Wandering Hermit Valley
I took the occasion of my birthday to take a trip with a friend down from Hermit Valley into the Canyon of the Mokelumne--one of the wildest and most remote parts of the Sierra. I had joined a trail crew down into this canyon on three separate occasions, including once from Hermit Valley, but our goal this time was to get further down into the canyon.
Day one: We met at Hermit Valley and staring hiking in at 1 p.m. At the trailhead we met a woman who was hiking in with her son, an advance party to a group of Boy Scouts who were going to join the the following day. In less than an hour we were hiking past Deer Creek...leaving that campsite to the Boy Scouts. This part of the trail was in good shape. Four trees were cut between the trailhead and Deer Creek...and brush was pretty well under control. Some of that was a reminder of the crew trip I'd done two years ago.
We crossed Deer Creek on the log we had put in place two years ago, and then set up camp about a mile further down the canyon. the way. Set up camp about a mile later. We explored a bit into the major section of granite below our camp. Cairns were set up, and other removed, so that we could easily followed a primary trail through this section...good news.
We were back in camp by about 4, hearing thunder and seeing big black clouds. For half an hour it rained and then hailed, but stopped in time for us to have dinner and to bed about 8:30. Just before dinner, we were charmed by an osprey sailing slowly down the canyon past our camp.
DAY TWO: Up and on the trail at about 8...hiking down into the canyon--after enjoying this view from our campsite:
This was a fun day---following the old trail, finding traces of cuts in trees made ten or twenty, or thirty years ago. At one point this was clearly a very nicely constructed trail. But things were looking up. Lots of bushes were cut back, and it was quite easy to see where the trail went. After a section in the granite, it led back to a beautiful spot along the river.
We hiked back to meet some friends who were day-hiking into our camp for lunch...then after lunch continued our exploration on a hot sunny day with lots of southern exposure. Man it was hot and dry. And once the clouds gathered again at about 3, we called a halt and waited out the light rain for an hour, then headed back to camp.
We rinsed off in the river, and just before dinner, and were visited by our friend the osprey again. A very quiet evening, with nobody around for miles.
DAY THREE: We resolved to take it easy today. We took our lunches with us and headed down canyon. Lots of whitethorn and huckleberry oak along the trail, but it was under control at this point. As we enjoyed our lunch down, we agreed that this was a wonderful hike--but the afternoon was going to be too darn hot to continue.
We had made it down to within about a mile of the Jackson Canyon Trail...an to our surprise, there was only a short section, maybe a quarter of a mile, that was fully choked with brush. Then the trail showed signs of having been cleared further down into the canyon. But we were whipped.
We filtered some water, checked out a few nearby campsites. Back in camp, as we were resting, we realized we were really only about 3 miles from the trailhead. We packed up and hiked out--in time to get warm showers at home.
Once we left the trailhead, we had seen a total of five people in three days---and that was all in one group near our campsite who had read about the area on our blog...so we created that traffic! But this area is still vastly under visited...and well worth a day or two to explore.