After five years of drought, 2017 started out with over double the amount of rain and snow from previous years. With road washouts, overflowing streams and the testing of our skills installing and removing tire chains, it’s not fun having the entire winter season in one month.
With all of this excitement there is a positive solution to this historic winter season. Winter sports are at an all time high with all the ski resorts boasting a record amount of snowpack. We now have the option to use our snowmobiles and snowshoes on the many remote logging roads and trails.
As great as winter is, I believe the most exciting time will be spring. All those hiking trails we ventured down during the past years may have changed their personalities after this wet season. Most of our remote wilderness trails cross or follow water sources and the possibility of rock and mudslides cause their landscaping to change.
For those of us who track across remote regions, we are constantly searching for new pathways but the fun this spring will be in rediscovering seasoned trails.
Let’s hike the 4 - 6 mile Willow Creek Tail just off of Road 274 that follows Willow Creek at Bass Lake. Above Angel Falls should be a challenge when the trail skirts next to the creek. If you decide to venture down the narrow path to Devils Slide, do be careful, as those rock slabs are slippery next to the stream. A half mile above the slide a huge pine tree created a natural log bridge at McLeod Flat. If the raging water removed this natural crossing, the removal of boots will be required to wade across to the opposite side.
Has anyone seen our resident Bald Eagle this year at Bass Lake? Sure hope she can find a tall pine tree to build a new nest this spring. Thankfully there are a few tall pine trees remaining from our five-year drought.
Lewis Creek will be another interesting adventure. This 3 - 7 mile trail follows the creek for almost 90% of its distance. Red Rock Falls should be spectacular, which is only a short distance from Sugar Pine Road Trailhead. Corlieu Falls is located just above Cedar Valley Road. The platform will make easy viewing of these falls. The trail is quite steep from Cedar Valley Road, but an alternate trail located off of Highway 41 is much gentler. You’ll be hiking downhill and a shorter distance to preview the falls.
North of Mariposa on Highway 140 is another trail that follows a water source called the North Fork of the Merced River. The trailhead is located next to Savage General Store that leads to Hite’s Cove for a total hike of 8 miles. Once again there should be spectacular views of this wilderness river maneuvering through the canyon as it cascades over the rocks. I’m curious if the mine at Hite’s Cove located next to the river survived the high water?
For those of you who participate in the art of gold panning, this should be a banner year. With all the new material washed into the major runoff creeks, there should be color hidden in that over-burden. Eight years ago a new law was implemented that dredging was outlawed in the state of California. I’ll have to stay with panning and my four-inch gold dredge will have to remain in my garage collecting dust.
Whatever sport or hobby you possess, 2017 will be memorable for those of you who enjoy the outdoors. So don’t wait until spring season to explore our area mountains. This is a rare winter season, so grab your camera and save those memories. See you in the mountains.