After three attempts to locate that historic cedar tree standing somewhere along the five miles of the Snaffle Bit Trail near Wawona, I decided a fourth attempt was necessary.
Fred Cochran and I decided that if we wanted to solve this mystery in 2015, we should start our search the following morning. Even with the possibility of rain and snow forecast for the day of our planned trip, we departed from the trailhead at Wawona at 7 a.m.
The temperature was just above freezing but the surface of the swinging bridge over the Merced River had a thin layer of ice. I was relieved that the Bear Clover and Manzanita bushes have been shedding their moisture from the first snow a few days before. At least my jacket and pants will be dry for today’s adventure.
The trail hasn’t changed since my last hike a week earlier. The Bear Clover is still knee high and those many snags or fallen trees across this forgotten trail tested our climbing skills once again.
After the first mile, we checked out the possible junction of the Crescent Trail which was abandoned some 60 years ago and should lead to the Chilnuelna Trail. That is another mystery associated with this trail, which will not be solved until next year.
Those seasonal streams that were almost dry from our four-year drought are now showing signs of life again. Once again, I want to thank Bill Wagers for flagging this abandoned trail back in 2007.
After three hours following this trail, we realized our mistake in trail finding. Roughly 50 yards before arriving at the area which we thought was the end of trail a week earlier, we realized there should be an alternate route to the left - so we dropped down through the canyon across the small stream to see if a trail exists on the north side. And yes, a trail continues upward from the stream, following it a short distance before continuing north toward the Merced River.
If this is the correct trail, within a half mile we should see the old Cedar Tree with the blaze of that historic horse ‘snaffle bit’ embedded on its trunk.
Luck was smiling at us because less than 30 minutes on the north side of this trail was a huge cedar tree displaying the blaze of a horse bit. Now we can put to rest the myth identifying this path as the Snaffle Bit Trail. This impression is located on the west side of the tree facing the trail.
Just beyond the blaze-covered tree and only 30 yards along this trail is the largest Sugar Pine Tree I’ve ever seen. This ancient tree has a girth of eight feet and stands over 100 feet high. If you decide to visit these historic sentinels next year, remember if you see the Sugar Pine Tree first, double back 30 yards to the blaze on the large cedar.
We continued following this trail another quarter mile until reaching the North Fork of the Merced River. There is a camp site above the river and this is the location of trails end. I wonder how many times the U.S. Cavalry used this campsite after it originated in 1896.
Well there you have it. The Snaffle Bit Trail does exist, but if you decide to see the whiteness of this tree first hand, you’ll have to wait until spring 2016, after the snow melts.