Napa jaunt cont'd 10/28 - 10/31 2012

Tuesday, 10/30/12, dawned very foggy and a little on the cool side with a brisk breeze.  According to the weather people, the fog would lift around 1 pm.  Well, we wanted to walk the streets of historic Napa, ogle those elegant older homes, circa 1885 and so on, and admire the vibrant autumn colors at the same time.  Jimmy and I both wore light jackets, and drove the short distance to Napa Visitor Center for a map.  Armed with two city maps, we set off on foot (on - hooray - flat ground!).  We covered quite a few streets and saw every kind of architecture.  We enjoyed our sightseeing tour, but we never quite warmed up.

Dusk at Napa Elks Lodge RV campground.

One entrance to Fuller Park in downtown Napa.

Such a color!

We thought this tree disfigurement looked like monster's ears!

Migliavacca Mansion - a grand old lady - built between 1890 - 1893!

After walking around town for a couple of hours, we paid a visit to the market and ate burgers at Gott's.  Felt good to sit down!  The sun began to poke thru at 1 pm, right on schedule, but we didn't actually see it till about 2.

After lunch, we drove to Whole Foods for a few goodies (but not a pumpkin)...

and Trader Joe's (next door) to see what they had to offer!  Jimmy poses comfortably!  After yesterday's taxing hike, we kinda took it easy today, especially considering the lovely nap we had when we got home!

Tomorrow:  We move to Cal-Expo RV Park in Sacramento.


A Napa CA jaunt - 10/28 - 10/31 2012

Napa is a great place for a change of scenery! And it's only two-and-a-half hours from our Nevada City home.  We filled up Tergel with the necessities, and took off on a warm Sunday morning, aiming to stay at the Napa Elks Lodge RV campground, recommended by friends.  Our plan was to stay three nights and do some sight-seeing and hiking.  One objective in particular was a return to hike in Skyline Wilderness Park, specifically the rugged Skyline Trail.  Skyline Park is an 850-acre wilderness area, at the southeast corner of Napa, with lots of wildlife, including deer and wild turkey, and a variety of birds.  

Monday:  Skyline trail winds up-up-up thru golden grasses, oak groves, and affords wonderful views of the Napa Valley, wetlands south of the city, and as far away as San Francisco Bay, Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Diablo.   Once the fog burned off today, we saw all this!  We spent the entire afternoon hiking and admiring views from every angle; we were in no hurry.  Several runners passed by either coming or going, reminding us of the days when we trained to run in road races, and speed was paramount.  No longer!  

The elevation gain/loss was about 900 feet, which gave us quite a work-out!  Our route eventually took us past a collapsed miner's cabin down to Lake Marie.  We sat there on a bench for a spell, resting and sharing an apple, watching coots swim across the tiny lake.  We returned to our car on the lower Marie Creek Trail, an altogether different experience, green and lush, steep in sections, with lots of boulders to climb over or around. 

Our total hike today was approx 7 miles.   And we picked an excellent day, cool with plenty of sunshine.

Looking toward Napa.

Acorn woodpecker, filling the holes with - of course - acorns!

 One of several large piles of rusted cans.  ??

 High on the ridge, taking in the view.

Closer shot of the above photo.

Two different views of the Skyline Trail - some parts were easier than others!

We paused often to admire the scenes around us.

I've looked online every way I know to find out information on the miner who had the cabin here, but find nothing.  The chimney is brick and rock.

 Lake Marie.  Small, but serene.

The Marie Creek Trail includes four creek crossings and plenty of boulder scrambling as we worked our way through the narrow moss and fern covered box canyon.  Initially the creek was dry, but seep water finally made a tiny flowing creek.

Everything was covered in green moss.  I can testify:  It was soft.

Back in the chaparral, this inquisitive doe didn't mind us.

This looked like someone began hacking thru the rock in the hopes of treasure?  The hole only went in about 15-20 feet.  I didn't go in any further.

One more vista to behold.

Watch out, ladies, Thanksgiving is coming!!

The orange color stood out, begging for a photo!
 Click on any photo to enlarge.

An extraordinary hike on a lovely fall day.  Tomorrow:  NO hiking!!


Light rail sounds good: Sunday, 10/21/12

The morning was cool.  We waited till the temperature hit 50F before we drove off down the mountain.  A gray wool blanket covered the sky.  I doubt the temp actually rose to 60 degrees.  Light jacket weather - good for a bicycle ride!  Anyway, it's today or not at all, because off/on rain is forecast for the rest of the week.  Our aim was to ride the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, aka American River Bike Trail, from Folsom Lake to the Nimbus Dam and Fish Hatchery.  We'd ridden parts of the trail before, but never this section.  We weren't even sure how to get to Folsom Lake, but the Internet sure comes in handy!  We found it.

 Parked Smartie at Beal's Point - Jimmy gets ready to ride.  Tis the season for autumn color!

 Nice signage.  We are heading for the Fish Hatchery...

 ... unaware that we are facing three 7% hills!  You fly down, but then you gotta get back up!  We didn't know beforehand about the elevation gain/loss:  Beal's Point parking lot elevation is 469', and the fish hatchery elevation is 108'.  Hmmmm....

 Kayakers in the distance paddle this beautiful river.

 Rainbow Bridge, I think.  Clever sign.

