Wildfire: Trail Fire

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Photo from the Sequoia National Forest

A recent new release discovered a wildfire in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness. While there are no trail closures at this time, users should use caution while in the wilderness. More information can be read below directly from the new release.

August 15, 2017 – A lightning-caused wildfire was discovered burning west of Jennie Lakes in the Hume Lake Ranger District, Giant Sequoia National Monument over the weekend.  The Trail Fire has burned a tenth of an acre, along the ground under a canopy of red fir and lodgepole pine at 8,300 feet elevation.

There are no structures or improvements threatened. The fire is located in a remote wilderness area within a half mile of the neighboring Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  Fire managers will utilize a monitor strategy for now.

There are multiple snags (standing dead trees) near the fire which creates a safety concern for fire personnel.

Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST) will be used to help protect the wilderness character of the Jennie Lakes Wilderness. There are no closures in place at this time.

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Note from the Wilderness Ranger

There is a Forest Order out prohibiting camping withing 100 feet of the lakes. Why is it forced? Well because some users are camping to close, doing resource damage, and leaving trash behind that could enter and pollute the lakes. Here is what Wilderness Ranger Jeff has to say about the 100′ limit and some other advice.

August 7, 2017

A few reminders as we move through the heart of Summer and start looking towards Autumn in the mountains. Minus numerous downed trees, all JLW trails are open and easily accessible. The Hume Lake wilderness crew (plus a few volunteers – Thank you Boy Scout Troop 235 and Wild Places!) has spent the last couple of weeks cleaning up Weaver and Jennie Lakes. We’ve found lot of trash recently, there has been another rash of trail sign thefts, and many hikers are still camping well within the 100’ limit of the lakeshores.

*We want to urge visitors again to always pack out what you pack in! This includes all food wrappers, paper, etc. – please never burn trash! More urgently, proper disposal of waste is a key element in protecting and preserving your wilderness. Human waste and toilet paper must be buried 6-8” and never left above ground!

*Please do NOT rely on GPS to navigate through any wilderness. We are seeing more and more visitors without maps and really without much understanding of how to navigate a trail system. Please buy and learn how to use topographic maps before hiking! National Geographic’s “Sequoia & Kings Canyon” map is the standard for this area. In the Marvin Pass/Rowell Meadow area, four trail signs were stolen recently and they will not be able to be replaced for some time. We’re finding visitors missing very easy trail junctions because of these sign thefts and a basic lack of understanding of how to read a map. Please learn how to read topo maps and always bring one with you!

*For the rest of the Summer, we WILL be writing citations for people camped less than 100’ from Jennie and Weaver Lakes, per Forest Order 0513-17-27. We’re seeing numerous tent pads and evidence of folks camped right on the lakes, despite numerous “no camping” signs and the very clearly posted Forest Order at the trailheads. Always camp at least 100-200’ feet away from water sources.

Thank you and see you on the trail! The wildflowers are spectacular right now in the Forest!

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Thank You Volunteers!

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Volunteers from the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew and Backcountry Horsemen recently completed trail work. Over a couple dozen trees were cleared, repaired plenty of waters bars, and more. Trash removal was also part of the process! Check out the report below sent in from Wilderness Ranger Jeff.

From July 21-23, the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew (HSVTC) came out again for their annual weekend of trail work on the Hume Lake Ranger District. With the HLRD’s Wilderness crew we were able to do significant work on the Jennie Lake, Weaver Lake and Rowell Meadow Trails and the areas look much better than they have all year. Especially since last winter’s storms brought down dozens of new trees and water runoff filled up most of the water bars on all the trails, the work this year significantly improved trail conditions for forest visitors.

We cleared at least 30 trees off the trails, cleaned out and fixed dozens of water bars, made improvements on the trail tread in these areas and completed several other tasks throughout the HLRD trail system including re-installing several wilderness boundary signs that had been removed from the posts and securing several loose signposts. While out during the weekend, we had numerous positive interactions with backpackers and day hikers and it was great to see the public’s response to the trail crew’s work. Along with the invaluable assistance of the Backcountry Horsemen we also cleaned out several bags of trash and about a dozen usable tools from the historic Rowell Meadow Cabin.

The work of the HSVTC and the Backcountry Horsemen is essential to the District and we want to thank them for their commitment to maintaining trails all over the Sierras. We look forward to continued partnerships!

As of this report, all system trails within the Jennie Lakes Wilderness are clear and ready for use. Make sure when venture out this season to practice the LNT ethics. This keeps the area “pristine” for wilderness ideas and continues to provide that “wilderness” experience for others. Thanks again to all the volunteers for your hard work!

