We headed up to Nelder Grove to check out those fall dogwoods and we discovered surprises along our adventure to Kelty Meadow.
Distance: 8.44 miles (but you can go more or less if you want to)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Elevation Range: 5,275′ – 6,115′
Date: October 26, 2015
Topographic Quad Map: Falls Ridge Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? Absolutely!!
It didn’t take us too long to drive from Oakhurst to Nelder Grove. We headed north on Hwy 41 out of Oakhurst, turning right on Sierra Sky Ranch Rd., past the turnoff to Calvin Crest and followed the signs to Nelder Grove. We were able to drive up the road, and parked at the Interpretative Center. The road was in fantastic shape and I think any vehicle could make it up there fine but that is not always the case. Sometimes it gets rutty and if you have a very low clearance vehicle, you may be better off parking at the gate and walking the rest of the way. By the way, the gate will close as winter gets closer, but if it is closed you can park there and walk up the road.
This was the first time that I have hiked Nelder Grove since I read Brenda Negley’s new book “Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias: A Granddaughter’s Stories”. The book is full of background on this amazing grove of Giant Sequoias, along with the history, information on each giant tree, the other vegetation and the critters that live here.
We headed up the Chimney Trail Loop, which is about 1.7 miles long. We saw color right away in the yellow oaks and red dogwoods
We reached the Chimney Tree and took a closer look. It survived a fire in the early 1900s and if you walk into the middle of it, you can look straight up through its hollowed out center.
The trail crossed California Creek on a beautiful wooden bridge. Our eyes were drawn to the fallen leaves in the creek’s water.
I thought the leaves on the ground were also beautiful.
The trail took us through dogwoods ranging in color from salmon to red.
The trail took us to the Bull Buck Tree and that tree is a huge one!
There is an unofficial horse trail near the Bull Buck Tree and we headed out that way toward Kelty Meadow. We must have walked near the Crying Stump Tree. Brenda had shared the story that her grandfather told her about this stump. He noticed what appeared as many different shapes in the stump that resembled faces–not all of them are crying. The Crying Stump is directly behind the Bull Buck. I can imagine that this stump, along with the other stumps and standing trees that surround them, were crying as each giant tree was taken down in the logging years. We will need to look for it next time.
Taking the trails to the roads, it was about 3.1 miles until we arrived at Kelty Meadow named after Frank Keltie who homesteaded 160 acres in Sections 2 and 3, Township 6 South, Range 22 East in 1916.
I had to learn more about Frank and did some digging. He was born October 21, 1883 in California, died January 24, 1928 in Tuolumne County and is buried at Sonora at the Sonora City Cemetery. I found that he had an older brother named John Allen who was on the 1880 census, living with his parents in Fresno. John Allen’s father Frank, 30, was a Teamster and his mother’s name is Mary, both born in Maine.
In 1904, 1905 and 1906, the California Voter’s Registrar lists Frank and his brother John Allen living in Fresno Flats. In 1910: Frank is living at Kimshew in Butte County, is a Boarder working as a Laborer in a Saw Mill. In 1918, Frank filled out his WWI Draft Registration, stating that his full name was Frank Pierce Keltie, was working for the Standard Lumber at Lowell in Tuolumne County and said that he was tall, medium build, grey eyes and light brown hair. On the 1920 census Frank is living with his brother in Sonora, Tuolumne County and working as a Laborer in a Lumber company. I was unable to determine where Frank was born but on his brother’s Social Security Death Index, it says he was born in Oakhurst. Frank may well have been born there also.
Since I now knew that Frank’s father was also named Frank, I had to figure out a way to figure out which Frank had the homestead. I was able to narrow that down when I found the Probate records for the father named Frank Keltie and it was dated 1893 in Fresno County. That explains why I couldn’t find him on the 1900 census. There is a will, giving all to his wife and within the Probate records, it states that he died August 3, 1893 in the County of Madera. So the person who homesteaded was the son Frank Keltie.
When we arrived at Kelty Meadow Campground, we had the place to ourselves.
This campground is very horse-friendly. 7 campsites are somewhat dispersed. Many have hitching rails and there are a couple of log corrals, along with a horse trough. The Sierra Freepackers Unit of the Backcountry Horsemen of California have improved and maintained this campground. They deserve a big thank you because it is beautiful. I know a lot of work went into putting in this infrastructure to make horse camping easier.
We had lunch at one of the picnic tables next to the meadow and Deb checked out the restrooms before we headed back on the trail the same way we came in.
As we headed back through Nelder Grove, the afternoon sun really backlit the dogwoods, lighting the leaves up.
At first, we saw a ladybug or two, then saw the air filled with them flying, then saw swarms of them on logs all over the place. Why do they do this? It is called an aggregation. Scientists believe the behavior evolved as a way for a solitary species to reproduce and to cope with a limited winter food supply. After fattening themselves up, and before bedding down for winter, these ladybugs are getting together to take care of some final business — namely, mating … Within the ladybug clumps, the movement is scrambling and unpredictable, not hierarchical as it is in a beehive or ant hill. Scientists think that the females — about half of the population, all of them previously unmated — may be selecting mates amid the chaos.
While researching this blog, I utilized Brenda Negley’s new book “Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias: A Granddaughter’s Stories” for background on the trails and big trees on this hike. It is full of detailed information that I cannot recommend enough if you would like to learn more about this very special place. Her grandparents, William “John” and Marjorie “Marge” Hawksworth, were the first volunteer campground hosts in Nelder Grove and protected it for 20 years from 1975 to 1995. Brenda spent many a summer up there with them, learning their stories and the history. If you would like to purchase your own copy, it is available locally at Branches Books in Oakhurst.
There is a wonderful website maintained by Friends of Nelder Grove that you can access at this link: Friends of Nelder Grove Website. It has maps that you can print out, an interpretive guide that you can download for your visit plus much more.
I think this is a fantastic dog hike. There are a variety of trails, some very level and others with some elevation, to explore. In the summer you might need to bring extra water for your dog because the creeks may be dry. I left Sally home on this hike but it is one of her favorite hikes in the area.
Nelder Grove is located within the Sierra National Forest and they have a link to dogs in the Sierra National Forest called Canine Camper that you can access here. Even though this is not classified as a wilderness area, here is what they have on their website:
Domestic pets are allowed in wilderness areas. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. Pets should either be leashed or under direct voice control. When camping in areas with other visitors, pets should be kept on a leash. Wilderness visitor’s who plan to travel into an adjacent National Park should be aware that National Parks do not permit pets.
We ask the public to remember these rules when taking pets into the wilderness.
- Bury feces.
- Do not tie up dogs and leave them unattended.
- Do not allow dogs to chase wildlife.
- Leave unfriendly or loud dogs at home.
Maps and Profile:
I found a brand new toy to display my hikes and thought you might like to check it out. It will take you on a 3D visualization of the hike through the terrain with me on Doarama. Click here.
Prior Blogs in the Area:
Negley, Brenda L., Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoia: A Grandaughter’s Stories, Otter Bay Books, 2016
Browning, Peter, Sierra Place Names: From Abbot to Zumwalt, Great West Books, 2011