MOSQUITO RIDGE ROAD HIKES May 26, 2003
Staying near home most of this holiday weekend, I sought to make a short trip. The weather was a bit cooler, so I knew it would be nice in the foothills. The USFS Foresthill District Ranger Station is open only on regular working days, but I needed no special information.
The trail hikes of the Tahoe National Forest, here, tend to be short, so I have to do a few of them to make a good hiking day. Driving to Foresthill, CA, I took the signed Mosquito Ridge Road, NF 96, down into the North Fork of the Middle Fork, American River Canyon. It was pleasantly uncrowded. Several mountain bikers were tackling the steep uphill grade, and I slowed to watch for these users. Good exercise! This road, recently completely paved to its end at French Meadows Reservoir, is a minor engineering marvel. Some arch bridges cross chasms, and the highway is often cut into steep rock cliffs. Views down into the canyons are good for stops, but it was a bit hazy here today, being it's approaching summer. Yes, haze, dust, or air pollution do creep into our local mountains.
I first went to the dirt road for the Grouse Falls Trailhead. This is graded but dusty dirt road, and is easily driven with regular cars. Following the signs, I came to an empty parking lot. I snapped a few pictures, then took the 1/2 mile trail down through nice forests. I came upon a very few mosquitoes, and then came to the modest lookout structure. The falls is down below to the right. One needs about a 100mm lens to capture the distant view. Not wasting time, I started back up the short hill, and came back to my car in about 12 minutes.
Motoring slowly out, I encountered some other carloads of hikers going in. Back to the main road, I motored east to come to the Big Trees Trailhead, accessing the Placer Grove. This stand of Sequoia trees is the northernmost location for these magnificent giants of the forest. With a spacious parking area, I took the Forest View Trail, which makes a slightly longer hike. This loops around to the biggest tree, the furthest from the road. I snapped photos, but the harsh sunlight created shadows and bright spots. I had hoped for high clouds and diffuse light, seen as I drove up Interstate 80, but the skies had cleared.
Other hikers were enjoying the short trail. I hiked to the other Sequoias, and snapped my shutter many times. I am on the verge of expanding my portable memory card capacity threefold. I was considering getting a refurbished notebook, to download my images after my supply of memory cards was filled up. But how often would I take vacations more than a week long?
Back to the lot in far less time than suggested by a trail sign, I motored off, back down and west, into the North Fork of the Middle Fork Canyon. Some parking is along the highway for the mile trail along this branch of our fine river. So few people, for such a proximate destination, for the Central Valley!
Taking this narrow, signed trail, I noted many flowers in fine condition, yet. The trail is overgrown with poison oak. In spots, a bad loss of balance could send one over a hundred foot cliff! I spoke with some backpackers, then came to the end of the trail at a stone foundation. Nothing much to see here, I then walked back to take a precarious side trail down to the river. Some class 2 hiking is required for this. The sight of rapids from a few feet away, and a short cascade, made this little adventure well worthwhile. I shot some movie clips, and took more photos. I inserted my third memory card for the day, and changed batteries. I have plenty of space on my computer's internal hard drive, but was also on the verge of getting an external 80 GB hard drive. I noted the only one year warranty.
I easily came back to my car and walked across the nearby highway bridge, taking more photos.
Not done yet, I motored out of the canyon back to the Foresthill Road, then came back west to a large parking lot for the Foresthill Divide Loop Trail. I wished to save this, being some 9.4 miles, for a good winter hike. I soon found out it was designed for mountain bikes, being wide enough, with very bikable trail. Two of them whizzed by at maybe ten miles per hour. I looked for a view to see, but saw the trail just goes close to the highway. The main North Fork Canyon is just to the north, but I saw no way to see it without hiking cross-country through heavy brush.
Turning back to call it a day, I wished to beat the massive rush to get home after the holiday weekend. I figured the Interstate was now a parking lot, but the traffic was moving well. Then forgoing a stop in Auburn, CA, I was able to motor home and get back to my computer.
I estimate my total hiking today was some 6 miles, with 800 feet of gain. I shot some 150 digital images and movie clips (7.2 MB, 1:15). I saw no ticks, although I am careful not to swipe any up in brushing by flora.
I was in my T-shirt and jeans all day, with only water, a map, and extra pullover in my pack. Some cold sodas in my ice chest made for refreshing, cheap drink. I like the scenery, and wondered if more is destined for this mildly beautiful area. I am aware of many more scenic features, that could use a trail or other access. There is an Auburn State Recreation Area, and it seems logical to have a Middle Fork and North Fork, American River Recreation Area. A visitor center would do well for the Auburn or Foresthill area, with maybe more Federal funds to help develop the area. But, as we are in an austere spending era, this idea may take decades to realize or implement!
BACK TO PETE'S THOUSAND PEAKS HOME PAGE