Sacramento to Tahoe 2020-06

Yep another backpack trip that I failed to document at the time. A friend asking me about my ‘big trip’ last summer reminded me that I’d not posted.

I backpacked from Sacramento to Tahoe City, along the Pioneer Express and Western States trails, which are also American Discovery Trail segments 5 and 4, and the Tevis Cup trail which, though it is used for the Western States Run, is actually not the Western States Trail.

Leaving from my home in downtown Sacramento, I walked to Folsom and camped at Beals Point Campground, which of course was closed for the pandemic. As a backpacker, I love closed campgrounds. The day was hot and I was not in great shape, so that long walk (51 km) left me quite tired and sore.

Then up into the foothills along the Pioneer Express Trail. I walked to Robie Point, a ways past Auburn Staging Area, and camped there. Light to moderate rain in the afternoon, with thunderstorms, none of this in the forecast. It looked like the thunderstorms would continue into the evening, but I got only light rain. About 39 km.

The next day, down the Western States Trail to the confluence of the Middle Fork and North Fork of the American River, they up along the trail to Drivers Flat. I realized at this point I was behind my intended schedule, so rather than descending into the canyon to Ruck-A-Chucky and the trail, I walked along Foresthill Road. That was a mistake! Cars are so fucking loud, and with the almost continuous stream of traffic on the road (where are all these people going, and in such a hurry?), I was deafened by the time I reached Foresthill. I will never make that mistake again. Now back on the Western States Trail, I walked out of Foresthill and to Volcano Stream where I camped for the night on a small flat area right beside the creek, with walls from some old mining operation. The vegetation along the creek and the feeling of the area are so different from the environment before and after the creek, and it gets dark early down in the canyon. About 40 km.

view east of the Middle Fork American River basin

The next day I continued east, through Michigan Bluff, down through El Dorado Canyon, steeply up to the ridge, past the town site of Deadwood, and then down to the North Fork of the Middle Fork American River, across a suspension bridge, and up to the town site of Last Chance. Both of these canyons with bridges and beautiful creek settings one of my favorite areas of the entire hike, but being behind schedule, I pushed on. I picked up water at small piped water at the meadow near Last Chance, a water source I’d not found before. Then past Deep Creek, another water source, up Barney Cavanaugh Ridge with great views in all directions, through Robinson Flat camping area, winding down into Duncan Canyon and up to the ridge, where I camped. About 58 km. This is not only the longest of my days, but the hardest, with the descent into and climb out of the two canyons. But it is worth every minute. At this point, my muscles were getting in shape but my feet were not happy. What I had poorly planned as a five day backpack trip was already on day four and I was, so to speak, in the middle of nowhere and far from my destination.

The Western States and Tevis Cup trails diverge here, with the Western States dropping down to French Meadows Reservoir and then to the Granite Chief Wilderness at Talbot Campground. But I’d never been on what I’m going to all the Tevis Ridge Trail, and is the route of both the trail run and endurance ride (at least in most years), which gradually climbs the Foresthill Divide to the saddle where the Tevis Cup Trail comes out of the wilderness. The ridge has great views, but no water. Fortunately there were snow banks to keep me hydrated. I continued into the wilderness and camped at the granite buttress overlooking the Middle Fork American River. 23 km along the ridge (see track below) and another 5 km to campsite, so a relatively short day of about 28 kim.

That night the temperatures, which had been gradually dropping through the week, plummeted to well below zero, and the wind increased to a howling 40 mph plus. It was hard to stay warm, and impossible to sleep. The next day I hiked up over the crest and out through Squaw Valley, mostly following roads down through the ski area rather than the Western States Trail along the side of the valley. I caught the TART bus into Truckee, hung out there, and spent the night. I found a nice place to camp away from town and close to the river. It still has a lot of freeway noise, just like every other place in Truckee. Though I love Truckee, I do not like sleeping there, as the sound of Interstate 80 is pervasive everywhere in town. Next morning, home on the California Zephyr. About 12 km.

My total distance for the hike was about 230 km (141 miles), over 5-1/2 days. The distance is not out of my range, but whew, was I exhausted and footsore. This is probably the most ambitious backpack trip I’ve done in the last few years.

Tevis Ridge Trail on GaiaGPS: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/track/858d0078738409d7e3297bbcecd8656d/

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157719175365860 (relatively few photos because I was so busy hiking, and had previously hiked these trails except for Tevis Ridge)

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