My hiking partner, Melony Vance, with her fledgling business "Gold Country Hiking and Adventures" was looking for great destinations to add to her upcoming catalogue of guided hikes for lovers of the outdoors. She caters to enthusiasts who like to experience new areas with someone who has been there, know the tales as well as the factual information, all told in a casual, personal manner. Stay tuned until Melony has completed her website so that we can connect you to her.
Our goals overlap in many ways. As we hiked the Loves Falls/Wild Plum Loop late this spring, Melony and I struck a loose partnership of friendship and supportive goals by shaking hands over a Wild Plum Campground table. We'd met only a month earlier on the bottom of the Humbug Trail in the Malakoff Diggins State Park. She'd offered me a ride the couple of miles back to my car. Fate interfered with that one-time experience; I left my hiking pole in her new Subaru. Fortunately, I'd given her my business card, so we next met over Caroline's iced Chai tea to exchange the pole for my familiarity of the area. I always smile when I wonder if this was a fortuitous meeting for both of us: allowing us to live, work and play here in the Central Sierra Nevada.
At High Loch Leven, the sun on our backs warmed us against the cool breeze, but our sun block lotions were buried in the bottom of our pack – hopefully until next year. The speckled gray, granitic cap worn by the Sierra Nevada for umpteen thousands of years cupped the upper Loch Leven Lake into a bowl lined with far more rock than trees. White pines, red firs and even uncharacteristically large lodgepoles towered over weaker, equally old siblings. We admired that tiny stands of trees had lived tough lives in the pockets of soil that have taken hundreds of thousands of years to form. Their challenges placed our own in proper perspective.
As we sat alone on the granitic mantle, a lonely duck, obviously hoping for us to feed it, swam over to the rock below us. Waddling through the brush and stones closer to our perch, he walked as funny as a duck. He was the only one that appeared to miss summer's crowds of bikini clad young women along with their camping partners that were too busy swimming to enjoy the scenery. Under the patches of trees, they had left several rocked, fire-rings containing bits of burned metal trash from aluminum cans or foil that were small but glaring reminders that the Labor Day crowd had left only a day before.
After the weekend, peace and relative solitude dominated. The few sounds were the refreshing winds in the trees. And our duck talking to us. As we began our return to civilization, at Middle Loch Leven, we shared the high-mountain lake with four college-aged kids braving swimming in the cold waters, a man with his two dogs straining their leashes, going different directions, plus one couple who have hiked these mountains together for years. By mid-October, when the fall colors are at their best, we'll most often have the place to ourselves.
My passion is to capture the beauty and share the opportunity with others. Melony's goal is to enrich visitors' experiences by learning of a location's topography, geology, history and the flora and fauna that make this their home. Also, to help the Forest Service soften the overcrowded summer seasons by stretching into shoulder months before and after the busiest period. When practical, introduce recreationists to the back trails and locations that have not been worn practically unusable. More ideals we share.
The focus of these first series of blogs will highlight the places to find fall colors in our area. We'll share the rich opportunities for seasonal colors in the Lakes Basin, Grouse Ridge, and Donner Summit.
Including my own home, Nevada City and Grass Valley, little towns offering comfortable base camp opportunities. Helping make outstanding destinations, each fall season adds even more color to their Gold Rush history. Miners sought to bring links from their eastern heritage to these remote landscapes. Century-old maples and liquidambars planted by prospectors as reminders of their back-east heritage have become attractions by themselves. Since then, locals have planted thousands of color-rich hardwoods. Today, the towns are considered some of the best places to view fall colors in California. And we know the best displays for viewing or taking pictures.
All told, here in our backyard, there are over 50 communities, each with their own personality. Quaint, some rustic, some cosmopolitan in their small town way, several provide a few services, others, all levels. But, all catering to outdoor recreationists, travelers, and visitors. Each provides even more "color" – year-round. More reasons we love to live and play here. And share.
* * * Stay tuned. Come back. Subscribe, it's free. If you sign up, you'll be emailed notifications of new postings and comments. At any rate, return as often as you'd like. Share your own experiences and recommendations, especially timely updates on catching any location at the height of its seasonal colors. Later we'll move on to opportunities year round: spring wildflowers, waterfall flows, corn snow conditions.
Now that Melony and I have introduced ourselves, including our New Information Blog, we'll usually write shorter, informational pieces, so we'll both have more time to get outdoors. This weblog is our means of providing more up to date exchanges of facts and opinions for outdoor recreation opportunities here in the Central Sierra. Join us. Help us by amplifying our two pairs of worn boots to hundreds of kindred souls.
Other sections of our website www.SierraOutdoorRecreation.com always have additional details with directions, including great maps. All free, thanks to our sponsoring advertisers. If you have questions, contact me directly at john@SierraOutdoorRecreation.com. When we are not out enjoying the Central Sierra Nevada, one of us will get back to you.
Better yet, if we run into each other on the trail or in the campground, along the river, the lake or on the snow, let's chat.
John H. Skinner
PS: I was hiking above Donner Pass Wednesday, September 16th and yesterday again in another direction. The first blush of fall colors has started to tinge a few of the aspen but especially the Mountain Ash. So far, many of the shrubs are offering their own muted colors. But at the date of this posting, mostly along the rim of the Sierra Crest. Soon the colors at lower elevations will change. Time is precious. Timing is everything. Don't miss out.