Archive for the 'Running and Hiking trails' Category

Spenceville Dogs (revised February 2013)

said on July 28th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Running and Hiking trails, Whimsy

Spenceville Wildlife Refuge is a divine expanse of golden-haired hills where ancient oaks erupt like massive mushrooms. The Refuge is adjacent to Beale Air Force Base in the lower Sierra foothills. I like to run there, but only when I’m nearby on business, because the Refuge takes some getting to, and I feel guilty spending so much gasoline driving all the way out Waldo Road, my jump off point. Not guilty enough, however, to prevent me from enjoying, a few times each year, its grace and beauty.

If you want to run the Spenceville trails, you have to know when to go. At dangerous times of the year, from September 1 to January 31, the Refuge is intensely hunted. Deer, turkey, water fowl, and pigs. During the Fall it sounds like Omaha Beach on D Day. Better you should go running there when it calms down in the Spring. The paintball crowd also likes to stage their own brand of mayhem out among the oaks. They’re kind of lazy, and kind of drunk, so they mostly stay within a mile of their vehicles. I am through their war zone in less than 10 minutes. They hide their smirks from me, and I don’t let them see how I roll my eyes at them. Then, paintballers eat my dust, the Refuge is all mine.

Well, it’s mine  . . . and the cows. There are a gazillion free-range, pasture grazed, grass-fed cows wandering around everywhere. I think the local ranchers traded trail easements for grazing rights throughout the preserve. It seems to work. The cows ignore me even when I say nice things to them.

Today I parked out at the end of Waldo Road, by the old bridge, and began my run about four o’clock. It had been one of those irksome, arrhythmic work days, and, baby, I wanted some time alone. Solitude, quietude, and anonymity; three of the attributes I need for a contented life.

Solitude, quietude, and anonymity.

There were two other cars parked near the bridge, but I soon intercepted both parties on their way back in. The second group, a young couple, were chaperoned by a dignified short-haired pointer. We were happy to make each other’s acquaintance, me and the dog, I mean. Very polite he was. Maybe I should get a short-haired pointer? Just a thought. Leaving the dog and his people behind, I turned on the afterburner and began to feel the buzz that rises in me when I know I am finally running alone and in the wilderness. The Refuge belonged to me, to me alone. Oh yes, and the cows. Lots and lots of cows.

After a mile along the service road that winds through the hills, I turned through a cattle gate and entered an area of sun-lit, cattle-daubed pastures. Another mile, and I followed the path as it broke left and wandered upward into scrub forest and rock outcroppings. Before too long, I could hear the distant roar of the Falls. On maps they are usually labeled “Feather Falls,” but the old timers still call them “Fairy Falls,” and they are referring to the little forest spirit fairies, not some other kind. The Falls, by any name, are one of the secret treasures of the Sierra Foothills. They ain’t Moseoatunya, the Smoke That Thunders, but they’re still dramatic enough to catch you by surprise.

 

Fairy Falls is one of my favorite places on this earth.

At the bottom of the Falls is a gorgeous deep pool, just the right size for cooling off in the summer. Both Falls and pool are fenced, so you really oughtn’t climb the fence, but if you should happen to climb the fence, and I’m not suggesting this, you would then face a rather dicey climb down the rocks, and you probably oughtn’t try that either, but if you did, just saying, if you did, and it was a hot day in July, you might find some weathered old runner down there skinny dipping. You have been warned.

Continuing along the path above the Falls, you will come to a place where you can cross the creek. You’ll recognize the crossing by the remnants of steel cables that still swoop from one embankment to another. Now, you have to make a decision. You can turn around and go back the same way you came, a round trip run of about six and a half miles, mostly down hill on the return, or you can take your shoes off, sling them around your neck and wade across the creek. When the water is high and fast in the Spring, try not to slip. If you do reach the other side, put your shoes back on, take a breath and attack the forty-five degree upslope right in front of you. Yes, it does look like something out of a movie. Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, perhaps. If you do make it to the top, you can run around for a while until you get hopelessly lost. So, unless you take me along to show you the twists and turns to loop back to the bridge, you could be in for a long, thirsty afternoon. Maybe you should exercise the first option, and just return the way you came. Capiche?

That’s what I did today, chickened out, turned around, and headed back the way I came. Oh, don’t give me any attitude. That section of trail across the creek is tough. Someday I’ll take you out there, and we’ll see just what happens to your attitude.

When I ran down and out of the scrub and rocks, I discovered that the cows had deserted the pastures. I could hear them for a while, faintly in the distance, giving udderance to their sundown moos. (Udderance, c’mon wake up!) Now, it became profoundly silent. Even my footfall on the soft dirt trail was muted. Glorious, late sunshine still warmed the open pastures, crisscrossed with indigo gullies that foreshadowed the evening’s arrival.

There! There in a patch of sunlight, I saw him watching me.

Old Man Coyote.

