In August, my husband and I, took a month off from our ranch duties to hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range primarily along the Pacific Coast Trail. This following post is the first section of our journey. It is a very short section.
Our nephew lives in Oakhurst, California and we asked him to give us a ride up Beashore Road to the Mammoth Trail trail head. We stopped at Clover Meadow Ranger Station along the way to pick up a wilderness permit.
Arriving at the trail head at about 4 pm we were eager to take off. The lure of the open trail and tales from my late father were a heady combination.
Along the way Mark found a whole pile of obsidian flakes. There were probably hundreds of them in one little area. The more we dug, the more we found. Alas, we didn’t find any actual points, just the remnants of some Native American’s work. We wondered about his life and what the area looked like then. This trails beginning was as a trade crossing for the Native Americans. In the summer months the Paiutes to the east brought obsidian to trade with the natives to the west. I read that on this particular crossing it was mostly Miwok from the west, although the Mono Native Americans might also have been involved. This obsidian we were looking at was very likely part of this trade.
This photo is of the bridge at Sheep’s Crossing. This was August and the river was a bit tame, but the boulder strewn and steep walled canyon was a bit intimidating. We tried our hand at fishing and Mark caught one, while I seemed to have casting issues and my rooster tail kept getting hooked on rocks. Did see plenty of fish as they swam away spooked!
Nice camping spot on the west side of the river. We slept warm with the rain fly off under a blanket of stars with granite cliffs standing as sentinel guards.
At 77 corral there is big camp that looked like a stock camp. The campfire ring had a couple of these log chairs. Comfy.We stopped at nearby Cargyle creek for lunch and took a splash in its cheerful waters; basking on the rocks afterwards like lizards in the sun. We fished too by dabbing with flies and caught a couple which we released back into their watery world. We are all for eating, but our midday meal was already done and miles of trail still lay before us. The hike soon got more difficult as the trail steepened and it was hot. The wind too had shifted and the smoke for the Aspen Fire started drifting in. It burned your throat and since I have asthma I thought in necessary to wear a mask. It got even hotter and the air escaping the mask sounded a bit like a ventilator. My thoughts turned to my uncle dying with lung cancer. I felt blessed to be alive and trudged on.
The wind seemed to change a bit, or swirl around at least, and the air cleared a bit while passing beautiful Summit Meadow. We had one more steep push up the granite and volcanic knob to actually get to the summit. I think climbed about 3000 feet from the river. Along the way…
Then down, down, down the other side. A few sections flat, others decidedly steep. Huge vistas to the east with Mammoth Mountain center sage then later to the left as the trail turned south. I began to feel fatigue and looked forward to making camp at the creek running somewhere at the bottom.
We had a lovely campsite all to ourselves and I caught a fish for an appetizer and we took a ridiculous sponge bath while hundreds of mosquitoes feasted on our blood. I think we hiked about 11 miles this day and found ourselves very close to Devil’s Postpile in the morning. It was an eery landscape the next morning as the smoke had drifted back in.
We hiked into Red’s Meadow and caught the first morning shuttle for Mammoth. Mark’s insoles were old and causing problems so we picked up a new pair in town and had some pizza and beer. The shuttle services in Mammoth are great. You can get all around town for free and the shuttle from Red’s to Mammoth Village is seven dollars a person round trip. We really love visiting this mountain town.
This trans Sierra hike was 17 miles and can be done easily in 2 days although we took one full day and borrowed a couple hours from 2 others. I’ve read of some über athletes completing the round trip in 1 day. Wow.
The trail’s beginning:
In 1878, J. S. French built a toll trail across the Sierra Nevada from the west; following old established Indian and livestock routes to the new strikes. The “French Trail” began at Fresno Flats (now the town of Oakhurst) 46 miles from Fresno, passed by such historic landmarks as Jackass Meadows, Clover Meadows, and Soldier Meadow and crossed the North Fork of the San Joaquin River. From there, the trail wound up the trail to King Creek and Summit Meadows, down to the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, over Mammoth Pass to Pine City and ended at Mammoth City. The trail was known by several names: the “French Trail”, the “Fresno Flats Trail” and the “Mammoth Pass Trail”.
French offered twice-weekly pack train service for riders from Fresno Flats to Mammoth for $15.00 and allowed up to 20 pounds of luggage. The Pine City Feed and Livery Stable also advertised regular pack train trips to Fresno Flats. The Fresno Flats Saddle Trains departed from the Monumental Hotel in Mammoth City on Tuesday and Friday, leaving at 5 AM for the 54-mile journey to Fresno Flats
As with other mining booms, the mines failed, and in 1881, the miners left, the towns declined and eventually disappeared. However, the old “French Trail” continued to be an important thoroughfare across the mountains used by livestock men driving their herds of cattle and sheep into the high mountains for summer grazing.