STEVENS TRAIL 16X January 19, 2004

Seeking desperately to escape the doom-and-gloom Valley fog, I motored again up to warm sunshine in the Sierra Foothills. Coming up to Colfax, CA, I witnessed the dramatic, sudden change from grey to bright green on the trees. While driving, I was surprised that the cloud deck persisted so high. One usually breaks out of the fog by about Auburn, CA, but not today.

Parking at the BLM maintained primitive lot, I started down the well-signed Stevens Trail at 11:49 a.m. Many hikers were enjoying the sun and blue sky on this wonderful holiday. The trail wasn't the red mud along the first few hundred feet, as at other times, and I then knew I would enjoy this hike. Descending past many a dog with hikers, I noted the good flowing streams crossing the trail. I passed under Cape Horn, where Chinese laborers had blasted the path of the 1860's Transcontinental train route out of a cliff.

I like the precipitous nature of this trail. Portions were almost like a ledge, with vertical drops of many feet. I saw some rock work had shored up parts of the trail. The sun reflected brightly off the North Fork of the American River below. I was to take almost 90 digital images this day.

Some parties were going out already. I suppose an early start is advised on some hikes, with some persons, but I know almost exactly how long this takes me. No rush. I came to the turnoff down to my favorite spots. A couple was already there, and I tried not to disturb their solitude. I shot many photos of the green pools and the river rocks, but the sunlight was harsh. Last time I had more diffuse light. Also, I spotted no early blooms. This is a great flower viewing trail by Spring.

The couple moved away, and I then stayed and did more photography. Even more people were coming down on the trail. Finally, by about 1:40 p.m., I started out.

Hiking solo, I was mindful of the animal attacks that have occured in California in the recent and deep past. My main defense is my knowledge of how to react, seeing a big cat. You do not run, simulating prey. Make yourself appear bigger, and stand down the animal.

I enjoyed the safety of numbers that the couple dozen hikers made today on this trail. Only one other was apparently hiking alone. I had tried to invite my old hiking buddies to enjoy the sun and this popular trail, but no way with them.

Seeking to do some more photography in the town of Colfax, I came back to the car by 3:12 p.m. But the fog had risen, and the old town was in clouds. I left for home in 8 minutes.

On a side note, with the gorgeous weather everywhere else but the Central Valley, the vehicle traffic was heavy. I came to a jam about Penryn, so figured it was a major tie-up. Heading west, I sought to motor to another route home. Many others were thinking the same thing. I wound up heading northwest on CA 65, and passing through the quaint and historic towns of Lincoln and Wheatland, then finally over to Rio Oso. I may visit these interesting main streets on a more sunny day. I like the old brick buildings, usually rebuilt to accommodate new businesses.

My detour cost me some 40 miles and maybe an hour, but I was cruising then on CA 70, to encounter nought but fast moving holiday returners, in addition, I suppose, to the regular commuters.

The hike was some 9 miles with 1,000' gain, round trip.