Stevens Trail on the North Fork

In my last post, I announced I hoped to hike a 25-mile trail from Salmon Falls Bridge to Coloma.  Those plans were crushed on the rocks of a few issues.  First, to do that hike on that trail I need a hiking companion or two.  I haven’t found that companion yet.  And the truth is I haven’t looked that hard.  I have issues with my right thigh and hip that seem to announce their presence in a loud voice right around six or seven miles of hiking.  Unless I can get past that, the idea of going for 25 miles is somewhat ridiculous.

Today, I walked the Stevens Trail on the North Fork of the American River.  I went with a co-worker and his wife.  The trailhead is in Colfax.  It meanders along the river for about four miles before it drops you off at the river.  The question though is whether it is really four miles.  One article I read says the out and back is 8.3 miles.  Another says it is 7.7 miles.  And the sign at the trailhead says it is 4.5 miles to the river.

All I know is that the views along the trail are beautiful.  There is something incredibly peaceful and restoring about this…


The hike down to the river seemed relatively easy.  There was some up and down, but it was relatively easy.  Once we got to the water’s edge, we waded about for a bit.  It was nice to get into the cool water and just be quiet for a few minutes.


We began the hike back.  And we went uphill fooooorrrrrrreeeeevvvvveeeeeeerrrrrr.  It is odd how what seemed to be some up and down, without anything that seemed like it would incredibly demanding on the way back became a long, long slog back to the trailhead.  And, yes, my right hip and thigh weakened towards the end and made it difficult for the last mile or so.  Getting old sucks.

South Fork

I’ve been absent from here for far too long.  There are reasons for this, primarily those that revolve around the fact that I have a life.  A job and family and many other interests.  Getting to the river doesn’t always fit into everything else going on.

There’s another reason.  For the last three years I drove a Nissan Leaf — an all-electric car with about 70-80 miles of range.  Which means there’s a pretty limited area of the world I can explore.  I could have kept going back to places within that range, but I want to see places along the river I’ve never been too.  The reality is that most of what I could cover by getting there in my Leaf exists entirely within the American River Bike Trail system — an incredible place to bike and hike and enjoy the river, but I’ve been in that system hundreds of times over the last 40 years.

Part of my effort with this blog and my exploration of the American River is that I really would be exploring places I’d never been before.  So, I was a bit limited and my interest waned.

A couple of months ago the lease on my Leaf ended and I replaced it with a Chevrolet Volt.  Still an electric car, but with a gas engine backup.  In the two months I’ve had it, driven almost exclusively on the battery, but having that gas engine means I can now stretch the boundaries of my exploration.  I’ve spent the last few weekends planning my first venture.  I’ve thought of heading back up to the confluence, where the North Fork and the Middle Fork join, but I’ve been there.  (I’ll be back again because there are so many more trails and pieces of the river to explore there, just not yet.)  I wanted to go somewhere new.

The South Fork.  I discovered there is a South Fork American River Trail, that stretches 25 miles from the Salmon Falls Bridge, where the South Fork empties into Folsom Lake, and Coloma, where gold was discovered in 1848.


I decided I wanted to walk the length of this trail.  All 25 miles.  Just not yet.  I need to work up to that.  I may be able to run four miles or six miles or eight miles.  And, yes, I’ve run a few half marathons.  But I’ve learned that walking uses different muscles and just like with running, I’ll have to work up to something like a 25 mile jaunt.

I started today, arriving at the Salmon Falls Bridge trailhead a little before eight and heading out.


I turned my back on the bridge and the river and began.  And except for one glimpse, never saw the river again.  Distances are estimates based primarily on the time it took me to hike the stretches.  But I believe I hiked about four miles out.  The first 1 1/2 miles or so were mostly uphill.  Until I got to this lonely little tree.


As near as I could tell, this was the high point of today’s hike.  From here, there was a mile or so of mixed ups and downs, and than another mile or more of downhills.  At times I could hear the river.  It was right there.  But this is what I’d see.


Nope.  No river there.  And the trail would then take me in the opposite direction.  Yes, for somebody interested in a river walk, this was a lonely experience.  I haven’t given up hope though.  I believe I got out about 4 miles before turning around.  In a week or two, I’ll try to get another 2 or 3 miles out before turning around.  I just hope that my hips and feet can take it.  My feet — primarily because of how my hiking boots rub against my heels and how my toes start to hurt!.  My hips — not so much while walking, but afterwards.

Here are a few more pictures.  I just hope there’s a point at which the trail gets me closer to the river.







No More Drought?

Early on in my trips to the American River, I walked around Sac State and Howe Avenue and took some pictures.  In February 2015, we were in the midst of a multi-year drought and a ridiculous dry year.  I took this picture from under the Howe Avenue Bridge.


The rainy season of 2015-16 has turned out quite differently than the previous few years.  It has rained enough to be considered a normal year.  The rain in the foothills and mountains has filled the reservoirs.  And now, for the first time in a couple of years, the Folsom Dam’s floodgates have been opened for the first time in four years.  Slightly.

Even though Folsom Lake isn’t close to capacity, there’s a reason for this.  Thirty years ago, there were storms that brought the level of the lake almost to the top of the dam.  A lake topping a dam is not a good thing.  So, the powers that be adopted new rules for water releases to ensure that there would be capacity in the lake for a major storm that could come again towards the end of the rainy season.

Although the water releases haven’t been that significant, you’d think they were emptying the lake from some of the uproar about the floodgates being opened.  Here’s the thing though.  Look at that picture up top.  Now, look at this one.



