Friday's Walk in the Woods 2/24/17

Winter continues on the West Coast, in Nevada City.  Here it is, February a few days shy of being finished and us awaiting the crack of March, and bad weather continues to dominate the scene.  Even on a day of sunshine, we see the consequences right in front of us or by way of pictures and another weather-related calamity in the newspaper.  In short, NorCal is saturated.  And we need to dry out.  Not forever, mind you, I'm not hoping for more drought, just a week or two or three of no precipitation.

I can tell you how much precip has fallen on Northern California this winter:  So much that this is the snowiest winter the Tahoe area has seen in 22 years.  So much that Squaw Valley in the Sierras expects to be open for skiing July 4th.  Squaw Valley has recorded 565 inches of snow this season (so far, and winter isn't done with us).  Okay, I did the math ... 565 inches equals an incredible 47 feet of snow -- wowzers!  So much that Sacramento's rainfall has surpassed that of traditional rainy meccas such as Seattle and Portland OR.  So much that as of today, Nevada City's total precip stands at over 71 inches, most of it this year ... less than two months!  These are real, not alternative, facts!!

Snow qualifies as precipitation, of course.

With so many gray days, a person could go stir-crazy or catch cabin-fever, like the flu, stuck indoors waiting for the sun to show its face.  Jimmy and I like to be Out and About, but walking or hiking in cold wet weather isn't our cuppa tea.  We do get out, but we wait for a shiny day to really enjoy a quiet walk in the woods.  Friday was our day.

We've walked the canal path under all kinds of conditions ... hot or chilly, spring and fall, blanketed with crispy leaves or glazed with pollen, but we've never been on the trail with it covered in snow (and some icy patches).  Only an inch or two (from the past couple of days), but it made for some interesting footwork!

Overnight was cold ... a frigid 28 degrees.  An Iowa kind of temperature.  I should know ... I spent a winter in Cedar Falls, Iowa one year, long ago, and just about froze my tush off. But, no rain was in today's forecast, no snow either, and the sun was Up, beckoning us outside.  We waited till the temp rocketed up to 37 before donning long johns under our jeans, plus sweatshirts, jackets and gloves, and then we hit the upper trail.  Six miles. 

We've seen this small pond dry up, but it's full and overflowing this winter.

Above and below.  We saw five or ten new never-seen-before runnels
 leaching from the slopes, straight into the canal. 

Occasionally the sun would hide behind a cloud, and it's amazing how much colder we felt. Even if the sun wasn't truly providing much warmth at this latitude in February, the thought of it brought a warm feeling.  In a clearing, we paused and raised our faces to the sun, sopping up our friend, Vitamin D.

I didn't stick my pinky in the water, but I'm reasonably sure it's COLD.
Labs don't care!

Maybe other trail-walkers have seen water cascading from the hillsides,
but in almost-five years, we have not.

Part of an old flume flows beneath the canal here,
and this is the first time I've ever seen water exploding from the flume.

I wore my waterproof Ahnu shoes to hike in snow; Jimmy wore his waterproof hikers, also.  With every footstep, our shoes made a crunching sound as we trampled the snow.  It would be tough for us to be stealth!  Jimmy is hard to see above, in such a monochromatic landscape.

Sweet man!

Where sun could reach the path to melt snow and ice, we encountered puddles, mud, and a general sloppy mess.  Several spots had shallow running water spilling across the path.  We found ways around or walked through each, and didn't end up with goopy shoes.  Water (above) runs below a thin layer of ice and trapped air bubbles.

This is an all-purpose trail, much of it accessible, for walkers, joggers (saw one today jogging in shorts!), and bikers.  Other than the lone jogger, we saw less than a handful of people out with their dogs.  Some creative person found a heart-shaped rock, took an old bike chain and arrayed them atop a stump next to the trail.  Others have strategically placed small rocks.  Kind of cute.

Above, this is part of an access road between the upper and lower trail sections, but you'd need more than waterproof shoes to get across; boots would be the ticket.  Below, overflow water from that small pond (fourth pic from the top) surges downhill, and onto the road in the photo directly above.

We were weary after our six miles -- not used to specialized snow walking, I guess.  Our legs felt tired and my feet were sore, although as soon as I took off my shoes, my feet were fine.  We had water with us, but forgot to take granola bars, so we were hungry when we got home after 2pm.  I checked the temp -- the durned mercury never got above 40 degrees, and it only stayed at 40 for a minute before retreating into the 30's.  Our friend, Sue, says February lasts three months.  I'm thinking she's close, but no cigar -- February really lasts four months, maybe even five.  Good thing all those months are nearly gone.


