and to Auburn 2020-05

North Fork American River

This trip, May 2-4, I continued on up the Pioneer Express Trail to Auburn.

North Fork American River, morning, above the rapids

I rode by bike further, all the way to Granite Bay staging area (the staging areas are horse trailheads) and stashed it in the long grass. On the way, I stopped off in Folsom for the farmers market and mac & cheese from Samuel Horne’s, then ate at the staging area picnic table. The day was cool and cloudy, at least compared to recent days, so there were far fewer people out on the trail.

I was able to get all the way beyond the head of the reservoir, to the last rapids on the North Fork American River. The lake is coming up rapidly, which depresses me, but a little bit a living river, and everything seems OK again. I slept on the sand above the rapids (too loud below the rapids) and had a great night’s sleep.

Sunday, I hiked up the Pioneer Express Trail / ADT-CA-5 to Auburn staging area, but took several detours to explore other trails and routes. The day was clear and warmer, and there were a ton of people out walking; many, many families; and a fair number of mountain bikers. I returned by what seems to be the official Pioneer Express Trail, which heads west along near but not on the Shirland Canal. This is not the same route that I’d taken previous years for the ADT-CA-5 segment, so I’m not sure if it has changed, or I was off-route, or the routes are simply different. There are variations between the Western States/Pioneer Express Trail, and the American Discover Trail, and maybe this is one of them. Anyway, the trail maintains elevation quite a ways, and then drops precipitously down the Cardiac Hill Trail nearly to the river. This trail does not even come close to National Recreation Trail standards, and it is disappointing the California State Parks would make this the route when other options are available. I’m not sure they get the whole concept of National Recreation Trail.

Returning to the river, I spent the afternoon exploring upstream, following the route of the North Fork Ditch. Most of the ditch is gone, washed away in repeated floods, but there are remnants here and there (see photos). The going along the river is not easy, as it seems like the bedrock as all contrary to the route, but it is doable. I went up for a ways above Knickerbocker Canyon, which comes in from the south. I could see upriver that it is possible to continue at least to the Auburn dam site, so I’ll do that in the future. Knickerbocker has several waterfalls in it, and you can see the lowest from the river level.

I then walked back along the Pioneer Express Trail towards Granite Bay, and camped in a little grove of blue oak on what would be a little island at high water. Though the moon was just past full, the sky was finally clear (first time in my three recent backpack trips) so I did get a good view of stars towards morning. Once I left the Oregon bar area, which was chock full of people, I saw almost no one except a group of horse riders, pretty much of control thundering up the trail, and then back down later in the day. I’ve never seen such a group of inexperienced and unskilled riders going so fast on the trail. Scary! I’ll note that almost all of the riders I see out there on the trail and respectful and skilled, so this was a surprise.

Pioneer Express trail and lupine
Pioneer Express Trail and lupine

Monday morning I walked some of the North Fork Ditch that is only exposed when the reservoir is low. It is kind of a toss up between the ditch trail, which winds in and out but is nearly level, and the constructed trail which is much shorter but climbs and descends and climbs and descends… Back at Granite Bay staging for lunch, and then the pedal on home to Sacramento.

I had been thinking that this might be my last trip along this route, having finally gotten to Auburn, but I so much enjoyed the living river above the reservoir, that I’m probably heading back on my four day weekend over Memorial Day, and going further upriver to the confluence at least.

Searching for information about the North Fork Ditch on the Internet, I came across Kevin Knauss’ blog. Though his outdoor posts are mixed in with his insurance business posts, you can zero in on the hiking and historical posts by pulling down the ‘Kevin’ menu and selected the subtopics. He is, so far as I’ve found, the best source of information about the Folsom reservoir area.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157714239730863

Auburn to Folsom backpack 2017-03

AmericanRiver_bottom-of-trailI’ve been away from my personal blog for eight months, in part because I’m now doing an additional blog for Sacramento Transit Advocates and Riders (STAR), and in part I’ve just been busy with life. A backpack seems like a good time to start again, since many of my posts are about backpacking, and backpacking season is coming on.

I took light rail and the Placer County Transit light rail to Auburn bus up to the transit center/train station, and then walked to the trailhead. Picking a different route to the trailhead from the one I normally use, I realized that Auburn Alehouse is on the way, so had to stop in for a beer. This is one of three breweries in Auburn, but the other two are not on the way anywhere, so will require a separate trip. From the Auburn Staging Area, where the Western States trail ends, I headed down the trail westward. Though the Pioneer Express Trail has had many different routes over the years, it seems as though it has settled into following the Shirland Canal and then down the Cardiac Bypass trail to the Pioneer Express Gate (174).

