Monday, April 21, 2008

Little Pine Mountain 4/20/08

Ever since the summer, I had wanted to see the damage to one of my favorite trails from the Zaca Fire. I had heard that the Santa Cruz Trail was in pretty bad shape as was Happy Hollow Campground but nobody has posted any current pictures of either. I started up the Buckorn Rd and found the vegetation to be very much in bloom. Lots of flowers and greenery all along the road. The road itself was in very good shape for this time of year, probably due to lack of OHV use and increased FS traffic. The gate at Camuesa Rd was in fact still closed not allowing OHV or equestrian to go any farther towards Little Pine. This section past the gate was probably one of the most hard packed I can every remember. Usually this gets really soft and loose but not this year.

After rounding the long switch backs you begin to see the devastation done by the fire. As far as you can see there are brown hillsides and fire lines cut into them. The fire burnt right along the edge of the Buckhorn Trail but it was unclear of the condition of this trail down the canyon. Approaching the turnoff to Happy Hollow it is a combination of charred plant life and trees chainsawed to protect them from the blaze. Happy Hollow seemed far from that. A newer picnic table was in place of the older table which sat in a heap nearby. It was definitely a creepy feeling having visited it so many times and now there was nothing left. Pretty much every tree and plant in this area were gone.

Pedaling out of HH the trail to the saddle is littered with fallen trees and blackened hillsides. I made my way around the corner and headed to the summit. Just then an unexpected surprise- hill sides covered in flowers. Normally these grassy hillsides are green this time of year but I have never seen this display before. People say that areas where fires have
burnt allow for better plant life to grow. This was definitely
the case for these grassy areas that burnt last summer.

Leaving the summit a bulldozer built track follows the ridge to the saddle. Some of this area is pretty loose but it manageable. At the saddle views into Santa Cruz Canyon show some plant life on the return. This trail was extremely damaged by the fire and had been reported as in passable recently. Heading down to Upper Oso I kept waiting for the landslides that took out parts of the trail. Although loose shale was strewn about the trail it was apparent that trail work had repaired any damage done by the fires and rain. It was rideable all the way to the "crib wall" where, as usual slides cover the trail. The fire burnt all the way down to the area I know as the "mustard meadow". Sometimes a machete is the only way passing through this area is possible. The burning of this meadow left another pleasant surprise aside from the absence of mustard- this field was now full of lupine and other flowers.

Below this section of the trail it has had some work done on it and is in good condition for this time of year. The water crossings at this time were flowing pretty good but nothing out of control. Some backpackers I met on the way down informed me of more positive info, that the Santa Cruz Trail to SC campground had just been repaired over the weekend. This trail was supposed to be out of commission for some time but thanks to the STANISLAUS BACKCOUNTRY TRAIL CREW it is passable again. Because of the fire and lack of vegetation on some of the hillsides, the trail will probably be prone to slides for quite a while. That's the story of all the trails, they don't take care of themselves. If you get a chance get out on this trail I suggest you do it before the heat comes and turns everything brown again.


1 comment:

dorothyvid said...

Thanks for the report. It is so wonderful to see the new flowers after the devastation of the burning forest!

I was up there about 6 weeks ago and camped at 19 Oaks. Also did some tread work on the Santa Cruz trail. Glad to hear it was holding up well.