Archive for the 'Fun Things to Do Outdoors' Category

The Best Running and Hiking Trails in Placer and Nevada Counties

said on May 16th, 2012 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Running and Hiking trails

Click on  the Trail Names below to visit my photo essay and description of the trails

Stevens Trail in Colfax The Magnificent Stevens Trail

Stevens Trail in Colfax The North Fork in Winter Voice

Stevens Trail in Colfax Three Best Ways to Fall on Your Face

Quarry Trail in Auburn Don’t Fret, I’ve Scouted Quarry Trail

Hirschman Trail in Nevada City Hirschman Trail, Nevada City, California

Clementine Connector in Auburn Easy Running on the Clementine Connector

Clementine Trail in Auburn Best Sights Along the Clementine Trail

Clementine Connector in Auburn Placer and Nevada County Trails:  The Clementine Connector

San Bruno Park Trail in San Bruno, California Running the Summit on San Bruno Mountain

Embudito Canyon in Albuquerque, New Mexico Fitness Goals.  Hop Til You drop

Sterling Trail south of Auburn The La Di Dah Trail

Stagecoach Trail in Auburn Stagecoach/Mossy Rock trail

Cascade Trail, between Grass Valley and Nevada City Cascade Canal Trail, Nevada City, California

Empire Mine in Grass Valley Rain Gear

Essay on Running Technique and Philosophy Easy Running (with the Tarahumara)

Independence Trail in Nevada City Are You Independent Enough for the Independence Trail

Spenceville Wildlife Area Spenceville Dogs

South Yuba Edwards Crossing Trail, Nevada City, California

Weimar Institute in Colfax Weimar Institute Trails

Weimar Institute in ColfaxPrayer Cove at Weimar Institute

Hidden Falls Recreation Area in Auburn Hidden Falls, Auburn, California

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Showing Weimar Institute to the Woodland Wanderers

said on May 12th, 2012 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Running and Hiking trails

The Woodland Outdoor Wanderers is a hiking group that rambles away from their home base at the Woodland Presbyterian Church in Woodland, California, and pokes around on trails as far away as Weimar Institute up in my neck of the woods here in the Sierra Foothills.

One of the trip leaders, Judy, emailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I would introduce the Wanderers to Weimar.  These Institute trails are very special to me, and I don’t show them to just anybody, but Judy seemed awfully nice, so I agreed to meet her and her comrades up there this morning.

I’ve written several blogs about the Institute trails, so I won’t take up a lot of space with a deluge of photographs . . . or words.

Here are a couple of links:

Weimar Institute Trails

Prayer Cove at Weimar Institute

The group arrived right on time at the designated spot.  I gave them a brief introduction, went over the map with the trip leaders, and took off.  Took off?  No, I did not hike with them.  You know me.  If I can’t run, I go a bit crazy.

Today I was wearing my new running shirt, a gift from my son, Luke,  who is attending Oregon State University.  I knew the shirt would make me run fast, like a gazelle, like a cheetah.

I told you there would be no more Weimar photos, but I couldn’t resist this wild iris.

And this pretty manzanita also caught my eye.

Weimar Institute

About half way through the run, I looped back around to check on the group.  They were still on the right path, still walking the straight and narrow.  Can somebody give me an “Amen?”  AMEN!  Dr. Bob, spiritual guide to the Weimar Institute trails.  AMEN!

(Did I mention the Wanderers were a church group?)

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Don’t Fret, I’ve Scouted Auburn’s Quarry Trail, and You Won’t Get Lost

said on May 3rd, 2012 filed under: Auburn, Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Localism, Running and Hiking trails

The 7 mile long Quarry Trail is just below Auburn, California, at the Confluence of the Middle and North Forks of the American River.  A true “loop trail,” it begins and ends at the same place along Highway 49 between Auburn and Cool.  What a name for a California  foothill town!  Cool.  Cool, California.  Quarry is a fun trail to run and quite scenic, especially toward the end, but you can get lost, or take several grueling detours, unless someone scouts it for you.  That’s why I’m going to expend some effort in giving you directions, including that all-important first direction:  how to find the trail head so you can get started.

