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Rambles through the Brambles - Suwanee Grove Bushwack

San Lorenzo...
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Rambles through the Brambles - Suwanee Grove Bushwack

Hi, All - so after searching the internet, asking on backpack / hiking forums and coming up basically empty, my adult son (Nick) and I did a cross-country bushwack from General's Highway into the Suwanee Grove at Sequoia NP on Friday September 22, 2017. It was about 1.2 miles each way to the northern edge of the grove, and about 750 feet elevation loss outbound, 750 feet gain back. No trails, although remnants of the ancient official trail from Halstead Meadow to the Grove were found after crossing Suwanee Creek at the halfway mark. We followed those old traces as best we could, but a good Topo map and GPS helped quite a bit.

It had just rained and snowed the day before, so the going was often slippery and unstable, especially on fallen wood and branches.

We began at about 10:10 am at the first bend in the road about 1.2 miles west of Halstead meadow, where a small pullout is available at the top of a lightly forested ridge just east of Suwanee Creek whose downhill end is at a crossing of Suwanee Creek, 0.6 miles southward and downward. We set off in a near due-south direction down this ridgetop, veering off-center as necessary to avoid excessively steep sections and the worst terrain and downfall. At this time, it must be noted that, steep or not, the going was not like a trail walk. We pushed through spacious, dense masses of spiny buckthorn, manzanita and other plants, frequently having to climb over large partially rotting logs and walking over very slick downfall branches. Even downhill, it was quite a workout.

After reaching an open granite slope near the bottom of this ridgeline, one of several along the way down, we crossed Suwanee Creek at a good spot and then proceeded a little more SWesterly, around the noses of the ridge on the west side of Suwanee Creek. It was along this section that we were able to pick up traces of the old Halstead-Suwanee-Crystal Cave Trail and use them to some advantage - but the going was not much easier, as the terrain, which had leveled out just a little, was still frequently choked with fallen logs, brush, wet downfall and shattered stumps.

In this area, the map and GPS helped quite a lot, because the forest had become thicker and line of sight was very limited. After a total of perhaps 80-minutes (about 1 mile per hour), we arrived at a spot where we could see the rounded tops of mature sequoia trees through the upper forest crown. We made our way steeply downhill,. and at 1.25 miles or so arrived at the first sequoias on the northerly edge of the Grove.

On a map, the Grove is shaped like a U that opens upslope and toward the west, wrapping around a granite knoll that separates the N and S halves of the grove. Along both arms of the U, the map shows small streams that intersect near the base of the grove before flowing southward into Suwanee Creek.. The Grove overall is about 80 - 100 acres, but seeing the whole thing would require an extra loop walk of perhaps about 3 miles through fairly steep and overgrown terrain.

The trees in this area, right above the small creek that runs through the northern half, were medium aged and perhaps 5-15 feet across. One large fallen log was present. We explored maybe 5-10 acres of this area in a 20-minute period, where numerous attractive sequoias were, and decided that the terrain was too steep and the brush too unforgiving for a more thorough exploration that day - plus, I had just acquired shin splints, which made my own workout a bit more painful than usual. My sense is that if a fire went through this area today, even after fire suppression burns in the 1980s, it would be a difficult fire to put out and could damage many sequoias. It also gave us a keen appreciation for the hard work the fire fighters must endure to fight fires in wilderness zones.

So, after an only partially satisfying adventure, we turned around and did our best to retrace our steps back northward toward the Highway and our car, adjusting the route as necessary to ease the steep and obstacle-laden climb. The walk out took maybe 1:45 minutes.

Along the way in both directions, we saw no major wild life, but we did see many, many piles of bear scat, and at least one scat that certainly appeared to be from a cougar. These added to the ambiance in a positive way.

I would love to be able to explore the Grove itself much more, but the effort required to get in there and the condition of the forest floor in the Grove itself simply screams TRAIL NEEDED. I do wish the NPS could rework the trail back out there again, as this backcountry Grove has values that are probably at least on par with the delightful and accessible Muir Grove, and would please many hikers looking for alternatives to the heavily used Giant Forest.

It was worth doing once.

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Long Beach...
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1. Re: Rambles through the Brambles - Suwanee Grove Bushwack

Great Hike Report! Sounds like quite the adventure, maybe you'll inspire others to bush wack to Suwanee Grove. (Sounds hard- 1 mile per hour?)

San Lorenzo...
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2. Re: Rambles through the Brambles - Suwanee Grove Bushwack

Yeah, it was slow hard, going. We're not in the best possible shape (not terrible either), but it would have been a slog for most anyone, I think. I can imagine much tougher cross-country, tho... we did not need any rock climbing skills for this one!

later that day, we did another 4-mile hike on a trail to Tokopah Falls, and that was a breeze, well under 2 hours.

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3. Re: Rambles through the Brambles - Suwanee Grove Bushwack

Hi, I wanted to thank you for posting your trip report to the Suwanee Grove. I have been planning a trip there for some time and I had some tips and the GPS coordinates from a wilderness ranger, but your report was very helpful. We went there 11-12-17 and the trip was much harder than I thought it would be. Very slow going, as you said, and difficult terrain. Way too much buckthorn! We did enjoy the grove, and we tried to follow the "trail" back but that was a mistake. Should have kept to your directions, and one definitely needs to start on the east side of the creek, as you said (we tried the west going down and it gets way too cliffy ). This was our 34th grove....we're starting to only have the difficult ones left to visit! Thank again for your help.

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