Yes, the river is higher and that increase means more water flowing down towards the delta and to the ocean, but seriously, it isn’t much.

I remember when I was a kid, growing up in the 70s and crossing the Howe Avenue and Watt Avenue bridges.  In winter and spring, the river level was always high and in summer and early fall, it was always low.  Remarkably low some years.  It always amazed me how the river level varied throughout the year.

In the last couple of years, however, as I’ve paid more attention to these things, what amazes me is how consistent the river level is.  Whether winter, fall, summer or spring, it always seems to be very close to the same level.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing.  But, it does seem remarkable to me how the river level has been managed.  (Farmers down in the San Joaquin Valley may not be quite as impressed.)  And on a side note … it seems to be the same thing for the Sacramento River as it flows through Sacramento, where it is joined by the American River, and then on towards the Delta.  A consistent level throughout the year.

And with that, I find myself drawn to sunrises and sunsets these days.  I’ll leave you with this, taken yesterday morning somewhere east of Watt Avenue.





I Needed Some Quiet Time

It’s been far too long since I had a little bit of alone time.  Since early September when I camped at Point Reyes for a couple of days.  So, I was desperate to get out.  A friend and co-worker is moving to a new neighborhood near the river.  He goes for his own river walks regularly because of how close he currently lives and will live to the river.  I’m envious of his opportunity.  I decided to beat him to it and rose early this morning with the idea I’d find his new neighborhood and walk along the river there.

I call this Sunrise Near Wilhaggin…

IMG_6218My objective was to get to the river in time for the sunrise.  The end of daylight savings time made that slightly difficult, but I got there early enough to get some good pictures of the colors created by the sun’s rise and the reflections off a very still river.

I walked about 1.5 or 2 miles down the river, along the dirt trails that parallel the bike trail IMG_6238and take you through the trees and bushes along the river.  There is a main  trail, with countless side trails branching off in all directions, each of those trails taking you to the river, where you get views like this…

At each spot is a slightly different view of the river and I could take countless photos of those views.  Equally important is the wildlife.  My best picture of a deer ever.


My new little buddy I found along the way…


And these will always be my favorite (Why? Because one of my novels begins with just such a bird feeding in the shallows of Sullivan Bay.  It’s called The Irrepairable Past and I’ve struggled with it over the last couple of years, but whenever I see one of these — and they are everywhere in Sacramento’s waterways — I get a little inspired to get back to it.  So here’s to you, Bob.)


And there are trees…


And those views…


And, finally, the real reason for my walks…


In my own little personal world gone mad, I am trying to re-connect to peaceful moments and natural parts of the world far removed from the crazy.  It’s why I started backpacking this year.  It’s why I walk along the river.  If for only a few hours, I can be quiet and enjoy some very simple things.

Earlier this year, I discovered the Sacramento Yoga Center.  I went to yoga once a week for a couple of months and one of the instructors began the class with the phrase above as what we should focus on during the session.  It’s Like This Now.  And, it is, and this is what I am working towards.  There are many ways to do it and walks along the American River are just one way I am working towards recognizing the value of that concept.

A Bike Ride Ramble

The American River Parkway has a bike trail that stretches about 32 miles from downtown Sacramento to Beals Point at Folsom Lake.  It’s been there pretty much my whole life.  I remember family bike rides on the trail with my dad leading the way, solo rides on the trail as a teenager, and over the years of my adulthood, numerous efforts to turn the bike trail and bicycling on it into a regular effort to stay fit and active.

Those efforts have not typically been successful for very long, ending most frequently because I haven’t lived close enough to the bike trail for more than 20 years now.  Something about having to throw the bike in the car and then driving to the trail somehow defeats the purity of the thing.  The other reason is the lack of time to get in really good bike rides.  I just haven’t had the time to bicycle as frequently as I would have liked.

About ten years ago I took up running and discovered an exercise that worked much better for me.  Until I tore a groin muscle.  I’m running again — but shorter distances of 3-5 miles.  And a few weeks ago, I decided to include a weekly bike ride into my exercise efforts.

Today, for the fifth weekend in a row, yes, I threw my bike in the back of my car and drove to the bike trail to put 30 miles in.  I’m pretty single-minded when it comes to exercise.  I want to get it done without a lot of distractions or breaks.  For these past five weeks, I have basically stayed in the saddle peddling for two hours without stopping.

I slowed down a bit today.  Took a few pictures.  Maybe you saw them already.  If not here they are again.  A few moments of beauty along the American River Bike Trail today.






Bonus points for anybody who can identify which bridge that is.

Way back in February, I took this picture:

IMG_4235Along my route today I rode past that pipe again and the water level on that pipe was higher today than it was almost seven months ago.  In August.  As we move through the fourth year of a horrendous drought.

I have memories from my childhood of driving across the Howe and Watt Avenue bridges late in the summer and being amazed at how ridiculously low the water level was.  While the river is low these days, it doesn’t come close the pictures I have in my head of the “old days” back in the 1970’s.

I get some of the reasons for this.  Water policies change.  Some things are happening these days that weren’t in place forty years ago, but I wonder about the wisdom behind some of these.  As we empty the reservoirs to preserve the river’s flow for endangered species and other purposes, what happens if we enter a fifth year of drought?  What happens if there is no more water in the reservoir to preserve the river’s flow?  What’s the point in having dams and reservoirs if we aren’t using them to preserve water for the dry years?