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Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to Pilot Peak

You might wonder what walking up a dirt road, an American Black Bear and Yogi Berra might have in common. Made perfect sense to me as I walked up a dirt road close to home to a high point to check out the views.

Distance: About 8 Miles (but you can go shorter or longer)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Range: 3,418′ to 5,230′
Date: April 22, 2020
Maps: Ben Hur and Daulton Topographic Maps
Dog Hike: Maybe

While I am adventuring close to home, you might be wondering how many different walks up a dirt road I will take from Worman’s Mill. Well, here is another one and it is up to the highest spot around my house. I started my walk across from 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 headed up the road about 7 am. There is a reason I started earlier in the morning and that was to avoid people and gnats, which I achieved on this day.

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 couldn’t help but watch the dusty road for tracks and there were plenty of lizard and snake tracks, a reminder that the rattlesnakes are active.

In the week since I last walked up this road, new blooms were happening.

I really love those sneak peeks of views as I climb up this road.

I took the road marked 5S12X on the right. The marker indicated that cars were not allowed and there is a reason for that. They would not get too far up that road and if they did venture up, there is no turn around where they would get into trouble. Quads and motorcycles had traveled the road though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I got past the muddy part, I took a little break to admire the view.

And there were areas with large trees down across the road. There were work arounds for these areas for motorcycles, some quads and horses. As I looked up, I could also see many standing dead trees, a reminder that this area would not be a good one to hike when there is some wind and attention is needed just in case one of those trees decided to come down with no wind.

 

After I topped off on this road and started heading slightly downhill, I reached the junction of 5S12 and you know what Yogi Berra said.  ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” And I turned left.

 

 

I had spotted really fresh bear scat before I hit 5S12, but I was soon following fresh bear tracks up the road. It kind of looked this this bear was headed where I was headed. I took a picture of my size 10’s to compare with the bear’s print. They looked pretty decent sized to me. American black bears are fairly common in this area. Their color are usually a brownish but can be more blond or even reddish color. The average adult male is about 250 pounds and average adult female is about 150 pounds. “You can observe a lot by watching.” I kept my senses a little more tuned to watching or hearing this bear but never spotted him.

There is something about hiking alone. You get to a point where you kind of daydream a bit and it doesn’t take much to get your brain thinking about funny things. Seeing the bear signs made me think of Yogi Berra and that made me thing about how many of his sayings I could come up with that meshed with my adventure, so be warned. And for those of you who do not know who this man was, he was a baseball catcher, then a manager and coach. He is also known for his statements such as such as ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over.When asked about his sayings, he said, “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

I continued about 3/10th of a mile to the signpost marked 5S12. The reason I share this is because the road that I took to the left does not have a sign on it but it starts near where this sign was. There is also a bunch of old junk piled up next to a tree. This is adjacent to a main road junction that can take you up to Sunny Meadows or back down along Silver Knob.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is about 4/10 of a mile from the junction of the road that turns more trail-ish to the very top. The beginning of the road is a gentle grade.

The road started getting pretty steep and rutted. I gained 350 feet of elevation in that short distance and most of it in the last 1/10th of a mile.

I soon made it to the top of Pilot Peak (elevation 5,240′). The manzanita was pretty high and that limited my picture taking and views but it was still well worth the effort and very pretty.

At the highest point, a small pile of rocks had been used as a campfire at some point and there was evidence that people cutt down some of the manzanita and trees in the past, maybe to get a better view.

I headed back down and the pictures going down show the steepness in this short stretch of the road/trail towards the top.

Once I reached the junction at the bottom, I headed back the way I had come in. Well, mostly. I decided to deviate from the main road and take 5S12XA, known on some maps as Pilot Saddle A Spur. Last week I had gone down this short spur road from the other side to check out the possibility of using it to go to Pilot Peak because I wouldn’t lose any elevation. But the beginning had so many downed trees that I would have to get over, I ditched that idea for today’s adventure. But I was curious. What if those down trees were only at the beginning and it was clearer towards the other side? There were plenty of use signs on this side so I gave it a try.

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.” I ended up walking up about 2/10th of a mile then turned around. Motorcycles had gone up it and there were plenty of down trees, but there were work arounds for those. Someone had done a lot of work cutting the down trees to allow a trail. I walked through a patch with blackberries that will be overgrown by summer, then the motorcycle use got less. I figured the motorcycles continuing in probably tied in with another road a bit farther. Since I was alone, I decided I better go back and not risk it.