About a hundred feet away, he stood, getting along in years, but still fell and fearless. Handsome old devil. He turned his back on me and trotted off, but just a few steps. He had a thought. You could almost see that thought as he stopped and cocked his head. He turned around, facing me, and sat down on his haunches, watching. This was his place, and he wasn’t planning to skedaddle for the like of me.

I kept running, watching him, watching me. The curve of my path took me closer to him, but I didn’t stop.

“Buenos Dias, Senor Coyote.”

He didn’t move, not a blink.

I was now as close to him as my path was going to take me, passing right in front of him.

“Ey, Ese! Que paso!”

Nothing.

For some reason still unknown to me, I began to play the idiot. I jumped and bounced my way down the path, yipping and barking in my best Coyotese.

Nada.

I tried a few howls.

“I am your brother the WOOOOOOOOLLLLLF!”

That got me one twitch, of one ear. Only one. Other than that twitch, he was frozen, watching me make a fool of myself. I was laughing now, laughing aloud. The distance between us slowly increased, the path reached a clump of brush, I turned a corner, and then, he was gone from sight, never having moved. He had held his ground.

I loved him for that. Loved him beyond expression in words.

A few more minutes of delirious running and I was back to the truck. Running into that coyote was the coolest thing that happened to me all week. Probably it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, just two old dogs sniffing each other, out in the Spenceville Wildlife Refuge.

 

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Edwards Crossing Trail, Nevada City, CA

said on July 20th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Running and Hiking trails

Take the North Bloomfield Road a few miles out of Nevada City, CA until you come to a bridge down in the South Yuba River Canyon.  This is Edward’s Crossing. One of Nevada County’s best trails starts here.  

Edwards bridge

Park on the near side of the bridge.  There’s a restroom, but no drinking water.  Walk out on the bridge for a look.  This is the view downstream.

Edwards downstream

Lots of people come to Edward’s Crossing in the summer to swim under the bridge or continue reading…

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Weimar Institute Trails

said on July 15th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Neighborhood Profiles, Running and Hiking trails

Weimar trees at prayer cove

The trails at Weimar are not spectacular.  No long-range vistas of the snow-capped mountains.  No thundering waterfalls.  But these trails are some of my favorites of all the trails I know in the Sierra foothills. 

Weimar Institute is a Seventh Day Adventist enclave (ashram?) between Auburn, CA and Colfax, CA just off Interstate 80 at the West Paoli exit.  This place is HUGE.  Though I’ve run all the Institute trails, I’ve never tried to calculate the cumulative trail distance, but it has to be continue reading…

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Prayer Cove at Weimar Institute

said on July 15th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Localism, Running and Hiking trails

Five miles into the Weimar run we stop at Prayer Cove, a secluded clearing just off the Coyote Creek trail.

 

Dharma drinks and splashes around in the creek while I pray, or rather, chant a beautiful Sanskrit prayer called “Jyota se Jyota,” irreverently translated to mean continue reading…

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Hidden Falls, Auburn, CA

said on July 13th, 2010 filed under: Auburn, Running and Hiking trails

Hidden Falls Entrance

Hidden Falls, a few miles west of Auburn, is one of my Top Five Favorite Trails.  It’s picturesque, shady, and has lots of water for my faithful running pooch, Dharma.

Lots of folks worked for years to bring this park into being.  Special thanks go to the “horse” set which contributed countless hours or labor (and arm twisting) not to mention . . . money.  So it’s only fair to continue reading…

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Best Sights Along Clementine Trail

said on July 7th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Localism, Running and Hiking trails

Confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American

Confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American

The Clementine Trail is a pretty four mile jaunt from the Confluence of the North and Middle Forks of  the American River upstream to the Clementine Dam and back.  The Confluence is about two miles below Auburn, California, down in the American River Canyon.  It is a popular spot for picnics and swimming, but you have to be damned careful, especially in the Middle Fork.  That part of the American is continue reading…

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Secrets of Auburn, California

said on June 4th, 2010 filed under: Auburn, Localism, Running and Hiking trails

Auburn is the Endurance Capital of the World, home of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run and the 100 Mile Tevis Cup Trail Ride (a high falutin’ label for a really long horse race).  Auburn is also the county seat of Placer County, California.

Auburn, California

Auburn, California

The population is about 13,000, though it seems bigger to me, kind of spread out.   The elevation is about 1200 feet, above the fog and below the snow, as we hillbillies like to say.  If you want to continue reading…

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Placer and Nevada County Trails: The Clementine Connector

said on May 21st, 2010 filed under: Running and Hiking trails

This morning, I was coming up the back side of the toughest hill on the Clementine Connector, which, I’m sure you want to know,  is between Auburn and Foresthill in the Sierra Foothills.  So what does the Clementine Connector connect?  This well-maintained trail links the American River Confluence trail system with the Foresthill Divide Loop trail system.  Both the Confluence trails and the Foresthill trails can connect you to the famous continue reading…

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