquito repellant will be of use.
Our Monday visit was a final reconnaissance of the work, in which we marked the alignment of the trail through the damaged areas with flagging, to be removed once the work is done. We continued down through Four Horse Flat to where the BGT crosses Little Granite Creek to its east side, thence following miles down the canyon before rounding the toe of the dividing ridge to a crossing of Big Granite Creek, still farther east. From there the BGT drops one last mile to the North Fork American River. It is one of the more spectacular trails in all TNF.
Having completed our work, we wished to visit Cherry Point, high on the divide between Little Granite and Big Granite canyons. There is an unusual amount of brush on Cherry Point, which we must avoid, but I was in favor of just thrashing straight up the canyon wall, and hoping for the best, allowing ourselves to drift north if ever an obstacle was met, so that we would enjoy the shelter of a patch of fir forest extending to the summit. By a minor miracle we did avoid getting trapped or turned back by brush, and slowly zigzagged up the climb of a thousand feet.
Nearing the ~6800' summit, we struck a rocky area where a more resistant stratum of the Sailor Canyon Formation cropped out, and availed ourselves of it for the last of the climb. A final screen of White Fir forest lay between these rocks and the summit, and one monstrous old fir had a large number of deeply-worn bear footprints all around it, but no bear "bed," as is common enough on the uphill sides of large conifers.
There are many native cherries growing on Cherry Point, but an almost flat summit plateau has large flowery openings between small groups of Red Fir, and we wandered around a bit, aiming for the highest point in this gentle terrain, where, on the east side, facing Snow Mountain across two-thousand-feet-deep Big Granite Canyon, we knew we should find a rocky area commanding a wide view.
A bear trail seemed to offer access to that area, but wandered maddeningly off-line, to the point one doubted it could ever reach our rocky viewpoint, but in a final flourish of intricate zigzags through heavy manzanita, the good old bear led us exactly where we wished to go.
The view was quite nice, extending south to the Crystal Range, north to Castle Peak, and offering intimate views of the west face of mighty Snow Mountain, to the east. Close at hand southward was the great gulf of the North Fork canyon, and across this monstrous abyss we could see directly into New York Canyon, and in particular, we could see its exceptional 500-foot waterfall, now reduced to a wispy froth of white water, since the snow has all melted, in its headwaters.
Since one has quite a nice view of Cherry Point from this waterfall, the reverse must be true, and now for the first time I saw that it is true, and I am all the more inspired to ski in to Cherry Point in the spring, and see the bigg waterfalls at their biggest.
We could also see the 600-foot series of falls, perhaps best considered to be one waterfall, dropping into Big Granite Canyon off of the west face of Snow Mountain; but the big waterfalls on Big Granite Creek itself were hidden from us.
I could see the very Western Juniper tree, two thousand feet below, which Tim McGuire and I had slept under, back at the beginning of June, when we visited the waterfalls there.
Flowers abounded, Indian Paintbrush, a blue Penstemon, many Mariposa Tulips, and a montane species of Wallflower, were especially notable. There were also many butterflies up there on the summit.
As the sun began to lower we returned, descending more to the north, and striking the Cherry Point Trail, which SPI converted into a logging road in 1991, and following it south to Four Horse Flat and the BGT. Then a slow slog up through mosquito-infested forest brought us back up to Ron's trusty old truck.
A great day, near the great canyon.
Contact Ron at
for more information on the July 15th work party.