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Exempt from Fire Restrictions

The Sequoia National Forest has issued fire restrictions. However, the Jennie Lakes Wilderness is an exempt so no worries there. However, traveling through the National Forest to get to the wilderness you still need to follow the restrictions. Below is an exact copy of the public release regarding fire restrictions.

Sequoia National Forest Officials Issue Fire Restrictions

Hume Lake, Kern River and Western Divide Ranger Districts now under fire restrictions.

 

PORTERVILLE, Calif., July 27, 2017 – Campfire and smoking restrictions will be implemented on the Sequoia National Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument beginning Friday, July 28, 2017 until further notice. These restrictions are deemed necessary to protect public safety and prevent human-caused wildfires.

According to Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott, campfires below 4,000 feet will not be allowed within the Sequoia National Forest or Giant Sequoia National Monument. “The Sequoia National Forest is experiencing unprecedented tree mortality, with approximately 600,000 acres affected.  These conditions, coupled with twice the normal spring precipitation resulted in a heavy grass fuel load.”

Criteria, officials consider before implementing fire restrictions include current and predicted weather, fuels conditions, fire activity levels and available resources.

Under Forest Orders 0513-17-25 and 0513-17-14 the following is prohibited below 4,000 feet in the Sequoia Nation Forest except in areas listed as exempt:

  • No Campfires or charcoal fires are allowed, except, in designated campgrounds and areas posted as “Exempt Areas” in the Forest Order exhibits and with a valid California Campfire Permit. Visitwww.fs.usda.gov/detail/sequoia/notices/?cid=FSEPRD539396 for a list of exempt areas. Free Campfire Permits are available at Forest Service offices and www.preventwildfireca.org/Campfire-Permit.
  • No Smoking is permitted, except within enclosed vehicles or buildings, developed recreation sites and other designated areas as listed in the Forest Order exhibits.
  • Operating an internal combustion engine off of properly designated roads or trails and welding are all strictly prohibited during the increased fire restriction period.

Fireworks, exploding targets, tracer rounds and other incendiary ammunition or devices are not allowed on the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument at any time. This includes sparklers and so-called safe and sane fireworks.

Visitors, with a valid California Campfire Permit, may use portable stoves and lanterns with shut-off valves, using pressurized gas, liquid fuel, or propane in the general forest areas. Forest visitors must clear all flammable material five feet in all directions from their camp stove, have a shovel available, and ensure that a responsible person attends the stove at all times when in use.

Violation of these fire restrictions is punishable by a fine of no more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization or incarceration for not more than six months, or both.

Reminder!

California Campfire Permits are required for any source of flame or fire and are available for free at all Forest Service offices or online at www.preventwildfireca.org/Campfire-Permit. Campfires must be attended by a responsible person at all times and completely extinguished after use.

Human-caused fires can be prevented.  One less spark can mean one less wildfire.  Do your part to prevent wildfires. To learn more visit www.preventwildfireca.org/one-less-spark-one-less-wildfire.

Forest visitors are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” and call ahead to the local ranger station for local conditions, regulations and bans. For more information contact your local ranger station or visit the Sequoia National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/sequoia or call 559-784-1500.

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Wilderness Ranger Update for July 7

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Jennie Lake as of July 2 – Photo by Jeff Duneman

The latest report is in from Wilderness Ranger Jeff regarding the Jennie Lakes Wilderness. Many of you have contacted me asking what the latest information was this past weekend. Here you go straight from Jeff!

During the 4th of July wilderness patrol in the Jennie Lakes, and much to our surprise, we noted that most of the large snowpack has melted off. The recent heatwave has just evaporated many feet of snow in less than two weeks. Water levels at the lakes were also notably lower. Currently, there is basically no snow around Weaver Lake. The Jennie Lake Trail is all clear past Poop Out Pass and right up to the lake area. Only there you will see some lingering snowbanks but nothing to hinder the route. The only area with significant remaining snow is up at JO Pass and then north on the JO Trail towards the Weaver Lake Trail junction. However, with this heat we expect that this will melt off soon enough as well. Also, trailhead access roads are now open at Rowell Meadow and Marvin Pass.

The remaining trail concerns in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness are numerous trees down (we have a trail crew coming out later this month) and the still fast and high creeks, mostly in the Boulder Creek drainage. Please continue to exercise caution when crossing any quick moving streams as the snow runoff will probably keep water levels high for several more weeks. But the trails are all mostly clear.

See you out on the trail!

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Trail Reports from Wilderness Ranger

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Many of you have been anxiously awaiting the latest information about the Jennie Lakes Wilderness. Well your wait is over as Jeff, the Wilderness Ranger, has provided the latest information below. Enjoy and plan accordingly!

