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Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill Loop Along Sunny and O’Neals Meadows

Walking up historic wagon roads near my house on a cool day after a rain was a party for my senses, full of fresh smells of the forest and flowers. Dogwoods were blooming like crazy and those animal tracks were easy to spot while the gnats and skeeters slept in.

Distance: 10.62 Miles (but you can go shorter or longer)
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 3,416′ to 4,861′
Date: May 20, 2020
Maps: Ben Hur and Daulton Topographic Maps
Dog Hike: Maybe

It was a cooler day when I got my start and everything was smelling so nice after a couple days of rain. No gnats or mosquitoes on my walk but I came prepared just in case. I started my walk across from the Worman’s Mill, parking off the road in a wide spot at the intersection of Road 601 and Worman Road, making sure I wasn’t blocking anyone and I walked up the road. I headed up Worman Road which turns into N-6S24. I hadn’t walked too far until I came to the first road that branched off from the road, 5S16, and I took it to the left.

I had taken a walk up in this area every week since April 12 and it was very interesting to see the changes in the vegetation as spring was waking up the bushes and wildflowers. Things were changing each and every week and this week showy milkweed was getting ready to open its flowers up.

The deerbrush had been blooming the week before but looked very different on this day because it was still weighted down with the rain.

Wallflowers were just starting to bloom. Did you know that they belong to the mustard family? Butterflies love this plant.

As I gained elevation on the road, I caught a glimpse of the pond at Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spotted this Twining Brodiaea that had wrapped itself around a poison oak branch, giving it a strange look like it was a sunflower. I wasn’t about to walk out in the poison oak to get a better picture, so this is as good as it got.

I missed out on seeing the poppies in the Merced River Canyon this year and the tarweed gave me the closest thing to them with their explosion of yellow colors massed in a few areas. I will soon be mowing and weedeating a bunch of this.

As I continued to walk up the road, I could see part of Hensley Lake.

And the road led on.

I continued up the road that started working its way around the north aspect of the country I had been hiking these past weeks.

I had been walking through old burn areas but it had been a while since I had seen a Penny Pines Plantation. Depending on how hot a fire burns and how much seed survives, it may recover naturally but sometimes it needs a little help and that is how Penny Pines helps. Here is a little bit of history:

The first Penny Pines plantation was sponsored in 1941 by the San Francisco Sports-women’s Association to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in northern California. Since that contribution, the number of participating groups and individuals has grown each year. They include such organizations as the Garden and Women’s Clubs, Boy and Girl Scouts of America, civic and sports clubs, and many others.

At the start of the program in 1941, seedlings could be produced for about one cent each. Approximately 680 seedlings were used to plant a typical acre. For $68.00, seedlings for ten acres could be purchased. Site preparation and planting costs were met through regular Forest Service appropriations.

The Penny Pines program was so successful that money contributed to purchase seedlings soon far exceeded appropriated funds available for site preparation and for the actual planting job. In 1964, the original cooperative agreement was rewritten to provide that funds contributed under the Penny Pines program be used for reforestation, rather than solely for purchasing seedlings.

Over the years groups have contributed more than a million dollars to the Penny Pines Reforestation Program. Through these donations, more than 27 million of seedlings have been planted, renewing 88,000 acres of national forest land in California. If you are interested in learning more information about donating to Penny Pines, you can lean more here.

As I worked my way along the north aspect of the hill, I started seeing different flowers such as wild roses blooming and this ragged looking guy. It had hailed the evening before and it looks like it took a beating.

And I could soon spot Signal Peak (Devil’s Peak) Lookout, located at 7079 feet in elevation. It has been closed for several years now due to Forest Service funding cutbacks. The only access to the tower is by hiking up to it.

