Maybe this is a sign of where we are headed...
Registration for the backpacking permit is all on-line, and easy as pie. And so we headed up to the Stanislaus National Forest to hike a loop out of the Arnot Creek trailhead. This area got badly burned in the Donnell Fire a couple of years ago, but we hoped our route would take us up and out of the fire damage. And we wanted to see how bad it really was.
The first two miles were through a decimated forest--not much green to be seen, and mainly just stands of blackened trunks. But once we made it to the Woods Gulch Trail we immediately climbed up out of the fire damage into a steep climb up over the pass towards Highland Creek.
And this is where the real adventure began. I don't think a trail crew had seen that trail in fifteen years. Downed trees everywhere. Often overgrown with manzanita or, even worse, whitethorn, At times it was hard to find the trail. Once down to Highland Creek, it didn't get any better. This had once been a really nice trail, but now it was an obstacle course.
At Highland Lakes we were surprised to see the campground open...but sadly, the water system wasn't working yet. From there we tried to follow the trail back down to Arnot Creek, but there were so many use trails and short cuts that we never did find the junction.
Eventually we decided that we knew where the trail had to be and where it had to go, and just went there. And found it. And followed it back down tot the burned area at the trailhead.
A total of 22 miles, more or less. Some spectacular scenery in this part of the Sierra--volcanic peaks, lots of beautiful granite, the flowers were just starting, and we only had mosquito issues in two short stretches. And we saw exactly one other group of backpackers in the entire three day trip.
Not for the inexperienced...
Here's the full trail report, with photos, and the complete photo log: