ADT 2-3 Squaw to Foresthill 2021-05

Last week I re-hiked two more segments of the American Discovery Trail (ADT), 2 and 3, from Squaw Valley to Foresthill.

I started out early from the trailhead at the bridge over the Truckee River just south of Squaw Valley Road on Highway 89 (River Road). The trail immediately climbs away from the river, heading towards the ridge between Squaw Valley and Bear Creek. There are numerous trails in the area, but some junctions are signed (Western States Trail) and some are just more obvious. The trail then descends towards Squaw Village (all of these Squaw name are going to be changed, but I don’t know what to, yet; maybe Olympic since the post office name is already Olympic Valley). If you want to keep to the ADT or Western States alignment, you have to either keep a close eye on the track or on the waypoints. I wasn’t keeping a close watch, however, and ended up turning uphill where the trail turned downhill, following an older Western States sign higher up on the slope of the valley. I ended up on a ski area road that climbs to the top of KT-22, far from the current trail route. From there, I dropped to Squaw Saddle, where the original Western States trail alignment crossed over from Squaw Valley to the Five Lake drainage. So I missed going over the top past Emigrant Monument and down the Whiskey Creek drainage, and can’t report on the snow conditions up there, but from what I could see and what I experienced other places, I don’t think the remaining snow patches are deep or uncrossable.

granite & sierra juniper on Squaw Saddle

From Squaw Saddle, a very old and now very vague trail heads down and connects with the Squaw Saddle Trail, which then connects with the PCT, which then connects with the Whiskey Creek Camp Trail. Whiskey Creek is moderately deep, and I crossed on a rock hop, though not easily. In general, creeks higher up are flowing well, but flowing like they would ‘normally’ be four or five weeks later in the season. The soil is moist, there are many snowbanks, but most are small and not deep, and some flowers are out and some just coming on. Again, like much later in the season. The perpendicular ridges of very deep snow that show up some years are not there this year, thankfully.

The original Western States Trail did not go along Tevis Cup Trail and then Tevis ridge (Foresthill Divide) where the current ride and foot race go, but through Picayune Valley, and this is the officially named Western States and the ADT route. There are a number of trees down from Whiskey Creek Trail through Picayune Valley, some new this year and some have been there several years. All are fairly easy to bypass or climb over. I spent time just enjoying Picayune, as I always do. At the crossing of the Middle Fork of the American River, it was too deep to rock-hop, but I waded across with no big problem. The snowmelt creeks are much smaller in the morning, increasing in size throughout the day, so if you need to cross a major creek or river, morning is the time.

red star onion

The trail exits the Granite Chief Wilderness at Talbot Campground, and it is a long slog along a boring road to French Meadows and Lewis Campground, the next piped water source. The trail along the reservoir north side has not been maintained in years, and is deep in winter debris (the stuff that falls out of trees mostly during the winter but sometimes during wind storms), not really pleasant to walk. Where the trail goes into the brushfield from an old burn, it becomes impassable in spots, tight thickets of whitethorn. At least at this time of year the whitethorn is a little flexible with moisture, but later in the year when it dries out it will extract a lot of blood in trade for passage. I finally bailed out and followed a logging road out to Mosquito Ridge Road, and then back to the trail at the ridge top. This section is flagged, but the flagging is often right in the middle of a whitethorn patch. Until it is maintained, I think this section of the ADT must be considered closed.

The ADT rejoins the Western States on Red Star Ridge, and drops into Duncan Canyon. Some trees down on this section, easy to bypass for hikers but not equestrians. I waded Duncan Stream rather than trying to find a rock hop. The climb out to Robinson Flat is long but the bedrock areas have interesting displays of flowers. At Robinson, the meadow pump was locked up, but there is flowing water at the lower edge of the meadow. The campground was also closed, for hazard tree removal. Almost every tree is going to be removed. In a sense, this is inevitable, as most red firs develop middle age rot and start dropping branches and trunks. A few red firs seem to make it through this stage and become very large and very old, but few.