Signal Peak Lookout was originally constructed in 1900 as a compass lookout. In 1911 it was rebuilt as a 12′ x 16′ cabin by Ray Smithers. It had windows on all four sides and a phone was installed. In 1916 a octagonal second story was added to the cabin. In 1926 a 4AR type house was constructed. The 14′ x 14′ wood hip roofed lookout house had a steep 12/12 pitch roof with 2 pane windows and door in the center of the wall. In 1951 the lookout was rebuilt in the current configuration as it is today. The C-3(L) type tower is a 14′ x 14′ hip roofed wood tower standing on a 10′ x 10′ concrete block base.

Wild iris were blooming and full of bugs helping to pollinate them.

I reached the junction of 5S12, although there wasn’t a sign. This is the junction where the road also goes down toward Cold Springs and there was a restoration sign, warning about vehicle use in this area that could cause damage. There was also a sign at the junction for the road I had walked up, 5S16, and I turned right at the sign. Here are a few pictures to help you in case you are planning on following in my footsteps.

There were many early routes into Wawona. One of those was up from Cold Springs (now referred to as Ponderosa Basin)  up what is now called Chowchilla Mountain Road, but there were deviations off of it such as the road I was walking.

The road was lined with old trees that had been taken down.

And now the dogwood show began!

Other flowers such as False Solomon Seal were along the road in small drainages.

The road that I was walking skirted the east side of Sunny Meadows, private property, and it was well signed. The recent rain was not kind to the next part of this road, with some serious wet spots and recent rutting caused by this storm. A high clearance 4WD should be able to make it uphill, but not sure about other cars. Warmer weather should dry this spot out pretty quick though.

About the time I was taking a picture of the gate, I heard some crashing in the brush ahead of me toward Sunny Meadows and my first thought was bear. And I soon saw bear tracks coming down the road toward me. This bear was a different one from the one that whose tracks I followed a few weeks ago, much smaller but not a baby. I didn’t see or hear any more of it.

I made it to the junction of 5S12, turning right, where I skirted O’Neals Meadow located on my left. I continued wandering toward the south end on the meadow and then to 5S12X.

I could soon see those familiar views looking toward Ahwahnee.

And views into Mariposa county.

I tied in with N-6S24/Worman Road which led me back to my car. People activity is picking up in this area although I didn’t see anyone on my walk. I like to hit the trail early so that is probably one big reason. But I have heard that on the weekends, it was kind of crazy with people on motorcycles and 4 wheelers, but that was also Memorial Day weekend with other areas for hiking and riding options limited. As a reminder:

Courtesy Sierra National Forest

Dog Hike? Maybe

This could be a good dog hike if your dog is a good fit. The road is lightly traveled by vehicles so you would need to keep an eye open for a vehicle coming around one of the curves. I would imagine in the summer that you could run into a rattlesnake out here also. This is mountain lion country, along with other wildlife that you could encounter. There were a couple of areas with running water on my hike but it probably dries up in summer, so you would probably need to pack dog water.

Doarama:

What is a Doarama?  It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Worman’s Mill to Sunny & O’Neals Meadow Loop Doarama

Map and Profile:

Worman’s Mill Along Sunny and O’Neals Meadows Loop Topographic Map

Motor Vehicle Use Map (Sierra National Forest Maps & Publications)

Worman’s Mill Along Sunny and O’Neals Meadows Loop Profile

Sources:

Dubel, Zelda Garey, To Yosemite by Stage, Zulu.com, Third Edition, 2011.

Greene, Linda, YOSEMITE: THE PARK AND ITS RESOURCES; A History of the Discovery, Management, and Physical Development of Yosemite National Park, California, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, September 1987

Penny Pines

Signal Peak Lookout

USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer

BLM General Land Office Records

Samuel L. Hogan Find a Grave

Mariposa Gazette, April 30, 1921

Trulia Listing

Realter.com Listing

Prior Blogs in this Area:

 

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to O’Neals Meadow Loop May 5, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to the Lone Sequoia April 28, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to Pilot Peak April 22, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to O’Neals Meadow April 15, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to Sunny Meadows April 10, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill and Beyond March 31, 2020

In Search of the Lone Sequoia February 13, 2015

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