Once I made my way back to the roads I had come in on, I retraced my steps and back to those great views.

When I took the overgrown 5S12XA, I must have picked up a hitchhiking tick because I found it when I got home. I recommend you check yourself out to make sure you don’t carry a hitchhiker.

You know the old Yogi Berra saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” You’ve got to be very careful in this area because conditions could have changed from when I wrote this blog with more of those down trees blocking some of the roads.

If you plan on going on this adventure, I recommend you take a good map with you and know how to read it. Those down trees that you may need to go around could take you onto a spur road or old logging road. Some of the roads may be missing their signs because down trees have knocked them over. I wanted to give you a heads up because I don’t want you to get lost and have to call Search and Rescue out to find you when you get lost. None of our adventures during these times should jeopardize someone else’s safety to come rescue you.

I have had people ask me if trails were open in the Sierra National Forest and they updated their release on April 29:

Sierra National Forest Update on Recreation Closures – April 29, 2020

Contact(s): Alex Olow


On March 25, 2020, Regional Forester Randy Moore issued a Closure Order No. 20-02 for all developed recreation sites across all National Forests in the Region including the Sierra National Forest (SNF).  This closure order is likely to be in place through the middle of May. Additional details will follow later this week.

The USDA Forest Service’s highest priority is ensuring our employees, local communities, and visitors remain safe as we support mission critical functions for the people and communities we serve.

Areas that are closed for visitor use are developed recreation areas in the forest such as campgrounds, picnic areas (including all tables, bbq/fire pits), bathrooms, and water stations, paved parking areas, and boat launch ramps. 

This closure does exclude hiking trails, areas that function as a trailhead for dispersed recreation, and dispersed camping. When choosing parking locations for your recreation please do so with care. Choose a location that is clear of the roadway, and not causing damage to forest resources. 

While these specific areas remain open for use, we recommend complying with local and state guidance and not traveling for your recreation needs. 

If you do plan on visiting the SNF please be aware that:

• YOU SHOULD AVOID HIGH-RISK ACTIVITIES – Law enforcement and/or search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High-risk activities such as backcountry activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided.

• NO TRASH removal is currently offered – please pack out all trash and waste www.int.org

• ALL TOILET FACILITIES are currently closed – please plan accordingly. All human waste and tissues should be placed in a plastic bag and taken with you – LEAVE NO TRACE www.lnt.org. 

• AVOID Large Gatherings – If an area is crowded, please search for a less occupied location

Forest officials would like to provide these TREAD LIGHTLY principles to ALL visitors to the National Forest:

T – Travel Responsibly, obey the rules of the road or trails

R – Respect the Rights of Others, please practice physical distancing

E – Educate Yourself, know before you go… www.lnt.org 

A – Avoid Sensitive Areas – do not create your own trails, or parking areas.

D – Do Your Part – call ahead to determine where you can go. View the forest webpage www.fs.usda.gov/sierra to become informed, use the interactive map to locate your destination.

Closing any site for any reason is not one we take lightly, but protecting our visitors and employees remains our highest priority. We are working with our state and local partners to determine the best path forward to safely reopening closed sites. 

Thank you for your cooperation. For specific details, on areas that are closed please look to our webpage www.fs.usda.gov/sierra. Or, please contact one of our forest virtual offices.

• Bass Lake Ranger District Office – 559-877-2218, open Mon-Fri 8 am – 4:30 pm.

• High Sierra Ranger District Office – 559-855-5355, open Mon-Fri 8 am – 4:30 pm.

• Forest Supervisors Office – 559-297-0706, open Mon-Fri 8 am – 4:30 pm.

 

I have some sad news to report concerning my GPS stats this week.  My battery went dead and I didn’t realize it, leaving a section of my hike without GPS data. Instead of trying to draw in the missing data, I decided to just show half of it. It think you will get the picture pretty good from that.

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.

Pilot Peak to Worman’s Mill Doarama

Map and Profile:

Pilot Peak to Worman’s Mill Topographic Map

Pilot Peak to Worman’s Mill Profile (1 Way, Return Trip from Pilot PEak to Worman’s Mill)

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

Bears Yosemite National Park

In the Heart of the Sierras by James M. Hutchings (1888)

Old Maps Online

Prior Blogs in this Area:

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

 

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Sierra News Online

Sierra News Online