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.

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)

Colfax & Western States Trail 2020-04

This last week I did a road walk and backpack trip on the Western States Trail from Foresthill to Auburn.

California Zephyr train to Colfax in the mid-day, then started my walk to Foresthill by following Canyon Drive and then Yankee Jim’s Road. The road starts out paved but eventually turns to dirt. Being a weekday, there was very little traffic on the road, so the walk was enjoyable. It follows along Bunch Canyon, which deepens quickly as it approaches the North Fork of the American River. There are very few crossings of the North Fork, Ponderosa Way downstream, Iowa Hill Road upstream, and Soda Springs far upstream. I’ve walked the Iowa Hill road and bridge before, so wanted to try a new route, and this one is quite a bit shorter to Foresthill. Of course after dropping to the river and crossing at the bridge, where there were some river runners and a few swimmers/sunbathers, the road climbs sharply up the east side via Shirttail Canyon.

Where the road sort of tops out at a placer or hydraulic mining area, I stopped for the day, and camped with a night of good stars. The mining area has only two species, manzanita and Ponderosa pine, nothing else can live on the impoverished earth, as the soil has been washed away. The whole complex community of life in a normal forest environment is missing, including the fungus, bacteria and invertebrates. That is why these areas take so long to heal, well more than a hundred years after they were first decimated, the damage looks recent. Gold mining trashed California, and I don’t know why we celebrate that history.

The road continues to climb at a more gradual rate into Foresthill. I had tea at Mega Cafe, and then headed down into the Middle Fork American River canyon.

The Western States Trail and the American Discovery Trail segment 4 are coincident here, with WS Trail signing being frequent and ADT signing showing up occasionally. The trail drops steeply on old roads through mining areas, and then slackens as it becomes a real trail, heading downslope towards the river but not reaching it until miles later. There are several creeks that cross the trail, most of them seasonal but a few probably year-round except in fall of dry years (of which this is likely one). A few old mining roads come down to the trail from the area west of Foresthill, and at Dardanelles Road there is a nice bench and deck, a strange amenity for out here in the woods. The trail approaching this point is on an old steel pipe, part of a water system that gathered water, probably for a placer or hydraulic mining operation. There was quite a bit of water development in this area, but it has become harder to see as the forest has returned.

Two roads connect the trail to the river. Both are signed Fords Bar, but since they are more than a half mile away from each other, probably only one should have that name. At both locations there are sandy/rocky beaches and composting toilets for river runners. The trail then more closely follows the river, to just above Ruck-A-Chucky Falls, where a short spur road leads down to another beach and composting toilet. This is where I camped for the night.

The route is then on a road climbing well above the river to bypass the narrow canyon that contains the falls and a number of smaller rapids, then drops back down to the campground which again has a beach. The falls seems to have a constructed portage, as it is the mostly un-runable section, but I’ve not been down to river level to see what it looks like. The official route goes up to Francisco’s, an old homesite, but you can also just continue on the road through the campground.

Ruck-A-Chucky Falls, Middle Fork American River

The signed Western States Trail then climbs up a road, recently improved (though I wish it hadn’t been) to Drivers Flat. At one time the WS Trail dropped down to cross the river and continue on the old Mountain Quarries road on the south side of the river. It is not clear to me whether this route has been officially dropped from the Tevis Cup trail ride and Western States Endurance Run, or whether it is still used, but at any rate the signing goes back up to Foresthill Divide.

From here the route unfortunately uses the Foresthill Loop southern leg as it goes westward. For poor planning, I was there on a Saturday, and weekend days are infested with mountain bikers. Of the mountain bikers, about 50% are polite, about 40% are quite otherwise, and about 10% are dangerous jerks. I don’t know what it is about mountain biking that so attracts the arrogant entitled, but they are are the bane of hikers. One mountain biker threatened to run me down and screamed epithets are me because I hesitated looking for a place to step off the trail without poison oak. I have come to strongly believe that hikers and mountain bikers cannot share trails, they must be separated. Sadly, the WS Trail route used to be hiker and equestrian only before it was turned into a mountain bikers playground in 2000. I took the northern side of the loop, which is not the WS Trail, but has fewer mountain bikers in the morning.

Eventually, the WS Trail route leaves the loop and continues on trails that are open to but not congested with mountain bikers. This trail leads down to the confluence of the North Fork and Middle Fork American Rivers. Even with the water still very cold, this area was packed with people out enjoying the weekend, and parked along the roadway for quite some distance.

The route stays on the north side of the American River, but it is worth walking across the Hwy 49 bridge and then the Mountain Quarries bridge for the views, and then back to the main route. This climbs very gradually away from the river on the Mountain Quarries railroad grade, but then leaves it and climbs more steeply to Robie Point. It then drops and contours around to the Auburn Staging Area, which is the end of the Western States Trail, and the ADT segment 5, and the end point of the ride and race. There is a skate park near the staging area, and it is fun to watch young people on skateboards, kick scooters, roller blades, and even a bicycle.

