Tony Krizan

Hiking along forgotten Indian trails

By Tony Krizan

Almost every year on Independence Day you’ll find me at Mono Hot Springs or hiking within the Ansel Adams or John Muir Wilderness. These are the areas that I hiked when I became serious about the sport of hiking.

Most wilderness trails were originated by the native animals following from one valley to another. Next came the American Indians following that same route. Of course they in turn forged their own paths seeking a shorter and easier direction. Following in their footsteps were the European Mountain Men and so on as we approach modern times.

What has always fascinated me when hiking cross-country is how periodically I would stumble upon an American Indian trail marker. They are very difficult to identify and 25 years ago my hiking mentor, Tom (Silver Fox) Addison, taught me what to look for while roaming through the mountains.

First I stumble across a huge rock that looks out of place, and I’m speaking about a rock that must be heavier than 150 pounds. Next I look above this location and if this stone could not have tumbled from above, this could mean it’s a marker.

The next step is to complete a 30-yard radius around this stone. If I find another stone out of place, I repeat that 30-yard radius again.

In 2011 while searching in a remote area of Kings Canyon looking for a missing aircraft, I stumbled across a huge rock. Once again I used the same technique which led to four markers. After researching my map, those markers were leading in the direction over a pass toward Scenic Meadow.

That explanation brings about another find while hiking the back side of Mary’s Mountain.

I’ve written in previous stories about my series of climbs to its summit. There are no trails and not even markers to follow and enjoy the views from its lofty elevation. So over the Independence Day weekend I would attempt departing from the Bear Cutoff Trail and approach the summit from the east side.

There are three major canyons to drop into before the final climb to the summit. At the top, keep hiking west for views of Devils Table, Tule Lake, and Doris Lake - let your eyes follow the San Joaquin River as it flows toward the Minaret Mountains.

On returning to the Bear Cutoff Trail I passed a huge stone resting on a small shelf that someone placed at this location. Further inspection revealed a series of five stones leading across and down the mountain.

With late afternoon approaching and time now a factor, I wasn’t positive at what area below this mountain the trail would end. Or maybe a surprise like a major rock slide that will make this route impassable.

Another adventure is scheduled within the next few weeks to climb this mountain again and locate those markers to follow them toward the mountain’s base. Once at the base I’ll hike cross-country east to the trail. I’m hoping maybe this forgotten trail will be a short cut to the top of Mary’s Mountain.

This was another exciting weekend creating another mystery to be solved by future adventures into our Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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