Within the beauty of a High Sierra wilderness snow pack comes a reality check on the power of the Earth and her waters!

We finally were able to walk the entire Jennie Lakes Loop trail last weekend and saw snow and water conditions that haven’t existed since well before the California drought began. Similar reports are coming out of all corners of the Sierra Nevada this season so if you’ve followed the news this trail report shouldn’t come as a surprise. We expect these current conditions to linger well into July and possibly even August depending on how much heat arrives in the high country over the next few weeks. The mountains are stunning and sublime right now, but also dangerous for those unprepared or lacking respect for that power.

On the Hume Lake Ranger District, the Big Meadow Road is finally completely clear and it’s an easy drive to the main wilderness trailhead at Big Meadow. However, the Rowell Meadow access road is currently closed due to some washout and issues on the road leading up to the trailhead, and the Marvin Pass access road is very rutted out and not safe for a small city car. Stay posted for updates on these side road conditions.

WEAVER LAKE: From the Big Meadow trailhead, the trail up to Weaver Lake has patches of significant snow and some minor route finding may be required. There are a few new trees down as well, but you should be able to access the lake easy enough. There are creeks flowing across the trail that haven’t existed in a decade and some water running down sections of the trail, so please be cautious crossing any moving water. But Weaver Lake remains the easiest to access in the wilderness and will remain so for the rest of the summer.
Note: even though most of the established camping areas are covered in snow, we still expect you to follow Leave No Trace ethics by camping over 100’ from water and disposing of your waste properly! Do not be the group that leaves toilet paper and worse in the snow for us to find when it melts!

JENNIE LAKE: The south facing sections of the Jennie Lake Trail are mostly clear of snow up to and around Poop Out Pass, however there are dozens of new trees down. The amount of snow last winter brought down more trees than we’ve seen in many years. As we do not have a regular trail crew in the Forest Service, it will take some time to clear all these trees off the trail and this work won’t be done before the 4th of July weekend. Once you get past Poop Out Pass and head east down to Jennie Lake, trail conditions become significantly more difficult. Once off the Pass, expect heavy snowdrifts and areas where the trail is completely covered. The snow runoff has created many streams that cross the trail and often run right down the trail tread, creating some wet and slippery conditions. Most dangerous are several streams that are running under snowbanks and creating very difficult crossings in places. Please proceed with the utmost caution when passing these areas of running water – snowbanks can collapse and send you tumbling into the fast moving water below. Particularly as the snow melt continues over the next few weeks, we anticipate this being a major hazard. There are many tree blazes (rectangular shaped markings) along the trail marking the route as well as cut out log sections where a tree was cleared off the trail in the past, so try to find them when heading towards the lake – you will not see the actual trail in many places! The Jennie Lake area itself is absolutely beautiful right now… and completely buried in snow. The lake itself was still mostly frozen over as of June 18th. Come prepared for snow camping and significant route finding.
Note: even though most of the established camping areas are covered in snow, we still expect you to follow Leave No Trace ethics by camping over 100’ from the water and disposing of your waste properly! Do not be the group that leaves toilet paper and worse in the snow for us to find when it melts!

JO PASS: Past Jennie Lake and up towards JO Pass, the entire length of the trail is covered in snow. We hiked over probably 10-15’ drifts of snow in places, and expect these conditions to persist well into July. If you are not proficient and confident in route finding, be very honest with your backcountry abilities here. From Jennie Lake east up to JO Pass and then north down towards the junction with the Weaver Lake Trail you will not see the actual trail for the vast majority of the route! There are several creeks that are very swollen and moving very fast under and near the snow – please proceed with the utmost caution when passing these areas of running water. The biggest issue is not climbing up and down over snowbank after snowbank (like walking through sand), but the creek crossings. One small misstep and you may end up in a life threatening situation. There are gorgeous views of the high country along the way, but never lose the humbling respect for that power of water, snow and Mother Earth when out on the trail.

THE LOOP: Due to high water, the Weaver Lake Trail that goes from the JO Pass Trail junction, down into the Boulder Creek drainage, and then west up to Weaver Lake (often called “The Loop”) is not recommended for any new or beginner hikers. As an example, there are four creeks and numerous washout areas in a small ¼ mile section in the drainage that took four experienced wilderness hikers over an hour to traverse because of the extremely dangerous water conditions. Only the most experienced and confident hikers should attempt these crossings in the Boulder Creek drainage. We cannot overstate the danger of these “creeks” right now – they are more like small rivers with no easy crossing. The water will probably get even higher and faster as the huge snow melt continues over the next few weeks. So over the 4th of July weekend and well into August, we urge most visitors to stick to Weaver Lake and the Jennie Lake Trail. In other words: reconsider doing The Loop this summer unless you’re related to John Muir!

