Buckeye Canyon thunderstorms

balzaccom

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Sep 30, 2014
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We’re back from a memorable trip up into Buckeye Canyon on the East Side of the Sierra, just north of Bridgeport. Memorable for torrential thunderstorms, infestations of ticks, and some absolutely great hiking.


DAY ONE: The weather reports had been all over the map, from high temps to thunderstorms to perfect weather, so we plowed ahead and hoped for the best.

We stopped for lunch at the ford of Buckeye Creek (water was slow moving and mid-thigh) and promptly lost the trail. No worries, as this trail just goes up the canyon, and that’s what we did.

But by 1:30 it was raining enough, and we’d hiked far enough, that we called a halt and set up the tent. Not exactly the way we’d planned the day, but Mother Nature is in charge. There was some thunder, a few flashes of lightning, and hours of steady rain.

We were only able to get out and stretch our legs as dusk fell. I went down to the creek to get water, and came back soaked from knees down from all the wet grass and bushes.

A tough first day, all in all.


DAY TWO: We climbed up past the Roughs, passing a lovely waterfall, and then meandered through the tight canyon of Buckeye Creek, reaching the cabins and trail junction to Yosemite before noon.

We had no further plans for today, so we found a wonderful campsite back down the trail a hundred yards, and set up the tent. After lunch, we took a rest, and then got out of the tent to see clouds building once again. and then it started to rain. And this time it was serious. Huge claps of thunder, some only 5 seconds away, gusty winds, and torrential rains for about three hours.

At this point M had just about had enough. The thunderstorms were taking a lot of the joy out of the trip—that and she was feeling a bit poorly in general.


DAY THREE: M decided that we’d stay one more day, to day-hike up to Kirkwood Pass. It turned out to be the best decision of the trip.

But this trail is magic, following a cascading stream up into a small alpine valley, then crossing the valley to switchback up granite ledges to views of the Sierra Crest, from Tower and Forsythe Peaks in the North back down towards Grouse Mountain and the whole canyon below us. It was magnificent.

But as we were enjoying the view, we noticed a few tiny clouds in that canyon. We hiked back down to camp to eat lunch there, and the waited and watched, as the clouds slowly built. We took life easy until about four o’clock when the first few drops of rain fell. Back into the tent, where we found four ticks...probably a result of my bushwhacking after good fishing spots.

It cleared in time for the sunset, and we enjoyed the rosy glow on the nearby peaks. And my socks almost dried out.

Over these first three days we had seen a total of two people—and our campsite was so discrete that they didn’t see us—and we felt like we had the whole canyon to ourselves. It was stunning.


DAY FOUR: The first two miles through the narrow canyon took us longer that we expected (we did see a family camped here on our way out) and we began to worry about our final goal. It was slow going.

Coming through the section just below the Roughs, we were startled to see that a massive channel of rock and mud had avalanched down from above, and it took us a few minutes to find a way through the mess. Luckily, most of the mud had dried, and it was all fairly stable.

And then it was all downhill. We flew down those miles, only stopping a couple of times to chat with a few hikers coming in for the Fourth of July weekend. We were across the ford and well down the canyon by the time we stopped for a shady lunch overlooking a verdant meadow with towering peaks in the background. This is lovely country.


Four days, 24 miles of hiking, and more thunder, lightning and rain than we’d ever had on a single trip. And it was still a great trip.

The full report is here: https://www.backpackthesierra.com/post/thunder-and-lightning-and-more-oh-my

And all the photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/uVpaKGwuNxEdTvvz6
 
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