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Snowshoeing from Tenaya Lodge to Chinese Ditch

Low snow and plenty of it would give us an amazing snowshoe adventure from Tenaya Lodge up Big Sandy Road . . . if we could get there. We could not believe how loaded the trees were with the snow and to top that off, Mother Nature provided cinnamon rolls.

Where: Sierra National Forest
Distance: 5.83 miles (but you can go more or less if you want to)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Elevation Range: 5,128′ – 5,402′
Date: February 12, 2019
Topographic Quad Map: Ahwahnee Topographic Quad
Dog Hike? Absolutely!!

We had a tiny window where we could get out on a snow adventure in that low snow. First of all, we could now get out of our driveways. The road was open with chain restrictions but we could get there and the weather had one day before rain would remove that low snow. Chain controls were R2 and Hwy 41 was closed above Fish Camp, but we decided to head up the road, slowly, to enjoy the huge amount of snow before the incoming storm erased it all. So we headed north on Hwy 41 and drove into the entrance of the Tenaya Lodge, parking in the lower parking lot. That parking lot had some snow coverage on it so we put out snow shoes on at the car and walked toward where we could see Jackson Rd./Big Sandy Rd. below us, then we followed some sledder tracks the short distance down to the road which was closed with a gate across it. Sometimes in the past, we have parked off the road at this gate but there just too much snow for that option on this trip.

We started walking up the road toward the Pack Station and we hadn’t headed up too far until this Snowman said howdy to us.

Someone had already broke the trail up the road, so the going was pretty easy. It had been a few days since the last storm deposited new snow and the snow was still clinging tightly in the trees. The overcast day didn’t give us sun for great contrast in our pictures but it still very beautiful and peaceful.

Even trees burned in the Railroad Fire looked pretty in the snow.

And wow, were some of the trees covered in whiteness!

We continued on up the trail, in awe of the snow covered trees. Tracks of animals crossed the trail in places and we studied them, making out squirrels, birds and deer.

We met a man coming back from a snowshoe adventure and now knew who had broken that trail for us. Then the broken trail ended at the stables.

And we needed to do some trail breaking of our own in foot deep snow, not quite snow smoke and not quite Sierra cement but somewhere in between. Until I took a look at the video that I made of me breaking trail, I didn’t realize how much I was huffing and puffing but I sure was. We continued on up to the area where there are some old corrals, chutes and apple orchard. The chutes were so covered in snow that we could barely make them out.

We pondered whether to continue up the road for lunch or have it here and we landed on taking a break for lunch at this spot.

As I walked under the giant oak tree, I looked up at the heavily snow covered limbs and hoped they didn’t break while I walked under them.  I walked really fast to get under the other side.

The day was still young and we were revitalized from the break, deciding to talk up farther to Chinese Ditch, the water diversion ditch that comes off of Big Creek. It is said that Chinese workers originally built this canal and it received it’s local name because of that. The Madera Irrigation District (MID) has pre-1914 rights to divert water from Big Creek (Big Creek Diversion). The Big Creek Diversion originates in Big Creek, a tributary of the Merced River. This Diversion is located just upstream of Fish Camp, Calif., where the water is redirected to flow down Lewis Creek, a tributary of the upper Fresno River. That ditch was beautiful, lined with snow covered trees and some icicles.

As we reached the old cabin, it was so photogenic with that snow. This cabin was utilized by the ditch tender and I would bet many more uses over the years.

We decided to head up along the ditch to see how far we could go.

No one had traveled on this ditchbank since the last snow but we were still up to the adventure.

Heavy snow loaded branches and eventually we would have had to crawl under bent trees and shrubs. Well, we weren’t that committed to continuing on.

So we turned around and headed back the same way we had come in.

I walked along the back side of the old cabin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entire area was just so darn pretty.

We didn’t forget dessert. Cinnamon rolls!  As snow rolled off the hills, it gathered more and more snow, creating these nature-made cinnamon rolls.

Photo by Gail Gilbert

We all had a wonderful day and some good exercise. One of the pluses for this hike, whether it is in the snow or on the dirt, is that it is close by. In the fall, there are oaks that turn beautiful colors and in the spring, the dogwoods put on their show. You can chose to continue up to where Chinese Ditch and Big Creek meet and there is a small waterfall. You can also walk farther up Big Sandy Road, even up to the Nelder Grove, if you wish. Lots of possibilities on this hike!

Dog Hike? Yes

Here are the Sierra National Forest rules for pets from 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.

When in campgrounds, public beaches or on trails local ordinances require pets to be leashed. As a consideration to others, please refrain from taking pets to beach areas to prevent contamination. 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.

  • Clean up after your pet. It will only take a few minutes and there is no single action that will more favorably impress your fellow campers.

Map, Profile and Doarama:

Snowshoeing from Tenaya Lodge to Chinese Ditch Doarama

Snowshoeing from Tenaya Lodge Topographic Map

Snowshoeing from Tenaya Lodge Profile

Sources:

Historical Preservation in Fish Camp Area

Madera Irrigation District

Putnam, Jim, Favorite Hikes of the Sierra Hiking Seniors, July 2010

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Snowshoeing From Fish Camp with Sally and Raven January 31, 2017

Snowshoe Adventure with Sally and Raven at Fish Camp November 17, 2015

 

About Candace Gregory

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