OUTDOORS: Destinations for wilderness seekers

ModestoJune 22, 2013 

Adam Blauert, outdoor columnist

Adam Blauert, outdoor columnist

We all need a lesson in humility once in awhile. Usually, mine come when unforeseen circumstances arise in the outdoors. But last week mine came printed in the newspaper and I put it there myself.

There was some inaccurate information in last week's column about wilderness. I managed to misread some statistics while researching my column and then passed that misunderstanding on to readers.

A reader in Montana alerted me to the mistake, and I can now correct the record.

I was right about how much wilderness there is in the Sierra, but wrong about my rankings of states and their percentage of wilderness.

Here's correct interpretation of the stats I mangled: 52 percent of all wilderness in the United States is in Alaska; but Alaska is so large that only 13.5 percent of the state is wilderness.

California ranks No. 1 in the nation with 14.3 percent of its total land designated wilderness — and has 14 percent of the total wilderness acreage in the U.S. That's remarkable for a state with 38 million people and home to almost 1 in 8 Americans.

Last week I described the Sierra wilderness areas closest to home. This week, I'm looking farther afield.


Northern Wilderness Areas

• Mokelumne Wilderness: Between state highways 4 and 88, this area has more lakes than the nearby Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. It's popular due to its accessibility from the Bay Area and the proximity of several lakes in the Carson Pass area. Read about it at www.sierrawild.gov/wilderness/mokelumne. The Mokelumne Wilderness stretches over parts of Stanislaus, Eldorado and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. For trips starting within Stanislaus National Forest, call (209) 795-1381; for Eldorado, (209) 295-4251; for Humboldt-Toiyabe (775) 882-2766.

• Desolation Wilderness: Southwest of Lake Tahoe, this stunning landscape of nearly 64,000 acres of granite and water is even more popular than the Mokelumne Wilderness. Still, its 64,000 acres are well-worth exploring. Permits can be hard to get on busy summer weekends, but reservations are available on an Internet-based system. Go to www.recreation.gov and search "Desolation Wilderness Permit." You can also call (877) 444-6777.

• Granite Chief Wilderness: This is Tahoe's other major wilderness area. Smaller and with fewer lakes, it sees fewer visitors but still can be busy on summer weekends. Most people head to Five Lakes Basin, but the rest of the wilderness sees few visitors. Unlike most other Sierra wilderness areas, permits are not required for overnight use. Check out www.sierrawild.gov/wilderness/granite-chief or call (530) 587-3558.

• Bucks Lake Wilderness: The northernmost of Sierra wilderness areas, Bucks Lake Wilderness is one of the smaller wildernesses, though it offers almost 25,000 acres area of peaks, forests and lakes with relatively easy day hiking and overnight backpacking opportunities within Plumas National Forest. Go to www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsm9_034794.pdf or call (530) 283-0555.


Southern Wilderness Areas

• John Muir Wilderness: Named for the 19th century conservationist most responsible for protection of the Sierra Nevada, this gigantic 581,000-acre wilderness is south of Yosemite and the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Rugged and extremely scenic, it wraps around the eastern edge of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks all the way south to Lone Pine. Go to www.sierrawild.gov/ wilderness/john-muir.

For information about parts of the wilderness within Sierra National Forest, call (559) 297-0706. For those in Inyo National Forest, call 760-873-2400.

• Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness: Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are managed as a single unit and more than 90 percent of their nearly 900,000 acres is designated wilderness. This huge area includes some of the steepest and roughest terrain in the Sierra, with elevations reaching 14,000 feet and hundreds of beautiful subalpine and alpine lakes. Go to www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit /wilderness.htm or call (559) 565-3766.

• Kaiser Wilderness: Rising over the north shore of Huntington Lake, the small Kaiser Wilderness is dominated by 10,320-foot Kaiser Peak. Twin Lakes and George Lake are the most popular destinations; the other trails see very few people. Go to www.sierrawild.gov/ wilderness/kaiser or call (559) 855-5360.

• Dinkey Lakes Wilderness: East of Fresno, this wilderness area can be quite popular, but it offers some relatively easy trails to subalpine lakes. It can also surprise you. Last July we had easily accessible Mystery Lake all to ourselves on a weekend. To learn more, go to www.sierrawild.gov/wilderness/ dinkey-lakes or call (559) 855-5360.

• Jennie Lakes Wilderness: Another small wilderness area east of Fresno, Jennie Lakes offers two major lakes connected by a moderately challenging loop trail. Go to www.sierrawild.gov/wilderness/ jennie-lakes or call (559) 338-2251.

• Golden Trout Wilderness: The southernmost alpine lakes of the Sierra are the home of native Sierra golden trout. This wilderness also boasts over 100 miles of streams and comprises 300,000 acres spread over Sequoia and Inyo National Forests. Go to www.sierrawild.gov/wilderness/ golden-trout. Call (559) 784-1500 if you plan to start your backpacking trip in Sequoia National Forest or (760) 873-2400 if you plan to start in Inyo National Forest.

The least visited wilderness areas in the Sierra are the lakeless ones at the southern end of the range: South Sierra, Sacatar Trail, Domeland, Chimney Peak, Owens Peak, Kiavah, and Bright Star. The Monarch Wilderness, another rough and lakeless region east of Fresno, also sees few visitors.


Adam Blauert is a coorespondent to the Sun-Star. He's an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, backpacking and exploring the western states. He can be reached at adamblauert@yahoo.com.

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