Driving down 49 from Auburn,  you reach the bottom of the American River Canyon, turn right across a bridge, and begin the climb up toward Cool.  In less than a mile you will see a sign on your left at the entrance to car park.

Quarry Trail, Auburn, California

I don’t park here.  It costs ten bucks.  Forget that.  Pull in and turn around (very carefully) and go back down hill a hundred yards or so, and you will see very wide shoulders along the highway.  That’s where I park. Free.

Quarry Trail, Auburn, California

Take a deep breath and look around.  You can see the American River and the beautiful Foresthill Bridge that crosses it.

Now walk back up the highway.  Directly across from the entrance to the car park you will see a little spur trail running diagonally uphill.  Walk up that spur.

Quarry trail, Auburn, California

At the top you will find a convenient sign.  This is the trailhead for the Quarry Trail, at least the way I run it.  Stretch out here in the shade.  OK?  Let’s get to it!Quarry trail, Auburn, California

Quarry Trail is one of my “challenge trails.”  The running “difficulty level” is high, not extreme, but it will get your attention, especially the first half hour which is all uphill, not steep, but relentless.

Quarry Trail, Auburn, California

Pretty, isn’t it.  This is typical of the lower trail.  During the first mile or two, you will cross two small creeks.

You will see a sign inviting you on a side excursion up the Pig Farm Trail.  Don’t be tempted.  You have been warned.  The sign says “steep.”  That is trail runner code for YOU. WILL. DIE.

At this time of year, sunny stretches of the trail are lined with wild flowers.  AhhhhhhhCHOOOOO!

Run run run run.  Up up up up.  Be observant and by and by you will spot a sign on your left that promises you a short cut.  Take it.  By the way, “short cut” is trail runner code for “steep.”

This is a typical section of the Short Cut Trail . Looks a bit wilder, doesn’t it?  Yes, and also less churned up by horses.

 

Water bottle?  Yep, I am reminding you to take a drink of water when you get to the top of the Short Cut.  The top is  an otherwise nondescript section of the trail, but you will be glad to get there.  Guess what?  Your uphill work is done!  Now, run run run run.  Down down down down.  In less than a mile, the Short Cut trail will end.  If you go right, you will connect with the Olmstead Loop trail.  Don’t do that.  Olmstead is another adventure altogether.  Go left, toward Highway 49.  Be quiet and listen.  You can hear the traffic.

On this day, just before I got back to the highway, I spotted a couple of other runners in the meadow ahead.

Cross Highway 49, also known as the Cool-to-Auburn Grand Prix.  Be careful.  The drivers along this curvy, downhill stretch of 49 all think they are race car professionals.

Go through that gate where I have placed the red arrow and continue through the Quarry parking lot to pick up the trail on the other side.  It’s well marked.

Run run run.  Down down down.  You won’t get more than a peek of the Quarry, but you can hear the massive machines during this section of trail.  By and by, the trail will appear to end on a small gravel road.

Just bear right and keep going downhill.  The recognizable trail will begin again in just a few yards.

Now, pay attention.  Here is the place where it is easy to take the wrong turn.  Still running downhill, you will come to a very obvious fork.  Continue downhill, to the left,  as indicated in the photo below.  If you go uphill, toward the right, you will eventually come to Lake Tahoe . . . in about 92 miles.

Toward the bottom, you will begin to hear the Middle Fork of the American River.  You will also see lots of the much-despised scotch broom.

Soon the trail will end at the dirt road that parallels the river.  Make a hairpin turn back to the left and run along the road.  You will cross another little creek, it typically runs all season, by the way.

You are on the “civilized” final stretch of the loop.  The Middle Fork will rarely be out of sight, and never out of hearing.  You may have to share the trail with other birds of a feather.