A group of runners on the Western States Trail assembled at Robinson Flat in the morning, and the first part of my walk was with that huge group, but they took a different route than the ADT, and I did not see them the rest of the day. I really enjoy the upper part of the walk along Barney Cavanaugh Ridge, with views out over the canyons, but as the trail descends it ends up in the forest on wide logging roads and is much less interesting. The road crosses Deep Canyon Creek, a certain water source, and a number of other creeks that have water only in the spring. The ADT and Western States Trail turns down Last Chance Ridge, and a new (not sure how new) trail avoids most of the road on the ridge, going on the north slope, initially on new trail and then following an old mining ditch. After rejoining the road, look for a grassy meadow and pond to the left hand side of the road, where a water pipe provide cold spring water. The road reaches the end of the ridge near Pacific Slab Mine, a much newer mine than the long gone Last Chance area mines, and drops steeply down to the Middle Fork American River and across a suspension bridge.

suspension bridge, Middle Fork American River

The climb out of this canyon is significant, about 1500 feet, but the sun was low and it was not too bad. The trail wanders the ridge and then joins the Deadwood Ridge Road where there is a hand pump for water. I thought I would camp there, but the mosquitos, the tiny oak mosquitos were thick and it was too warm to hide out in my sleeping bag, so I packed up and headed down into the next canyon, to El Dorado Stream. It was dark by now, and I was not sure my headlamp would last the three miles or so, but it did, barely. There is ample flat camping area on the west side of the bridge. Few mosquitos and much cooler air, and a good night’s sleep. I explored around quite a bit in the morning. There are feral cherry trees here, though only a few were ripe yet.

The climb out of the canyon to Michigan Bluff is 1600 feet, but much more gradual than the earlier climb out. From Michigan Bluff where there is piped water at the corner, the trail follows logging roads westward before eventually turning back into a trail and dropping down to cross Volcano Stream. From there, up again to Foresthill Road and then along the road to town.

I had originally intended to re-hike segment 4, from Foresthill to Auburn, but my feet were worn out and I decided to call it done. So I had a beer at the Mountain Club and then hitch-hiked back toward home.

I am not sure whether I will do all the ADT California segments this year. I’ve done 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8. Segment 9 awaits the reopening of the Coastal Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, closed by the Woodward fire last year. Segment 6 is a bike ride, which awaits a coolish day with gentle winds, Sacramento to Antioch, though I guess could do the reverse, with the wind. Segment 1 just awaits planning it into my summer. Someday I intend to walk the trail from Virginia City, Nevada, to Point Reyes, 382 miles, but that is at least three weeks and requires a wet year in the fall, so there is still water available, and after the snow melts, and not midsummer when the Sierra Foothills and east side of Mt Diablo is sweltering. Not this year, maybe next.

I have used two new books to identify flowers and shrubs along this trip. They are Wildflowers of Nevada and Placer Counties, California (2017), and Trees and Shrubs of Nevada and Placer Counties, California (2014), both published by the Redbud Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Neither of these is in the Sacramento library system, but there are copies available through Link+ interlibrary loan. I decide to purchase copies, which are only available from CNPS: https://store.cnps.org/collections/books/products/wildflowers-of-nevada-and-placer-counties-california-second-edition and https://store.cnps.org/collections/books/products/trees-and-shrubs-of-nevada-and-placer-counties-california. No plant books are perfect, and I still consult other guides on occasion, but these are the best I’ve found. They are not really ‘field guides’, though, too heavy to be taking on a backpack trip, and not available electronically.

I realize, now that I have better plant books, that I have mis-named some of the flowers and shrubs from my earlier trips. Oh well. Not likely I will have time to go back and make corrections. Even with the new guides, there is one flower on this trip I was not able to identify.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157719428415935

Earlier ADT posts: https://allisondan.wordpress.com/category/backpacking-hiking/american-discovery-trail/

ADT-CA-2 route on GaiaGPS: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/xzSo6obIdpFa1Vh9WiVBRnFr/

ADT-CA-3 route on GaiaGPS: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/SFAZkkyMe2mANJGirpbbERoo/

Note that the ADT waypoints, which I do use on my trips, I am not making available in my ADT folder. If you want these, you will have to purchase them from the American Discovery Trail Society.

ADT-CA-7 2021-05

Last weekend I did segment 7 of the American Discovery Trail from Antioch to Walnut Creek. I’ve done parts of this trip a number of times (Berkeley to Clayton backpack, and others), but the only whole trip I’ve done was in 2014 (ADT7: Antioch to Walnut Creek 2014-01).