I camped out not far from the trailhead, then in the morning walked to Auburn Station and caught the Capitol Corridor train back home to Sacramento.

It was my intention to continue west on the ADT-5 and Pioneer Express Trails, but my feet were worn out, so I deferred that to my next trip.

ADT-CA-4 route on GaiaGPS

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157718860683176

Auburn upriver 2020-05

This was my most ambitious bike and hike trip to date. I rode up to Auburn on mostly on Roseville Rd and old Highway 40. Pretty easy until the last stretch from Newcastle up to Auburn, which was steep, at least for me. My bike trip back was via Folsom, mostly downhill, and longer.

I stashed my bike at Auburn Staging Area, the end of the Western States Trail and end of the Tevis Cup equestrian ride and Western States 100 trail run, and the end of American Discovery Trail segment CA-4, which I mostly follows. From Auburn, the trail drops into the North Fork American River canyon and crosses the Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge (“no hands bridge”) to the confluence of the Middle Fork and North Fork. From the confluence, the ADT gradually climbs out of the canyon, using various trails including part of the Foresthill Loop Trail. I deviated somewhat and used the highest trail in the OHV sacrifice area, which being closed to vehicles on Fridays, was actually a much better route. From Drivers Flat, the road descends to Ruck-a-Chucky campground on the Middle Fork. This is also where the Western States Trail rejoins, having diverged at the railroad bridge.

A very wide old road follows the river upstream past several rapids and then Ruck-a-Chucky Falls, a Class IV+ rapid. I assume this must have been a mining road of some sort, who else spends so much money for such a ridiculously wide road? Past there, where a road comes down from above at Ford Bar, the trail continues upstream, with a steep up and then down, and then more close to riverside hiking. About two miles past Ford Bar the trail becomes very little used. With both the trail ride and run cancelled for this year, I expect that low use will continue until next year, the blackberry bushes and grasses taking over. Eventually the trail starts the long climb out of the canyon towards Foresthill. I ran out of energy, and time, in the hot afternoon, and decided not to attempt the whole distance, so headed back down and camped near Ruck-a-Chucky.

Middle Fork American River, late afternoon reflection

Walking back out at Drivers Flat road, I decided to go to the north side of the ridge on the Foresthill Loop Trail. It was quite busy with mountain bikers and some hikers early on, but use faded away with the distance or the heat. I took a side trail which connects to the road down to Clementine Dam. The dam is interesting, the water sheds directly over the face of the dam, by design. Not sure I’ve seen one of those before. Along the road, and the trail which branches off of it and follows the North Fork to the confluence, there were an increasing number of people, in the hundreds, and when I reached the confluence, people in the thousands, all packed together on the edges of the rivers. Ack! I hadn’t intended to hike further, but the felt pressure of people not distancing and not wearing face masks pushed me onward toward Auburn. It was not until late in the day, coming up to Robie Point, that the crowds thinned out.

I camped a bit down into the SRA, under a madrone tree, watched the spectacular sunset, and had a night full of stars.

I think I’ve about reached the limit of these bike and hike trips. The further I have to bike to get close to the backcountry, the less is seems worthwhile to be in the backcountry. With traffic back to nearly normal in the outlying areas of Placer and El Dorado counties, it is not pleasant riding. And I can’t practically carry more than four days worth of food in my daypack (which I’m using instead of regular backpack because it is hard to ride with backpack), even with good weather not requiring any more than the basics. I so wish that transit and trains were available for non-essential travel so I could again get to deeper backcountry spots.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157714467310986

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.

 

ADT2/3/4: Truckee River to Auburn

Last week I walked the American Discovery Trail from the Truckee River most of the way to Auburn, which is segments 2, 3, and part of 4 of the ADT.

My trip started in Reno where I picked up a new rain jacket from Patagonia, but did not find the lightweight hiking shirt I was hoping for, and then camped a ways up Hunter Creek, a nice walk from Patagonia. In the morning I went into Reno, ate breakfast, hung at the coffee shop, and enjoyed the river, then caught the Amtrak Zephyr to Truckee. The TART bus to Squaw Valley, and then on the trail.

