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!