The feel of fall was in the air as we headed out for Sing Peak in the Sierra National Forest. Bright red and yellow colors popped up along our cross country hike, while gusty winds and old cabins played an important part in our hike.
Where: Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra National Forest
Distance: 7.55 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 8.031′ – 10,285′
Date: September 25, 2014
Maps: Merced Peak Topographic Quad
Chinese people played a very important role in shaping the area where we live. Whether it was in the local mines, on the construction of the Wawona Road in 1875 and the Tioga Road in 1882, the Chinese labor made these huge endeavors a realty. Did you know that 250 Chinese Americans built the Tioga Road, which was originally built for the Great Sierra Consolidated Silver Company’s mining ventures at Dana City and Bennettville in 1882?
For 28 years, a Chinese Chef named Ty (also spelled Ti and Tie) Sing ran a field kitchen for the Chief Geographer of the United States Geological Survey, Robert Marshall. In 1915, Ty Sing was handpicked by Marshall to cook for the famous Stephen Mather and his mountain expedition that included 18 powerful men from the private and public sector.
This expedition is credited with helping support the development of National Parks. As a result of these meals that Ty Sing cooked on this expedition that journeyed to our surrounding mountains and what would later become Sequoia National Park, the men from this expedition called Tie Sing “a gourmet chef of the Sierra” and “philosopher of the Sierras.”This expedition’s incredible detail is captured in “The Mather Mountain Party 1915”, including what Ty Sing served at meals and his secret method to get his sourdough to rise. I highly recommend that you read this because it paints such a colorful picture of their life on the trail during this journey. You can access it online here.
The below picture of the Mather Mountain Party is from PBS.org (link at end of Blog). Notice the white linen tablecloth and Ty Sing in his Chief’s apron.
Sing Peak is named in honor of this man named Ty Sing, who was the head chef for the first director of the National Park Service and an inspiration that helped create the National Park Service that we know today.
I tried to track Ty Sing through census, immigration records or other historical records. Due to the various spellings of his name, I don’t feel comfortable that I located him. Was he the Tay Sing, born 1865, that arrived in San Francisco in May 1888? Or was he Tie Sing, born 1867 in China, who is on the 1920 census as a Merchant in a General Store at Rutherford, Napa County, California? How about the Tie Sing, born 1865, who died July 18, 1918 in San Benito, California? Or is he Ty Sing King, who is working for the Central Pacific Railroad in California in 1866? Perhaps a more talented researcher has located more information about this amazing man who helped in establishing our National Parks.
Onward, we began our journey to Sing Peak. We headed up Beasore Road, turning left on 5S04, past the Chiquito Pass Trailhead. The road was starting to look a little rough, with some big rocks that could make for difficult driving, even with the 4WD vehicle we were in this day. Not knowing what the road looked like farther ahead, we opted to park the car 1 ½ miles shy of the end of the road. We walked on the road, deviating along Klette Meadow then cross country up to an area near where the end of the road was.
We caught our first glimpses of Sing Peak. It is that grey mountain behind the reddish mountain.
We soon hit a boulder field full of chinkapin that made the going slow, then decided to quit that and move down the hill where it was easier going along some timber. We lost a little elevation by doing that but it was much faster going.
Each hike is always full of surprises and when we came across this patch of a plant that had brilliant red stems and white fluffy seed pods, I had to take a picture. I had no idea what this plant this was, but Joanna Clines, Botonist with the Sierra National Forest, knew exactly what it was. It is fireweed! I had never seen it in this stage.
We paralleled the East Fork of Chiquito Creek, crossing several small creeks and boggy areas along the way. It was surprising that in this drought year that they were still as wet as they were. This beautiful small lake was also a nice surprise. How pretty!
We started our ascent up Sing Peak and the winds started picking up.
The wind gust were about 50 mph and although they weren’t steady winds, it was really hard for me to keep standing when they gusted. Along with the uneven ground I was on and the exposure, I opted to stay where I was and Steve continued on up to the peak. I was only a few hundred feet from the top but was afraid that if I stood up with one of those gusts, I would lose my footing and be blown off the mountain. I had a pretty darn nice view from where I was hunkered down though. I bundled up more and ate my lunch while I waited for Steve.
And these were my closer views, up toward where I chickened out climbing higher in those wind gusts. Even close up, some vegetation, nestled in the rocks, had already started its winter’s sleep.
Steve took some pictures of his view from the top of Sing Peak. He even got a picture of Chittenden Lake. (Next 7 pictures were taken by Steve Humphrey)
We started headed down and it was much easier that the climb up had been.
On the way down, we had a little more time to explore. A deep layer of small pine cones was beautiful.
Fireweed, with bright red leaves. You can catch a glimpse of some that are white and fluffy with their seed pods in the background.
We had seen these old cabins from a distance on our way up but hadn’t stopped. We had some time now to explore them. One of them was flat on the ground with interesting remnants of its heyday. One item has me perplexed though. What in the heck is this square metal thing with holes in it on a base?
The other cabin was in much better shape, although it had a serious lean going on.
The old wood was beautiful but we could see that the cabin had been repaired over the years with newer wood in places.
On the last night of the Mather Mountain Party’s expedition, they were served another wonderful dinner by Ty Sing but this time, Sing had something special for each of them. He had made a special dessert that was a pastry that hid a “future fortune” for each member. Sing had personally written small notes in both Chinese and English, and this is where his title of “Philosopher of the Sierra” came from. I think it is fitting that he chose the following for Robert Marshall, something that I take pleasure leaving with us all: “Long may you search the mountains.”