BCHC Sierra Freepackers head to Granite Creek

As a recipient of one of the $1000.00 BCHA Grants, fifteen members of the Sierra Freepackers headed to Granite Creek on Sunday, July 5, 2015. Our original plan was to pack in to 77 Corral and start on the removal of the stock fence per the Forest Service request. After the Forest Service looked at usage of the area and that the fence is in the wilderness, it was decided to remove it permanently, but our dilemma was that the 9 mile trail into 77 Corral had not been cleared. We were only notified of that about a week out, so we decided to go in and work on removing trees (per our Volunteer Agreement with the FS) and opening the trail so that we may be able to go in later in the summer and start work on the fence removal.

On Sunday  we arrived to set up camp and plan out the week of work on the trail.

On Monday, it was a hot and humid day. We packed up tools, had our FS required Safety Tail Gate talk and were on the trail by around 9 am. We rode approximately 3.8 miles when we hit the first pile of trees. There were 3 trees: 1 very large (48 inches/4 foot) tree and two 16 inch trees ( at left). It was “initiation to trail work by fire” as John Glen our master sawyer and instructor said.

We removed the smaller 16 inch log. Once the tree was cut we used our leg power to send it on its way (at left below). Pushing the log is John Wagoner, John Glenn, Mary Odell, Cathy Miller and Den-ise Robinson. See on below.

Next came cutting the large 48 inch tree. That did take a while. Only three of us and John Glenn had any previous experience cutting with a cross cut saw. IT was a LEARN-ING DAY and a day to adjust to the altitude.

The first day was a long one as we wanted to complete the job before heading back to camp. We arrived back to camp at 6 pm to an awesome meal planned and cooked by Paul LaSpada, our camp cook for the week. Thank you Paul for all you and Sandy did before and all during the week!

On Tuesday we headed out again by 9 am. At about 4.2 miles we came upon our next tree. It was a 24-26 inch tree in multiple pieces. It took 4 cuts with the saw before we could get the pieces moved.

On our way back to camp this day, we discovered that a new tree had fallen between where we working and the first tree we cut. Thank goodness we could get around it as we had stashed our tools for the night to save work on our pack animals.

On Wednesday we left by 8:30 am as each day we had ride a bit further down the trail. We rode past the newly fallen tree as our tools were located below this tree and our plan being to take care of that tree on our way out. At about 4.5 miles we found a 24-26 inch tree that required only one cut and we were able to clear it out pretty quickly. At about another quarter mile down we found another 18-20 inch tree in pieces that we were able to push and roll off the trail.

When we reached the lower end of the trail at Sheep’s Crossing on the San Joaquin River we found two smaller trees (8-10 inch) requiring lopping and then we were able to lift and push them out of the way. We had lunch and rested a bit. A couple of the members rode their horses across the bridge and back to make sure all was good with that Equine Education Time.

On our way back up the trail we cleared the 24-30 inch tree with one cut, and were able to roll if off the steep trail using gravity. Since it was on a switch back we didn’t want to just roll it down on the trail below. AND we were successful.

Lucky for us we finished on Wednesday as it started to rain Wednesday night. We spent Thursday as a day of rest, where able to get out for more riding and some fishing between the rain. On Friday we observed that Granite Creek had risen about 1-1/2 feet from the previous day. Our youth members helped with dishes, did trash detail in the ar-ea, got more riding experience and learn more about being a member of BCHC.

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