STEVENS TRAIL 17X December 25, 2004

Rather than sit about in the gloomy Valley fog, I chose to motor up Interstate 80 for this favorite hike. I had posted an invite to the local Web hikers to do a longer drive, for possibly the summit of Snow Mountain (7,056') in the Coast Range, with no takers. The idea of a fairly high peak to climb, with an easier trail, appealed to me greatly. We are at the probable tail of a two week long, dry period, in the winter weather, to maybe end in the next week.

Starting at the signed, Stevens Trail, BLM trailhead, only three vehicles were parked there on this fine holiday. I began my hike at 12:08 p.m. The red dirt, sometimes mud, along the first few hundred feet, was mostly dry enough, and throughout the hike, only a few short patches of mud were to be encountered. I crossed a few small creeks enroute, having to make only one short jump.

One hiker had his frisky puppy dog along for a short stroll. Nice to see other like minded people, out for a beautiful day! I soon descended down the signed trail to remember that there had been a fire here, last summer. Yes, the cliffs of Cape Horn had burned. I grimly was to see that a large midportion of this once green, natural trail was now no more. The usual burnt and scorched terrain caused me to snap many a photo as record. Many a scenic gnarled oak, or tall pine, was now dead wood.

However, the trail is fine, and a runner jogged past me, giving a good holiday greeting. I continued down the trail, with a realization that I would be the only one going this far, this day. Then, a lone mountain biker rode past me. He stopped to chat a bit, and I asked about other mountain bike trails. They are recently constructed for this popular sport. I mentioned a newspaper article proclaiming it mountain bike heaven for those inclined to escape the Valley fog. Up here, above the low cloud ceiling, the sun is often shining brightly and blue sky greets those lucky holiday travelers, once east past the town of Auburn, CA.

I surprised myself by snapping so many photos. I got my first digital camera, inspired by my repeating this hike. I wish to record the sights, which differ slightly each separate day, but want not to shoot expensive film.

The grass is growing back, with perhaps seeds maybe sown by the land managing agencies. The fire did clear the brush out. The south side of the North Fork of the American River Canyon, here, was not touched, thankfully. The green forested slopes add immensely to the remainder of the scenic beauty.

I came to my usual resting spot, the smooth rock slabs above the green pools. I had been hiking for about an hour and forty five minutes. I doffed my heavy day pack, and enjoyed a soda I had bought, to use a restroom at a gas station, before this activity. The harsh light of the low sun spoiled many a shot into the sparkling river, with lens flare. Alone, I feared for some minor catastrophe, but tried to enjoy my solitude. After a short while, I headed back to the main trail and proceeded to the end of the trail, at Secret Creek. There, frost had developed into crystalline minutiae, great for my close-up lens feature, and a flash.

I shot a few movie clips, and then started back up the hill. I ran into two more hikers enjoying a rest, in the sun, on green slopes above the trail. A beautiful day! Why so many locals deplore such clean fun, I attribute to the new policies of the main enviro group. They eagerly cast themselves as interested only in personal gain, and money is their god. The massive development in the area is testament to their inaction. Whether anyone likes it or not, more urban sprawl will be the destiny of the foothills.

I took a short break changing my memory card. I thought to visit Old Auburn to do some more photography, but I was to see old Newcastle, looking for a good vantage point to witness the coming sunset.

A short matter to return to the cars, I made it back for an under four hour round trip. I have shot old Colfax, once during a big snowstorm, so headed down the freeway for a small bite and break, and then wound up passing on the photography of the setting sun. Not too spectacular, today, anyway.

The hike is posted as 4.5 miles each way, so I had done some 9 miles, with perhaps 1,000' gain, round trip. I shot some 240 images and movie clips. I spent $7 for gas, and another $2 for the cold liter soda.

No bugs, and I used only two layers all day. I hardly drank up my liter of soda, and carried a liter of water down and back up. We'll see what the rains do, and then maybe, I'll do more fine weather hiking.