Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yahi Trail alongside Big Chico Creek in Upper Bidwell Park

Chico Canyon, south rim and Sierra foothills
Chico Canyon, south rim and Sierra foothills seen 
from Yahi Trail in upper Upper Bidwell Park

Yahi Trail post
Most trails in Upper Bidwell Park—east of Chico, located at the northeast edge of Sacramento Valley, California—are open for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.Yahi Trail is for pedestrians only. This path between Big Chico Creek and the Upper Park Road connects various scenic spots of the Chico Canyon. The Upper Bidwell Park section of the Cico Bike Map provides an excellent overview of the trail network and on where bicyclists can access points of interest along Yahi Trail, named Lower Yahi Trail in the map.

The trail begins about half a mile east of the designated parking area E, the trailhead for Monkey Face climbers and a gateway to the northside bike paths of Chico Canyon and its north rim. From the parking area, follow the Upper Park Road and veer right once you get to the signed Yahi Trail. Wooded glens are lining the banks of Chico Creek. You'll find places for wading, dipping and even swimming.
Big Chico Creek at Bear Hole

As you hike further upward, the creek narrows at places. You'll find water holes—some quiet, some whirling—and channels through which the water is jetting. Don't ignore the signs that warn you about Extreme Water Dangers. Respect the wild nature of the creek, although the creek and creek-sides have been cultivated for over hundred years. The most popular hole is Bear Hole with its bathing and swimming holes (!), Lovejoy Basalt linings and a few fig trees.

Hiking (not swimming) deeper into the canyon gets you to Salmon Hole and Devil's Kitchen. Between the parking lots P and Q, Yahi Trail is closely following the Upper Park Road. There, the views into the canyon and over cliffs and spires are breathtaking. Turkey vultures like to soar this area, looking for carrion. Topographically, this is the southwest tip of the Cascade range. Chico Canyon's south rim, which you see across Big Chico Creek and the dense canyon forest, belong to the Sierra Nevada range. But whatever range, Chico Canyon makes for a world by itself.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monkey Face in Upper Bidwell Park, east of Chico in California

Monkey Face northeast of Horseshoe Lake in Upper Bidwell Park, Chico
Monkey Face, Upper Bidwell Park, Chico, California
Whether in caves or canyons, magic light casting and the readiness for imagination often trigger humans into seeing animal shapes and faces among stand-still rocks. Monkey Face of the Upper Bidwell Park in Chico Canyon belongs to such a vision. Park visitors and hikers love to climb on top of its head, from where they enjoy amazing park and canyon vistas. And by scanning the rim of the canyon, other rocks may join the illusionary zoo.

The Chico Bike Map shows Monkey Face being surrounded by unpaved mountain biking and hiking trails including North Rim Trail, Maidu Trail and Upper Trail. Monkey Face is located northeast of Horseshoe Lake. For a short, direct hike to the Monkey Face rock formation, the designated parking area E near the Rod & Gun Club is your starting point. The picture above was taken from Lower Trail near the parking area. The trail to Monkey Face's top can't be missed, as you are hiking face-to-face with Monkey Face. Stay on the designated trail and respect the natural environment. Erosion damage caused by crisscrossers is evident all around. Who wants an angry-looking Monkey Face?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Chico Bike Map: a great resource for bicyclists, hikers and pedestrians

Bike trail in Upper Bidwell Park
Bike maps assists bicyclist in selecting bicycle routes for the daily commute and recreational travel. The Chico Bike Map of 2014 provided by the Butte County Association of Governments (BCAG) and the Butte Regional Transit (B Line) is an excellent example. This map features bike paths, bike lanes, bike routes, pave and unpaved connectors, bike ways and bus routes through and around the city of Chico in California.

The Chico Bike Map includes a special inlet of the pedestrian-only campus core of Chico's California State University (CSU). Why is such an inlet part of the bike map, when riding of bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades, unicycles, scooters and Segways is prohibited on the inner campus? Because the campus offers over 25 bike parking sites, which are all shown on the inlet.

The detailed Chico Bike Map is also a great resource for those who like to stroll, walk or hike. What I like most about the map is that one of its sides is dedicated to the Lower Bidell Park and the Upper Bidwell Park. The Bidwell Park maps make it easy to find picnic sites and places of interest such as the Nature Center, the World of Trees, Horseshoe Lake, the Observatory, the Rod & Gun Club, the Golf Course, the Disc Golf area, the Monkey Face rocks and the Bear Hole. These sites are connected by bike trails and pedestrian paths. Further, there are mountain biking trails alongside the Chico Canyon rim. Trails are color-coded by difficulty. 

I got my bike map from the Chico Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center in downtown Chico (441 Main Street, Suite 150 | Monday-Friday 10:00 am - 4.00 pm). Page 1 of the map is available online.

The Chico Bike Map suggests the following Cycling Web Links for Chico, Butte County and beyond:
Bicyclists know that they are expected to be predictable, alert and lawful. Bicyclists and pedestrians have the right to expect the same from motorized traffic participants. 

