Saturday, July 28, 2012

Foresta Hike

View from the Foresta Trail
I was feeling a little harried when the first day of my Sierra trip got off to a lousy start. Sometimes things just go a little awry, but still turn out alright. It's the law of averages. I had made a reservation for a campsite at Crane Flat for one night only. I could not set up camp at Tuolumne Meadows , which was my real destination, until the next day. So the plan was for this site to give me an extra day for a hike at slightly lower elevation. I wanted to hike the route from Tamarack Flat to El Capitan, but as luck would have it, I ran into some unexpected circumstances. First there were no bear lockers at the trailhead at Tamarack Flat, and my vehicle was full of camping supplies including a week’s worth of food. I was stunned at this development! Trailheads at Yosemite generally always have bear boxes available for general use. It is technically illegal, that is; you can be cited for a violation of federal law for not properly storing food in bear country. After having visions of my car doors being ripped off (literally), I drove over to Crane Flat to see if they had any bear boxes I could use. I could not check in there until noon, and there was nothing available there either. But the ranger told me about some lockers at a pullout along Tioga Road a few miles beyond Tamarack Flat. I drove there only to find out that they were all being used, and there was not enough room for all my stuff. Still not willing to risk my car becoming a statistic, I remembered that there was also a trailhead to El Capitan at Foresta. I drove out there and finally found a bear box I could use. However the route from there adds an extra 4 miles being a 20 mile round trip, and it was getting late in the morning. It was also reaching over 100 degrees in the open that day. Ironically, if I had not made the reservation at Crane Flat, I could have simply rented a campsite at Tamarack Flat, which is first come first served, and used the bear box in the site. The route from there is a shaded 16 mile round trip, and I could have started early enough to complete the hike, and still had time to setup camp before dark. Bummer! (g-rated term).

View to Mt Clark
The area around Foresta was once beautiful and thickly wooded with lodgepole and sugar pine, but has suffered the effects of several devastating fires. There was a huge fire there in 1991 which did considerable damage, and another fire in 2009. Recovery is well underway, but the first 4 miles of trail is very exposed due to the lack of mature trees. With the temperature soaring to over 100 degrees, and the extra distance and elevation gain; and with the late start due to my screw-up over bear boxes, I knew there was no freakin’ way I could still make El Cap and get back. (bleep!) Instead, I decided to set a turn around time and hike the trail anyway. Even with my energy waning in the exposed heat, I figured I could at least make the junction with Old Big Oak Flat Road, and I would always rather hike then sit around. This turned out to be a good decision because I discovered that even with the fire damage causing devastation of the trees; the wild flowers are already coming back. The trail passes through several areas with seeps and creeks, and there are still some wooded sections. I found some really nice rein orchids and lots of scarlet monkey flower, along with some other interesting surprises that kept me occupied for the afternoon. I also got some fairly interesting views before heading back. I really want to come back here again sometime without the oppressive heat, and with more time so I can make the summit. Of course I still have the other route from Tamarack that remains un-hiked by me for some other time as well. I added a photoset on flickr if you want to see the wild flower pictures. I will be adding posts of my other hiking on this trip as time allows.


Katie (Nature ID) said...

Oh, forgot about bears and heat up there. I would have been extremely grouchy after all that, but it looks like you ended up having a decent hike with some amazing flowers.

Waypoints said...

I did have a nice time checking out the flowers, especialy the rein orchids, but I took it slow. Luckly, it didn't stay that hot. I had intermittent showers for the next two days and was moving higher where it's cooler.