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Side Picture: Blood Red Sunset from Round Top Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Side Picture: Lost Cabin Mine
Fern Wall south of Telephone Gulch
Round Top Sunset
Green Monster South of Telephone Gulch
 lost Cabin Mine

 

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Backpacking
Telephone Gulch
to the
Campsites South
of the
Upper Summit City Creek Ford

Hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in the Mokelumne Wilderness

 

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Trail Guide
INDEX

Carson
Gap
to
Lake
Alpine
TYT
North


Summit
City
Creek
TYT
South


Lower
Summit City
Creek
Ford
North
Topo Map

Carson
Pass
Region
Big
7.5 min
Topo Map

Summit
City Creek
to
Mount
Reba
Detail
7.5 Topo
Map

Tele Gulch
thru
Lower
Ford
30 min
Topo Hiking Map

Echo
Summit
to
Lake
Alpine

TYT
Carson Gap
to
Lake Alpine

MILES
AND
ELEVATIONS

TYT
Map
Index

Carson
Gap
to
Lake
Alpine
EL
Dorado National Forest

Local Weather

Sierra Weather

Tahoe
to
Whitney
on
You
Tube

Telephone Gulch through the Campsites South of the Upper Ford

Telephone Gulch trail sign.

Telephone Gulch
Elevation

6720

Recent Route History
Mileage        Map
From Telephone Gulch we are moving South into the heart of the unmaintained section of trail between Summit City Canyon to Camp Irene. The speed we can maintain through this upcoming section is dependent on the level of difficulty we experience which is dependent on the condition of the route, the quality of our observing skills, and our level of physical fitness.
I have noted a wide range of route conditions through here during the past two decades I've hiked it. I expect this range of variability to continue over the next two decades, moderated by the trajectory of the seasons and social interaction. Let's explore the changing conditions of the past to understand the range of potential conditions we can experiences here over the long term. Let's figure out the best and worse conditions we can experience, then try to track the trail into the future as it bounces between the two.

This guide reports conditions changes between 1997 and the present (through forum updates), which is only a small window into a very long history. Looking at an ocean through a porthole, so to speak.

Prior to 1997 a faint but stable route was maintained by light backpacker traffic. Manzanita growth and tree falls were the framework of change. The catastrophic thaw of 1997 changed all that. Destruction of the trail around Camp Irene, the trail through the Enchanted Forest, and the devastation of the Lower Ford really choked off backpacker traffic. Besides the extreme damage this area of catastrophic flooding experienced, the Thaw of '97 also degraded and damaged trail and terrain up and down the Sierra, and especially this unmaintained section of trail through Summit City down to Camp Irene. Even trail outside of the flood damaged zones were degraded by the heavy rains, avalanches, and huge runoff. The damage brought huge regrowth, which further obscured the route.

The damage and growth turned around hikers, and the lack of hikers deepened and expanded the whole unmaintained section.

Sometime after 2002 the El Dorado National Forest stopped maintaining the section of trail South from the Summit City Creek trail junction down to Horse Canyon. This added another 2.43 miles to the length of the already unmaintaind section of trail. Between 2002 and 2012 the whole section of trail from the Summit City Canyon trail junction to Camp Irene degraded.

It was great! This section is the perfect lab to generate and evolve route finding skills, and a quiet refuge from the constant flow of hikers up and down the Pacific Crest Trail. It's also a great place to get lost or hurt, so be very careful. After crossing this un maintained section, we still have challenging route-finding ahead in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness where we hike through Clarks Meadow up to Saint Marys Pass.

For students of cross-country travel the next step in learning route-finding is located along the East Fork of the Carson River. After mastering that I figure you are good to go to scout and craft your own Summertime routes. An excellent place to begin exploring cross country hiking is Granite Chief along Summit Creek on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through Emigrant Wilderness.

Once you've begun accessing your cross-country navigation skills during Summertime you might want to start expanding into snow conditions with some early Spring backpacking. Your evolving route-finding skills are the basis of snow navigation. Once you've mastered finding route without trails your enhanced navigation skills allow you to begin picking up Springtime snow camping skills, working gradually to earlier Spring trips, then Fall trips (much more risky because of the risk of early-season fierce Winter storms), then mid-Winter capabilities. The end point of these evolving Summer route-finding and expanding snow skills is being able to navigate the High Sierra during mid-Winter. That makes you a four-season High Sierra Backpacker. That's bad-assed. That's the Holy Grail, with you covering the Alpha and Omega, the whole annual cycle of High Sierra backpacking.

The Summer of 2013 has brought considerable trail work along the whole un maintained route from Summit City Canyon to Camp Irene. Let's review the 2009 report, because it still well represents the basic route and the lower end of the range of conditions we find along this route. But, some recent trail work has improved the poor trail conditions described during 2009, which now represents a much smaller percentage of this section of trail as during 2013.

2009 Report
Written in 2009

2009: The trail used to be maintained from the Summit City trail junction down to Telephone Gulch, but no longer. Now fully un maintained trail stretches down from the Summit City trail junction to Telephone Gulch.

As of 2009 the recently un maintained trail North of Telephone Gulch is in better shape than the trail South of Telephone Gulch, which has long lacked maintenance.

Telephone Gulch

Telephone Gulch is strange. There is no trail junction here, only the remnants of a trail sign. The two pieces were widely separated before I reunited them.
It looks old here, like a place that was used by people so long ago that their only remaining traces are an uneasy feeling.

The uneasiness may also be a product of the end of the trail traces that have led to Telephone Gulch from the Summit City Creek trail junction below Fourth of July Lake.

Traces of "trail" South of Telephone Gulch were hard to find in July 2009.

2013 Report

2013: The basic character elements of the route through Telephone Gulch have not changed. Despite recent light maintenance work our route degrades the further South we hike from the Summit City Canyon trail junction. The trail degrades the closer we get to Telephone Gulch, and degrades more South of Telephone Gulch. The route still improves North of Telephone Gulch and degrades to its South. Yet it is still a route, requiring keen observation to remain on track.

A trail guide written for the long term use must cover the range of conditions we can experience along this route over the long term. This section of trail from Summit City trail junction has recently gotten some light trail work. This segment of trail has been "brushed out," small fallen timber has been cut, the larger tree falls routed around, and ducks and blazes have been added or accentuated. This work was executed during the Spring and Summer of 2013.

Yet all of this trail work can and will quickly melt away, leaving nothing more than your knowledge that there is a route through the terrain to guide you. And the many signs of route that will remain embedded in the terrain these recent trail works will leave, along with bits of established trail bed. Even when the trail degrades the cut branches and sawed fallen trees still identify the route.
As of early Fall 2013 there is a reasonable, fairly observable route, though recognizable route is often broken up by short lengths of terrain containing no sign of trail or route. Hikers must anticipate having to locate the route on a regular basis. Independent of status, current conditions will not last. Conditions will change.

The Future

I'm figuring that conditions will improve during the next five to seven years out from now, 2013, out to 2018 or 20, then begin to degrade again, achieving a long-term (decadal) equilibrium about equal to the faint route that existed prior to 1997.
Presently, (2013) Trail Crew, Volunteers, and Public-spirited backpackers are directing their attention to reopening this classic section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. I expect this attention, this love, to result in a few years of improvements and an increasing flow of intrepid backpackers, all of which activity will eventually bring the emergence of a good route all the way through Summit City Creek to Camp Irene. Yet I expect nature to win out over the medium and long terms.

The money and attention the El Dorado National Forest can focus on this section will draw down. But something greater is at work here: The Relentless Power of Nature. This power is overt at times, throwing down a relentless stream of occasional blights, Summer and Wintertime avalanches, punctuated by amazingly catastrophic Spring thaws. All of these will relentlessly sweep away various bits and pieces of the trail over the years and decades. Great rushes of ferns, lodge pole pines, and manzanita will grow across the route. The sloppy wetness of Spring meadows surging with life growing out of wet oozing soils that can't hold trail will inevitably degrade trail conditions over the medium and long terms.
These overt powers nature expresses on its annual cycle are multiplied by its time scale. Individual seasons grow into decades and centuries. My short term perspective, measured in decades, shows me that this trail degraded into route through a combination of design and catastrophe. Design is now overcoming catastrophe. We are almost back to the conditions that existed prior to the Great Thaw of 1997, telling me that we are beginning the cycle over again.

All of this means that during any particular year we should expect some degree of physical and route finding challenges. There will be more challenges as the trail degrades into route, and less as the route is maintained up to trail status. At this point in time, at the end of 2013, the route is on a slow upward trajectory of improvement. Independent of the particular ratio of route to trail you experience, there will be challenging sections.

To keep our understanding up with changing conditions we have the
Unmaintained Trail Section Conditions, Updates, and Reports
forum.

This forum collects recent hiker's experiences and general impressions about the character and conditions they experienced hiking through the unmaintained section between the Summit City Canyon trail junction and Camp Irene. Your information is valuable.
For more detailed reports and specific comments about particular locations each page of the trail guide below and above (South and North) are linked to their respective forums where hikers can post up their reports, questions, and comments about each particular segment of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Your experiences and information will inform and update others, so share it.

To all of you who have contributed, questioned, or commented: Thanks!

Backpacker's Information

TYT Map: Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
15 minute Backpacking Map

Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations


Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map
TYT Map: Echo Summit to Lake Alpine
30 minute Backpacking Map
El Dorado National Forest Mokelumne Wilderness Carson Pass Management Area

Summit City History

Miles
North & South

Telephone Gulch
to

Carson Pass

North

11. 71 miles North to Carson Pass

 

Round Top Lake

North

6.76 miles North to Round Top Lake

 

Upper Ford

South

1.71 miles South to Upper Ford

Lower Ford

South

4.22 miles South to Lower Ford

 

Camp Irene

South

6.29 miles South to Camp Irene

 

Lake Alpine

South

15.01 miles South to Highway 4 at Lake Alpine.

Mileage

Totals

Carson Gap to Lake Alpine: 25.49 miles

feet ascending           feet descending

Backpacking Trails and Topics Forums
Summit City Creek Forum

Backpacker Resources and Hiker Information

INDEX

On this page

Recent Route History
2009          2013

 

Video
Horse Canyon to Upper Ford of Summit City Creek

 

Character of this Segment of Trail

 

Review of Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

 

First Campsite South of Telephone Gulch

 

Rough Terrain South of Telephone Gulch

 

Recent Trail Work

 

Along Summit City Creek

 

Back into the Forest

 

Snag Alley

 

Faint Trail

 

Turning back towards Summit City Creek

 

Second Campsite South of Telephone Gulch

 

Meadow and Forest South of Second Campsite

 

Approaching Fern Zone

 

Back to Summit City Creek

 

Fern Zone Continues

 

Short Granite Zone

 

Back into Dense Forest

 

Big Granite Zone down to Upper Ford

 

Summit City Creek through Granite Zone

 

The Great Wash

 

Fine Banzi Juniper Tree

 

Views North, up Summit City Canyon

 

Soft Shaded Camping Spot

 

Ducks through Complex Granite Terrain

 

Campsite on the North Bank of the Upper Ford

 

 

Weather and Road Information

Below find the closest Ground Stations, Point and Regional Forecasts near Summit City Creek.

Satellite and Radar Imagery provides Long Range and Regional overviews.