As always, my access was by train and transit. Capitol Corridor from Sacramento to Martinez, then San Joaquins from Martinez to Antioch. The schedule doesn’t really work, but it gave me plenty of time in Martinez to walk over to El Cielo Brewing to have a beer. On the way back, Pleasant Hill BART to Richmond BART, and then Capitol Corridor back to Sacramento. It is a short 0.3 mile walk from the ADT to Pleasant Hill BART. The walk from the Antioch Amtrak station to the trail is longer, about 3 miles, but if I’d used BART instead to Antioch, it would have been a shorter 2.5 miles.

The segment starts on the far shore of the Contra Loma Reservoir. No idea why, it should start at where it the ADT leaves the Contra Costa Canal Trail/Delta De Anza Trail and heads south into Antioch Community Park. The trail then winds up into the hills of Black Diamond Mines preserve, using ranch/fire roads. It climbs way up, with good views. I camped on the ridge, and didn’t sleep much at all for the howling wind all night. The trail then descends to the Somersville townsite, one of the early mining towns, and then climbs again to high ridges with fewer views, and then a long descent into the town of Clayton. Clayton has a coffee shop, a convenience store, a few restaurants, and a nice park. The is the old part of Clayton, a real town, not the new part of Clayton which is just an exurb of Concord.

hills and oaks of Black Diamond Mines preserve

From Clayton the trail along a wash and across the fan heads into Mitchell Canyon and then begins the long climb to Mount Diablo. The Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail, which is mostly coincident with the ADT, deviates here to go up Donner Creek, east of Mitchell Canyon, and then rejoins past Deer Flat. The trail up Mitchell is gradual until it heads up steeply through switchbacks to reach Deer Flat. Deer Flat once had developed water, but not in years, and Mitchell Canyon had only a trickle for a short distance. The route then circles to the east before climbing very steeply up to Prospectors Gap. There is a spring off the trail, on Donner Creek, but I forgot to look to see if it had water this year. The plumes of clematis seeds decorate much of the other vegetation all the way up the trail. The trail/road then heads around the east and south side of Mount Diablo. The official ADT route did not formerly go to the top of the peak, but apparently it now does, but I skipped it for being late in the day and very windy.

clematis seed plumes

From the peak, or where the ADT meets the road to the peak, the Summit Trail and ADT route heads down the south slope of Mount Diablo, zig-zagging close to and then away from the road. The park has turned off nearly all water sources, even in the campgrounds, and the only sources I could find were hidden away from the public. This is a reasonable response to the drought, I guess, but sure makes it hard on long distance hikers.

During the night the fog came in heavy, and in the morning all the isolated trees had circles of wet ground around them, water that is captured from the fog and then drops to the ground. It either doesn’t happen in forested areas, or if it does, is not as obvious, but for isolated trees in the woodlands, it must really make a difference.

fog droplets on grey pine needles

The next day I followed the route out Wall Point Road through the park, and then regional park, and then city park, then the edge of Walnut Creek, all the way to Heather Farm Park. There is a lot of cattle grazing on these lands, useful to keep the vegetation down that would carry fire, but really there wasn’t much left to eat, and I think the cows should be off by now in a dry year. There were also a lot of people out hiking and bicycling! This is a popular trail for people in the Walnut Creek area, and perhaps beyond. The park is the first place with water available in quite some miles.

ADT segment 7 ends at the bottom of Heather Farm where the trail meets the Contra Costa Canal Trail. Segment 8 heads west along the canal. I think the break point of the two segments should actually be where the Contra Costa Canal Trail crosses the Iron Horse Trail. At that point, it is 0.3 miles north to Pleasant Hill BART station with BART and buses, or about 2 miles south to Walnut Creek BART station with BART and more buses. I realize many people dayhiking on the ADT just drive to trailheads, but the long distance hikers need transit access points and stores for resupply. I went to Pleasant Hill BART, took BART to Richmond, and home on the Capitol Corridor.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157719235713289

ADT collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157637788624964/

Other ADT blog posts: https://allisondan.wordpress.com/category/backpacking-hiking/american-discovery-trail/

I have been working on creating routes, traced on the trails in GaiaGPS, for the California segments. I am not making any claim that these always reflect the current route, nor match on-the-ground signing, but you may find them useful. I just purchased the 2018-04 version of the ADT California tracks and waypoints, and will be checking them against these routes over time.

