Archive for the 'Fun Things to Do Outdoors' Category

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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The North Fork in Winter Voice

said on December 6th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Localism, Running and Hiking trails


You should walk or run along the magnificent Stevens Trail above the North Fork of the American River during the winter.  As soon as you crest the rim and drop down into the canyon you will begin to hear the river in full voice, at first just a background murmur, then, as you get lower and lower, the deep roar of whitewater rapids as the American swells with runoff from the first winter rains.

Stevens Trail Fire Damage

In an earlier blog I photographed the Stevens Trail, just outside Colfax, California, but a winter excursion reveals new images of Mother Earth at work.  This part of the canyon was devastated by the Cape Horn fire several years ago, one of those uphill-express crown fires that crispy fry everything in its way.  Sometimes the soil itself  is “volatized” and rendered sterile by such super-hot fires.  I have seen these fires follow tree roots right down  into the ground.  After the fire, when I was finally able to run Stevens Trail , I was heartbroken.  I thought the area would take decades, maybe centuries, to recover.

Re-green American River

Nope.  The canyon is coming back so fast I am astonished and delighted.  Here you can see the noble ponderosa pines in recovery.  Last year, they were blackened sticks, but there was enough energy stored in the deep roots for one last explosion of greenery, enough to restart the cycle of photosynthesis.

Re-green Stevens Trail

You are compelled to look down at the American River hundreds of feet below.  Go ahead, the trail follows the river all the way to the bottom.  American River and Mississippi Bar

Here on your winter run, however, try to sneak a few peeks uphill.  The beauty is less obvious, but just as gratifying in more subtle images.

Stevens trail uphill view

Stevens trail uphill

What’s that ahead?  Ah, your Earth Momma at work.  She shrugs, and there’s a landslide covering the path.

Stevens Trail Landslide

Dharma, noble companion, astride the landslide.

Landslide and Dharma

Mother Earth blinks, and a great tree falls.

Stevens Trail Tree Fall

In the winter, much of the deciduous  foliage has dropped, exposing other beauties usually hidden away.  Here, near “Dharma Pool” was an unexpected patch of ferns.

Stevens Trail Ferns

With the extra run-off from the first rains, little rivulets and waterfalls are everywhere.

Pool with Dharma

Dharma, of course, has to try out every pool or puddle.

Waterfall and Dharma

The California state rock is serpentine, an ordinarily nondescript rock until washed by the rain when it glows like pale jade.

Serpentine Rock

The American River still carries a bit of gold.  There’s not enough for commercial purposes, but hobbyists and amatuers make a few bucks panning for dust and small nuggets.  Down at the bottom of the trail, I ran through a miner’s camp.  These rough quarters are still common along the three forks of the American.

American River Gold Miners tent

One the way back out of the canyon, the sun came out for a little bit and the moss on the trees glowed with an emerald phosphoresence.

Moss trees 1

Can you tell how much I love my American River Canyon?


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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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The Magnificent Stevens Trail

said on November 4th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Localism, Running and Hiking trails

Stevens pretty view

If I had to choose the best running trail in the Sierra Foothills, I’d pick the Stevens Trail in Colfax, California.  The trail is named after Truman Stevens who developed it as a toll road back in the Gold Rush.  It was supposed to connect Illinoisville (now Colfax) with Iowa Hill.  It never made Truman rich, but I don’t care.  When you stop to think about all the Indians who were displaced, the Chinese workers who were exploited, and the land which was devastated, it’s hard to muster up 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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Yummy Mandarin Orange Stir Fry Sauce

said on October 12th, 2010 filed under: Cultural Events, Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Whimsy

Last weekend Bob and I wandered through farm country on the Placer County Farm and Barn Tour.  While at Twin Brooks Farm near Penryn, we purchased a bottle of Snow’s Citrus Court Mandarin Orange Stir Fry Sauce.  This concoction is made locally from organically-grown Owari Satsuma mandarin oranges.  Monday night Bob stir-fried continue reading…

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