Carson Pass Weather Forecast

National Weather Service

NWS
Point Forecast
Carson Pass Point Forecast

Regional Forecasts

NWS
Regional Forecast Greater Lake Tahoe

NWS
Regional Forecast
West Slope Sierra Tahoe to Yosemite

All
Carson Pass
Regional Weather Information
All
High Sierra Weather Resources
LOCAL
Real Time

Ground Reporting Stations

Carson Pass

Caples Lake

Schneiders Camp

Forestdale Creek

Silver Lake

All Ground Reporting Stations

MesoWest N Calif Stations

Calif Snotel

Road Conditions
Caltrans Hwy 88        Caltrans Hwy 4

Big View
Radar

North California Radar

Big View
Space

Western US Satellite

All Weather and Fire Information

All High Sierra Weather Resources

Comprehensive High Sierra Fire and Smoke Information

Video
Upper Ford to the Campsite overlooking the End of Summit City Canyon

 

Duck Marking South Bank of Upper Summit City Creek Ford

 

Upper Ford of Summit City Creek

 

Views North up Summit City Canyon from South Bank of Ford

 

Climbing First Rise South of the Upper Ford

 

Primitive Campsite on Granite Rise South of Upper Ford

 

Second Rise South of Upper Ford

 

View North up Summit City Canyon from Second Rise

 

Around the Third Rise South of the Upper Ford

 

Looking out the South End of Summit City Canyon

 

Down into Forest and Bush

 

Over to the Southeast side of the Fourth Rise South of the Upper Ford

 

Down to the First Great Granite Slab

 

First Great Granite Slab South of the Upper Ford

 

Under the Southeast side of the Nose of the Fourth Rise South of the Upper Ford

 

Faint trail through dense Forest

 

The Second Granite Flat South of the Upper Ford

 

A Peek at Summit City Creek running across the bottom of the Granite Flat

 

Manzanita South of Granite Flat or down to Summit City Creek

 

Explore the Granite Flat & Summit City Creek to our West

or

Hike South through Manzanita to Campsite at the End of Summit City Canyon

 

Campsite at the End of Summit City Canyon

 

Defacement and Repair

 

View out the end of Summit City Canyon

> Forum <

POST UP!

All backpackers can post text comments about the following section of trail through the comments links on all the trail guide pages. Registered Members can post up stand alone posts about the trail with words, images, maps and videos in the Trails Forum that supplements this section of the Trail Guide.

This section has a special forum for updates on the status of the un maintained trail section between Summit City Creek and Camp Irene. Post up your updates and information on this challenging route here.

Check out the Tahoe to Whitney .org Backpacking Trails and Topics forums

comments

VIDEO
HORSE CANYON TO UPPER FORD OF SUMMIT CITY CREEK

This video gives us a gander at the terrain and trail of one of the most challenging sections of our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route laying between Horse Canyon and the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

An important thing to remember while hiking through here is that there is a "route," an easiest way through the terrain, even during eras when little maintained trail is visible or well connected. The easiest way through this section is achieved by recognizing the sections of untrailed route and efficiently connecting them to the lengths of recognizable trail.

This means that even when we lose signs of trail we know that making the correct route-finding decisions will quickly bring us back to recognizable trail. If we do not find indications of trail, ducks, or blazes after 50 to 70 yards of hiking we have likely lost the optimal route through the terrain, and we will begin to look for it.

The route is either Left, Right, or we are on it.

It is much easier to cross terrain on an old unmaintained trail route than it is to hike cross-country. It behooves us to stay on, or as close to the original route of the trail as possible. Success at staying on-route will save us thousands of calories and lots of time.

As this video shows, unmaintained trail requires much more work and attention than maintained trails.

Horse Canyon to Telephone Gulch: Start of video to 4:50.
Telephone Gulch South to Upper Ford of Summit City Creek: 4:50 to end.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

Duration: 19:30

Telephone Gulch

Elevation: 6720

South of Telephone Gulch the range of trail conditions we experience widens. We are now noticing a pattern: The further downstream we hike the fainter the trail gets, the more frequently that treefalls cross the trail and the number of decision points increase.

Decision points are locations where we are unsure about the direction of the continuing trail. These points require us to determine the most likely place we will reacquire the trail.

South of Telephone Gulch our number of decision points, as well as the locations where we have to closely observe the terrain to just to stay on route increases. But not to worry. These faint and untrailed sections quickly bring us to sections of easily recognizable trail or signs of the route, if we are properly reading the terrain.

If we hike more than 50 to 70 yards without finding some indications of the route we are likely not observing well, not pushing towards the correct direction to reacquire the the route, or completely off-route.

If we are pushing through dense thickets of fallen snags, breaking through bush no one has broken through for decades, or otherwise struggling physically and psychologically, I have the following advice.

Though we still find sections of fine trail and sections of faint trail, even while staying on-route we find that the number of obstacles blocking the route increases and we are confronted with many ambiguous route decisions.

Time to keep the eyes wide open!

Telephone Gulch Trail Forum Page

questions & comments

  Remnants of the sign marking Telephone Gulch  
  Telephone Gulch on Summit City Creek. Primitive site with a sign that suits it.  

The sign post is casting the shadow. I hunted around in 2009 to find the pieces of this sign and then fit them back together at the base of their old post.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

TYT Echo Summit to Lake Alpine
30 minute Backpacking Map

Top of Page

Telephone Gulch

Elevation: 6720 feet.

Mileage

Telephone Gulch is

.8 of a mile South of Horse Canyon.

3.23 miles South of the Summit City Junction.

Telephone Gulch is

1.71 miles North of the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

6.26 miles North of Camp Irene, where maintained trails resume.

Click red dots on map.

top of page

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Telephone Gulch
2009 report with 2013 updates

South of Telephone Gulch we are entering the heart of the unmaintained trail section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. We have already hiked 3.23 South along Summit City Creek through moderately difficult un maintained trails from the Summit City Canyon trail junction down to Telephone Gulch. South of Telephone Gulch trail conditions deteriorate further.

And it is getting hotter and hotter as we descend down Summit City Canyon. From our 9360 foot elevation coming across Round Top we have now dropped down 2640 feet to 6720 feet. We are hiking down into a heat wave as we lose elevation. I've experienced high '80s and low '90s through here many times.

As the image above shows, moist shaded locations along our route protect temperate zones decorated by lush ferns.

We have 6.29 miles of HOT un maintained trails remaining to our South between our current position at Telephone Gulch to Camp Irene, where maintained trail resumes. This upcoming section contains the most difficult segments of the whole Tahoe to Yosemite trail. Well, it's a toss up between this section and the section of un trailed route from the South edge of Clarks Fork Meadow to Saint Marys Pass.

Expansion of Un maintained Trail Section

About 7 years ago (early 2000's) the trail was maintained from the trail junction at Summit City Creek below Fourth of July Lake South to Telephone Gulch. This is no longer the case.  As of July 2009 the un maintained section now begins at the Summit City Creek trail junction where it intersects with the trail South from Fourth of July Lake.

2013 Update: The trail from Summit City Creek South to Horse Canyon has been improved, and is due to be put back into regularly maintained status by the El Dorado National Forest.

There were sufficient trail bed remnants to follow bits of the old trail route South from the Summit City Creek trail junction to Horse Canyon without too much difficulty. Fallen trees, moderate overgrowth, and small sections devoid of any indications of trail whatsoever was the extent of trail deterioration as of July 2009. Down to Horse Canyon the trail bed is still cut deep into the terrain. South of Horse Canyon, which sits .8 of a mile North of Telephone Gulch, the route becomes significantly less discernable, becoming much rougher as you approach Telephone Gulch.

2013 Update: Still true, but at a higher level of repair.

South of Telephone Gulch the going gets considerably worse. Serious obstacles block our progress, and most of the remaining bits of trail bed have faded into the forest floor. The trees have absorbed the ancient blazes cut into them, leaving little more than faint rectangular sections incised into their bark that looks little different from the random bark patterns on the rest of the trees.

Faded blaze South of the lower ford of Summit City Creek

Faint ancient blaze being being absorbed by a tree. This is a good, fairly observable blaze for this segment of our trail!

2013 Update: Sections of recognizable trail better linked together, but still a diffuse route.

It is Rough Going South of Telephone Gulch, but our slow path finding through dark forest will soon brighten considerably. The last section of our route down to the upper ford of Summit City Creek we will cross a beautiful open section of exposed granite.

This open section is quite a relief from the labors of forest travel.

It's interesting that after an extended period on unstable soft forest floor, our feet find great relief on hard rock. After miles of traveling on hard rock, our feet love the softness of forest floor travel. Those feet are never happy!

After navigation through the forest we finally enter the open granite, which brings us down to the upper ford of Summit City Creek.

2013 Update: The granite section is as it was in 2009, very well ducked.

Just North of the Upper ford (the North ford) of Summit City Creek you will find an old improved campsite.

Later Updates:

Unmaintained
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Updates Forum

Freshness and Quality
Contemporary Info describing Ancient Terrain

The conditions described here are based on conditions observed between the early 1990s to the present date, if I am still alive. Rest assured the terrain is under constant pressures pushing change. Each season's rain, snow, and runoff alters conditions. Every Spring's Bloom intrudes a bit deeper into the remaining bits of trailbed. Snags constantly fall in the forest across the route, their effects always felt by the living, if not philosophically heard by thunderously stupid educated idiots.

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

It, the Web of Life around us, exists and changes if we hear it or not, see it or not, or if we do or don't get splinters climbing over it. It, being reality, exists and changes with and without our knowledge. All things move in the Web of Life when one thing moves. Our ignorance does not measure or limit the movements of nature, it measures and limits us, and our perception of the movements of life. Our arrogance, that things hidden in the shadow of our ignorance do not exist, is absurd.

The cascading effects of all things interacting created us without our knowledge or consent.

Hiding in the shadow of our own ignorance is equal to hiding in plain sight. Making the choice to stand in the shadow of ignorance does not protect us from the consequences of unseen forces, but makes us yet more vunerable. Unseen things can kill us as quickly as the seen.

It, the Web of Life, has lived long before us, and It will continue long after we have crashed and burned.

Understanding this is akin to a spider reading ancient vibrations moving along their strands of the web of life, revealing the vibes of sounds not heard, sights not seen, and forces not readily visible through the gates of our physical perceptions, but only percievable through spiritual dimensions of perception, until the time each of our personal physical manifestions of the "gates of perception," each finally closes (if they ever opened), while the underlying spirit that built those gates continues on unabated, if fed or starved.

Some folks have closed the gates of perception and meaning long before they hear the sound of them closing, while some never close them, and "gates" are just a formality.

This is because some see Life Itself is the basis of existence, not its result, while other don't, or can't understand this.

These self-centered social definitions of man as the source of life and reality are backwards. Our internal perceptive compass is as skewed as our external perceptions are perfectly tuned to, and created by our environment to reflect our environment.
This misfit between the infinite self-delusions of our internal definitions verses the brutal precision of our external perception itself causes us (and the web of life which created us) endless problems balancing perception with meaning and purpose.

Our distortion and dysfunction are centered on the contradiction between our self-centric definitions of ourselves as the center of life against the plain fact that humans are not the center, the cause, nor the end purpose of life.
We are merely a mirror of life, with the will-power and choice necessary to self-adjust our angle of reflection to points of brilliance and blindness.

Once we "get-over" ourselves clarity ensues. That is easier said than done...