ADT-CA-1: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/route/9ceb43ee-2915-420d-9c80-57de46102477/

ADT-CA-2: not completed

ADT-CA-3: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/route/2a7cbb45-1031-4df1-a5a8-d8a3dd6c4212/

ADT-CA-4: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/route/e75135ac-d79b-4762-b6fc-da5a6a994acd/

ADT-CA-5: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/route/b38deb6c-f511-4874-bc29-e4ef55801258/

ADT-CA-6: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/route/010f9b3f-6613-428b-997f-b589790b396a/

ADT-CA-7: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/route/9d43af35-dc9b-4ca4-99e0-acb7a81e9897/

ADT-CA-8: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/route/effe8e4b-2e40-412d-92b2-74cc387d9846/

ADT-CA-9: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/route/25b7ca99-66fe-42d0-acd6-f40e545b7a9e/

oaks in Black Diamond

Pioneer Express 2021-04

This backpack was a continuation of my previous trip on the Western States Trail.

I took the train to Auburn. It is less expensive to take the bus, but, well, I love trains. I camped out near Robie Point, and in the morning headed to Auburn Staging Area, the end of the Western States Trail and beginning of the Pioneer Express Trail. While having breakfast, I talked to three women who were in training to ride… not the Western States (Tevis Cup), but the PCT. All the way! While many people backpack the PCT, which is a major physical accomplishment, I don’t think many ride it. Perhaps not quite as much of a physical accomplishment, but a logistically challenging trip. Keeping yourself and your horse happy and healthy for that distance requires planning, and training, and that’s what they were doing.

The Pioneer Express Trail drops toward the canyon but then contours a long ways above the Shirland Canal, before dropping precipitously down the Cardiac Trail to the Oregon Bar trailhead and then down a closed road to the American River at Oregon Bar. I can’t understand how a National Recreation Trail was routed along the very steep and heavily eroded Cardiac Trail. The designation is federal, but maintenance is the responsibility of the land management agency, in this case, California State Parks. So I’m not sure where to point the finger.

American River at Oregon Bar

The trail then follows the north side of the American River all the way to Folsom. The first section, above the river but with views down on it, and very occasional access points, is one of my favorites, when Folsom Reservoir is down and the river is flowing. At high pool, it comes up to Oregon Bar, but at the moment the river is flowing all the way to just past Mormon Ravine. I love free flowing rivers! I have never been big on the idea of living forever, or coming back reincarnated, but the one reason I’d really like to is to see the rivers flowing free again, as they are meant to be. Of course in those future times people probably won’t be traveling, except by foot, so I’d likely see only part of one river system, but I’d be happy.

I did a little bit of trail work on this trip, pulling up young brooms, and cutting older brooms. The brooms are nonnative invasives from Europe, and they both push out native plants and close off trails. There are at least two species along the trail, but there may be more. One grows huge, but isn’t long-lived, so the stiff grey brown dead ones stand along the trail. But in their short life they produce abundant seeds for the next generation of plants. Unless I pull them up first! The brooms are widespread from the eastern part of the Pioneer Express up through the Foresthill-Auburn section of the Western States Trail, so this is a project that I can make only a small dent in, but even a short stretch of trail free of broom makes me happy. I don’t cut poison oak, though it needs cutting. I’m no longer willing to face the horrible cases of poison oak reaction I get when I cut and pull poison oak (to really reduce poison oak, it must be pulled out by the roots; cutting it just causes it to produce more stems next year).

From Mormon Ravine westward, the views are of the Folsom Reservoir puddle and the drawdown wasteland above it, so not interesting views, but close up along the trail there are a lot of flowers along with native trees and shrubs.

I walked out to the truss bridge over the American River at Folsom, had tea at Reset: Cafe, and then took light rail home.

