A new discovery! Monday, 2/16/15
My goodness, we are having such a wave of fine, warm weather, it would be a shame to be indoors ... folks in NorCal just want to be outside enjoying it. It's been so un-winter-like that last nite a news reporter on TV reported locals are already flocking to nurseries, inquiring about planting tomatoes (way too early)! This spring-like weather may not last, but we are loving it to the max.
Above is the South Yuba River, taken from an overlook on the Independence Trail East. Jimmy and I hiked this trail in Oct 2013, yet early-spring gives the trail a whole different feel than autumn. (I know, it's technically winter, but it FEELS like spring.) For one thing, the Yuba River and the small streams and rivulets that feed the So Yuba are surging with water. As we hiked along, most of the time far above the River, we could hear its tumultuous downstream progress.
Another thing was wildflowers; this time we saw numerous early bloomers, as the above Alpine Shooting Star.
But this cave was the real discovery! Actually, this is the 800 ft long Miner's Tunnel. We'd heard about it, but weren't sure where it was. We found it this time, thanks to meeting two ladies on the trail who'd just seen it. (turn left, not right, at Hoyt's Crossing) See the speck of light at the end of the tunnel? That IS the other end, and I think if we return in autumn when the water level will be very low, we could probably get inside, possibly even to the other end. Whoa, Nellie, it might be scary, but it would definitely be cool!
Here's the scoop. Miners cut the tunnel through solid granite in 1879, between Hwy 49 and Hoyt's Crossing, to redirect the So Yuba River and expose gravel (for gold, naturally). What an undertaking! The only thing that drove these guys was the thought of GOLD in their pockets.
The water from the tunnel and the waterfall next to it makes its way into the So Yuba just off to the left in this picture ... and so did I, by clambering down these massive boulders, sort of like a mountain goat. It wasn't easy, but it was doable. I twirled my fingers in the water for just a few seconds ... that's all it took to register how cold it is.
My lilac-colored shirt and red back pack are barely visible at the red arrow.
Jimmy said he'd hold the fort up here.
Through the millennia, river water has polished and sculpted the giant granite boulders into an elegant and remarkably smooth sheen.
The Miner's Tunnel water dumps into the So Yuba River here.
The hike is 4.5 miles R/T, but the last quarter mile down this rutted "road" leads to the river, which means the first quarter mile on our return was UP (it felt longer going up!).
We cross quite a few trestles on Independence Trail East. Most had water flowing beneath. One damp wooden trestle had a shiny red 8" Sierra Newt creeping along the edge, but it vanished below as I turned on my camera.
Rock Arch, go under or go around.
This plant with pretty blue flowers is Blue Houndstongue (aka Wild Comfrey), a plant native to the US.
The miner's former Excelsior Ditch makes an ideal mostly-shaded, fern-lined trail. Cool place to be on a hot day. Great for hiking anytime!