Leaders: Charlie Knapke, Barbara Cohen
The first 4 peaks on our list make up one of the best weekend HPS outings that can be led. This is why I had agreed to lead these even though I had done all of them twice before. This time though, I had a surprise waiting for me.
Our group met Saturday morning at Greenhorn Summit. After signing in and introductions, we carpooled to the starting point for Black & Split. As soon as the hike got under way, we noticed that things had changed. There were many trees down and signs of fire scorching. As we crested the top of the first rise, we found that the area had been devastated by a bulldozer. Evidently, there was a fire in the area this last summer. The Kern Country Hotshots probably made a stand against the fire in this spot. The result is that a large portion of the trail is hidden by the new firebreaks on this ridge. It was obvious that the route finding was going to be a lot harder than I had anticipated. After passing the turnoff point for Black Mountain, we descended to the ridge heading out to Split. We ran into more dozer damage and I followed the wrong ridge at first but this did not cause any problems.
Do you remember all the brush on this route? Well, I sure hope someone has some pictures of it. After the fire, it is no more than a memory. The entire route out to Split with the exception of a small area near the lowest saddle is now a completely bare ash covered ridge. It was like hiking on another world. This did enable us to make great time out to Split and back. After returning to the saddle just north of Black Mountain, three of our group headed back to the cars. The rest our group set off for Black.
This area did not receive near as much damage. There were signs of fire but more of the vegetation had survived. The strange thing is that the ash was even deeper here than on the ridge out to Split. My only theory is that the ash originated elsewhere and settled here for some reason. We hiked through ash which was sometimes six inches deep! The summit of Black Mountain was not touched.
We did find that the lower point out past the summit has a vastly better view than the summit. I highly recommend the five minute detour out to this point. It is well worth your while.
After returning to the cars, we headed down to Tillie Creek Campground. We were covered with ash marks and everyone took a shower. Some of us then headed into town for dinner.
Sunday's hikes went much more as I remembered. The fire did not spread all of the way to the Sunday Peak area. I asked Barbara to lead. She had not led a hike since returning from her bicycle injury. She must have healed fast as she set a brisk pace up the trail to the peak. David Eisenberg decided to scout out the ridge between Sunday and Bohna. He signed out and agreed to wait for us on Bohna. We then headed back to our cars.
We caravanned to the Bohna parking area and were soon under way again. Sometime later we met David at the register. He had been waiting about an hour. He reported that he had followed a trail all the way down the ridge to Bohna with little or no brush. I guess I'll have to go back a fourth time to try it.
After we returned to the cars, we bid each other farewell and went our separate ways. I would like to thank Hal Cohen and everyone who attended for a great weekend.