Continuing my weekend backpack into the Sierra foothills, I went further upriver this time. Figuring once a year is enough for the hike from home to Folsom, I bicycled this section instead, and left my bike in a BikeLink locker in Folsom. Back across the truss bridge over the river, and up along the parkway bike trail/Pioneer Express Trail. I again found the trail quite busy with people, on the paved and gravel sections as far as Granite Bay. I camped down on the shoreline of Folsom Reservoir, below high water mark, in the sandy area beneath a willow tree, which is almost the only tree species that can survive the fluctuating water level. A mostly cloudy night, only the crescent moon and Venus visible.
Saturday I walked upriver on the Pioneer Express Trail, as I had done last week. The areas around the trailheads were packed with people, especially near Granite Bay and Sterling Pointe staging areas. But away from these places, many fewer people. Mostly the equestrians outnumbered the hikers, and I saw only two mountain bikers on the closed-to-bike trail.
The grasses are starting to brown out, flowers are fewer, and even the poison oak was looking a little wilted. This is going to be a long summer and fire season, I think. The fall rains fueled a lot of grass, but the March rains did not really replenish the soil. Golden brodiaea is more common, and past Mormon Ravine, white fairy bells and the most common. Sticky Monkeyflower is still the most noticeable along the trail, with bright yellow/orange flowers. Where the trail comes close to the North Fork Ditch just past Mormon Ravine, an old homestead area (not sure if it dates to back then, or more recent) has a number of fruit trees, including two oranges on the bank of the ditch, one with young oranges and the other with orange blossoms, and several kinds of other fruit trees I can’t quite recognize.
I dropped my pack at Mormon Ravine and walked upriver to milepost 52, which is about a mile short of where the trail climbs out of the canyon to Auburn staging area. At this point, it is still reservoir, but shallow enough to see the bottom, and will a slow but distinct current from the river. I suspect with the warm weather, a lot of snow is melting up high and the reservoir level will be increasing as the spring goes along. Unfortunately – I like rivers, I don’t like reservoirs. Someday the river will flow again.
Once past Avery’s Pond, an old irrigation or settling pond on the ditch, I saw only three hikers and really enjoyed the solitude up to MP 51 (these mileages are measured from Discover Park and end with 55.4 at Auburn staging area). My feet had had enough, so I returned to Mormon Ravine to camp for the night. Mormon Ravine is interesting, a canyon with a fairly small watershed but large flow of water. The reason is that it is fed by South Canal, part of the convoluted plumbing systems owned largely be PG&E, but operated mostly by Placer County Water Agency, that moves water between the Yuba River, Bear River, and American River watershed. The water in Mormon Ravine is probably mostly water extracted from the North Fork above Auburn and pumped up the hill for use in town and the agricultural areas. South Canal also feeds the Newcastle Powerplant, which was not in operation right now.
Sunday I walked back to Folsom, picked up my bike, and pedaled home to downtown Sacramento. I arrived tired and somewhat footsore, but far less than last trip when I’d walked the entire way. So there will be more combined bicycling and hiking to come.
Note: The Pioneer Express Trail is also the American Discovery Trail, segment ADT-CA-5, so photos are identified by that. It is also the Western States Trail, though these days that name usually refers the the section east of Auburn.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157714072742557