I was, up until this trip, trying to make the Pioneer Express Trail and American Discovery Trail (ADT) fit together as one coincident route, but they aren’t. They deviate at some critical locations, including the descent to Oregon Bar, where the ADT follows a much more rational alignment, yes, with some road segments, but none of the horribly eroded trail. It will be a significant project to separate out the routes and associated waypoints again, but when I get that accomplished, I’ll post links. I use GaiaGPS.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157718893077858

Ridge Trail: East Bay 2020-10 (+ SF + ADT)

This month I re-hiked the continuous section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail from Kennedy Grove recreation area in the north (El Sobrante) to Garin park in the south (Hayward), about 73 km (45 miles). Kennedy Grove is less than a mile from the AC Transit 74 bus stop on Castro Ranch Rd (though be warned, only every other bus goes to this destination), then along Hillside Dr (though be warned, the back gate from Hillside is signed as being open all park hours but was locked when I was there, so I had to crawl under the gate). The Ridge Trail leaves the area, parallels and then crosses San Pablo Dam Rd, and then climbs on trail and fire road to Nimitz Way on the crest. Nimitz Way is an old road now only open to hikers and bicyclists, and it can be quite busy when the weather is nice, as it is moderately flat and has great views. The trail then heads south to Inspiration Point on Wildcat Canyon Road in Tilden Park.

Dropping down to cross the road, it climbs again to the ridge crest and continues south to nearly Vollmer Peak, then down to the trailhead near the redwood railway. There is water here. On this hike, I found about half the water sources to be turned off. There is no justifiable reason for this, just lazy park personnel using the pandemic as an excuse to not clean drinking fountains.

Ridge Trail in Huckleberry Preserve

The trail continues south into East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) lands, then Sibley Volcanic and Huckleberry Botanic preserves. The ridgeline is not flat, so the trail repeatedly loses and re-gains elevation. It passes Skyline Gate, which is one of the most popular access points in the east bay, so expect to see crowds of people for several miles though Redwood park. The water here was turned off. The trail loses considerable elevation to cross Redwood Creek, then climbs again into Anthony Chabot park. Passing close to Bort Campground (but not to, the maps are incorrect for the current alignment), the trail follows the creek and then gradually climbs to the ridge north of Chabot before descending to Chabot Staging Area, which is the EBMUD trailhead.

The Ridge Trail then ascends the ridge and then descends again to Cull Canyon recreation area, where there is usually water, but it was off. Following some streets and trail segments, the trail crosses Castro Valley Blvd and goes under I-580 (or you can follow Five Canyons Parkway, which is not a pleasant walk but saves distance and elevation loss).

From the Five Canyons trailhead, the trail climbs steeply to the ridgeline and wander along with good views and a lot of cows. PG&E is doing vegetation clearing in the area and has made a dust bowl of the fire road. They probably won’t fix it when they are done. The trail descends into Palomares Creek, dry this time of year, and then climbs the ridge again to Stonebrae Country Club. A ways south on the ridge, the trail starts its long descent. You can either go out to Dry Creek trailhead at May Rd, or out through Garin Park, which is nice but longer. Regular transit runs along Mission Blvd, a short walk from Dry Creek or longer walk from Garin. This entire section of the trail is dry, which is strange, since it passes five huge water tanks and goes through Stonebrae, which is an island of emerald green fairways on the otherwise dry ridge.

The trail will eventually stay on the ridge to the south and descend into Niles Canyon, instead of going out at Dry Creek, but that segment is not completed yet.

This section of the trail is the second longest of the entire trail, so makes some wonderful hiking. There is one backcountry camp, in Sibley Volcanic, but it is not at a location that makes sense for walking the trail. There are other backcountry camps on the planning horizon, but none under construction.

I took transit to San Francisco, and spent a day there, for the enjoyment and to give my feet a rest. I visited one of my San Francisco favorites, the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, swam a bit at Baker Beach, walked Lands End, and of course went to Acme Bread in the Ferry Building.

Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco

Then I headed back out on the American Discovery Trail section CA-08, from San Francisco to Pleasant Hill. The route includes the ferry ride from the Ferry Building in San Francisco to Oakland Jack London, and then streets from there to UC Berkeley. I skipped the street walking this time to be nice to my feet, took transit, and picked up again at College Ave and Bancroft Way, where the route goes up Strawberry Canyon and the Jackson fire road to the crest. From here is follows the same route as the Bay Area Ridge Trail though Tilden Park, but descends from Inspiration Point to San Pablo Creek. On EBMUD lands, it parallels and then crosses the creek and goes around the east side of Briones Reservoir to Bear Creek Staging Area. Where the water was again turned off. From Bear Creek, the trial climbs to Lafayette Ridge and follows it down to Pleasant Hill Blvd, then up through Acalanes and down through the north end of Walnut Creek to where it meets the Contra Costa Canal trail. The trail along Lafayette Ridge is a roller coaster, up and down over enumerable hills, not a fun hike, but the views and vegetation are great.