Picayune Creek waterfall
Picayune Creek waterfall

Segment 1 of the ADT, which I’ve walked many times but not this trip, starts at the state line and follows the Tahoe Rim Trail down to Tahoe City and then north along the bike path. Segment 2 starts at the Hwy 89 bridge over the river just south of Squaw Valley. I’ve previously tried to find the ADT and Western States Trail (WS) through Squaw Valley, and been frustrated. I still am. The ADT waypoints follow an old pre-1999 route with confusing directions, and in fact partly follow something that I am sure has never been the WS. Since 1999, the WS now stays high on the south side of the valley. Passing Watson Monument, the route diverges from the current WS/Tevis Trail, heading south through Whiskey Creek Camp and then up over the saddle and into Picayune Valley. Picayune was the WS route some time in the past, but I have no idea how long it has been. Picayune is one of my favorite spots, and I’m always happy to hike here again. The route leaves the wilderness at Talbot Campground, followed by a boring walk along a gravel road to Lewis Campground at the head of French Meadows Reservoir, ending segment 2, 27 miles.

Continue reading “ADT2/3/4: Truckee River to Auburn”

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”

ADT: 3/4 plus North Fork

Eldorado Stream bridge on American Discovery Trail
Eldorado Stream bridge on American Discovery Trail

Memorial Day weekend I returned to the foothills for backpacking. I walked the American Discovery Trail from Auburn to Foresthill, which is section 4, and then to Michigan Bluff, and down into El Dorado Canyon to the bridge, part of section 3. I thought that I had previously walked all of these sections when I did the Western States Trail in July 2012, but leaving the confluence the ADT goes north of the Middle Fork American River while the Western States goes south of the river, so there was new trail for me. I was intending on doing a GPS track but a setting on my iPad that I thought would make the battery last longer in fact did quite the opposite, so my battery was gone well before reaching Foresthill. Some other time!

The hillsides were well dried out in some areas, the flowers largely gone, but in a few rocky flower gardens and moister areas flowers were still coming on. The weather was hot in the afternoons, but quite pleasant in the mornings and evenings. The snowberry shrubs were in flower along the creeks and draws, beautiful white spots among the green.

I camped at the bridge over El Dorado and discovered that there are feral cherry trees all through the area which was no doubt a homestead long ago. There are mines scattered throughout the canyons, and this trail was a main route during the mining period.

Leaving the canyon and retracing my footsteps to Michigan Bluff, I headed north towards the North Fork American River, thinking I might walk to Colfax. Indeed I did, though it was long and mostly boring walking along forest roads. The area around Sugar Pine Reservoir was a zoo of travel trailers and drunk boaters and swimmers, but by the time I got to Iowa Hill all was quiet again. I had a beer and talked to the owner of the Iowa Hill store. Amazing that such a small town has a store and restaurant when many larger towns no longer do. I camped up top, then walked down into the canyon and spend the day upstream of the Iowa Hill bridge, swimming and reading, and camped aside the river. The next morning I walked up to Colfax.

That morning I had breakfast with my friend Lea at Cafe Luna, and since the train was very late, we talked and then walked and then ate again and then talked some more. We also had dinner before the trip in Auburn, but that was not as relaxed.

I have not spend time along the North Fork, other than hiking down into the canyon south of Camp Winthers many times, but that is well east of here. The canyon is rugged enough that it would be difficult to go in and out except on trails, but there are some old trails that I think worth exploring, including the mining era main road which is now a trail.

Photos on Flickr

closing my gap in the Western States Trail 2013-05

Middle Fork American River at Maine Bar
Middle Fork American River at Maine Bar

This short overnight backpack trip closed the gap in my hike of the Western States Trail last July. On that trip, I’d come out to Hwy 49 and didn’t know which way to go, so skipped the last section into Auburn.

Lea dropped me off at Maidu trailhead, and I walked down to the river at the dam site, then went upriver along use trails until I connected to the Western States Trail (WST) on the railroad grade, and then across the 1912 Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge, also called the no-hands bridge. I only went part way up the trail west of Hwy 49, then crossed to the Quarry trail, which may or may not be the WST. I have to say the trail signing in Auburn State Recreation Area is some of the worst I’ve seen, often giving wrong destinations, wrong mileages, and wrong directions, and signs for the WST point every which way. I realized that the routes for the Tevis Cup (equestrian) and Western States (run) events change over time, but the named trail should not keep changing. At any rate, I followed the railroad grade upriver along the Middle Fork American River.

Continue reading “closing my gap in the Western States Trail 2013-05”

Western States Trail 2012-07

WST sign and trail

This last week I walked from Squaw Valley to Auburn on the Western States Trail (WST) and American Discovery Trail (ADT). The two trails overlap to a large degree, but not entirely. The Western States Trail, also called, in some places, the Tevis Trail, is used by the Western States 100 Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup trail ride, which again overlap somewhat but not completely. This is part of my project to walk the American Discovery Trail from Carson City to it’s end at Point Reyes. It of course goes across the entire country, starting in Delaware, but I was never considering that. Continue reading “Western States Trail 2012-07”