- In July of 2008 we had to hike due to the fact that I had a broken neck and was unable to ride. We made it 3-miles up before turning back.
- In July of 2009 George (my older brother) and I decided we would bike Big Meadow, but only made it 7 of the 9.5 miles up the Buckeye Creek Trail (due to time constraints). We were unable to make it to the “Roughs”, the Kirkwood Pass Trail junction, the Miner’s Cabin, or the Indian Ruins.
Last time we were here the trees were a little more spaced out and we managed to ride the trail, despite being slapped by new growth. Since then it seems many of the young aspens had filled in between the larger ones, effectively hiding the Buckeye Creek Trail. Several large aspens had fallen to block the way. I pushed my bike out in front of me, using it as a wedge. A machete would have come in handy.
Once through the aspen forests I found the trail! It was crossing a large field of talus (rocks from a rockslide). I found the trail to be cleared and smooth, just like in 2009. I also heard the waterfall, a half-mile or so toward the west end of the canyon. Its voice had gotten much louder and deeper than on my last trip. I remembered this talus field well as it was the point where George and I had to stop when we were out of time and knew our Cindys would be getting worried.
This time I had started earlier and had driven to the head of the Buckeye Creek Trail by myself. I had told Cindy not to start worrying unless I wasn’t back before dark. Since I had plenty of time and energy I headed up the trail. I had to push through one more aspen jungle and cross another talus field before I came to the creek crossing.
There I found a man and woman taking their hiking boots off and rubbing their feet. They said they were too tired to remove them and just walked through the stream. This didn’t make much sense to me as this creek was a side branch to the main creek and considerably smaller, easier to cross.
Anyway, they said they had been out backpacking for 4 days to celebrate their anniversary. As of the previous day they had been wed for 26 years. I congratulated them and took their photo. They asked me if I was able to find the Buckeye Creek Trail on the way up. I told them I had found parts of a trail. They said they had had a lot of trouble finding any kind of trail earlier that week.
They told me about the trail conditions ahead, we said goodbye, then I carried my bike across the water and began to ride. A couple of switchbacks later and I was real close to the gushing cascade which lay below a well formed waterfall. George and I had spotted this fall from a half-mile away in 2009, but didn’t have enough time to reach it. I propped my bike on a bush, scrambled over to get a closer picture. The mist caused by the pounding torrent cooled my sun baked skin. I would have stayed longer had the footing not been so precarious. I carefully picked my way back to my bike and got on my way. I couldn’t help but think it such a shame that so few humans came to see this perfect place. I biked/hiked as the Buckeye Creek Trail climbed over a rocky pass then dropped back down to the creek … to the Roughs, as they are labeled on the map George and I had studied. The Roughs are a series of pools, with water swirling in each pool, then dumping into the next, turning into a frothy mixture of oxygen, and frigid, white water.
A quarter mile above the Roughs, the water sits in calm, golden/green, block-long ponds. The water was still moving fast, too fast for bugs to chance a crash landing. It was here that I filtered my water for the trip back.
At one point the Buckeye Creek Trail squeezed between a huge bolder and the creek, and I could see this stretch was completely under water a week or so earlier. I clambered up and down a couple more rock-laden hills before I entered a football-field-sized valley. I welcomed a smooth, flat trail beneath large conifers, and quickly came upon the Miner’s Cabin.
The cabin was a 10 by 20 room made of logs, with a missing door and window. The corners were well notched and fitted as if the builder knew what he was doing. The walls still had some chinking between the logs and the floor was made of concrete. I couldn’t help but think about the poor mules laboring to haul the cement up that far.
I sat on a log and ate my trail mix … and the mosquitoes ate me. I found it hard to swallow at the same time as slapping my bare legs, neck, and forearms.
The first I never found, the second I had ridden right past on the way in and didn’t even notice. Reason? The signs were a good 10 feet up in the trees. I had been scoping out the cabin as I rode in. The Kirkwood Trail stayed straight and the Buckeye Creek Trail turned left, passed right by the cabin, crossed Buckeye Creek, and headed south up a different canyon toward Buckeye Pass.
The trip back to the truck on the Buckeye Creek Trail was non-eventful. I followed the trail left by the hiking couple who had followed the trail I had made earlier in the day. I still had to wade across the one branch of the creek and traversed the other three channels on the same logs as before.
I had taken my last swig of water after I closed the last gate … so when I approached the truck I was looking forward to the cold, crisp taste of the water at the trailhead. As I approached the truck I looked over at the water spigot … which had a black trash bag draped and taped over it. That was when I remembered there had been no water in the Buckeye Creek Campground the past two years. There was so much water in the creek but none up here! Why? I still don’t know.
Feeling even more thirsty I loaded up the bike and headed back to Annette’s Mono Village, hoping I could find a cold Gatorade at camp.