Currently in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, the most problematic hazard for visitors is crossing a waterway where there is no bridge. Early-season hikers are running into difficulties and, last weekend, a woman lost her life less than two miles from the trailhead.
Hiker tales— Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail thru-hikers are being challenged by the high-water scenarios. Several known incidences have had hikers aborting their journeys, but only after a harrowing experience of backpacker vs. nature.
In late May, an Australian hiker on the PCT/JMT was swept off his feet while attempting to ford Bear Creek near Selden Pass, just beyond Kings Canyon National Park’s northern boundary. He was able to make it back to shore.
An experienced JMT hiker who started his hike in Yosemite Valley on June 13 had to bail at Mammoth after breaking two ribs during a creek crossing on the north side of Donohue Pass (Yosemite’s south boundary). He was in touch with search-and-rescue personnel but walked out on his own.
Other Pacific Crest Trail trekkers are also having difficulties. Two social media posts have been broadcast by news outlets, both involving water crossings. A male fell while crossing a swollen stream above a waterfall. To save himself, he had to let his 60-pound pack go, which consisted of, literally, everything he owned. He was left with no means of communication, no dry clothes, and no food and, reportedly, survived the night by doing jumping jacks and running in circles.
A 31-year-old female from Seattle, also a solo hiker on the PCT, ran into trouble when she was sitting and scooting across a log over the raging Kerrick Creek in Yosemite. More than halfway across, a branch obstructed her travel, so she entered the water on the upstream side of the log. She was immediately knocked off her feet, swept under the log, and downstream. After a traumatic ride through the rapids and several attempts to grasp onto vegetation, she was able to save herself. But she was banged up, bloody, and bruised.
There have also been reports from two different sources of a rescue that occurred in the Forester Pass vicinity (at over 13,000 feet elevation, the highest pass on the PCT) when someone fell on snow in the near-vertical chute. Although Forester Pass straddles Sequoia-Kings Canyon, this rescue did not appear in the following incidents report.
The stories that aren’t being told are the hundreds of thru-hikers who made the difficult decision to leave the trail. They gave up on a dream that consisted of many months, even years, of preparation and planning.
But they’re alive. And the mountains will be be here to hike another day.
Trail conditions— The Rae Lakes Loop, a popular 45-mile backpacking trail in Kings Canyon National Park, has an interruption due to the bridge that spanned the South Fork of the Kings River in Paradise Valley being knocked off its foundations. Fording this major tributary would be difficult.
The trail to Eagle and Mosquito lakes in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park has a challenging water crossing at Spring Creek, about a quarter-mile from the trailhead. Usually there is a footbridge across this steep creek but it was removed for winter and hasn’t been reinstalled due to the high water.
Franklin Creek, about 1.5 miles from the Mineral King Road on the Franklin Lakes/Farewell Gap trail, is also running high, cold, and swift, making it a major effort for anyone who tries to cross.
Since Memorial Day when this area opened for the summer, the trailhead parking lots, usually crowded and overflowing this time of year, remain eerily empty.
Here is an incidents report submitted by Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks:
Sequoia National Park
June 16— Park staff responded to a vehicle fire south of Amphitheater Point. The fire spread to the hillside next to the road. Both wildland and structure firefighters responded.
See article here.
June 7— Rangers responded to a patient having an asthma attack in the lower Sherman Tree parking area. The patient self-transported for further treatment.
June 7— Rangers responded to Stony Creek (Giant Sequoia National Monument) for a rollover motor vehicle accident. The driver refused medical care and transport. Rangers remained on scene until CHP arrived as the driver was suspected to be driving while intoxicated.
June 7— Rangers responded to a patient complaining of chest pain at Wuksachi Lodge. The patient was transported by ambulance for further care.
June 7— Rangers issued citations for commercial filming with a drone.
June 17— Rangers responded to a report of a 26-year-old female who had slipped while crossing Silliman Creek and was carried downstream. See article here.
June 9— A 23-year-old male, who was experiencing shortness of breath, activated a SEND device at Crabtree Meadow in the Mount Whitney zone of Sequoia National Park. Helicopter 552 responded with a park-medic onboard to transport him to the Ash Mountain Helibase for transfer to Exeter Ambulance. The patient was treated for High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE).
June 17— Wilderness rangers began mobilizing to the backcountry ranger stations along the Pacific Crest / John Muir trails.