And, clarity does not feed the greedy.

Getting crushed by a falling snag in a grove of trees in the forest will suffice to teach ignorant post-modernists about the felt effects of things not heard, seen, or experienced...

Understanding the logic and meaning of life blows with the breezes through the growing trees, flows with the waters down Summit City Creek, and is exercised and exemplified by every movement of the Web of Life. You can choose to open yourself up to it or not.

Psychobabble idiots and their smarmy paradoxes melt in the burning reality of real things, when they even dare to go outside, and get outside the self-created realities they and their massive cities require to exist. These ignorant "thought-bubbles" will only exist as long as the physical structures necessary to support them, which are composed of vast cities of disconnected urban populations, exists.
These selfish people and their vast mega-cities required to support their self-absorbed delusions are reducing the size and sophistication of the web of life. They are Consuming the Spirit of Life as if was some consumer commodity.

Does a human exist in the forest if nature does not see them, or they not see it? Can a society consuming the web of life by devouring whole ecosystems in pursuit of a very gross pornographic style of mass consumption and self-gratification continue to exist?

I say "not for long." If we exist in disharmony with nature we will disappear.

Unseen lightening strikes as does the seen. Unseen snags crush unsuspecting hikers as do the seen.

If a snap or lightening kills me before I see them, did either I or the lightening ever exist?

That expresses the nonesensical contradictions of the nonsensical self-centered reality so many humans negate their lives within.

Thus it is with the Rock, Air, Fire and Water surrounding us: all are expressions of previously unseen ancient forces moving through complex processes within, with, and without us, if we know them or not. It is our arrogance of consciousness that permits fools to believe existence itself is created by or for human perception.

That's back-asswards. Human perception itself is a product of nature.

Brains existed and worked in lizards long before brains were known or understood in humans. Understanding still fails to enlighten our knowledge. Let me offer some context.

The deeper we peer into the workings of nature the more clearly we see the reflection of our own eye. But it is us that is the reflection, a real-time reflection of the timeless living spark of life within and energizing all things. Reality is not an expression of our perception, we are an expression of Its.

As such, nature endows humans with the inherent tools to precisely perceive, understand, and the power to choose to navigate It to greater beauty or greater brutality than nature itself exercises. Humans are the icing on the cake of life, not the cake itself.

Nature created a driver's seat and a driver. It's our choice where we take it.

Humans are the driver and the icing, not the car nor the cake. Our perception created none of it. Our misperceptions have in fact unbalanced ourselves and Nature.

It's Big
Humans are eternity on the inside with infinity outside, if we can properly adjust the mirror of our perception with our environment. Or we can continue to represent blind ignorance driving this planet off a cliff as fast as we can, with cake on our face. This planet will crash and burn if we humans can't get a handle on our position and role in life.

This short length of unmaintained trail in Summit City Canyon is one of many Infinite Temples of Life inviting your spirit to find balance between its beginning and end along the longer trail of your life by drawing out your fundamental Natural life skills.

The Art of Walking is the Art of Life

Back to the Trail

In any case, with any perspective, or any approach we take to nature, this human-constructed trail is constantly changing, if we see it or not. The rhythms of life may have significantly degraded parts of the trail, but there's a natural route across the terrain if there's a trail carved across it or not.
Be ready to employ the route finding skills and draw out the perceptive and analytical tools inherent within your design so we can tie the route to the visible segments of trail remnants hiking through here.

Observe carefully. Analyze accurately. Act accordingly.

Your perceptive and analytical route finding skills must be close enough to forming-up within you that this terrain draws them out. Thus you should be an experienced backpacker with a good understanding of trail and terrain before venturing off the beaten path. These skills are there inside you.

We are designed to carry heavy loads at high speed over a variety of terrains while observing, analyzing, and deciding on upcoming route in all weather, at all altitudes, while being chased or chasing. That's in the design and expression of our DNA.

We've just got to put ourselves into environments that first develop, then express our natural engagement skills by steps, gradually. Part of this process is physical, part perceptive. For safety's sake we've got to bring both our physical and perceptive assets up to speed before pushing them off the deep end into remote unmaintained trail.

Nonetheless, humans' role in nature is quite a bit more amazing than the educated idiots think it is, and the development of "consumer culture" would indicate. The sophistication of humans over time has depended on drawing out and using the most sophisticated elements and tools of nature long before the educated idiots could describe them.

SIERRA SNAG: DAVID MAXIM WATERCOLOR

On Religion

2013 Update
The above statement, that trails always change and mostly "degrade" is always true, but the forces of nature have been balanced, even counterbalanced in places, by the work of the Mokelumne Wilderness Volunteers out of the El Dorado National Forest as well as the work of Trail Slug and his buddy Joe. Trail and route conditions have improved considerably.

Thanks, yall!

Just don't overdo it! The charm of this route has always been intertwined with its route finding and physical demands. Too much trail through here would be a tragedy.

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Gear Note
This type of very demanding cross country terrain should determine your boot selection. Your feet can get pounded through this section.

Light boots and tennis shoe type hikers are not recommended. Consider the high potential for missteps resulting in extreme pressure on your feet. This can result in trips, falls, and sprained ankles as well as upper body damage from the fall.

The density of the brush through here will also test the quality and thickness of your fabrics, from clothes to pack. Light gear can get torn up hiking this section of trail.

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Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
General Information

Review

START point of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Meeks Bay Trail head

END point of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Tuolumne Meadows. The maps, resupply, and now the trail guide pages have been put online down the the trail to Tuolumne Meadows. But, I suggest that you don't finish at Tuolumne Meadows, but by hiking the JMT backwards down to Yosemite Valley... guide information is coming!

About the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route.

 

Current position
Heading South on the Tahoe to Yosemite trail past Telephone Gulch along Summit City Creek between Carson Pass and Lake Alpine.

We are crossing the Western Mokelumne Wilderness in the El Dorado National Forest.

Current Destination
Camp Irene, and the start of maintained trails 6.29 miles to our South.

Well, this is debatable. Rough conditions persist just South of Camp Irene, but we've just got to keep our eyes open as we push South of Camp Irene along the North Mokelumne River. We'll find good trail South of Camp Irene where we begin the traverse/climb over to Mount Reba.

Well, the manzanita can be pretty overgrown. But we can find and stay on the route fairly easily, if we keep our eyes open.

Next Resupply, End of this Section of Trail
Lake Alpine Lodge. (14.31 miles South to Highway 4 at the Bee Gulch Trailhead)

Mapping

Big Map of the trail between Mokelumne Wilderness.

Detailed Map of this segment of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Nearby Campsite Options

1> "End of the Line" above great granite section to Upper Ford. (below)

2>Just North of the Upper Ford. Improved site. (Below)

2>Just South of the Upper Ford. Primitive, but real cool site. (Below)

3> Just South of where the trail approaches Summit City Creek, 1.32 miles South of the Upper Ford. An amazing location. (Below)

4> Campsite at the end of Summit City Canyon. (Below)

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Hiking a short ways South of the Telephone Gulch trail post and sign we come to this campsite.

 

Telephone Gulch Trail Forum Page

questions & comments

Campsite South of Telephone Gulch
2013
CAMPSITE
Campsite South of Telephone Gulch.

As we hike South we will come across a series of regular "improved" campsites that are quite neglected. Well, , most of them have been falling slowly into disrepair. On the other hand, we also see many intriguing locations that a little exploration will reveal splendid primitive sites as well as old "improved" sites not visible from the route of the trail.

I've got to urge backpackers through here to explore. Well, backpackers through here are "exploring" as they strain to follow the route itself, yet there are many hidden delights that only a bit more exploration will reveal.

Most of the sites along our "trail" show all the signs of infrequent use. The campsite above shows the newly rebuilt-up campfire ring and recently restored primitive benches. But the forest floor litter does not lie:

Though this site has been recently restored and used, this use is a blip in a long period of disuse, as the layer of crispy forest floor litter around the fire ring as well as covering the sleeping flats do not lie.

A little bit of recent use does not turn back or alter the signs of the rising tide of natural reclamation this site most prominently displays.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

TYT Echo Summit to Lake Alpine
30 minute Backpacking Map

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Fallen tree debris along and on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Summit City Canyon.

We see the mess of fallen snags that constantly cross our route.

 

Trail work carried out during 2013 in Summit City Canyon.

Though there is a lack of established trail bed remaining here we pick up the route by recent trail work.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

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Trail tape removed from Tahoe to Yosemite Trail during 2013.

Trail Slug and his pal marked parts of the trail with tape. Though I appreciate the work on the trail, the tape defeats the purposes of terrain observation and analysis that makes this segment of trail so special.

I found most of the tape removed when I hiked through late in 2013. I removed all the remaining nails and fragments of tape that I could pry out of the trees and fallen snags.

A bit of trail work and subtle ducking is perfectly acceptable. Though done with good intentions, taping this route defeats the purpose of this route by seriously degrading the cross-country observation and route-finding experience that this special route is famous for.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

 

Back to Summit City Creek along Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Coming back down to Summit City Creek the trail bends South, to our Right to parallel the creek.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

TYT Echo Summit to Lake Alpine
30 minute Backpacking Map

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Faint trail along Summit City Creek below Telephone Gulch.

Not quite degraded into a route, neither a trail, we follow the remnants of the trailbed.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Line of snags swept down and fallen across Summit City Creek.

Line of snags swept down and/or fallen across Summit City Creek.

This looks like sections of our upcoming unmaintained trail...

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Movement

Undercut tree fallen across Summit City Creek.

Wow. This massive snag took a huge rootball up when it went down.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Old trail work below Telephone Gulch.

The last big timber was cut off the trail route here a long time ago.

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The Fungus be Tripping

Fungus growing along the TYT in Summit City Canyon.

Fungus.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

Faint Romantic Route

Great Fir trees in Summit City Canyon.

Our route actually passes between these two trees...

Is it mysterous? Is it spooky? Is it the mystery of the correct route, or is it you not knowing it?

Something gets this place under my skin, in a really pleasant way.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Obstacle Course

Series of obstacles along Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Summit City Canyon.

JUMP
Series of obstacles along Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Summit City Canyon. We now engage a couple of hundred yards of the unmaintained trail over and around thickets of downed snags.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Fungus on snag in Summit City Canyon. Fungus, Mokelumne Wilderness.

Fungus.

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Very old axe-cut tree along Summit City Canyon trail.

Very old hand axe cut tree.

History of Summit City

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Trail through dense forest branches along Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Nice trailbed leads us through new and old elements of this living forest.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Looking down towards Summit City Creek.

We're at the rocky open space representing the high point of this section climbing away from Summit City Creek. Now we'll find and follow a few ducks across this short rocky section to find the faint trail back down into forest towards the creek.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Ducks along Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Summit City Canyon below Telephone Gulch.

Good ducks mark out route through here as of 2013. But notice that these ducks will not withstand the Winter snow and thaw.

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Aspects of Telephone Gulch along
the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Camp below Telephone Gulch, Mokelumne Wilderness.

"Last" Campsite. Well, not really. But I've always called it that because the trail typically fades out South of here. Not so much in 2009. Independent of the status of the unmaintained trail through here, the route deterorites South of here and improves to the North.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

The second campsite below Telephone Gulch above granite zone and Upper Ford.

Old campsite with old benches.

