Flash flood kills horse, wipes out pack trail

July 29, 2003 11:00 pm

By AMY LINDBLOM

Flash flooding in the Emigrant Wilderness has literally muddied the high country experience for many and claimed the life of a pack station horse.

A half-mile stretch of one of two main trails leading into the wilderness area was wiped out by one of the floods last week. Tons of silt, mud, rocks, trees and vegetation were washed into Summit Creek.

The slide occurred just as five horses carrying four guests and a packer were returning to Kennedy Meadows Resort pack station after a multi-day trip, said resort owner Matt Bloom.

"All the people got out, but (one) horse did not. We haven't found her, and so we assume she was buried," Bloom said of the 9-year-old Standardbred mare named Helen.

The girl riding Helen was hurt slightly when she was knocked off the falling horse, but after the guide got everybody out of the slide area safely, the girl was able to ride three hours back to the resort, said Joan Carini, a resort employee.

The wiped-out portion of trail is between Saucer Meadow and Lunch Meadow, said Bob Wetzel, a Stanislaus National Forest wilderness coordinator based at the Summit Ranger District in Pinecrest. He said the slide occurred in a forested area of old-growth redwood trees.

Forest Service Trail Coordinator Reg Bowdler went up to the trail after the slide last week. He and a crew performed temporary repairs to make the trail passable. Plans for long-term repairs are under way, Wetzel said.

Bloom said his packers are again using the trail.

The mountains have been plagued with afternoon thunderstorms this summer, said both Wetzel and Bloom. The rain has caused the flash flooding.

Bloom said he could not remember a summer so filled with afternoon storms.

Summit Creek feeds into the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River, and because the debris is still being washed down the creek, the river is brown in many areas.