Tony Krizan

Where are you Snaffle Bit Blaze?

As I had mentioned in my last Sierra Star column, I vowed to return to the Snaffle Bit Trail and continue my quest to locate the imprint of a snaffle bit embedded on a cedar tree.

Once again I’m standing at the trailhead, but this time I’m sharing this adventure with my two hiking buddies Clem Bingham, and Fred Cochran.

With the welcoming sight of our first seasonal rain yesterday, this could change the trail conditions today. Hiking this trail one week ago, the knee-high bear clover with its leaves absent of moisture is only memories today.

Sharing this dampness are the manzanita bushes also extending in places over this trail 7 feet high. Just wanted to bring to your attention that I was soaked from the knees down, and my jacket shared the same fate.

Even with this natural obstacle to overcome, my buddies and I still shared the same desire to locate that historic cedar tree that has the impression of a horse bit to which this trail was named - The Snaffle Bit Trail.

We added a GPS to our list of hiking supplies and maybe this locator and direction finder will help solve our secondary mystery. In my collection of maps there is one dated 1909 of the Yosemite and Wawona area. It shows a trail leading off the Snaffle Bit trail called the Crescent Lake or Archie Leonard Trail.

Now we have two separate mysteries to solve during today’s outing.

This forgotten trail offered many challenges such as climbing over fallen trees lying across the pathway. But at times they were to our advantage, keeping our balancing skills intact as we walked their extended length through the thick underbrush. Finally after 3.6 miles we arrived at a campsite overlooking the South Fork of the Merced River. Could this be the end of trail?

From our previous research this trail should be around five miles in length. But at this point we hiked only 3.6 miles. We circled this area forging our way through thick underbrush and steep slopes but could not locate a continuation of this forgotten trail. Maybe we were given incorrect mileage figures?

I must state that after five hours of hiking and walking around over 30 cedar trees along this forgotten trail, there was no trace of the Snaffle Bit Blaze. Also the junction of the Crescent or Archie Leonard Trail is still a mystery.

On Nov. 14, 2015, I started my third adventure following this historic trail trying to solve its two mysteries. This time Nancy Morgan accompanied me on the adventure. During the past two weeks I communicated with Bill Wagers, the individual that placed the flags along the trail. He sent me the coordinates of the cedar tree and he gave me the verbal location of the junction point to the Crescent or Leonard Trail.

From the location of the swinging bridge we hiked almost two miles before the first stream. Before arriving at this canyon, on the left I noticed an open flat area which extended above the stream.

From Mr. Wager’s verbal information, I felt this could be the start of the Crescent Trail. We followed this pathway over a half hour as it maneuvered up the mountain, then took a GPS reading before returning back to the Snaffle Bit Trail.

With our days becoming shorter this time of year, I’ll return in the spring of 2016 to complete this trail to where it intersects the Chilnualna Trail.

Time seems to slip by quickly while searching for an unknown within the wilderness. We hiked over another mile climbing over downed trees and looking for those ribbons to stay on trail. Once we realized with our late start that morning, we were losing daylight, and it would be a problem to continue beyond the camp above the river.

We didn’t find the cedar tree with the blaze but the junction to the Crescent and Leonard Trail is no longer a mystery.

With winter snows almost upon us, will I have to wait until next year to solve this mystery? Maybe if the weather settles down, I’ll have a window of opportunity in the next few days to attempt another hike.

Snaffle Bit Blaze where are you?