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  Campsite South of Telephone Gulch
2009

CAMPSITE
 
  Telephone Gulch camp  

Campsite South of Telephone Gulch 2009. Old and degraded. Not used during the 2009 hiking season.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Tarps abandoned at campsite below Telephone Gulch.

Abandoned tarps, 2013.

I believe that this was part of the tools and gear that Eric found and carried out early in the Summer of 2013.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

October Scene

Meadow South of campsite.

Hiking South from this "last camp" before trail conditions potentially degrade we've got some reasonable quality trail across dry meadow.

This is likely a result of the long series of dry Winters we've experienced. As soon as we get a wet Spring meadow saturation, movement, and growth will begin to obscure the trail.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

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Trail down to Summit City Creek above Upper Ford.

Moving South and East across crispy meadow towards forest.

 

Entering the Fern Zone between Telephone Gulch and rock Zone above the Upper Ford.

Entering the Fern Zone between Telephone Gulch and rock Zone above the Upper Ford.

We're now low enough in elevation (around 6600 feet) to get zones of temperate forest conditions.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

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Ferns, fallen trees, and faint trail above Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Ferns, fallen trees, and faint use trail coming around the fern zone approaching the next set of granite slabs above Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

A wall of ferns blocked the Tahoe to Yosemite route just South of Telephone Gulch, 2009.

THE GREEN MONSTER

Wall of Ferns South of Telephone Gulch

A short ways South of Telephone Gulch during 2009 I ran into this green barrier. Though quite beautiful, it was much trouble to pass through. This wall of Sword Ferns sits upon an exposed network of strong interconnected elevated roots, much like a layer of quarter-inch rebar sitting above the ground, but very slick. This web of roots was sitting about two inches above the ground. As you can imagine, this platform of roots gave spotty, slippery footing, and was constantly trying to suck a foot into its web.

It was a real challenge to keep my feet from slipping into the web of roots and getting stuck. Getting a foot caught up with a heavy pack is destabilizing. This can easily pull you down. Around me the stiff stalks of the aptly named Sword Ferns threatened to impale me each time I stumbled as the root network constantly snagged my feet. That's why they call them Sword Ferns.

I can't wait to get back and see how this growth is doing.

UPDATE
Drying conditions have savaged the fertility of the Green Moster and its little temperate zone.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Comments-Questions-Trail Experience?

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Subsequent Experiences

Trail through the Ferns in the Fern Zone.

Trail through the ferns in the aptly named Fern Zone. The difference between the two images above represents the range of fern growth we can experience here.

Sometimes it is very dense and clogged through the fern zone along the trail route. Other times less. Independent of the specific density of the ferns, the way ferns grow tends to obscure the trail if short or tall, thick or thin.

The upper image of profound growth and fertility was taken during the Fall of 2009, the lower image during the Fall of 2013. That year the ferns had to be pushed through to get through. There was no trail through.

The difference is the lower moisture that we've been averaging over the last fifteen years as Winters become much shorter and Springtimes drier.

Pooling, Tranquil Summit City Creek

Dark and secluded stretch of Summit City Creek.

Down to Summit City Creek.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

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The Past is Green

Trail through Fern Zone below Telephone Gulch in Summit City Canyon.

The Fern Zone has been taking it on the chin in the drying climate.

The bits of Temperate Rainforest that were once nurtured by the unique shape of the terrain squeezing out additional moisture and providing extra shade are turning yellower and yellower as they shrink.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

A Sadly Dry Aspect to a Normally Moist Spot

Approaching a Granite Zone towards the South end of the Fern Zone.

Approaching a rock zone wedged between fern and forest zones.

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Sweet Little Zone of Smooth Carved Granite

Rock Zone between Fern and Forest along Summit City Creek.

v

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

Tranquility has Landed
IT is Here

Granite pool along brief stretch of open granite above Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Granite pool along brief stretch of open granite above Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

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Back into the Bush

Old chipped trail brings us back into fern and forest.

Chipped trail leads us back into fern and forest.

 

Fern zone above final section of Rock Terrain down to the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Fern zone above final section of Rock Terrain down to the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

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We see the granite below the end of the Fern Zone.

v

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

 

Out of the Forest and onto the Rock. I welcome the change...

Clear, open trail on rock is welcomed

A short granite section opens South of Telephone Gulch. Trail crews long ago chipped a path to guide us across the granite, which now holds more forest debris than backpackers. The solid footing of this hard surface is a welcome change from the constant threat of a sprained ankle while crossing through deep forest floor debris. Note the debris build-up along the trail broken into the granite.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

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Entering final granite section above the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Fine trail takes us a few hundred yards downstream past this fine pool with great rock rising on both sides.

Below we see the rock formation rising on the far side of this pool.

A few hundred yards downriver we will climb up a great granite formation to cross over into the gulch.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

 

Granite formation on North bank of Summit City Creek.

The distinctive face of the granite formation towering above the pool.

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Sand collects along granite section of Summit City Creek.

Sand collects along granite section of Summit City Creek.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Unique shaped rock in Summit City Creek.

This is a sweetly shaped piece of stone.

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Summit City Canyon above North Ford.

A trail well notched into the granite brings us past beautiful pools and fine rock faces rising above the far bank of Summit City Creek.

The image above imparts the feeling of a narrowing terrain, which is happening.

We are wedging ourselves further down a narrowing canyon right here.

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Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through granite formations. TYT through follows channel through granite.

A pretty obvious route brings us down this narrow section of granite terrain wedged between the creek and steep formations rising on both sides.

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Nice Tahoe to Yosemite Trail carved in granite.

All this fine trail across rock brings us down to a dead end. We will see no obvious way forward, with a great granite rise climbing to our Right.

We will scurry up it, naturally.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

TYT Echo Summit to Lake Alpine
30 minute Backpacking Map

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Top of granite slab above gulch in granite section above Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Scurrying up this granite berm and turning around to look back the way we came down the canyon reveals a better view of the granite formations behind us rising above the pooling section of Summit City Creek than we had while standing under it after we first emerged out of forest into this grand granite area.

Turning back around to continue South down the canyon we see a moderately deep sandy gulch separating us from the complex granite terrain continuing South towards the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek beyond.

We're getting closer to the Upper Ford.

But first we have to get across the sandy gulch.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Finding our way South through granite section along Summit City Creek.

Sandy gulch and complex grantie terrain beyond.

This place takes some good observing and analysis to pick our way through.

Looking carefully at the granite making up the far side of the sandy gulch we can see black stripes staining a portion of the rock. This section with stripped stains is sitting almost at the center of the image above.

Right next to the black-stripe stained rock we can also see a granite boulder sitting in the sandy gulch.

That's where I got through last time, after I worked my way down there...

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

I believe this is where folks might want to begin looking for the ford. Not Yet!

Post up your experiences:

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Sandy Gulch Art

Boulder wrapped with skeleton of juniper.

Lovely.

This is my kind of rock garden.

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In the Sandy Gulch

Granite maze along Summit City Creek.

Looking South down the gulch.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Dwarf Juiper Tree appears to grow out of solid granite in Summit City Canyon.

A very fine midget junniper tree growing out of solid rock on the North wall of the sandy gulch.

I distinguish between a shrub and tree by the character of the trunk. Look at that massive sucker!

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View North up Summit City Canyon from above the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Looking North up Summit City Canyon across the sandy gulch.

Note the location of the of the dwarf juniper in the second picture above growing out of granite on the North side of the sandy gulch.

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

Looking back, North, at the twisting canyon of Summit City Creek we have been descending

looking back upstream Summit City Creek

Long view North at Summit City Canyon looking past the Sandy Gulch.

Note that this view is the same perspective as the second image above, but from further South.

We are in the great granite section of Summit City Creek North of the Upper Ford. We are looking North, up Summit City Creek. Fourth of July Peak is peeking over the descending ridgeline in the far distance, below the cloud in the distant Right-Center of this image. It is a real relief from the dense forest.

The granite beauties up the canyon are bending to the Northeast, towards Summit City Creek's trail junction to Fourth of July Lake, where we entered this awesome canyon.  You must rely on your good observation and route finding skills backpacking through this whole section, but there has been a solid line ducks (Sept. 2013) guiding the way across this open granite section.

And the ducks are not too bad. Good ducking subtly marks the route. This area is a bit over-ducked as of my last passage, but not by much.

The biggest ducks survive the Winter snows, but the rest are swept away, to be replaced by each Summer's hikers. You don't need ducks through this granite section, in fact too many ducks take away from the experience.

These wide open sections require backpackers to scan the totality of the terrain to weigh route options. Too many ducks can diminish the experience.

I'd say that nowadays the real problem is that there is not enough snow falling to knock over the ducks. This will lead to a build-up of duckage.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Granite sheet down to wedge of forest along Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Summit City Canyon.

Looking off to our Left we can see a couple of nice soft soil flats with tree cover that make good campsites as we approach the Upper Ford.

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

A duck reveals the way through the complex granite terrain.

A subtle duck (top middle-Right of image) pulls us to the Right to find our way through the granite terrain.

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One duck leads to a flock of ducks along Summit City Creek on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Too many ducks.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

 

Hiking down Summit City Creek to the upper ford.

The last three images above were taken at each duck location looking South at the next. Note the white rock in the duck above is the same white rock in the second image above, but closer...

Again, too many ducks.

I did not kick down the extras this time through.

Let's not overdo it.

There's an exposed campsite on the rock up here, off to our Right up ahead that we'll see and pass in a moment.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Campsite on the North side of the Upper Summit City Creek Ford

Campsite above Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

A nice improved campsite sits on the North Side of the upper Summit City Creek ford, at the edge of the last clump of forest above the Upper Ford.

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

A momentary break to dry out the feet and relax the body

  A nice improved campsite sits on the North Side of the upper Summit City Creek ford, at the edge of the forest.       Airing out the feet and taking a break before crossing the upper ford of Summit City Creek. Some leg damage passing through the dense brush sections of the unmaintained trail.  
  Campsite north of upper Summit City Creek ford       Getting trashed getting through the Upper section of Summit City Creek above the North ford.  

Nice camp during 2009. I did not check it out in 2013.

Long pants might be a good option through here. I measured the obstacles vs. the heat, and determined heat was more of a threat than the obstacles. So the pant legs stayed in the pack.  

Video
Upper Ford to the Campsite Overlooking the End of Summit City Canyon

Upper Ford to the Campsite Overlooking the End of Summit City Canyon

Distance
1.54 miles

Terrain
Challenging and Difficult

Trail degrades into a route we must find and follow. We are rewarded by finding ducks and remnants of old trail bed worn into the terrain telling us we are on-course as we burst through thick manzanita and find our way through mazes of trees across fingers of dense forest. I find that threading our way through boulder gardens and sliding through ancient slots worn into the granite terrain long before the ancient civilizations of man rose to be relaxing, exciting, and exhausting all at once.

If we are not finding regular indications of the old trail and current route we are not on it. If we are not on the route we are working a lot harder than if we are...

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

Index

North: Summit City Creek                                      top of page                            South: Lower Summit City Creek Ford

The Upper Ford, Summit City Creek

2013 duck marking upper ford of Summit City Creek.

Location

Latitude 38.59987°

Longitude -120.03499°

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

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The Upper Ford, Summit City Creek

Upper Summit City Creek ford, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

The Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

At the top of this image we can see where our route runs to the Right, to the South above the rock formation where the fording duck is situated.