 Riding along Lake Natoma - hooray, a long flat stretch!

I thought these signs were funny.  We didn't see any horses on the paved trail.

I was curious enough to take the picture, but not curious enough to look inside!  A rider racing by called out, "It's been there for a few days...."

This is the Nimbus salmon gate, which was closed.  We saw salmon leaping against it.  Apparently the water is too warm (?) and the gate won't be opened (to let the salmon swim upriver) till 11/1 when the water temp is expected to be 55F.  What happens to the salmon trying to swim upstream NOW?  The dots in the water downstream are fishermen... catching those salmon that are stuck in the river?

Nimbus Dam.  Lake Natoma is behind the dam.  Some of the salmon are apparently getting thru as evidenced by the hoards of fishermen lining the banks of the river and standing in the shallows, both above and below the Nimbus fish gate.  We saw one stringer that had two big ol' salmon on it.  YUM.

A huge butterfly/bee bush at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery visitor center.  Buzzy bee liked!

 Folsom Dam... which is close to Folsom Prison.  Folsom Lake water level is only at 42% of it's capacity.  The lake looked really low.

"The American River Bike Trail hugs the banks of the American River as it flows through riparian habitat preserved by the American River Parkway. The trail runs for 32 miles between Discovery Park in Old Sacramento and Folsom Lake's southwestern banks at Beal's Point. The two-lane trail is completely paved, with mile markers, trailside maps, water fountains, restrooms and telephones along the way. There are also places to stop to eat, rest or enjoy the scenery. Most of the trail is shaded and level, although the route does traverse some rolling terrain."  ... quotes one online site.

Rolling terrain.  OK, after we'd figuratively flown down the first two 7% grades, we stopped to look back, knowing we had to ride 'em back up on our return trip.  Our legs were soft from not being on the bikes much in the past few months and I (Jimmy not so much) wasn't sure if I could make the grade, so to speak.  We cruised to the river's edge and watched two ladies unload their kayaks at a put-in place.  When I voiced my concern, one lady replied, "Well, it might be considered cheating, but why not take the light rail back?"  Huh?  This is what happens when you're unfamiliar with an area.  If we'd known about the light rail in advance, we could've ridden all the way to Sacramento and taken the train back to the car!!  So, now we know, and we'll study how to do it!  As my sister would say, "Sign me up."

As it turned out, my fears were ungrounded.  We pedaled (huff puff) slowly up each grade, stopping occasionally "to take a picture," although, in reality, it was to catch our breath.  I was glad to see some of the experienced road bikers riding only marginally faster up those hills, tho pass us by they did.  Despite up/down, up/down, this is a great bike/hike/skate trail.  Maybe we won't do this section again, unless we know where to catch the light rail.

All-in-all, an exhilarating 20-mile ride!


A Little Bit Closer to Heaven? 10/17/12

I love Indian Summer:  Sweet warm days, cool fresh nights.  Days with brilliant azure skies.  Wednesday was one of those days -- it was way too fine outdoors to stay inside.  We packed a hearty picnic lunch and took off "up the hill" to Donner Pass Road and one of the best hikes we've ever done:   Donner Summit Pass.  At this elevation, we took it easy, especially when climbing; the hike is only three miles R/T, but throw in our usual lot of sidetracks and backtracks and our trek ended up being longer.  The colors in this rarefied air were outstanding; quaking aspens were decked out in dazzling yellow and local grasses and shrubs had metamorphosed into a hundred shades of scarlet, orange and yellow.  

Our hike would take us along the route where people have crossed the Sierra Nevada for thousands of years - by foot, wagon, car and train (and plenty of bicyclists today!).  We saw petroglyphs; a massive "China" wall built for the Central Pacific RR by approx 12,000 Chinese laborers - in its race east to meet up with the Union Pacific RR in Promontory Summit, Utah (the first transcontinental railroad); walked thru RR snow sheds and tunnels; clambered over granite slabs on the Pacific Crest Trail; past a small pond to a vista overlooking Donner Lake; backpedaling to Lake Angela, and finally down a switchback trail to the car parked at Rainbow Bridge.  What a singular day!

Self explanatory signs!

One of several rock people we spotted.

Setting off on granite slabs.

Arrow points to the China Wall.

Jimmy leaning on the China Wall.

One part of a "snow shed" with the RR tunnel in the distance.

Entering the tunnel.  Don't worry - the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train.  It's the end of the tunnel!  Not sure exactly how long the tunnel was (guess 1/4 mile), but we both used lights.  (Is it art or is it graffiti?)

China Wall across the valley.

Beautiful Donner Lake vista.

Switchback trail seen in the distance.

Spotted this curious fire ring off the beaten path.

Lake Angela - a reservoir.  Low water, waiting for winter snows.

Fantastic juniper trees, twisted and shaped by brutal winter winds and snows.

Mixed conifers and aspens are pleasing to see.  On another part of the trail, Jimmy perches on a juniper root.

Red arrow points to the China Wall opposite.  We were awed by the size of this Jeffrey pine.

A bit of history for those who want it.  Enlarge the picture to read it easier.

We hear that winter snows in these parts aren't far away - though snow can fall in any month of the year at this elevation, the snows usually begin in late October.  Then this wonderful landscape will be transformed into a winter wonderland.  Picture postcard perfect!