Western States Trail 2012-07

WST sign and trail

This last week I walked from Squaw Valley to Auburn on the Western States Trail (WST) and American Discovery Trail (ADT). The two trails overlap to a large degree, but not entirely. The Western States Trail, also called, in some places, the Tevis Trail, is used by the Western States 100 Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup trail ride, which again overlap somewhat but not completely. This is part of my project to walk the American Discovery Trail from Carson City to it’s end at Point Reyes. It of course goes across the entire country, starting in Delaware, but I was never considering that.

elevation map, from Tevis Cup, http://teviscup.org/the-trail/about-the-trail

Parts of the trail are a pure joy, and others not so. Ironically, my favorite part of the trail was the most physically difficult but most beautiful, from Last Chance down into the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River (-2000 feet, +1800 feet), to Deadwood, and then down into Eldorado Creek (-1700 feet, +1700 feet). Other than some logging road in between, this is the authentic thing, the real historic trail that was built in the 1850’s to supply the mining camps, and it looks little changed.

Too much of the rest of the route is more modern trail and mining and logging roads of recent vintage. To start, I bypassed the Western States Trail that goes up through the Squaw Valley Ski area. It takes 27 lines in the ADT guide just to get through the ski area, and many of the junctions and turns are confusing. I find it depressing to walk through the industrial zone, I mean ski area, anyway. So I walked up the multi-use pathway from Squaw Valley Park at the bottom of the canyon to the Granite Chief TH, and then took the Shirley Canyon “trail” (not a constructed trail but can be easily followed) and some cross-country at the top to get up to the PCT. The ADT route follows the trail down to Whiskey Creek Camp and then to Picayune Valley, not following the current Tevis Trail. Again, much superior. The ups and downs of the Tevis trail are frustrating because they serve no purpose, and the scenery is a fraction of Picayune Valley. I camped in Picayune at my favorite spot, beside the creek and just above the falls.

swinging bridge across the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River

The next day, out of the wilderness at Talbot campground and down along the Middle Fork of the American River on gravel roads. At French Meadows reservoir, the trail starts  again and winds up through Duncan Creek watershed to Robinson Flat. It’s then a long ways of dirt roads with poor signing until finally reaching trail again past Last Chance. Then the heart of the trail, the 11 miles into and out of two canyons.

There is then a long section of mostly road, and a little trail, from Michigan Bluff through Foresthill and back down into the Middle Fork Canyon. The route is then more trail than road, but with some very frustrating steep climbs and descents on mining roads. If these gaps are filled with trail, the whole experience will be so much more pleasant. Past Ruck-A-Chucky falls and campground, the trail drops down close to the river and crosses it. Close to the confluence, the trail climbs steeply and comes out on Highway 49 near the aggregate plant.

At this point, I lost confidence. The trail across the highway is labeled Wendell Robie trail, not the WST, and at that point I didn’t realize the strong association of the WST with that person and though that the trail heading south could not be the right one. So I hitchhiked into Auburn. The person who picked me up said that, yes, it is the right trail, and it heads down to cross over the No Hands Bridge before climbing back up to Auburn. I’m disappointed that I missed this section, and will go back to do it later. In any case, though, my feet were done at that point, with bruising beginning to develop on the balls of my feet. 100 miles in three days is a long ways and a lot of pounding, especially the the steep road sections which are much harder on my feet than the trail.

Madrone bark, the trees becoming more common along the Middle Fork

Overall, I loved this hike. Of course more trail and less road would be great; when it is trail, it is great. I have to say I’m impressed with the accomplishment of the people who run the trail in less that 16 hours, and the equestrians who ride it in less than 11 hours (though the point is to complete it with a healthy horse and rider, not so much the time).

At the end of May, I walked the ADT section from Auburn to Sacramento, about 53 miles, in just over two days (May 26-28, no blog post). This fall and winter I intend to complete the rest of the ADT all the way to Pt. Reyes, another 200 miles that I can more easily do in sections using public transportation.

photo set on Flickr

9 thoughts on “Western States Trail 2012-07

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