In the months since the end of the Rim fire, Stanislaus National Forest employees have been working hard to get the forest on the road to recovery and to reopen as many areas as possible.
After a fire with the intensity of this one, there’s a lot of clean-up, stabilization and repair to do. Hazard trees are being removed, the holes left by burned stumps are being filled, boundaries between safe and unsafe areas are being marked, and damaged features such as picnic tables and signs are being replaced.
This process has been completed at several popular areas, including the Rainbow Pool, Carlon and Middle Fork Day Use Areas. The Diamond O, Lost Claim, Lumsden, Lumsden Bridge and Sweetwater campgrounds have also been reopened, in addition to the Merals Pool Boat Launch. The Rim of the World Vista on Highway 120 has been open since the fire and remains open.
Some hazards still remain, especially in the areas outside of these developed recreation sites. If you visit, look out for the caution signs.
Salvage logging will begin later this month along Highway 120. Dead and dangerous trees will be removed and, although scorched on the outside, many can still serve an economic and material usefulness as lumber.
Many seasonal roads are open and others will likely reopen as work progresses. If you plan on making a trip, it’s a good idea to call the ranger station in advance to verify conditions and road status:
• Calaveras Ranger District (Highway 4): (209) 795-1381
• Groveland Ranger District (Highway 120): (209) 962-7825
• Mi-Wok Ranger District (lower elevations of Highway 108): (209) 586-3234
• Summit Ranger District (higher elevations of Highway 108): (209) 965-3434
I haven’t had much time to visit the reopened areas yet, but I hope to in the near future. Although the landscape will take a long time to recover, I am curious to see how bad the damage is and what elements of the landscape may have avoided total devastation. While much of the landscape may be unappealing for some years to come, there are still ways to enjoy the burned areas, such as rafting the Tuolumne River. The following companies are offering guided trips on the river this summer – a great way to cool off on a hot day and see this wild and ferocious river in a truly different light:
• All-Outdoors: www.aorafting.com, (800) 247-2387
• ARTA River Trips: www.arta.org/tuolumne, (800) 323-2782
• OARS: www.oars.com/california, (800) 346-6277
• Whitewater Voyages: www.whitewatervoyages.com, (800) 400-7238
• Zephyr Whitewater: www.zrafting.com, (800) 431-3636
Speaking of rafting, guided adventures are available on the Merced River this year as well. All of the companies listed above offer Merced trips. The only safe way to enjoy rafting a river is with a professional guide service. I had an unforgettable trip with Zephyr on the Merced last spring. Raft trips may seem pricy, but they are worth every penny.
Due to the drought, the rafting season will be shorter this year, especially on the Merced River. Although the drought is causing all kinds of hardships for cities and farmers, our mild and dry winter did prevent one of the worst post-fire scenarios in the Rim fire burn area: massive landslides and mudslides.
In addition to reopenings in the Stanislaus National Forest, all of the burned areas are now open in Yosemite as well, though hazards may be present. If you are planning a wilderness trip into northwestern Yosemite, call the park for more information about conditions. The only trail that is currently closed within the park is the route between Wapama Fall and Rancheria Falls. You can get from Hetch Hetchy to Wapama, but the trail is closed by rockfall beyond that point.
All of the Sierra highways are now open, and many back roads are as well. Kaiser Pass is scheduled to open on May 20.
Adam Blauert is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, backpacking and exploring the western states. He can be reached at email@example.com.