ADT Trail on Lafayette Ridge

The ADT heads east southeast from here and up over the shoulder of Mt. Diablo, but my feet had had enough so I walked out the the Pleasant Hill BART station, took the bus to Martinez, had a beer at Del Cielo, and caught the Capitol Corridor home to Sacramento.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157716598013768; Bay Area Ridge Trail collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/

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

backpacking up the American River 2020-04

This week, which is spring break from schools, I went on a four day backpack up the American River, walking from home since backpacking is not an essential activity, at least not in the view of the health department.

I walked through town on Capitol Ave and M St, through the Hornet tunnel and over the bridge at Sac State, and onto the parkway trail. This paved trail is called Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, officially, but predating the paved trail and still present in the many places, is the Pioneer Express Trail, which goes from Auburn to Sacramento. The mileage is measured from the same point, Discovery Park, but goes beyond the paved trail end at Beals Point on the shore of Folsom Reservoir, along the north shore of the reservoir, which is the North Fork of the American River, to the head of the reservoir and then climbs up to the Auburn staging area on the southwest side of Auburn, where the Western States Trail ends. Actually, the Western States Trail goes from Virginia City in Nevada to Sacramento, one of the original cross-Sierra mining and supply trails, but it is not called that the entire distance any more. This is also the American Discovery Trail (ADT) segment 5 in California, which goes from Delaware to Point Reyes.

On the dirt trail part, it was uncrowded, but on the paved ‘bike trail’ part, necessary where the dirt trail disappears or I missed the not always well signed parts, it was crowded. Tuesday, the first sunny warm day after several days of rain, and everyone was out on the parkway. I don’t know how I had convinced myself that I would not see many people, and it would be easy to maintain physical distancing, but apparently everyone else had the same idea. The trail is often closer to the river than the paved trail, but other times further away. Flowers are out to some degree, but not abundant. I think the grasses may have such a head start that flowers just won’t be abundant this year.

The first part of the trail is within the American River Parkway Regional Park, and then from Hazel Ave upriver is within Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, including Natoma Reservoir. From the truss bridge over the river at Folsom, the trail climbs steeply past Folsom Prison to the dam, and then to Beals Point picnic and camping area, which of course is closed. I noticed particularly in the Folsom area, but other locations where the trail crosses under major roads, that the suburbs are not like downtown/midtown, where there is little traffic and things are very quiet. In the suburbs, life goes on as before, everyone driving everywhere all the time. But finally the trail pulls away from Auburn-Folsom Road and there is some peace and quiet.

The Granite Bay area was packed with mountain bikers, many of them on the Pioneer Express trail, almost all of which is closed to bikes. Two things are apparent: 1) the regulations don’t apply to mountain bikers, and 2) mountain bikers are immune to the virus and can ride in groups. /s (that is the Twitter mark for snark).

Finally, late in the day, I got past the mountain bikers and selected a campsite on a granite outcrop with a great view south over the reservoir, and watched the end of the day. It rained lightly during the night, and I got a little wet, but the next day dawned dark and cloudy, which is perfect weather for keeping mountain bikers at home, so I had the trail upriver to myself except for a few hikers. I shared the trail with one coyote, but otherwise did not see much wildlife in this section (though I did see a lot of deer and turkeys in the lower section).

Snowdrop bush (Styrax redivivus)

The snowdrop bush was in flower, which is great because it is a favorite of mine, and also because it gradually replaces much of the poison oak, with increasing altitude (yes, I’m very allergic to poison oak, and have some spots of it on my legs). I walked as far as milepost 42 (from Discovery Park), which is short of the head of the reservoir and the steep climb to Auburn. My feet were worn out, and going further would not have been wise. My muscles are in decent shape from my daily walks, but feet not yet ready for backpacking.