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

        The Great Duck on the South side of the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.
The Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.   Ducks on South side of Northern Ford of Summit City Creek
North ford of Summit City below Telephone Gulch, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail  

I am heading left, to work my way down to the fording boulders, after checking out the fording situation to the Right of these nice fording boulders.

But before fording, I've got to get down to them.

 

OBSERVE!

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  This duck tells you you've arrived at the fording point. Note the drainage gully behind and to the left of the duck. That is the wrong way. You head right after crossing the ford. Keep your eyes open and you will see indications, if not ducks, marking the trail route turning right out of the lower part of the gully.
Upper Summit City Creek Ford, Mokelumne Wilderness Backpacking.

We can only access the ford by climbing down to the Creek to our Right.

Once we get down there I generally cross on the far Right side of the image, then push through the bush to cross the grass berm to the Left. Then we move a few steps up the gully looking to our Right. We'll see a duck or a bit of trail bed to point ourselves towards as we climb up around the rock formation the fording duck is located.

Hiker Input and Experiences

Peter pushes down to find another ford Johnny: ... he trail away from the upper ford was not clear.

Post up your experience with finding and using the Upper Summit City Creek Ford.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Telephone Gulch to Upper Ford Forum

Comments;
Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

Summit City Creek's Upper Ford

Fording is one of the two most dangerous threats to High Sierra Nevada Spring and early Summer backpackers, along with lightening.

Always approach a ford with great caution, as you likewise should always evaluate weather developments before crossing open terrain. Both fording and lightening are seasonally dangerous, and very dangerous when in season.

Backpacking itself is dangerous! Use great caution at all times, and especially at fords and across open terrain.

The peak of Fording Danger is during the height of the Spring Thaw. The peak of the Lightening Season correlates with Summertime heat waves pushing massive cells of superheated moisture out of the San Joaquin Valley up the Western flank of the Sierras.

As these cells rise up the Western flank, they condense and concentrate into powerful electric storms.

Even outside of their peak periods, fording and lightening are objective dangers that must always be treated with respect.

Fording and Lightening dangers can even correlate. I believe it was during my 2002 Tahoe to Whitney hike that saw powerful afternoon thunder storms carrying intense Lightening, and thunder with torrential downpours. These afternoon storms flooded the creeks, making afternoon fording dangerous during mid-Summer!

These Summer Storms flooded Tuolumne Meadows, knocking out the water and sewage plants. TM looked like a disaster zone when I hiked in. Big granite boulders had been pushed around, and deposited on Highway 120 across Tuolumne Meadows. I was lucky enough to observe these powerful Summer storms as I was crossing Benson and Matterhorn Canyons on my way South towards Tuolumne. These storms were powered by a super-hot heat wave in The Valley.

If you observe the weather carefully in the Sierras, a well-traveled Californian can extrapolate what the general weather conditions are in the Valley and on the coast.

I was privileged to observe bits of these thunder and lightening storms from above, as thunderheads traveled up the canyons that divide the five ridges North of Tuolumne Meadows. It was really beautiful, though many backpackers were not real happy about the storm's intensity, the long daily duration of the storms, or the 12 or 13 consecutive days of downpours.

Too frk'n bad.

I lectured them about how lucky they were to experience this special showing of Nature's Power. It was awesome!

***

Independent of the season, you must observe conditions carefully, fully consider your situation, (solo?, experience level? food and gear?), and make good decisions. If you reach an obstacle you cannot safely deal with, turn around, or wait until conditions change to suite your level of skills.

This is especially important with fording and lightening, both of which change with the season and during each day, with the changing conditions in the atmosphere.

High runoff through fording spots is lowest during early morning, when the runoff is slowed by low overnight temperatures. Summer Lightening storms start with Valley heat crossing the Sierras in the early afternoon, generally around 2 pm, and end no later than sunset, when the Sun powering the afternoon heat and moisture pumping out of the Valley sets.

Thunderstorm Al

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

Mountain Safety Pages

A bit more information, and a place for your comments, questions, and experience.

View downstream from the fording point

Looking downstream, Summit City Creek, Northern ford

Serene pools lay at the base of the boulders just downstream from our ford. Summit City Creek cuts through an inaccessible section South of here, forcing us to ford the creek to climb around this inaccessible section of the creek. After fording the Creek we have a 1.3 mile hike over a couple of bluffs descending off the canyon walls, before our route again touches Summit City Creek.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Downstream High Water Ford

Alternative Upper Summit City ford point.

Peter reported this alternative fording point to the rock-hopping upper ford of Summit City Creek in June of 2014.

Here's how Peter locates this ford:

"What a place! I didn't do the fords, but found a *great* log ford further down from the "Upper Ford", maybe a 1/4 mile? "

Check out Peter's nifty account of hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail during late May to early June, which is traditionally done under classic Spring snow conditions:

Peter's
2014 Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Account

Peter also provided Tahoe to Whitney with an excellent account of his hike on the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail updates

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Upper Summit City Creek fording logs.

Upper Summit City Creek fording logs.

Image courtsey of Peter Sporleder.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Back to the Upper Ford location as marked on the Map...

View North back across the Upper Ford

View North up Summit City Canyon from South shore of upper ford.

Looking back at the massive granite we just walked over hiking South to the Upper Ford as located on the map. This place is so cool.

Note the rust color and smooth rock unblemished by fungal spotting marking the high-water line up and down the North bank of Summit City Creek.

The graduation of the rust color defines the time the water spends at each level. It gets darker the closer to the riverbed we go.

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Summit City Rock South of Upper Ford

After fording Summit City Creek and looking right for the trail, you will climb a rocky route to the top of a bluff where you can get a view of the terrain to the North that you just crossed. In this picture, looking North, Summit City Creek is passing through a narrow section of the canyon from Right to Left into a narrow cleft in the rock. The narrow gorge Summit City Creek cuts through has forced our route to ford to both ford and climb higher up over shoulders descending off the mountain's flank.

If we were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail route between Highway 88 and Highway 4 we would be mostly be hiking across exposed volcanic terrain. Not so for the longest parts of the Tahoe to Yosemite route, which are dominated by fine granite and deep forests.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

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Veer Right after fording Summit City Creek

Duck above manzanita South of the upper ford of Summit City Creek.

vWe can pick up ducks to guide us through the maze of low manzanita to find our way to the top of the first rise South of the Upper Ford.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Into manzanita South of the upper Summit City Creek ford.

Sweet channel through rock, forest and brush.

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First rise South of the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

The top of the first rise South of the Upper Ford. We're cutting between the tall and short granite.

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South of the Summit City Creek upper ford.

v

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Summit City Creek primitive campsite South of upper ford.

Up to the primitive campsite, the first to the South of the Upper Ford.

 

From this position the current route through the terrain and the trail as marked on the map vary considerably...

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After crossing the ford it appears that the route South continues straight up a small drainage. It does not. Look to your right for a path that climbs up, to roughly parallel the Creek South.

Climbing up to the top of this rise you will find a small flat with a small fire circle.

Mini Campsite South of Upper Summit City Creek ford

Fire spot at primitive campsite at the top of the rise just South of the upper ford. The maps show a spring here, but I have not found it.

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Down the South Side of the First Rise South of the Upper Ford

Bench-style custom duck south flank of first rise south of Upper Ford.

Bench-style custom duck south flank of first rise south of Upper Ford.

 

Note we are moving down and to our Right, the West. On the map we should be climbing East around the high meadow off to our Left from the top of the last rise.

Instead, we moved West, to our Right...

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Cool Duck

Bench-style ducks South of upper ford of Summit City Creek.

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Second Rise South of the Upper Ford

Second rise south of Summit City Creek upper ford.

v

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Heading up to the top of the second bluff, Southern View

Rounding the Bluff South of the Summit City Creek Upper Ford

Coming off the first bluff, or small rise, South of the Upper Ford reveals another rise to our South, the second "hill" or "rise."

Note the trail running up the rise on the upper Left side of the picture.

Summit City Creek is off to our Right, in the deepest and most inaccessible portion of this particular part of the canyon. But just wait until you can't see the North Mokelumne! It is buried in deep granite gorges where it and Summit City Creek intersect.

The trail section between the lower ford and the Munson Meadow junction has one very nasty twisted gorge section that the North Mokelumne River passes through, that we can get access to, if you know where to look. Continue on down the trail with me, and we'll try to find it.

My point is that many sections of the trail route circle around places where rivers are continuing to work on deepening the gorges ancient glaciers had carved through sheer granite.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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North: Summit City Creek                                          top of page                            South: Lower Summit City Creek Ford

At the top of the second bluff a long view to the Northwest of our route down Summit City Creek opens up

A long view opens for just a moment coming off the Bluff South of the Upper Summit City Ford

The View North from the top of the second bluff, the high point South of the Upper Summit City Creek Ford. This view is looking back up the Summit City Canyon we have just followed down to our current position.

We are looking up at the massive cut Horse Canyon slashes into the Summit City Creek's canyon. Highway 88 is on the other side of the far mountains, and the trail through Horse Canyon connects the Summit City Creek to Highway 88 at the Oyster Creek Trailhead just West of Caples Lake on Highway 88. Head up to the Horse Canyon trail junction for more information on that route.

The peaks in the far distance are Covered Wagon Peak, on the Left, with Melissa Coray Peak rising to 9763 feet at Right. these peaks make up Horse Canyon's Northern wall, and the trail leading to Silver Lake on Highway 88. The picture below imparts a broader context.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

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The view North of the twists in the canyon we just hiked through. The peaks in the far distance bound the Western side of Fourth of July Lake, where we entered this canyon

A long view opens for just a moment coming off the Bluff South of the Upper Summit City Ford

The big peaks visible in the distant North bound the North side of Horse Canyon, and are at the backside of the Kirkwood Ski Resort. Fourth of July Lake is situated below, and just to the Right of Melissa Coray Peak, the furthest and highest peak in this picture. That's where we entered this canyon.

Horse Canyon contains a trail that links Summit City Creek with Highway 88 just North of Silver Lake.

Take a look at a view of this whole canyon complex from near the top of Mount Reba, to our South, which offers a bird's eye view of this magnificent terrain.

Historical Information about Melissa Coray Peak.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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View of cloud cover during 2013.

v

 

Coming off the Bluffs South of the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

The bluffs we cross on the South Side of Summit City Creek's upper ford are exposed. On the South of the second bluff we enter some manzanita, which offers resistance rather than cover.

Our loss of elevation will soon bring us into the Manzanita Zone. The Manzanita Zone is exposed and hot.

It's like this: The Manzanita Zone is composed of a Very Hot Southern exposed mountainside zone with long sections covered by dense mazes of thick manzanita. These conditions necessitate "plunges" through the grasping thickets of manzanita.

I hope the material of your ultra light pack can deal with this.

This is really a blast, if you are into this kind of thing. This type of terrain begins in earnest after we drop off the South side of the upcoming Granite Flat...

In the meantime, Light forest cover begins as we drop down nearer to the place Summit City Creek emerges from its little inaccessible run, to cross this stunningly beautiful granite flat we are approaching.

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3rd rise South of Upper Ford

Third rise South of Summit City Creek upper ford.

v

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Around West side of third rise.

v

 

Approaching the end of Summit City Canyon.

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North Mokelumne River Canyon and Mount Reba in the distance.