There’s a turn off that goes up to the old quarry, now mostly reclaimed by Ma Nature and known as Cougar Canyon.  It’s called that because . . . well . . . mountain lions live there, one ancient lion, to be more precise, a scarred and unpleasant old warrior with a broken jaw and one fang that  juts out crazily from his lower lip.  Not surprisingly, he is called Snaggletooth.  Cougar Canyon is a beautiful and interesting side trip for another day.  Just be careful up there.  Keep your eyes open and stay alert.  By the way, I made up that stuff about Snaggletooth.  My little joke.  Just to see if you were paying attention.

You will see the ruins of the old bridge that crossed the river and connected to the Foresthill Road.

Here’s what’s left of a railway tunnel.

 

There’s an assortment of rusty artifacts if that kind of thing turns you on.

Keep your eyes peeled and looking to the left as you reach the ruins.  You’ll spot the entrance to the Hawver Cave.

I’ve never been inside, but I’d like to take a look some day.  They discovered lots of fossils of North American mega-fauna in there:  dire wolves, giant sloths, mastodons an so on, as well as Native American artifacts.  It’s kinda dark and spooky.

The final stretch is about a mile long.  It’s paved and right next to the Middle Fork.  You could take a thousand fabulous photographs during this last lap, but I’ll just give you this one,  typical and representative.

 

It is beautiful, and looks peaceful, but be very careful.  This river  killed a lot of people who underestimated it’s power, speed, and frigid temperature.  In fact, stay out of the river unless you know it well.  I have rafted on the Class 4 rapids further upstream, and I have great respect for the dangers of the Middle Fork.

Hey!  What’s that up ahead?  Highway 49.  The car.  We made it!

I hope you enjoyed your outing on the Quarry Trail.  See you on our next run through the Sierra Foothills!

 

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Gardening at Lake of the Pines, California

said on April 24th, 2012 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Lake of the Pines, Localism

Here’s a “before” video of my garden at Lake of the Pines.  The weather has been so quirky, I waited until mid-April before putting in the veggies.  I stick to basics:  tomatoes, potatoes, squash, cukes, lettuce, and my specialty, carrots.  Oh, sure, there’s a bit of cilantro and mint, and rosemary and lavender grow all over my yard like a weeds.

Enough, chatter, here’s the vid:

 

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Fishing at Lake of the Pines, California

said on April 22nd, 2012 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Lake of the Pines, Localism

The bass are spawning in the shallows this week at Lake of the Pines, California.  The fishermen are just “tearing it up.”   I have been watching them pull one fish after another up from right off my dock.  Fortunately (for the bass), these are “catch and release” fishermen.  Come to think of it, maybe they are catching the same 5 to 10 pound lunkers over and over again.

My pal, Cheryl Taylor, took this early morning photo  from her deck this morning (April 22, 2012).  You can see from the fisherman’s posture that he has something on the line.  In 12 years or living on the lake, I have never seen the fishing so good.

Lake of the Pines is a man-made lake, approximately 230 acres in size with 5 and 1/2 miles of shoreline and several coves.  It’s back in those shallower coves where you will find the action at this time of year.

There are several species of pan fish (blue gills, etc) and a few cat fish lurking in the depths near the dam, but make no mistake about it, Lake of the Pines is a bass lake.  Technically, it’s not a catch-and-release lake.  You can keep ’em, but what would you do with ’em?  Eat ’em?  Yuk.  Don’t bother.  These are sport fish, not eatin’ fish.

I do love living at Lake of the Pines.  I’m going down to the store and get my fishing license as soon as I get off work, put the boat in the water, and start flinging rubber worms at the bass.  Most of the year, these fish are smart, but during spawning season, they are dumb as rocks.  Even I can catch them.

