Another year has passed and I’d like to reflect a bit on those exciting times hiking during 2015, and make some suggestions for some “must do” hikes during 2016.
Last year began as the weatherman predicted - another dry winter just like the one we had in 2014. Snowshoeing and skiing were limited due to the lack of snow, but there were still adventures waiting within those canyons and valleys in our Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Even with our enthusiasm for hiking, Clem Bingham, Fred Cochran and I feel that 2016 is our year to master the summit of Mount Williamson. After three separate, disappointing attempts, for different reasons, maybe this year will bring about a successful climb. But we still managed to utilize that time for three new adventures - the five mile loop around Saddlebag Lake, Gardiski Lake, and Alpine Lake all located on the east side north of Lee Vining.
The three of us also managed to hike to the summit of El Capitan in Yosemite using the trailhead at Big Oak Flat Road and staying overnight. The views were rewarding especially the sunset and sunrise.
Here are some great hikes for you to consider this year:
* Bass Lake: Many Bass Lake hikes are on old Forest Service roads and trails including the Forks Trail, Spring Grove Trail, and the Willow Creek Trail - all Class 2 trails (variable terrain). These trails can be hiked during winter and summer, and it’s always interesting to see how the landscaping changes with each season. Winter does offer the challenge of heaver clothing, but maybe this will give you the opportunity to try out those new snowshoes or skis you received at Christmas.
* Old Stagecoach Road: For years I wanted to hike the Old Wawona Sugar Pine Road. Today it is called The Old Stagecoach Road which starts at the Bissett Station Road (620) then follows through private property across the mountain over six miles to Westfall Campground off of Highway 41. I didn’t forget my map on this hike.
* Death Valley: During April eight days were spent in Death Valley hiking those remote washes, mines and sand dunes. Spending overnight within these washes and canyons, with extra rations of water was a new experience which I’m anxious to repeat in 2016.
* Slick Rock: Above Bass Lake was an area I looked at for over two decades before witnessing those views from its lofty perch. After reviewing my map I realized there was a forest road leading up the back side of the mountain. This route will eliminate climbing from Chepo Saddle.
* Greys Mountain: On Greys Mountain above Bass Lake I revisited the aircraft crash site and memorial of Lt. William H. Burrell. He was the pilot from the 57th Aero Squadron, one of five P40 Tomahawk Fighter Aircraft that crashed on October 24, 1941.
* Devils Table and Mary’s Mountain: West of Mono Hot Spring is an area called Devils Table. This is a flat mesa formation located three miles into the Ansel Adams Wilderness. There is not a specific trail - just use a GPS or compass to trek to this area that resembles Devils Post Pile. Also east of Mono Hot Springs in the Ansel Adams Wilderness is Mary’s Mountain. This is another repeat hike with no trails offering a challenging adventure from 6,900 feet to the summit at 8,535 feet.
* Snaffle Bit Trail: Last but not least was the journey trying to locate the Snaffle Bit Blaze somewhere along the forgotten Snaffle Bit Trail outside of Wawona? Finally after the fourth try we located the imprint of a horse bit on an old Cedar Tree. Legend states that sometime between 1896 and 1910 the blaze imprint was scared on this Cedar Tree.
Keep reading the Sierra Star and sierrastar.com for another exciting year of wilderness hiking in 2016.