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Kibbie Ridge Trail Clearing Project

BCHC Mid Valley Unit

We cleared the trail to Kibbie Ridge in two weekends in August, 2012.
All photos courtesy of Ernie Warzyca.
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Scouting what has to be done

Scouting what has to be done


Rocks and logs

Rocks and logs


The trail

The trail


Hard at work with the cross-cut saw

Hard at work with the cross-cut saw


Finished result of the cross-cut saw

Finished result of the cross-cut saw


More cross-cutting to do

More cross-cutting to do


More cross-cutting done

More cross-cutting done


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Kibbie Ridge Trail Clearing Project

by Ernie Warzyca

This past summer BCHC Mid Valley Unit volunteer trail clearing crews made two trips to Kibbie Ridge Trail to remove trees that came down on the trail since our last clearing effort in summer 2011. The purpose of this first 2012 trip was to make a one-day effort to clear the Kibbie Ridge Trail from the trailhead, just above Cherry Lake, to just below Lookout Point where the Yosemite National Park Wilderness and Emigrant Wilderness boundaries meet. Thus, the area we are working in on this trip is outside the wilderness boundaries and the use of power equipment (chainsaws) is permitted. As with all of these projects, this trip was interesting and fun and ultimately turned out to be quite eventful as well!

I met Dan Prine at his house and we headed over to Dennis Serpa's so we could all ride together. Dennis brought his horse, "Red," for me to ride, as I don't own a horse. Thanks, Dennis! I thought it was going to be an uneventful trip to the trailhead. We got an early start, heading out about 6 a.m. All seemed normal until we got into the mountains and Dennis' truck started having transmission and brake problems. The tranny was getting hot and wouldn't shift right. The engine has an exhaust brake and it wasn't working either. Still we continued on, getting close to our destination. Dennis then noticed his horse trailer wasn't tracking right so he pulled over to check things over. The right side was riding low and the problem was soon located. The rocker between the springs had snapped allowing the trailer to drop down onto the springs. The drop of the trailer was arrested by the trailer frame coming to rest on the springs. The tires were not dragging on the fenders, and so, since we were so close to our destination, we decided to continue on to the trailhead.

We unloaded, packed up and headed up the trail. All was good. The downed trees we encountered were mostly small ones, only 12 inches or so in diameter, and easy to clear. The air, however, was very hot and still which made the work exhausting.

It was going very nicely until, just before the Yosemite Park Wilderness boundary, we encountered a large tree that had fallen directly in line with the trail and broken up into four, six-to-eight-foot segments. There was a large granite boulder the size of a truck on one side and a steep bank on the other. Lucky for us, we were in "chainsaw land," so we were able to cut the tree into three-foot segments and roll them out of the way. All went great.

We accomplished what we needed to so that next week, when we returned for Kibbie Ridge Two, we could ride unhindered clear to the wilderness boundary and start our work from there. For the second trip we will be limited to using hand-powered crosscut saws and, therefore, we will leave the chainsaw at home.

And the next week . . .

This trip was going to be great. Our crew included Dennis Serpa ("our leader"), his brother Buddy, Dan Prine, Bob Cooper, Dennis Wetherington, "Doc" Craig Brooks, and me. We would start where we left off last week and hoped to get at least to Sache Springs to camp for the night, clearing all the way to Styx Pass. Bob Cooper arrived the day before us and did a reconnaissance ride during which he had a little mishap and pulled his hamstring muscle. Thinking he was alright, he helped us pack up and head out just to find he had to turn back because his injury was more serious than he'd thought. So sorry, Bob. We wish you could have come with us but we would rather have you safe. Take care. We hope you heal fast.