 

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Hirschman Trail, Nevada City, California

said on April 22nd, 2012 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Localism, Running and Hiking trails

To get to the Hirschman Trail, take Highway 49, north out of Nevada City, California . . . but not too far. Go just past the County offices (and the jail), then take the first right on Cement Hill Road. A hundred yards or so up Cement Hill Road, you’ll see the Hirschman Trail sign and parking lot to the left.

 

The parking lot can be jammed, and if it is, you can park at the large county office parking lot across the road.  The good news about this trail is that it is easy to get to.  The bad news . . . it is easy to get to.  Most of the time you will be sharing the trail.  Here’s what the parking lot looks like on a good day:

There’s a detailed map at the trail head.

The first third of a mile is wheelchair accesible.

The topography has both wetlands and rocky terrain.

Coincidentally, I went for this run on the same day, and at the same time, the trail was officially dedicated  (and, no, that’s not Dharma, my loyal running pooch.)

At the .4 mile mark, the trail will open up for a view of the pretty Hirschman Pond.

Here’s something you should know about the pond: it is largely man-made, or miner-made to be precise.  Look those bare earth cliffs on the other side.

And how was it “miner-made?”  I bet you already know.  With one of these, on display at the far end of the pond.

Yep.  That’s a water canon used in hydraulic mining.  Vast areas of the Sierra foothills are still scarred and pock-marked by the deployment of hydraulic mining “artillery.”  Here’s a comforting footnote.  In 30+ years exploring these hills, I have noticed how Ma Nature has already restored much of the damage.  Jagged edges have been softened, vast expanses of raw earth have been covered by vegetation.  In another hundred years there won’t be much evidence that mining ever took place.  OK, maybe it will take a thousand years, or ten thousand years, or one million years.  Ma Nature has plenty of time.  One Million years?  A blink of her eye.  Where will WE be in a million years?  Hmmmm?

OK, where was I?  Oh yes, on the Hirschman Trail, running and ruminating about philosophy and the environment and such.

You can’t get lost on the Hirschman Trail . . . except one place.  Even then, you won’t be lost for long, because when you take the wrong turn, you’ll discover that the trail gets smaller and smaller, steeper and steeper, and the blackberry brambles begin to tear you up.  I don’t want that to happen!  You seem like such a nice reader to have gotten this far, so lets make sure you take the correct turn.  When you get to the end of Hirschman Pond, you will cross a little bridge.  You can go right (toward the thorns) or you can go left (toward more fun and illumination).  See the photo below.  Go left.

From the bridge  to the end of the trail, it is exactly 2 miles, and there is no way to get lost because the trail is well-marked, every 1/10 of a mile in fact.

The trail itself is well-built, but not especially scenic.  You could call it “pleasant” or “relaxed.”  A bit of up and down, but no “wow” factor.  In several places it veers to within 20 feet of Highway 49, just in case you need to thumb a ride, or perhaps you like listening to road noise as you run through the forest primeval.

That last remark was a little snippy, wasn’t it?  Sorry.

So, you run along for about a mile until you come to the turn off to Woods Ravine Trail.

Woods Ravine Trail is a nondescript spur off the main trail.  It is a .2 mile out-and-back, so you can add another .4 to your outing for a total of 5.2 miles.

If you go all the way to the end of Woods Ravine Trail, you will emerge on to Indian Trail Road.

Go right on Indian Trail Road, one block later, go right again on to Indian Flat Road, run a couple of steep, uphill miles to Cement Hill Road, go right again for about 150 yards and, abracdabra, you are back at your car!  Or, turn around when you get to Indian Trail Road, run back down Woods Ravine Trail, get back on the Hirschman Trail, and finish your business properly.

Watch out for poison oak.

Here is California’s most ubiquitous shrub, manifested in this photo as a vine.  Mostly it takes form as a bush, the kind you might find yourself in the middle of, naked, stark naked, trying to hide as a bus load of Japanese tourists hike by with their cameras and their giggles, then you look down at yourself and say curse words because you are screwed, totally screwed unless you know a witch, a real witch, the kind of witch who lives up on the San Juan Ridge, and who can provide you with a home-brewed potion that will make the poison oak vamoose.  Don’t know a real foothills witch?  Oh man, like I said, you are totally screwed.