Enjoy the spectacular beauty of your wilderness, but please don’t become a statistic in one of the most dangerous summers the Sierra Nevada has seen in many years!

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Heading Out? Heed Some Advice and Warnings

With the news of 14S11 opening to access Big Meadows, many are eager to hit the trails. However, one should listen to some advice and warnings about access points and wilderness conditions. Here are a few things to think about.

  1. Access beyond Big Meadows is NOT SAFE for low clearance vehicles. Roads crews are being informed about the damage along the road that leads to trail heads (Rowell Meadow and Marvin Pass). In fact users are STRONGLY encouraged to stay away from the rest of 14S11, past Big Meadows, until the road work is done.
  2. Wilderness crews have not entered into the Jennie Lakes area yet. They plan to do so this coming weekend and send a report out. As such, the latest info on trail conditions and water flows are unknown.
  3. Users heading into the wilderness should still expect camping near or on snow when approaching elevations of 9,000 feet.

If you plan to head out before the report comes in sometime next week, please consider sharing your experience, trail conditions, water crossing info, and maybe a photo or two. It would be really helpful to other users and you may just see something the wilderness crew misses.

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Road to Big Meadows is Open!

The road to Big Meadows (14S11) is mostly open! Users can access the main trail leaving Big Meadows Campground and head into Weaver and Jennie Lakes. However, the road beyond is not recommended for low clearance vehicles. More details to come so stay tuned!

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Stony Creek Trail Update!

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Previous reports mentioned the main access to Jennie Lakes Wilderness is covered in snow adding several miles to simply get to a trailhead. Not to mention you’ll be hiking over snow to get there! One more access point came to mind as a way to get into the wilderness. It was using the Stony Creek Trail in Stony Creek Campground.

Wilderness Ranger Jeff came back from a 5/19 scouting trip up Stony Creek. Above are the photos he took on his way up the trail. As one can see Stony Creek is flowing quite well and the snow is ever present. Here is what Ranger Jeff had to report:

After scouting the Stony Creek Trail last weekend, I found little to no snow down low (6,000-7,000 ft.), but once up to about 7,500-8,000 ft. I was climbing on 10-15 foot snowbanks and had to put on my snowshoes to get anywhere. Viewing the high country in the distance I clearly could see an awful lot of snow on the peaks – quite beautiful! I could not see the trail route for much of the way and there were numerous “new” streams flowing because of the finally normal snowfall. Stony Creek itself was gushing unlike I’ve seen it before – be very cautious when near these High Sierra streams and rivers right now! I would estimate that both areas around Jennie Lake (elev. 9,000+ ft.) and Weaver Lake (elev. 8,700+ ft.) are thoroughly buried under snow and will be well into June. Please check with the Hume Lake Ranger District office for updates on snow conditions as we head into June. Again, we anticipate that the main access to the wilderness – Big Meadow Road – will be closed until early or mid-June. If you hike in via Stony Creek before that, *please* go prepared for winter hiking and camping conditions. Once the main road is opened and we more easily can get into the backcountry, I’ll send out another trails update.

Thanks for the update Jeff! We are all anxiously awaiting the next update. I hope that helps everyone plan accordingly for Memorial Day weekend.

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Current Wilderness Conditions

Planning on heading out into the Jennie Lakes Wilderness area in May? Unless you enjoy snow camping and travel, then you may want to wait until later this season. With so much snow, many of the trailheads that would be typically accessible by vehicle are not. Here is what the Wilderness Ranger Jeff reports for today.

The main access point to the Jennie Lakes Wilderness, Big Meadows Road, is currently closed due to still high snow levels. The Big Meadow, Rowell Meadow and Marvin Pass Trailheads are all still inaccessible short of a *very* long hike through the snow from Big Meadow Winter Trailhead, just off Generals Highway. We do not expect this area to be open by Memorial Day weekend! Therefore, access to the Jennie Lakes Wilderness may be very limited until mid-June or so. There is an open route via the Stony Creek Trail. However, expect significant snow and difficulty getting into the backcountry.

Furthermore, if you go, be prepared for snow camping, route finding, high flowing creeks hidden under the snow and possibly dangerous weather (consider bringing snowshoes). I will be scouting up the Stony Creek Trail to (hopefully) Poop Out Pass within a week or so and will report back after I check the area.

Hopefully this will help you plan your trip accordingly. Thank you Jeff for the recent update as there are likely many users anticipating an update.

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