* * *ALERT dated 3-11-2009: The Waldo Bridge that is key to driving to Trailheads for Shingle Falls and several other trails has been closed by Yuba County after an apparent accident damaged the center support for the bridge. See Spenceville Wildlife Area description for additional information. * * *
SLIDESHOW for Spenceville Wildlife Area.
With the amount of rain we've had here in the foothills in the Nevada City and Grass Valley, CA area, Shingle Falls at Spenceville is booming. The creek water is still murky brown and the sunshine has been very scarce over the past few weeks, but this is a great time to visit. We're programmed for a break between the waves of storms and as a retired local that prefers to schedule outings by TV weather only a day or two ahead, I intend to revisit the Wildlife Area with the best weather next week.
The beauty of Spenceville Wildlife Area is that for the hiking/biking/equestrian rider enthusiasts there are several other soul satisfying treks besides the favored one to visit the falls.
Still, it's hard to pass up bagging two great waterfalls within a tenth mile of each other. This spring I intend to get a better measurement of un-named "Lower Shingle Falls." My eyeball measurements put the lower falls about the same as Shingle Falls (aka "Fairy Falls) themselves. Bill Haire, Trails Coordinator of the Nevada County Land Trust, has agreed to come along and bring his trusty clinometer to get some good measurements. Stay tuned.
As winter slops into spring over the next few weeks, I intend to visit several other favorite trails--all the trailheads within minutes of each other. The views of the rolling hills of blue oaks starting to leaf out and standing starkly against the waves of deep grasses all the way down to the Central Valley are peaceful, yet, re-invigorating. And reassuring in their perpetuity. Especially nice in these hectic times.
Plus the variety of wildflowers, when I can catch them in their all-too-short season, are a special bonus.
Between the EECP treatments beginning to pay off and the new class of meds the electro-cardiologists subscribed for me last week, I beginning to feel the renewal of energy that makes me look forward to covering the area again. Spenceville is one of my favorite spring rituals.
I discussed the falls and the "North Valley Trail" and even EECP in my previous blog "Winter Rushes Towards Spring Eagerly in Spenceville Wildlife Area," . Here are a few more of my favorite nearby hikes. Our Spenceville Wildlife Area Map quickly lets you see how the tight complex of trails link together to make several great loops. Don't forget: scroll, zoom; what you see, you can print. Free.
Spenceville Lookout Trail: Little is left of the Lookout except for footings for the tower, but the modest, steady climb up the old administrative road ascends though peaceful, vibrant stands of blue oaks and grey pines. As the road/trail nears the top, the view opens to the west, including Sutter Buttes and the Central Valley rimmed with the faint gray hulk of the Costal Range on the far side. At the top of the rounded ridge, bulking out at the lookout site, vistas swing 360 degrees to reveal the heart of Spenceville Wildlife Area. Scattered clumps of California Poppies are creeping into reclaim the old site.
As it sneaks through the heavy stands of oaks, the drop to the south on the single-track trail stays high and especially quiet and peaceful. Below to the left (east) is Spring Plot Pond which opens beyond to a nice view of the back side of the trail down to Nichols Road. When the trail approaches that gated, gravel road that will return you in a full loop to your vehicle, first drop westerly across the meadows to the basin with the life-sustaining pond. Take time to enjoy the wood ducks and, in season, the rich variety of wildflowers. Or just take time.
Dry Creek, Bunker, and West Pitman Trails loop: Dropping west alongside Dry Creek on the old road and single-track trail is especially nice when the spring leaves are bursting out or later when they change to subtle fall colors. However, my best trek was the day I watched two river otters playfully escaping downstream ahead of me.
Cox Creek just above Waldo Bridge and Junction swells into a deep, wide pool that is home to scads of resident fish and suitable for horses to wade across, but not the rest of us. Stay in the huge meadow and follow the Cox Creek north and cross it above the backwater or, instead, easily lope cross-country to tie into Bunker Trail without crossing Cox. Take a map, but in this wide-open, western movie setting, it'll be hard to get lost. Bunker Trail climbs along an old road back into the trees before it tops the gentle, forested ridge and drops to the West Pittman Trail.
Pittman Pond is a classic ranch pond but now is beloved by wildlife and anglers. And when intense, steel blue skies and passionately fluffy clouds with seemingly dozens of shades of whites darkening to grays are reflected in the pond, the surrounding area is especially photogenic.
Just below Pittman Pond, I prefer to veer right and drop down the meadow along a users' trail highlighted by three small, but rich ponds. Then turn left at the trail above Dry creek and return to the concrete bridge and parking area.
But by mid-summer the nutrient rich ponds are essentially covered by lily pods and other water loving plants floating in the pool to the point that fishing is frustratingly challenging. There's a reason the bass and perch can live to old age.
Four Ponds Trail: This is a short trail but I enjoy each of the four ponds and the striking combination of grassy meadows and oak stands. This is also a pleasant way to slip down to arguably the most scenic pond in Spenceville: Horseshoe Pond complete with picnic tables. Or ponds number five for this trek. At times, I circle back on the gravel Pitman Road, but I prefer to backtrack on the main trail and catch each of the ponds with different lighting and vistas. For photography, lighting is nearly everything.
The short trail leaves time to also combine a trek with the Walsh Trail, . However, in less than a mile, once the trail tops the ridge above some nearby homes, I'm satisfied to return to the vehicle at the gate where the Pitman Road hits the Smartville Road. To make a fairly hardy loop, continue north on Walsh and then return on the user trail above the fence line following the Spenceville Road. Catch the lower slopes just right and there can be scads of wildflowers, but just enough vehicles on the road to bring you back to the hectic pressures of civilization too quickly.
Yet, some developers want to build an umpteen-thousand home subdivision just on the west side of the Spenceville Wildlife Area. If you think the road is busy now...