On the first day of November I decided to revisit the Thornberry Mountain area above Oakhurst, and area that for many years was an ideal location for my personal conditioning for summer backpacking trips.
During the summer months our mountains are free from winter obstacles such as snow and freezing temperatures, and during the winter season low elevation areas such as Thornberry Ridge are generally also clear of those winter hazards.
After four years of drought and the bark beetle infestation, I wondered if many pine trees survived in the area. I was also curious if those remote trails are still passable and not cluttered with fallen snags.
I arrived at daybreak, hiked past the forest gate and continued following the established forest road. Those trees that lined this pathway have succumbed to those drought years and have been removed. Maybe these open spaces will bring about new healthy growth.
Now to look for the cross-country trail I established a few years ago which increases in elevation to intersect with an abandoned logging road. The trail was difficult to follow with Manzanita bushesdominating the area. With the introduction of tree cutting services, their felling of dead pine trees covered most of the trail.
The wild deer, bear and coyotes that adopted my new route have now been forced to create alternate pathways. Finally after some bush-whacking I arrived at the first plateau and followed it until intersecting with the dirt fire road.
I figured my trek would become much easier while following the road as it climbed in elevation - well I was wrong. I counted more than 12 mature trees lying across its surface that had fallen during the last few months. Some of the smaller branches and trees were easy to pull off the road surface before continuing toward the summit.
Before arriving at the summit, another fire road leads to the south or left. This dirt road was also cluttered with many fallen pine trees.
Once arriving at the end of road, I had to locate that fire trail that leads down the mountain. The trail was almost camouflaged by the seven foot tall Manzanita Bushes. Since I was familiar with this area I located the overgrown trail and continued down the mountain. I seriously hope the cluster of five pine trees have not died.
This is my landmark to the junction of another game trail that follows north to another logging road. All five trees have died but the game trail was there for me to follow. After 300 yards of narrow game trail I finally arrive at another logging road which leads back to the main fire road. This road will terminate at the forestry gate or trailhead.
This route I established years ago varied between bush-whacking and abandoned logging roads. Just to update today’s information my foot prints shared prints from deer, bear, cougar, raccoon, skunk and coyote. With 10 years of trekking this area I’ve seen all those animals, and even the rare Ring Tail Cat.
Normally in the past I could finish this trek in two hours but today, with all the fallen timber, the hike was about 30 minutes longer.
These fire roads are similar to many roads and also wilderness trails in our Mountain Area. Conditions have been changed by drought and recent wild fires. Be careful and contact the local Ranger Station or Oakhurst Visitors Center for up to date information on your next trek.