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.
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.
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.
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
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.