A short ways below the tail reaches the river. I reservoir full pool, the river ends here, but with the reservoir low it flows for several miles down as far a Mormon Ravine. The huge gravel bar here, deposited at full pool, has been cut through by the recent high water. The river is a beautiful blue green, though I’m sure it was sediment laden during the warm rain runoff this winter.

PipevineSwallowtailButterfly_mating
Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies mating

Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies were everywhere, in fact almost the only butterfly I saw. Though the caterpillars feed only on pipevine, the adult nectar on almost anything in bloom, and the Blue Dicks were the most common flower along the trail. Though the green growth is lush, the bulk of the flowers have yet to come on. Other flowers were Forget-Me-Not (possibly), lupine, poppy, painbrush, iris, wallflower, and of course shrubs of which buckbrush Ceanothus was the most common. Redbud was brilliant where it grows, but not widespead.

I camped at an old homesite where a long abandoned road comes down, one of the few good flat spots along the trail. The apple tree there was in bloom, though most of it is now dead. A bit further down I ate an orange, very tart, and I wonder if that is just the taste of oranges back in the old days before they were bred to be sweet, and bland.

There were a passle of people near Mormon Ravine and Rattlesnake Bar, running clubs and runners, three backpackers, and several families. But the rest of the trail was mostly empty.

Poison oak is already growing into the trail, this will be a good year for it, so I’m glad I did this section early.

When I got to the Folsom truss bridge, the parkway trail was signed as closed, and I realized that 26 miles on the trail had left my feet pretty sore (I’ve neither been backpacking nor hiking much, just bicycling and walking), and I was unlikely to finish the 28 miles back home, so I walked to Folsom light rail and went home.

With the deep snows in the high Sierra, I imagine I’ll be backpacking and hiking a lot more in the Sierra foothills and the coast ranges this year, maybe not getting into the high country until late July.

This trail, in addition to being called the Pioneer Express Trail, is part of the American Discovery Trail (ADT) segment 5, Auburn to Sacramento. For other ADT trips, search American Discovery Trail.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157679687773391

 

ADT4/5: Foresthill to Folsom, spring 2015

unnamed creek below Foresthill
unnamed creek below Foresthill

This spring I re-hiked the American Discover Trail section 4, Foresthill to Auburn, and part of section 5, Auburn to Folsom. My purpose was to create a GPS track for ADT-4, which I had already tried twice and failed to do. I used my new iPhone 5C to create the track, but I hadn’t yet figured out how to maximize battery life, so it ran out about 2/3 of the way through. So I returned yet again to finish off the last 1/3 to Auburn. I’ve glued the GPS tracks back together using Adze on my Macintosh. Of course any time out on the trail is time well spent, and in re-doing this section, it has come to seem quite familiar and is now a favorite.

The ADT splits from the Western States trail just downstream of Ruck-A-Chucky campground, and then rejoins at the Mountain Quarries Railroad bridge. The ADT goes up on Foresthill ridge and then gradually descends back to the confluence of the Middle Fork and North Fork American River. Part of the route is along (new) Foresthill Road, part along (old) Foresthill Road, and the trail itself is partly on (old, old) Foresthill Road. The walk along Foresthill Road is quite unpleasant, with traffic whizzing along at 65 mph or more, and even the less trafficked (old) Foresthill Road is not pleasant. I looked for an alternative route to (old) Foresthill Road, but unfortunately there is not one. Several possible trails start off but then veer away. I will explore more in the future to see if there is a bypass for Foresthill Road. If you want a more natural experience, stick with the Western States trail, which descends and crosses the river, possible only at moderate to low water, of course.

I had been calling the river between the confluence and Folsom reservoir the American River, but apparently it is traditional to call this section the North Fork American River, all the way to the junction with the South Fork American River, now under Folsom reservoir.

Continue reading “ADT4/5: Foresthill to Folsom, spring 2015”

ADT5: Auburn to Sacramento 2012-05

Pioneer Express Trail above Folsom Reservoir
Pioneer Express Trail above Folsom Reservoir

Last May I hiked from Auburn to Sacramento on the American Discovery Trail (ADT – flakey website). I did not post on the trip, and unfortunately did not even have my journal with me, but I did at least take photos. I want to reconstruct the hike because it is part of my long-term goal to walk the entire California section of the ADT.

I took the Capitol Corridor Amtrak train up to Auburn (only one trip a day, not very convenient, but workable), then walked to the trailhead at the Auburn staging area which is the western terminus of the Western States Trail. I dropped down just a short way into the canyon to spend the night, and then continued downstream along the ADT, which is also called the Pioneer Express Trail, and then of course the American River Parkway from Folsom to Sacramento.

Continue reading “ADT5: Auburn to Sacramento 2012-05”