Friday, July 15, 2011

Freeman Creek Trail in the Redwoods 7-15-11

A ride in the High Sequoias, above Kernville, in the Golden Trout Wilderness. High above the Kern River, at 6,000ft elevation in mixed redwood old growth forest and aspens and pine.
Length: 3.6 miles
Duration: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Trails filled with deadfalls, single file, tangled undergrowth with steep climbs, many boggy water crossings and dead-ends and trails requiring clever re-routing.
Altitude gain: 250 ft
Grade: III

View 7-15-11 Freeman Creek in the Redwoods in a larger map

We begin the ride at the RM Pyles Boys Camp in the High Sequoias, a tremendous place established in 1949.  I have been graciously invited to visit for the past several summers, and ride in the surrounding area with the staff.

Two views of the ends of a very large granite outcropping on the camp property.

The forest near the camp is filled with smaller trees, and lots of large boulders dot the landscape.
Once you enter the denser parts of the forest you quickly see the effect of 100 years of fire suppression. The lower limbs of the trees are all dead twigs that snap off with a loud crack as we ride through. There is only enough light available to keep the crowns green.
This tree fell recently, and shows the amount of root system that was supporting it. The spidery branches make a foreboding sight, a skeletal forest from a primordial time.
This is a burl growing on a redwood, quite a strange sight.
Highly prized by craftsmen, burls are cut up to make fancy table tops and furniture.
A corral in the trees contains a group of mules and horses used by a packing station that contracts to take hunters and other tourists into these woods.
Unexpectedly the forest changes into aspens, with an understory of ferns.
Coming up onto a ridge we can clearly see and smell the smoke from a controlled burn not far away. A lightning-strike-caused fire is burning out of control so the Forest Service has set a back-fire to burn up to it and protect the camp. Down in the valley it it not too evident, but when we get up to a view spot the sky is filled with smoke.
Manzanita bushes fill areas with more sunlight, and the ground everywhere is filled with dead dry branches.
This amazingly huge Giant Sequoia Sempervirens, redwood, towers over the landscape, inviting us to enter.

And there we are, that little gnome in the tree waving hello is me on Tobe!

Pretty darn amazing. I remember driving through the General Sherman tree on a family vacation when I was a kid, but somehow riding my mule through a tree is even better.

Many trees wither away from  lack of light, and in their slow decline bend over into these spectral shapes.
This last river crossing had an eddy that formed a perfect whirlpool, a pretty sight and a chance for Tobe to have a drink and a bit of creekside salad before heading back to the camp.