Actually, I have a working relationship with poison oak.  I leave it alone, and it leaves me alone.  No so with scotch broom.  I rip that stuff up whenever I can.

Scotch broom.  Do not plant this stuff.  Do not think it’s pretty.  Do not buy it.  Do not put it in your yard.  It is a self-seeding menace, the most dangerous, invasive horror in the foothills.  I have friends who have been waging war against scotch broom for years.  They are losing.  Scotch broom is northern California’s version of kudzu, the vine that is eating the southern United States.

After a while you will come out of the scotch broom and onto a series of brief, but steep-ish switchbacks.

At the top of the switchbacks you will see one of the unobtrusive mileage markers.

You are done!  This is the end of the trail.  Turn around.  Go back the way you came.  The round trip is . . . let’s see?  2.4 miles + 2.4 miles = 4.8 miles.  Duh.  Unless you also ventured up and back on the Woods Ravine trail for an additional .4 miles.

Or, you can turn your outing into a loop by leaving the trail and returning by either Indian Flat or Indian Trail which eventually intersects Indian Flat.  It’s a pretty country road, though quite steep  toward the end.  If you take the looping road back, the trip is a bit longer, right at 6 miles I’d estimate.

But for today’s  run on the Hirschman,  I decided to come back along the trail.  Just loping along, the return took 28 minutes and 30 seconds, a laggard’s pace of  11.9 miles per hour, but it’s more uphill on the return, and quite twisty, and the day was already hot.  Blah blah blah.  I need to lose some weight.  You, too?

 

 

 

 

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Rain Gear

said on December 4th, 2011 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Localism, Running and Hiking trails, Whimsy

Start your run in the rain. Avoid getting your feet wet. Dodge puddles. Try to run on the side of the path that has become a Class II rapid.

Sooner or later, you will mis-step and come down ankle deep in the creek. The other foot will continue reading…

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Easy Running on the Clementine Connector

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

Connector scenetry

So what, exactly, does the Clementine Connector connect?  It connects the upper end of the Lake Clementine Trail with the lower end of the Forest Hill Divide Loop Trail.  I start at the trailhead that is just a few yards from the intersection of The new Foresthill Road (a couple of miles after you cross the bridge) and the old Foresthill Road (right where it comes up out of the canyon).  Take the spur road that hairpins back down to the Lake Clementine dam.  Look for the continue reading…

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Stagecoach/Mossy Rock Trail

said on November 2nd, 2010 filed under: Auburn, Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Running and Hiking trails

Stagecoach may be the oldest trail in the Auburn, California area—and the most accessible. 

Trail Head

You find the Stagecoach trail head on Russell Road, just off Lincoln Way, inside the Auburn city Limits.  From this trail you can connect to the Pioneer Express trail and scamper down hill about 40 miles to Folsom and Sacramento.  Or you can connect up hill to the Clementine and Foresthill Divide trail system and run a sweet little marathon-length loop.  Or you can say “what the hell” and run 100 miles overland to continue reading…

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Placer County Farm Tour 2012

said on October 19th, 2010 filed under: Cultural Events, Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Localism

This year’s Placer County Farm and Barn Tour will be on October 14, 2012 from 10am til 5:00 pm.  Here’s a link to the website so you can plan your day for the Farm and Barn Tour.  Below you can see my photos from the 2010 tour.  It’s every other year, so don’t miss it in 2012 or you will have to wait until 2014!

Horse near Gold Pond nursery

The tour jumped off at 10:00 am on Sunday, October 10, 2010.  I say “jumped” because that’s what you have to do if you want to make a dent in the itinerary.  There are nine venues scattered all over northern Placer County, California, from Loomis in the southwest to Bowman in the northeast.  And you continue reading…

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