North Mokelumne River Canyon and Mount Reba in the distance.

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Looking out the South end of Summit City Canyon.

Coming around the West side of the third rise we get clear views of the end of Summit City Canyon draining into the vast valley of the North Mokelumne River. Mount Reba is the low rounded peak on the distant-Right horizon.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

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Faint trail through manzanita and forest, Mokelumne Wilderness backpacking.

v

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Faint trail between Summit City Creek fords.

Nice. We are finding subtle trail and a few well placed ducks leading us around sweet granite boulders, swaths of manzanita, and dense thickets of forest.

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Over the Fourth Rise South of the Upper Ford

Southeast away from Creek over low rise.

Emerging from dense forest into a section of sparce shrubbery and trees we must turn to the Southeat to cross over the fourth very low rise South of the Upper Ford.

Unlike the previous three rises South of the Upper Ford which passed around their West sides, we cut to the Southeast away from Summit City Creek over the fourth low rise South of the Upper Ford.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Looking Back to the North

View North up Summit City Canyon.

Looking back to the North up Summit City Creek at where we just emerged from a very faint section of forest and manzanita.

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Terrain on the Southeast side of the Fourth Rise

Hiking Southeast around the 4th rise South of the Upper Ford.

v

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Duckage

Ducks along faint section of Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. Duck drawing us to the granite slab.

Ducks lead us over the rise and through forest to a fantastic granite slab.

Ducks Welcome on the route along Summit City Creek

A massive duck informs us that we are on the correct route.

Fragile ducks do not survive the Winter snows. They get knocked down. This bad boy is a survivor.

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Great Granite Slab between fords of Summit City Creek.

Note the large stable duck in the middle of top edge of the granite slab.

We follow the slab down mountain to our Right in the image above.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Granite slab along Tahoe to Yosemite Trail across Mokelumne Wilderness.

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Erratics, random boulders dropped by receeding Glacier decorate our great granite slab.

Erratics, random boulders dropped by receding Glacier decorate our great granite slab. At the end of the slab we submerge ourselves into a sea of manzanita, growing denser as we lose elevation.

Position

Latitude 38.589145°

Longitude -120.038153°

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Duck on boulder guides us through Tahoe to Yosemite Trail manzanita.

At the bottom of the granite slab we plunge into thick manzanita.

Duck on boulder guides us through Tahoe to Yosemite Trail manzanita.

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Fantastic granite along faint section of Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Looking back, to the North through manzanita at the fantastic granite feature we've just passed to the South of. The granite slab is off to the Right (East) of this feature.

Remember where we cut to the Southeast to deflect around the low fourth rise below the Upper Ford? The structure above is the fourth rise viewed from the South.

Now we will turn around to continue hiking South...

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

Another Look North

Fourth rise South of the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

After working our way a bit further South we again turn around to view the South facing side of the fourth rise below the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

What a beautiful rock.

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South

Duck marking unmaintained route of Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Hiking South the well-placed but unreliable ducks guide us through a maze of manzanita and faint trail to dense forest.

 

Ducked boulder keeping us on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route.

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Into Dense Forest

Very faint trail along Summit City Creek.

Very faint trail along Summit City Creek. Note the duck in the foreground and the duck in the distance.

No trail is no problem when ducks link the route.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Faint Trail through Dense Forest

Faint trail through dense forest towards end of Summit City Canyon.

Faint trail through dense forest towards end of Summit City Canyon.

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The Second Great Granite Slab South of the Lower Ford

Out of deep forest and faint trails onto another amazing sheet of almost jointless granite.

Out of deep forest and faint trails onto another amazing sheet of almost jointless granite.

Our route exits the forest onto another vast sheet of granite.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

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Lookin Right, to our Southwest

Summit City Creek running across bottom of granite flat.

To our Right we can see Summit City Creek running onto a lower and flatter area of this amazing sheet of granite.

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Camping-Exploring-or Pushing South?

We have a choice here: Forward into and through the manzanita towards the end of Summit City Canyon, or Right to explore an interesting section Summit City Creek. This choice is going to be controlled by the hiking plan we constructed for this section of trail.

The problem I confront on the trail and while constructing hiking plans is the conflict between wandering about and exploring the terrain along the trail versus the demands for high daily mileage required by long distance backpacking.

I deal with this conflict between "deep" vs "long" engagement on the trail by always bringing an extra day's food for each section of the trail. I also figure that I'm going to hike every trail at least five times over my life.

The extra day's food and many hikes through a section of trail allows me to explore and learn more each time through. The multiple trips allow me to camp at different sites each time through. The extra food assures I've got the time to explore a new area each time through.

Each time through a particular section of trail I try to camp at different spots and expend my extra food exploring an unknown area in this section.

Summit City Creek flowing across a fantastic granite flat.

We have two options on the South end of this granite slab. We can work our way West, to our Right, over to Summit City Creek if we want to camp and explore where the creek crosses this amazing granite slab and find a nice spot to camp. Or we can plunge into the dense manzanita hiking South to the fine campsite overlooking the end of Summit City Canyon.

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Notes
on
Route Finding
and
Navigation
Manzanita Maze, Constant Observation, and the Big View

After the Southbound backpacker crosses over the fourth rise South of the Upper Ford the route is all flat or down-mountain to the lower ford of Summit City Creek.

As we begin descending we can take in both long and near views of the terrain. Hiking onto the second granite slab section below the Upper Ford, pictured above, we can see Summit City Creek emerging from a narrow gorge section off to our Right. Summit City Creek has become accessible again.

(This is also where the Northbound backpacker will reacquire the Summit City Creek, to their Left, after climbing up the manazanita-covered mountainside hiking North from the Lower Ford. Northbound hikers first encounter the campsite overlooking the end of the canyon, then the granite slab pictured above when emerging from the manzanita picutured below.)

Southbound hikers can begin watching for creek access to our right at the base of the granite slab for exploring, water, and camping opportunities. Ahead we hikers continuing South confront a dense thicket of manzanita.

Manzanita approaaching the end of Summit City Canyon.
Above: Our route South into and through the manzanita.

The Manzanita Maze
The dense manzanita ahead characterizes the remainder of our hike from the top of the last rise down to the lower ford of Summit City Creek. Over many trips through here I've come to characterize this section as the "manzanita maze," though it was fairly well ducked during 2013. The loss of these ducks would instantly revert this section back to MM status.

Though we are following a "trail," we'll see that the manzanita presents us with many choices of paths heading in roughly the same direction. Many times I've emerged from the manzanita onto a high point where I scan the terrain ahead for my next goal, looking for the next duck on a distant highpoint, or ascertaining my route by determining what looks like the best route through the terrain along what I project will be the line of the route. Then we re submerge ourselves into the dense manzanita to dead-recoken our way to our next duck or high point.

Once submerged in the manzanita I always pick the easiest path that keeps closest to what I perceive is the best route through the terrain. During 2009 there were few ducks through here and during 2013 there were lots of ducks. It also appeared that the manzanita had been trimmed a small bit during 2013, though there are lots of sections where we are pushing ourselves through a seam in the interwoven sharp grasping branches this dense vegetation weaves between plants.

The folks who did trail work during 2013 focused on ducking the route through this manzanita rather than cutting a route through. A wise use of limited resources. Yet ducks can be ephemeral, disappearing much more quickly than they appear.

Many Options
Independent of the status of the ducking there are many paths through the manzanita. The animals who do the majority of maintenance on these paths (by using them) are also concerned with the best route through the terrain, but their destinations differ from ours. They access food resources while we are looking for through trail. Thus their fine paths can only take us so far towards our destination.

Getting through the manzanita sections with a minimum of trouble brings up an important tactic of cross country travel. Make sure you take note of the upcoming terrain at every high point where we can get long views. This means we should line up our map and compass with the surrounding terrain features near and far along our route through the end of Summit City Canyon to the lower ford.

These points of observation give us reference points to both determine and guide our subsequent selection of paths along what we will have determined is the best route to our next destination point from our last high point of observation.
We constantly compare our actual position to our projected destination as we follow our route to judge the quality of our route selection decisions when we arrive at our next high point in the terrain.
How has our position shifted in the terrain in reference to where we expected to be? What will our next destination be and how will the projected line of our route bring us there? What are our alternatives?

When we can't see our overall position in the terrain while submerged in the manzanita we'll will have to make our route decisions from what we remember of the terrain elements from our last high-point observations, our observations of the surrounding ridgline landmarks, and the last compass bearing we took.
Our next high point will reorient us in the terrain and realine us with our projected route.

These high points make up a series of positions where we pull out our map, align it to compass and terrain, ascertain how we got to our position on the map and how we are going to reach our next desired position in the terrain.

Then we take note of the compass point of our next destination.

This allow us to determine where the trail route should be relative to our current position, and note our offsets. Remember, the trail is unmaintained through this segment of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. This means there may be long lengths of damaged trail that we will take an "offset" route around, and long segments of cross-country backpacking without any indications of trail at all.
This means that we may not find any indications of trail where we think it should be, or where your stupid GPS says it is. We will use the compass bearing we determined from our last high point to guide us through these untrailed portions, and note and correct for our offsets to keep our bearings true when we offset our line around obstacles.

Not only are GPS stupid, they will make you stupid too.

The position of the best route through the terrain is located by our observations.

A GPS will not replace personal navigation skills. Period.

Be Safe
Have fitness in your feet and navigation skills in your head
Navigating through the terrain is your personal responsibility. You must be capable of finding your way if you lose the remnants of the trail, which will happen along this part of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail on a regular basis. A GPS can identify locations for the trail route that no longer exist on the terrain. The quality of our observations, analysis, and decision making skills determine our ability to find and follow the route through here, not GPS readings.

Our comfort and safety depends on our commons sense, skills, and fitness, not on technology. Technology has already degraded our skills and fitness. We're here to take these vital elements of our identity back.

Through these types of non-trailed sections we try to observe and follow the remaining bit of the route through the terrain while keeping a sharp eye on the upcoming terrain to determine the most-likely location of the old trail route and best route through.

We are trying to keep a general geographic frame of reference on the terrain so we stay on route when the trail "bits" we are following disappear. But even more importantly, we are excavating ancient physical observation and navigation skills hard-wired into humans.

If we are successfully following the best route through the terrain we will run across faint signs of the unmaintained trail route on a regular basis (as of July 2009, and more true in 2013 than '09).

OFF Route?
Find Your Last Known Position
If we are not on a legit route and end up chasing a dead end, we must be able to navigate ourselves back to our last "known" position where we were on the actual route. From that known position we can reset our search for the proper route through the terrain.

I've laid out a placeholder page for the upcoming Navigation page. I've posted a few informative links to sources of astronomical information. Astronomical information for navigation purposes because the universe is our ultimate clock and compass.

We are the second hands of nature's clock and the needles of nature's compass.

Time and space are not measured by looking down at instruments in human hands, but by humans reflecting the ancient movements of Earth and Sky.

* * *

End of Summit City Canyon to Lower Ford
At this point heading South past the Upper Ford we are looking for where Summit City Creek again becomes accessible. This position is 1.32 miles South of the upper ford, and here we find a beautiful scene. Off to our Right the creek runs across a big granite flat surrounded by light forest scattered across the broken granite terrain. It's a real pretty place that represents many aspects of the subtle beauty and quieter aspects of the long exercise of the brutal and beautiful powers of nature in Summit City Canyon.