I headed back towards home, camping once along the way. The fourth day I overdid it, walking 48 km, which is the longest walk with backpack on that I’ve done in about 30 years. Today, two days after the trip, which is when muscle soreness really shows up, I’m feeling it! But I’ll heal and be ready to go out again.

Paintbrush (Castilleja) and reservoir

Though I enjoyed the long walk, my next trip will involve bicycling to Folsom, putting my bike into the BikeLink lockers there, and walking from that point. I don’t need to do the long walk again this season. And then, maybe, bicycling to Beals Point or Granite Bay (on trails that are open to bicycles), stashing my bike, and hiking.

On the less interesting parts of this walk I was listening to a novel Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart, which is an apocalyptic novel set in the Bay Area, written in 1949, and amazingly prescient.

Up the American River is about the only practical direction I can go from home without driving, which I don’t do, or using transit, which I won’t do. I could go west towards the coast ranges or southwest towards the bay area, but both of those directions involve a long way before getting to where I want to be. So the American River, for now!

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157713852381626

My previous trips on this trail are grouped (tagged) as American Discovery Trail: https://allisondan.wordpress.com/tag/american-discovery-trail/.

ADT-CA-3 2018-07

This last week I walked the American Discover Trail (ADT) segment 3 from French Meadows to Michigan Bluff. My main purpose was to get a GPS track that I had missed and messed up before, and I succeeded in that, see below. This was the second part of a backpack trip into the Granite Chief Wilderness, and I did not have any ADT information with me, so I was going on memory to find the trail. I did. I have to admit a few sections did not look all that familiar, but the junctions did.

The trail is much better marked than it used to be, not as the ADT, but as the Western States Trail, particularly from Robinson Flat to the west, which is the route of the Tevis Cup horse race and Western States foot race. New signposts have been placed at nearly every trail junction, and several places along the trail.

After walking out of the Granite Chief Wilderness at Picayune Valley, I started this segment at Lewis Campground with is on French Meadows Reservoir, walked a short ways in to Poppy Campground and spent the night. The next day was the long day, 27 miles, and I was pretty tired.

The official ADT routes includes a section on Barney Cavanah Ridge, from T30170 to T30175, that I strongly recommend you skip. The first part is very steep and eroding, then it crosses a huge logging deck with no indication about which way to go, then it heads down a long ridge that would be OK if not for the hundreds of small trees down across it. Instead, just continue on Forest Road 44. It is longer and boring, but not frustrating. I doubt this this section was ever part of the historical Western States Trail, as it swings so far north of its destination of Last Chance Ridge. I don’t have any information about the historical route, but the parts still in use are much more direct that this. Don’t miss getting water at Deep Canyon Creek, as there may not be any other sources until North Fork of the Middle Fork American River.

I camped beside the North Fork at the suspension bridge. There is very little flat ground here, just a small sandy beach, but it is a special place to be. Next day, up to the ridge. There is a pump handle at about T30270, where the trail joins the road. It may really be from a tank and not a well, as a well on top of a ridge seems unlikely, but nevertheless, a source not to be passed up. The trail then drops gradually to Eldorado Stream, where there is ample camping space if you want that. And then up the ridge, again, to Michigan Bluff. This section is shadier than I thought it would be, so not bad on the hot morning.

My muscles were ready for the remaining six miles into Foresthill, but my feet were not, so I hitched a ride, had a beer at the Mtn Club, and then hitched the rest of the way into Auburn for the Capitol Corridor train home.

ADT-CA-3: gpx | kml (Notes: These links are subject to change. The track is a combination of my GPS track and waypoints from the ADT Society, with a considerable number of corrections. For an unknown reason the elevation data was lost from a section of the track, so you can’t make a profile of the track. Someday… I’ll have a perfect track.)

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157697258055121 (few photos because I was preserving my phone battery for GPS)

For earlier ADT posts, see https://allisondan.blog/tag/adt/. I first hiked this segment in July 2012, repeated it once but apparently did not post on that trip, and also walked from Auburn to Eldorado Stream once.

 

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

 

ADT Virginia City to Tahoe City 2016-07

Continuing walking and documenting the western-most portion of the American Discovery Trail (ADT), I backpacked from Virginia City to Tahoe City. From Virginia City to the Tahoe Rim Trail above Carson City, the trail is more characteristic of the Great Basin than the Sierra, but the remainder is higher and wetter.

