Picayune Valley in the Granite Chief wilderness!

Fall Plantlife

This was a nice hike up through the western side of the Granite Chief wilderness area. Our friend Mike came with us, and since he had just run the twin cities marathon the previous weekend, we decided to take a nice easy hike. The other criteria was that the hike had to go through as many trees as possible, so as to give us the impression that we were actually entering the fall season, something we really don't get a feel for, living in the bay area.

Well, we did great in almost every regard but the weather. There was BEAUTIFUL fall foliage in evidence everywhere. Bushes and aspens were all turning yellow and pale green and red, and there were quite a few leaves down already. However, it was incredibly warm! It was 70-80 degrees all day, and didn't feel like it got any colder than 45-50 or so at night. We were hoping for some freezing temperatures or something to lend that fall chill to our experience. :-)

The trailhead is quite a ways into the national forest land. We had hoped to head out early from Oakland and stay at the Talbot Campground, but were foiled by traffic. So we ended up sleeping in a hotel by the exit off of 80 for the road leading to the trailhead. The next day, after a very long and loopy swoopy drive up the american river canyon, we made it to the trailhead and set off. There appeared to be a bunch of hunters parked around everywhere, but I was reassured because we were heading towards the wilderness area, where guns are not allowed. We parked and were off.

The trail was at first rather unappealing, because some sort of tree-processing had been done in the first few clearings, and there were old shreds of bark and burnt trees and so on. But as soon as we neared the actual wilderness area border, the trees were back in force, and it was very pretty. The first stage was a lightly rolling path through a nice pine forest. Lots of needles, and nice and quiet and slightly dim. We began to wander uphill and kept passing near a nice creek which we stopped and ate next to. After a while, we got out of the pine forest, and moved on into more exposed areas with great views of the steep walls of the valley which we were in, and we wandered through some very pretty forests of aspens and other trees which were looking very fall-ish, and some other meadows full of fall-ish dry plants.

As we went higher, there were more and more exposed rocky areas, and nice glacial polish and interesting metamorphic rocks were in abundance. The trail got a little sketchy here and there. We had to scout around a bit in a couple of places to find the trail, as it forked in a couple of places, and we didn't notice until we dead-ended into a stream or whatever (the most confusing place was at marker 009 on the map). :-) But it wasn't too hard. Eventually, we found a side trail which took us to a little campsite near the stream and a very pretty rocky waterfall, where we set up camp and enjoyed the evening and the cloudless and moonless night. We sat out with our rain shells on to keep the wind out, and a fleece underneath, and were pretty much fine. We were expecting a Much colder experience, and were in fact hoping for it, to fufill our fall weather fantasy, but there was very little of that.

That night, the wind came up very impressively, and although Steph and I were planning to sleep out under the stars, the wind changed our mind as pinecones and needles fell on us. So I did a quick setup of the tent in the dark and got Steph (already in The Oven) installed in there. By the morning, everything had pretty much calmed down, and it warmed up very quickly as the sun hit us. It wasn't all that cold, despite the scary sounding wind in the night.

So, we hiked around that morning up to the top of the waterfall and took some pictures of the beautiful views, and it was very pretty. Lots of glacially shaped rocks, and a nice steep valley and fall colors everywhere. On our way back, we encountered some day hikers who must have wondered where the hell we came from, without any packs or water or anything, but we didn't give them any hints, and instead told them where the waterfall was. We then packed up and headed back! Mike was feeling like some exercise, and set a fairly stiff pace. Those marathon legs! Steph took an easier pace and got a bunch of nice pictures.

We reached the car and zipped home, stopping only at Murder Burger in Davis, which had just renamed itself to Redrum Burger to solve some licensing dispute of some sort. The burgers were pretty good. Sort of like Clark's in MV, but with a wider variety of sizes of burgers, and Ostrich burgers too. And then, with a weary wave goodbye, we were dropped off at our house. What a great time!

So here's the map of the route which we took, marked by our GPS unit and Topo!.

Our pictures are here, and Mike's pictures are here.

Have fun!

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