Buttermilk Bend, Monday, 2/13/17

Looky here, the sun is shining!  What an invitation to be Out and About, soaking in all the Vitamin D we can, and checking out the still raging South Yuba River at the same time. Jimmy and I wanted to hike the Buttermilk Bend Trail this afternoon, though it's too early in the year for wildflowers, mainly so we could see what this river looks like in spate.

While we've had no rain for a few days, NorCal received so MUCH rain, water is still leaching out of every hillside.  The last three-day storm was a "pineapple express" that brought rain rather than snow to the high mountains, resulting in snowmelt ... and lots more water flowing into all the rivers, including this one.

So, what we're seeing today is not how this river looked a few days ago.  Imagine twice as much water gushing over boulders!  We guessed the So Yuba had already dropped maybe five feet.  In times past when we've visited, the water below the old covered bridge (at Bridgeport, in So Yuba River State Park), has been a mere trickle.  At the height of the flood, the water crested just below the bridge!

Jimmy is standing next to one of two large downed trees, this one a pine (the other was oak).  The pine cone he's holding was like a medieval weapon, heavy and sharp!  Both trees had to be removed from the trail.

The watercourse drops significantly through the steep-sided canyon, so the water plunges downhill like mad.  If you've ever been to Niagara Falls and stood next to those violent rapids that precede the actual falls, you've heard the roar wildwater makes.  That's what we heard from the So Yuba today! 

Jimmy and I view water differently than other people, perhaps.  We look at it from a kayaker's point of view, as in, "no way we could navigate that stretch," or (me) "Nope, I'd die."  In a river full of boulders the size of boxcars or small houses, we point out sections (with a jaundiced eye) that are a-jumble with whitewater.  Jimmy says it can be done with a small kayak -- and a brave body -- as a small kayak rockets through the water, almost skimming the top.  Hah, don't forget the helmet!  No thanks, not even if I was 25 would I try it.  

We spotted rivulets and cascades we never knew existed, and those we have seen before dribbling down a hill, were just that.  But, not today!  Water will find a way down and out, even if it has to make its own (or new) channel.  We all know this.

One wildflower had popped out, endemic Hansen's Larkspur (Delphinium hansenii).
A tiny bright spot in the wet, green landscape.

The last time we saw French Corral Creek (which dumps into the So Yuba), we could walk across it.  In fact, two years ago when we hiked the trail with Matt and his two doggies, it was almost dry.  Please check out the link above to see the differences!

Today, an American Dipper (or water ouzel) was working the creek.

The South Yuba is agitatin' like a loaded washing machine!
But she shines like polished pewter.

Another nifty cascade.

Most of the 2.5 R/T trail is high above the river, with steep side trails leading down to the water.  The trail is relatively flat and wheelchair accessible, albeit a bit muddy in a couple of areas today.

In this day and age of erratic and turbulent weather, flooding isn't uncommon.  My sister knows about this.  What is shocking to us is flooding HERE, where we live, as we've only known drought since moving to NorCal.  I guess we should all be prepared for more crazy and potentially damaging weather ahead, compliments of global warming.  Really, it's not an alternative fact!

Never noticed this drain pipe underfoot here, 'cause it's always been empty.

Jimmy stepped out onto the overhanging rock next to the trail.  Look at the river below, especially the distant bank.  Where the granite is light-colored above its current waterline, is the high point of the water.  A light film of clouds obscured the sun as we wound up our hike, maybe preparatory to incoming rain on Thursday?

As we were approaching Smartie, we looked up to see this powerful sun dog!

Now, on Wednesday, we heard late yesterday that the mandatory evacuation order of communities below Oroville Dam was rescinded.  Residents could go home, but we learned that only about half the people in our local fairgrounds elected to leave, fearing they might have to pack it up and return if ....

Jimmy and I plan to get in one more nice hike before the sky opens up again.  And possibly we'll return to Buttermilk Bend trail when the storm's over to check out the river one more time.