We planned to cut as we rode then, when we got close to camp some would ride ahead to set up camp and some would cut our way to camp. This worked great because we arrived in camp in time to clean up, take care of the horses, eat some dinner, and lay out our sleeping bags before dark, thanks to the guys who rode ahead. The sky was blue and the temperature was perfect until around 11 p.m. when it started to sprinkle. Most of the crew had canvas bag covers so the rain wouldn't bother them much. Dennis Wetherington and I had what you might call "sponge bags" (sleeping bags that suck every drop of water that comes close and soak you to the bone). This meant I had to do something so I fumbled in the dark for my tent fly. Like that was going to work! The rain was coming down harder and covering my head to keep my pillow dry made it a sauna inside my tent. Then I remembered. Ha! My tent has an external frame and the fly will stake down and hold securely even if the wind picked up. I got it set up before I got too wet and yelled over to Dennis, "Hey, Dennis, are you getting wet?" He said "Yeah, my tarp is too short and it's not looking so good." So we both got under my tent fly and suddenly all was good again. "Let it rain!"

The next morning we got up in the rain, cooked breakfast, packed up, and by the time we got back on the trail the rain was gone and the sun was back out. The ride to Lourdes Meadow was nice. We cleared the last few trees as we went along until we came upon a big tree that had fallen in line with the trail. When I say "big" I mean three-feet in diameter. The lucky part was it was rotted enough that it was cracked mostly through, about six feet off the trail with the rest about 20 feet in the trail. Well, that looks like a job for the grip hoist, better known as "Rip Hoist," and did it work! Well, not at first. We broke the sheer pin but the tree was moving. We replaced the pin and added the sheave block to double the pulling power. The tree gave at the crack and pulled off the trail. That was easy!

Now we could proceed down the granite staircase to Lourdes Meadow. As we arrived at the crossing into the meadow it looked as if there had never been a trail there! Back at camp we ran into a Forestry guy that said it was cleared just last year! Well, you could have fooled me. There were four foot tall ferns, brush and trees, criss-crossed on top of each other, so thick you had to crawl on your hands and knees just to find an old cut to determine the path. It was like that from creek edge to our next camp on the other end of the meadow.

We needed to set up camp. This time we weren't getting caught in the rain so we set up the kitchen, complete with nice, big tarp cover, our tents, high lines for the horses and mules, and a nice fire ring. With that done we had a really nice dinner and enjoyed sitting around the fire before going to bed, confident we would be warm and dry, as it turned out there was to be no more rain.

The next morning we got up, had breakfast and started on the tangle. To our surprise, with teamwork, we got through it pretty quickly. I think we got done about one o'clock, so that left us enough time to head up to Huckleberry. There were only half a dozen trees between camp and the granite, so off we went, making good time to the granite. Then we lost the trail and split. Half of us were on horseback and half were on foot. The riders went high, looking for a pass through the upper saddle. Those on foot went down along the creek where it seemed to be the bad option. We met on the other side of the knoll, still unable to find the trail. Doc went to the other side of the creek and found the trail. Dennis Wetherington led the horse guys safely across the creek to the trail. I went up the trail and Doc went down to find where it came out at the point where we had lost it.

The trail had plenty of saplings and small hazards in it which we didn't clear on the way up. As we got up to where the trail crossed the creek again and the trail was easier to see, I stopped and waited for Dennis and Doc to catch up while the horse crew continued on. When Doc showed up we decided to take a swim in this nice pool before going ahead. We figured we would stay in the creek as a shortcut and catch up to the others just below Huckleberry. We had only one canteen and it was only half full. The water was on the horses.

When we got around to where we intersected the trail again we soon realized tracks were going both directions. Oh, oh! They had already turned around. We wondered why. We went up the trail to find that it was very narrow; too narrow for packs. It was steep and the rocks were jagged. It wouldn't be wise to bring a string of pack mules through, so we stopped and headed back, rationing the water in caps full until we got back to the swimming hole and jumped back in to hydrate. We couldn't drink the water but it felt very nice and gave us an energy boost. We worked our way back, cutting out the saplings and hazards and marking the trail as we went until we made it back to camp, hot and thirsty. We felt good that we had accomplished everything we wanted to. That night was steak night and, boy, was it good! What a great trail job and what a great crew! There couldn't be a better bunch of guys to work with than these and, of course, thanks to our leader, Dennis Serpa.

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