Keywords: Chico campus, CSU, Bidwell Park, Chico Canyon, bicycling, tandem cycling, mountain biking, sustainable touring.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Feather Falls Loop Trail with a 3.5-mile-long and a 4.5-mile-long semiloop

Feather Falls with gliding and cascading water
The Feather Falls Scenic Trail is a 9-mile-loop trail in the Feather Falls Scenic Area of the Plumas National Forest in the northern Sierra Nevada, California. This trail connects the campground at the trailhead near the southern boundary of the Scenic Area with the Feather Falls overlook and the upper Fall River. Feather Falls Trail includes a Lower Route and an Upper Route to the waterfall. An USDA document classifies the 4.5 mi upper trail as moderate and the 3.5 mi lower trail as strenuous.

A short walk from the trailhead gets you to the Y-junction, at which the two semiloops begin.
Feather Falls overlook platform
The shorter lower route (the sign says 3.3 instead of 3.5 mi) is a lot of down and up and up and down. If you prefer a more leveled path, you may even want to consider the longer upper route for both your out and return trip. At the junction where the semiloops rejoin, I did not find any trail post or markings. Forest all around and no hint of a waterfall. But don't worry. Climb the short incline and a few switchbacks. Soon, you will see and hear the falling water.

All sections of the Feather Falls Trail are well maintained. There are benches at various locations—including the unmarked junction. Interpretive panels along the trail sections inform about Frey Creek, Bald Rock Dome and the Middle Feather River. And, of course, about the main attraction:

Feather Falls, on Fall River, plunges 640-feet and continues one-half mile where it meets the Middle Fork Feather River, and Lake Oroville. Feather Falls is the sixth highest waterfall in the United States, outside Alaska, and the fourth highest in California.

The water of the Fall River is cascading down a steep, south-facing cliff. The spraying water is likely to reflect and refract sunlight during your visit on a sunny afternoon, adding a rainbow to your waterfall pictures. The longer you watch, the more interesting patterns you will notice. Where the water glides over polished patches of sloping rocks, it dynamically covers the rock surface with a white plumage.

The overlook platform provides the most impressive vistas. When you are making your final steps towards the waterfalls alongside the safety-railing on the left side of the trail, you might miss the Overlook sign, while proceeding straight to the Fall River's edge. At the Overlook sign, follow the given direction downstairs to the overlook platform “hoovering” in front of the steep wall with the falling river.

Getting to the Feather Falls Trailhead and and its campground
Get to the junction of Lumpkin Road with Forbestown Road between Hurleton and Forbestown east of Oroville. From this junction, follow Lumpkin Road for about twelve miles until you get to the Feather Falls Scenic Area sign (right picture). Turn left. A narrow road leads you downhill for 1.5 miles to the Feather Falls Trailhead Campground and the trailhead parking area. The trail starts at the northern end of the parking area at the tip of the U-turn around the restrooms.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Feather Falls Scenic Area, northeast of the Lake Oroville reservoir in California

Spraying water of the Feather Falls with a rainbow segment

Exposed Bald Rock Pluton: Bald Rock Dome, Sierra Nevada
Bald Rock Dome
The Feather Falls Scenic Area of the Plumas National Forest is named after its landmark water fall site: the Feather Falls on Fall River plunging over 200 meters into a steep canyon. Feather Falls is the fourth highest waterfall in California. The current drought of the western United States is leaving its mark on Californian reservoirs, such as Lake Oroville southwest of the Scenic Area. The reservoir, located in the Sierra foothills downstream from the junction of the major tributaries of the Feather River, is showing a very low water level this year. But the Feather Falls keep plunging—until now.

Fall River, Feather Falls Scenic Area, California
Fall River flowing near Feather Fall's edge
The wild and scenic rivers within the boundaries of the preserve of the Feather Falls Scenic Area include the Fall River and a section of the Middle Fork Feather River, separated from each other by the Watson Ridge and converging at the upper end of Lake Oroville. On its way through a canyon, the Middle Fork Feather River flows to a point where it drops like a veil. That broad waterfall is called Curtain Falls. It is located east of Bald Rock Dome, which can be “visited” via the Dome Trail and seen from certain locations along the Feather Falls Loop Trail. At the Feather Falls Trailhead, you will find the following Scenic Area summary:

The 15,000-acre Feather Falls Scenic Area was established in 1965 to “preserve its unique beauty for public enjoyment and inspiration.” The Scenic Area is a part of the canyon of the Middle Fork Feather River, and three of its tributaries Fall River, Little North Fork, and South Branch. Outstanding features within the Scenic Area include spectacular granite domes and picturesque waterfalls along the Middle Fork Feather River, and Fall River.

The history of the Feather Falls area goes back 140 million years, geologically speaking. Around that time, the two-mile-wide Bald Rock Pluton was formed deep in the Earth's crust and became composed of both resistant and softer, more erodible parts. Millions of years later the pluton surfaced with the rise of the Sierra Nevada. Thereafter, millions of years of weathering removed soft parts and exposed granite portions of the old pluton. Some of those gray exposures, like Bald Rock Dome, took the shape of a polished head or crest. Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park were similarly formed via pluton uplift and subsequent erosion.