Washoe Valley
Washoe Valley

I took the Amtrak bus to Reno, went on a side trip to the Patagonia Outlet, and then hitchhiked up to Virginia City (no public transportation). Dinner at the Red Dog Saloon while my devices charged, and then out on the trail about sunset. The route follows Ophir Grade, a road that was the original route serving Virginia City. At Five Mile Reservoir, which is a holding pond for water in the Marlette to Virginia City water system (no water access, however), I took a wrong turn along the new pipeline road, since this waypoint was not in the ADTS document, and it looks invitingly flat though it later does two major roller coaster dives and climbs. The correct route turns left on an old road and goes up nearly over the top of McClelland Peak. Rejoining the route west of McClelland, it descends into Washoe Valley at the ranger station and campground. This section from Virginia City to the campground is dry.

Continue reading “ADT Virginia City to Tahoe City 2016-07”

Berkeley to Clayton backpack 2016-06

MtDiablo-foothills
Mt. Diablo foothills

Continuing my repeat trips on the American Discovery Trail, this time I backpacked from Berkeley to Clayton, along American Discovery Trail segments 8 and 7. I skipped the walk from Jack London Square to Berkeley, as I knew my feet did not need all that walking on pavement. So I started from the Berkeley BART station, heading up Bancroft to the Jordan Fire Trail up through Strawberry Canyon on the UC Berkeley campus. I deviated from the route to follow what I’m calling Panoramic Ridge, along Panoramic Drive and then the ridge top trail, sometimes quite steep, up to Grizzly Peak Rd and over into Tilden Park near the steam train. I walked along Skyline Trail north to Inspiration Point and then down to cross San Pablo Creek and up to Briones Reservoir, to Bear Creek staging area for for a late lunch, and then up onto the ridge. All along the trail today there was coyote scat with plum pits in it. Plums are abundant this year, and there are quite a number of either historical or feral plums along the trail. I camped near Russell Peak, where there happens to be a flat spot to sleep and picnic table. There are no legal spots to camp along this route, so I just pick less obvious spots. The night was cold and windy.

The next day I went down along the ADT to Walnut Creek and stopped by a Starbucks to recharge my phone and iPod (which I’d left playing during the night and depleted) and have a cup of iced tea. Then along the canal, through Heather Glen Park, and up onto Shell Ridge which heads southeast into the foothills of Mt. Diablo. Though the grass is all dried and the flowers few, this is a still a beautiful ridge. I camped again at Wall Point, where I’d camped in January 2014. That being a warm winter and this being a stretch of cool weather during the summer, the temps and wind were about the same.

In the morning clouds were hanging about the top of Mt. Diablo. I thought the climb to the top would be hard, about 2300 feet from campsite to peak, but it turned out to be easy in the morning when I was fresh. It was too cold to hang around on the peak, but the views in nearly all directions are worth going on any day. Heading down the north side, I took the Bald Ridge trail instead of the road, avoiding the steep loose surface, though the trail itself was pretty steep and I had to dance around poison oak. Mt. Diablo is simply steep, and if there are non-steep trails there, I haven’t been on them yet. I walked down Mitchell Canyon, and into the town of Clayton. Took the bus to Concord BART, BART to Richmond, and the Amtrak Capitol Corridor home to Sacramento.

This is my third time on the ADT-CA-8 segment, and second on the ADT-CA-7 segment. I did not do the part from Clayton to Antioch, though it would have been a good day to do so with the much cooler temperatures on this very sunny route. I am making an effort to take my feet to the point where they are uncomfortable and sore, but not to the point of damage, and Clayton seemed like a good balance.

This trip is a strange mix of urban and wild lands. It is not just that it starts in Berkeley, crosses through Walnut Creek, and ends in Clayton, but that from any vantage point there are views to the suburbs and often even to San Francisco. But closer to hand, or to foot, the country can be quite wild, and seem like it is miles away from anything. At night, looking out, the lights of some city or another are very visible, but looking up, there are the stars and in this case the first quarter moon. This is also a trail with a number of entry and exit points, if desired, including Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Clayton. It could be done as day hikes as well, and in fact I will likely to back and explore some of the side trails that look interesting but are not the main route.

Photos on Flickr