This place represents a natural museum of the quiet beauty remaining after timeless uplifting and Earthquaking pushed granite out of the Earth, only to cut it deeply with ice, and finally flood it with lava. This place is both a gallery of nature and an interlude, a quiet backpacker's break spot in the timeless processes of construction and destruction that rule the natural world.

On the South side of this special granite flat there is the fine improved campsite overlooking the end of Summit City Canyon. We can get down along Summit City Creek to the campsite via the granite flat or by hiking along the trail route through the manzanita. Well, I've hiked down the granite flat section along Summit City Creek to where I could see the campsite overlooking the end of Summit City Canyon, but the terrain along Summit Creek gets really rough, making it easier to get to the campsite along the trail route through the manzanita

I did not use the formal campsite overlooking the end of Summit City Canyon the last time I was through here (2009 no, 2013 yes). Instead, I found a very nice patch of soft sand deposited at the high-water mark of the Spring runoff wedged in a little hollow where Summit City Creek runs across the granite flat.

Nice and soft...

comments-questions-trail experiences?

Below

The series of images below explore the unique area where Summit City Creek flows across this massive granite flat under delightful forest that has cracked its rock cap to push its way to daylight, giving us shade.

This location is off to the Right of the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail when we cross the second granite flat South of the Upper Ford of Summit City Creek.

Hikers continuing South along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail will continue South across the second granite flat to enter the manzanita on the South side of the flat, rather than turning Right down to screw around exploring Summit City Creek.

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1.32 miles South of the upper ford on Summit City Creek, we can easily drop down to our Right from our route, to where Summit City Creek emerges from its gorge to cut through a beautiful granite flat.

I think I'll camp here because it is such a breathtakingly beautiful place

  Summit City Creek emerges from it's tight canyon section and becomes accessible to the trail route...for a minute.  
  Nice flat with Summit City Creek access below Upper Ford of Summit City Creek  

 

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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I never camped here before. This is a serene place to observe the quiet power of Nature

  Summit City Creek runs across a huge section of nearly flat granite after it emerges from its inaccessible section South of the Upper Ford.       The upper section of this granite slab is polished as smooth as a baby's ass by ancient glacial action.  
  Summit City Creek runs through flat glacier carved granite     Interface between glacier polished smooth rock and rough eroded granite  
  This granite flat is surrounded with, and punctuated by, a delightful Pine forest. (Lodgepole, Jeffery, and I believe that Western Whites kick it here too.)     The polish has been worn off the lower section by thousands of seasons of weathering and Spring runoffs. The upper section is silky smooth.  
         
  Two rough boulders on the flat along the creek still hold small sections of their previous glacial polish.     Close up of polish remnant on near boulder.  
  remnant of Ultra Smooth glacier polished granite on rough granite boulder     Detail of baby's butt smooth granite remnants on occassionals deposited on flat section of Summit City Creek  
 

These granite blocks demonstrate different aspects of nature's power. They were created by plate tectonics. They were polished, broken, and transported by moving ice. Deposited in their current location by ancient global weather cycles, they are now being carved by weather and runoff.

They've seen a lot of action, so far.

 
     
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    I suspect that the shape of this boulder deflects the water flow around this corner during the height of the Spring runoff. This deflection has preserved a small bit of ancient glacial polish. Sweet.  
             
  A seven-legged spider. Note how its body resembles a black fleck of granite, and the legs are light colored...  
  This spider appears a a moving black spot on granite. It is in stealth mode when it stops....  

It is not uncommon for Spiders in the Sierras to be missing legs.

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The whole trail between the Carson Gap and Lake Alpine is short, adding up to only 25 miles. But these are deceptively difficult miles.

9.52 of these miles are across an un-maintained trail route. This may considerably slow your progress. Or it may not.

This will be determined by your actual level of fitness and skills. If you miscalculate by giving yourself too much credit, you will suffer.

Remember: Better Safe than Sorry!

In any case, backpacking is dangerous, and unmaintained trails involve an even higher degree of danger of getting lost or injured than maintained trails.

If you are injured or lost in un maintained sections you have little prospect of support.

This is why the manager of the Lake Alpine Lodge, Kim, insists that backpacker re supplies sent to The Lodge have the backpacker's expected date of arrival, along with the phone number of the person you designated to be knowledgeable of your itinerary. This may well save your ass if you get lost or injured in this difficult section.

I call that insurance. Isn't Kim Sweet?

Mel and Kim at the Lake Alpine Lodge store keeping it real.

Mel and Kim at the Lake Alpine Lodge store keeping it real.

* * *

If this granite flat is not a planned campsite on your hike through this section, you should note its location as a good place to take a break.

It is also a good place to shoot for if your hiking plans do not work out as you thought they would. I highly recommend that you bring an extra day's food with you through this section.

Remember: Shit Happens!

If you lose the trail route for awhile and wander around until you find it, you may end up spending an extra night in this section.

In any case this nice flat makes an excellent spot to camp, or kickback, for a shaded water and food break.

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  Heavy Spring runoff pushed sand into this hollow at the perimeter of the granite flat. This made an excellent soft place for me to bed down.       Center of Camp: My Chair.  
  Tent Site 100 feet from Summit City Creek       Summit City Creek Campsite  
Very Heavy mosquitoes (July 16) necessitated using the tent. I don't make fires, but note the abundance of dried out driftwood. Like the sand, the driftwood was deposited by the fury of the high water at the peak of the runoff. Note how this boulder is my chair. The stove is sitting on my seat, and the pot is sitting on the chairback. It was quite comfortable. Especially as I sat there and observed the terrain, with the comforts of my stove, my food, and water arrayed within easy reach... This picture shows how I stowed everything so I could go explore the area.  

The Center of the Slab: Juniper constrained by Solid Rock

  I love this tree. It is growing out of a crack in solid granite that is not more than one inch wide.       This Juniper is attacking the granite from within, attempting to lever a slab that will not move for thousands of years.  
  Tree growning out of thin crack in rock, Summit City Creek on the Tahoe to Yosemite trail     Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, tree growing out of crack in the rock  
  All around the perimeter of this granite section trees are breaking through the rock, and pushing rock out of their way.     This guy's predecessors laid down their lives to provide the soil for this present growth, as it will in turn provide more soil for its successors, in this crack.  
         
  Gnarly dying trunk of the amazing tree.     Looking Downstream, South, from our flat spot where trees grow out of cracks..  
  Narly trunk of tree growing out of thin granite crack     South down Summit City Creek from the flat  
  Though this trunk wants to be round, it is growing in the shape that its narrow base can support. It is growing in the shape of a razor back ridge.     There is a nice campsite in the stand of trees on the Left side of the creek.  

Crackmasters

  The trunk of this Juniper rises like a shark fin out of a thin crack in solid rock. A bonsai High Sierra Juniper, on a Sierra Scale.  
  Tree growing out of thin crack at fine campsite area, Summit City Creek on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, 2009.  

Generations of trees will work this crack, as their brethren work in cracks along the creek. I figure that the combined forces of the trees working in harmony with the creek will undercut and lever out big chunks of this massive granite slab. This place will look a lot different In a few thousand years.

The Sierras have experienced radical changes in the temperatures, weather patterns, and timing of the seasons over the last few decades. If this pattern continues, these changing conditions will control exactly how this terrain design process plays out.

I was thinking about these observations when considering how the Winter snowpack and the trajectory of the Spring Thaw have the potential to completely change the way a ford is laid out from one year to the next at the Spiller Creek Ford in the North Yosemite Backcountry.

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The Perimeter of the Slab: Trees Breaking and Moving Rock along the Creek

  Across the creek from this flat spot a Lodgepole is growing out from under a set of granite slabs.       Close up of the Lodgepole at left. Note how the trunk has pushed up the massive slabs on its right.  
  Tree upending large granite sheet along shore of Summit City Creek     Detail of tree wedging out of granite on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail  
  This tree has grown against all odds.     On the left, the tree's roots are growing at a right angle out from under the other side of the slab it splits.  
         
  These two different species have worked together to wedge out a massive slab between them.     Interspecies cooperation: Lodgepole hefts the Left of the plate, while a maturing Jeffery Pine takes on the Right side.  
  Two trees wedging plate of rock, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, Summit City Creek     Detail of trees wedging granite plate  
 

The trees are opening ground by slowly levering massive granite plates into the creek.

 

    These trees are finishing a process started by their ancestors who first inhabited thin granite cracks, and began slowly levering them, like the Juniper growing in the one inch crack, above.  

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This crack is being actively levered towards the creek, though the dead tree may present a deceptively defeated appearance. The dead tree's organic matter is rotting into the bottom of the crack it lived in, providing a wedge at the bottom of the split, and more soil for the improving health of the next generation of trees, which will continue to successfully lever this creek side granite slab.

 
  The process of breaking off a massive granite slab starts with the smallest trees  

Note how wide this crack is, compared to the one-inch crack the Juniper is working, above. Within the next couple of hundred years trees capable of finishing the job of levering this slab, as seen in the pictures above, will be hefting this slab over, and eventually topple it into the creek.

There is going to be a nice granite platform along this creek side pool, sometime in the future....sweet.

Trees work as "brethren," feeding and supporting each other over both time and space.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Below

Below we continue South into the manzanita on the South side of the second granite flat South of the Upper Ford.

Passing the Granite Flat we plunge back into Manzanita for the short hike to the Campsite at the end of Summit City Canyon

Manzanita maze South of the second granite flat.

The prominent rock in the middle distance marks the end of Summit City Canyon. It's Left flank runs down to the North Fork of the Mokelumne River.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

A brief hike South of the second granite flat through fairly dense manzanita brings us to what I call the camp at the end of Summit City Canyon.

It's not really at the very end of the canyon, but its location gives us grand views South-Southeast out of the end of Summit City Canyon at the massive valley of the North Fork of the Mokelumne River.

A short distance past the granite flat a fine improved campsite sits perched above Summit City Creek.

  The End of Summit City Canyon
CAMPSITE
 
 

Note how the surface debris is undisturbed. The surface cover is crisp, having been pressed by the Winter snows, soaked during the melt, and sun baked as Summer approached. The small hand full of coals in the fire ring are old, left by a lone traveler in 2008, and long ago lost their fresh luster.

All of this indicated to me that the last inhabitation of this campsite was during the Summer of 2008. This picture was shot in July of 2009. Signs of the heavy hand of Winter snow had not been disturbed.

 
  Campsite sits South of where Summit City Creek is accessable from the route  

See the location of this camp as viewed from the granite flat.

Latitude 38.580626°

Longitude -120.038911°

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Water

Pool in Summit City Creek at the Campsite at the end of Summit City Canyon.

Looking past the fire ring in the second image above, and a bit to our Right reveals a trail down to this fine pool, where we water up for our break or our stay at the Campsite at the End of Summit City Canyon.

2013: Eric Reports

Campsite at the South end of the Granite Flat, Summit City Creek.

Picture looking South across the campsite at the end of Summit City Canyon into the massive canyon of the North fork of the Mokelumne River beyond.

Note the great rounded granite slab emerging beyond the bench.

This shot was taken by Eric during one of his 2013 TYT trips.

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Time Spot One

Time Spot One, campsite at the end of Summit City Canyon.

I call this unique rock "Time Spot One."