A welcome day of sunshine! Sunday, 02/12/17

Gung hay fat choy!  Gosh, with everything that's been going on in Northern California for the past month, Jimmy and I were overjoyed to see El Sol on Sunday!  Everyone loved this break in the weather and the glorious sunshine that prevailed for the Chinese New Year parade and festivities ... oh, yes, such serendipity.

Bad enough that our national political scene is chaotic and making many of us crazy, much of our local news has not been good.  A headline on this morning's newspaper (The Union in Grass Valley) read:  "Under blue skies, storm-related havoc persists." We've seen one storm after another slam NorCal, resulting in flooding, sink holes, landslides, ruined roads, major road closures, and people whose duck feet tolerance has run out.

Since Jimmy and I returned from Pasadena on Jan 8th, it has snowed a couple of times and then rain, rain, and more rain, often accompanied by wild winds.  We'd wake up to gray, gloomy drippy skies and go to bed under the same conditions.  According to the paper, Nevada City's "normal precip to date is 34.07 inches."  As of this date, 64.08 inches of precip has unloaded on Nevada City, two-thirds of it in the last month, and the wet season is still in full swing.  Atmospheric rivers is what the weather folk are calling these back-to-back storms.

What's queer about all this wet stuff is it follows five years of extreme drought.  At first, everyone cheered when rain was forecast, but the cheering stopped and the rainy weather wore mighty thin when damage reports began ... and it all became TOO MUCH.

We hit the "like" button seeing dancers and costumed lions and dragons doing their thing in the street; it was great fun.  Lots of kids were present and watching intently.  Quite a nice turnout for our little town.  Drumming and dancing were part of the featured afternoon program, but we left after the parade. 

Lions and dragons stole the show! 

Each one of these critters stomped a head of lettuce and then "chewed it."  Next, each threw little lettuce leaves into the audience.  Apparently if you caught some, you'd have a prosperous year.  I'm down with that; Jimmy pocketed a small piece!

Well done!

The guy on the far left isn't in costume....

Aloha!  Hawaiian dancers getting ready to perform.

* * * * * * * * * *

When I last left you, Tergel was in the shop getting her broken slide fixed.  That was Jan 12th.  We picked her up (in the rain) on Feb 7th or 8th, almost a month later, but the slide now goes in and out as it's supposed to.  The culprit was a bad controller.  Nice to have her back, tho we weren't planning on using her any time soon.  Seemed weird to look out where Tergel is normally parked and she was gone!  A gigantic puddle took over her spot.

I understand sunlight provides Vitamin D, which every body needs 😏.  Desperate to soak in some of that sweet Vitamin D, Jimmy and I hit the Deer Creek Tribute Trail after the parade.  Deer Creek runs through Nevada City and is the baddie that flooded our favorite Nevada City restaurant, Lefty's Grille, not once but twice, in January and in February, which hardly seems fair.  Right now, the creek is noisy and ripping along at a breakneck speed, but not flooding.  We've never seen it like this.

This trail leads to a fine new Chinese Bridge across Deer Creek.
Seems fitting that we'd hike here today on Chinese New Year.

At Stocking Flat, Deer Creek Canyon opens up to a broad floodplain, and here flood waters made swirling designs in the mud high above the creek's normal bed, and depositing a wall of sand at the terminus.  We checked over a pile of small rocks to see if any gold might've gotten stuck between the rocks, but we weren't fooled for a minute by sparkly dots of iron pyrite.  It was a leisurely and lovely hike following a flat Newtown Canal path most of the way, a good thing for Jimmy who is thinking his right knee is the next one to be replaced.  

Who knew a couple of Pussy Willow shrubs existed down by the creek?  Someone or some critter had already torn off branches, so I helped myself to a few.  I grew up with a nice-sized Pussy Willow shrub at our creek in Niagara Falls and loved to feel the fuzzy, fluffy catkins.  Soft, like a kitty-cat.

I'm writing this post on Monday, after a hectic 24-hour period involving the Oroville Dam emergency spillway failure.  Yesterday, an immediate evacuation of Yuba City, Marysville and other communities downstream from the Oroville Dam was ordered, affecting close to 200,000 people.  These poor people are still in evacuation shelters or staying with friends or relatives while crews work to control erosion and avert disaster.  We are safe and not in harm's way, but I sure feel sorry for everyone involved in this.  Holy Toledo, enough rain already -- what a scary mess.

I just checked our 10-day forecast.  Good lord, it calls for another solid week of off/on rain, Thurs-Thurs.  Shoot me.