"X marks the Time Spot"

Every time I want to know what time it is at night I yell "Time Spot," and run over to this rock to use the white spot near its exact center to guide me to where the two unique raised ridges cross in the center of the rock: That grand X is Time Spot One, the reference point from where I measure time at night in this fine campsite.

This may sound crazy, and maybe it is, but I believe in deep engagement with the Time and Space around us. Life is too short not to.

I don't carry any timepieces along the trail besides my compass. Prior to hitting the trail I take careful note of the times and compass points of sunrise and sunset in my trail journal. I also note the time the sun crosses the North-South line, and its altitude. (More Info)

Time in the Real World

I keep track of time during daylight hours with this information. At night the same principals apply to the stars. The problem is the time between sunset and the appearance of the first star or planet.

What I've done is note the exact time of the sunset in my journal, such as "7:10 pm."

At sunset I begin estimating the time. When I see the first star appear after sunset I run over to Timespot One and measure it's distance from the horizon, add the time I estimate has elapsed since sunset (7:10 plus "X" minutes), making the current position of the star represent that time.

Now I have an idiot clock on Timespot One: Me standing on a rock!

Now I can measure the spinning of the Earth at night by the movement of that star relative to my reference point on the horizon, and can now keep better track of my upcoming bedtime. For a series of star-to-horizon measurements to be accurate they must be taken from the same viewing position, which is "Time Spot One" here at the campsite at the end of Summit City Canyon.

Every camp has a Time Spot One, but only this camp at the end of Summit City Canyon has a nice rounded round rock boulder with a set of strange low granite ridges making the outline of an "X" centered in the center of the rock, further highlighted by a bright white patch of lichen in the center of the rock where the ridges cross.

I instantly knew this rock was Time Spot One the first time I saw it.

For more on measuring time on the trail see the
Introduction
to
High Sierra Backpacking Navigation

Time, Space, Maps, Night Skies and Motivation

across Time and Space information section.

Eric's 2013 Update

Finger Polish Lady: Backpacking Fool of the Year.

Finger Polish Lady self-portrait: Backpacking Fool of the Year.

Only giant Fools faces are scrawled in Natural Places.

This shot was taken by Eric, 2013.

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Graffiti defaces campsite along Summit City Creek.

Wow. Somebody is full of them self.

This shot was taken by Eric, 2013.

 

Defaced bench at the end of Summit City Canyon along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

"Got lost here on June 14 2013"

"I hope I'm near a trail angel." Highly unlikely. I'd bet dollars to dimes that she had to get herself out of what she got herself into.

I've taken some guff from various hikers over the last couple of years. One German woman told me, "It's a lot harder than you said." Heck, her and her new husband did the TYT as part of their honeymoon. That's amazing. I meet lots of cool Germs in the High Sierra every year, but these are the first I know who did the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Kudos and Congrats.

Well, I repeatedly say on this guide that backpacking here is dangerous, that you can get lost, injured, and die here. I have written these words of wisdom repeatedly along this section of the trail guide. Warnings don't get much more serious than that. You've been warned.

On the other hand, another delightful lady told me, "It's not as hard as you said it was."

Sigh. Well, I've written extensively about the recent repairs and work dedicated backpackers have put into this section of the Tahoe to Yosemite route, but after she hiked the trail... Sorry!.

What you've got here in my warnings and reports are the bookends, the extremes of the conditions you may experience hiking through here in the years beyond this 2013 update of the trail guide:

It may be trail-less and very poorly ducked, if ducked at all. On the other hand the observable portions of trail bed may be linked by ducks and cut timber to the next observable section of trail bed.

Or not.

The conditions you experience will be somewhere between these two extremes. You should be ready for both and either state of repair. I strongly encourage backpackers considering this route, and backpackers who have hiked this route to share their experiences, impressions, and especially updates from recent trips about the condition of the route here:

Unmaintained Trail Updates

Your best bet for success is to be an experienced backpacker with some degree of cross-country experience, or very ready to begin developing cross-country skills. You should be in very good, if not great physical condition. You should have a compass and map and know how to line them up with each other and the surrounding terrain, and an extra day's supply of food.

Your shortfalls from the above standards determines the degree of difficulty you will experience. If you lose the route and cannont find or stay on route you will suffer greatly. This is more unlikely in 2013 than during previous years, but there are still many hard parts along this route.

Somebody should know when and where you entered this wilderness area and where and when you plan on returning to "civilization."

They should call the Amador Ranger District of the El Dorado National Forest if you do not reappear and check in at a predetermined time.

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Vandal defaces campsite along Summit City Creek on Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

We can read the history of vandals' defacements of the campsite at the end of Summit City Canyon. Note the old carving on the upper middle-Right of the bench:

"4 MEN LOST"

This was carved into the bench some time ago, judging by the wear. I like the way they emphasized "LOST," though I wish folks would not carve anything but logical blazes.

"Always Bring maps."

Ha, I always say that. But I don't always do what I say. After hiking through here a few times I stopped taking maps for this section. For many years. I know the cuts and canyons along the surrounding canyon rim. I know the locations of the various terrains and obstacles. So I figured it would be much more fun to find my way through without maps.

Then I decided to write this guide, and kicked myself for not bringing maps. I returned to the practice of carrying maps everywhere, even through old familiar favorites like this one, to line up map and compass for certainty in naming identifications for old familiar friends, the surrounding peaks and terrain.

Knowing something and properly Naming it on a detailed trail guide are two very different things.

In any case, don't carve or paint anything in the wilderness. Except your own forehead. If you really get a hankering to deface something, deface your own frkn face.

Leave the face of nature alone.

Unless you paint on canvass. Then have at it, by all means.

Comments-Additional Information-Insights & Questions...

This shot was taken by Eric, 2013.

 

Eric recorded Finger Polish Lady's rude defacement of our Wilderness.

Eric recorded Finger Polish Lady's rude defacement of our Wilderness.

"Trail is Lost .5 mi Past river"

The trail is not "lost," it does not exist. What exists is a route. Excellent observation and analysis skills are vital to navigate the route through here when the ducks are knocked down and manzanita growth has closed the narrow seams of our route between the bushes.

I assuming that Fingerpolish Lady is referring to where reasonable route ends where we enter the Enchanted Forest. Yeah, from that positions it's time for some delightful and serious route-finding. Honestly, it's harder than you would think to get lost in there. But the terrain is so very dense that it appears much worse than it is. It's not that big of a space.

I generally sweep both the downhill and flat sections of the Enchanted Forest from East to West and back again as I cross this area, to check out how things are looking. Sometimes I walk around it's whole perimeter, which takes less than two hours. This is a very informative and delightful walk, will locate all the hidden terrain features and hidden natural delights, and calm down your stress levels at being "lost" in a section of trackless forest.

As I tell folks about being Lost, "I'm just exploring some unknown territory." Haha, I always thought that was a good approach to unknown terrain.

If that is where she turned back, that's kind of too bad. She had effectively crossed the hardest parts of this unmaintained segment of trail. Reasonable faint trail connects the South end of the Enchanted Forest to Camp Irene. So Close and yet So Far!

But you can drown in an inch of water.

Many backpackers find great joy in navigating this route across the wide range of conditions it presents. This route is like an unopened Christmas present that you know has good things inside, even if you don't know exactly what's inside.

You don't know what you are going to get until you open it. And, have caution. You may have opened up a can of "Whoop Ass," and it is your ass that's on the line...

haha... I laugh because I'm serious...

This shot was taken by Eric, 2013.

 

Next Observed Defacement by Finger Polish Lady

Lower Ford of Summit City Creek

Last Observed Defacement by Finger Polish Lady

Horse Canyon Trail Junction

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Finished Product, September 2013

Bench cleaned of graffiti, 2013.
Bench scraped clean, late September 2013.

Packing Up

Ready to hike down to the Lower Ford from the campsite at the end of Summit City Canyon.

Last bits of gear being loaded up before heading South.

Summit City Creek to Bee Gulch
USGS 15 min hiking map
Carson Gap to Lake Alpine
TYT Miles and Elevations

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Ready to Roll

Heavy cross country backpack.
v

The Next Steps

Looking out the South end of Summit City Canyon at Mount Reba above the valley of the N Mokelumne River.

Looking out the South end of Summit City Canyon at Mount Reba above the valley of the N Mokelumne River.

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

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North: Summit City Creek                                          top of page                            South: Lower Summit City Creek Ford

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

South of Telephone Gulch
2009 Report

The going gets really rough heading South from Telephone Gulch to the first short open rock section North of the upper ford. Before encountering the rock section we can only identify and follow the trail bed for very short sections, if at all, until it is once again obliterated by swaths of downed trees, completely covered and overgrown by great mini-forests of ferns, or transformed by the Spring runoff from old trail remnants into tributaries feeding Summit City Creek.

These conditions have been "improved" as of 2013. The trail as been opened up and reconnected to a higher degree.

But we've still got to keep our eyes open to find and follow a good route when we lose signs of the old trail.

We must piece together the best route through here that we can with the conditions we find. When this unmaintained route is in bad condition we must exercise route-finding skills.

If we are accurately following the lay of the land and the logical course of the best route through the terrain we will be on or near the old trail route. In any case or set of trail conditions we should occasionally observe small, but reassuring, indications of the previous existence of the trail.

If this is not happening we are screwing up. Keeping on the route will save us a lot of energy and time, so stay on the route.

After you we through this very rough section of highly obscured "trail," mostly composed of small bits of discrete remnants of trail bed South of Telephone Gulch, we breathe a sigh of relief when reaching the first small section of exposed granite. This section is easy to navigate, but it is brief, and we still have a small section of forest to navigate. The second section of open granite past Telephone Gulch is large, and it brings us the rest of the way South to the upper ford of Summit City Creek.

The route through this open granite section was fairly well ducked (marked by occasional stacks of differently colored rocks) in July of 2009, and in September of 2013. The problem with ducks is that Winter snows knock down most of the less secure ducks each year. Early season backpackers may not have many ducks to follow. But we can see the piles of rocks that remain. Observe carefully, and you will be able to find a route through here without ducks, if you are an experienced cross country backpacker.

If not, you are going to have to learn quick, retreat, or get lost...

To cross this section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail between Summit City Creek and Camp Irene you should be prepared to find your way without trail or trail signs through 9.52 miles of forest, rock, and manzanita.

The conditions you may encounter through here demand that you to have sufficient physical fitness, navigational skills, and understanding of the backpacking arts to find your way through this section over difficult terrain without trails.

If you don't have these skills you will suffer and be endangered in proportion to your lack of skills and fitness.

comments-questions?

Unmaintained Trail Section Conditions, Updates, and Reports

MAPS

7.5 Topo Hiking Map: South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

7.5 hiking Topo Map: Telephone Gulch, Summit City Creek, to the lower ford

30 min Tahoe to Yosemite Topo Hiking Map: Echo Summit to Lake Alpine

Mokelumne Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Miles and Elevations

South: Lower Summit City Creek Ford

Backpacking Trail Guide

North

Summit City Creek

Trail Guide Compass: North is up the page, South is down the page.

Backpacking Trail Guide

South

Lower Summit City Creek Ford

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Section: Backpacking Carson Gap to Lake Alpine on the TYT
Segment: Telephone Gulch to End of Summit City Canyon

North: Summit City Creek                                          top of page                            South: Lower Summit City Creek Ford

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