Monday, March 16, 2015

In and out of the loop between the Carson and Pine Nut Mountain Range: Pinyon Trail

Carson Range with Jobs Peak seen from Pinyon Trail
The recently opened Pinyon Trail near Gardnerville between the Carson Range and the Pinut Nut Mountains offers grand vistas and excellent work-out opportunities for mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers—and for dogs, too. During its opening ceremony, Pinyon Trail was described as “self-explaining.”

According to the Pinyon Trail Map, this recreational trail features elevation ranges from 5700 feet at the trailhead to 6060 feet near Rocky Point. The trail climbs gently from the Pinyon Trailhead north of Pinenut Road 2 to a Loop Junction at an elevation of 5860 feet. Continuing northbound (turning left) at this junction, you will traverse northwest-facing slopes with views of the Carson Range and Carson Valley. After about two miles from the trailhead, the northernmost point of the loop is reached. Unless you decide to return, you will head southbound on the North Ridge and East Wall sections on top of the east-facing slopes. The final third of the loop will take you to the highest elevation point and via Rocky Point back to the Loop Junction.
Pinyon Trail switches back and forth between open stands of small and mid-size shrubby pinyon pines and juniper trees. On our first hike after the open ceremony on March 14 we didn't see much grass cover and could not spot any wildflowers. The ecosystem shows only weak soil development. No water sources are available—neither for humans, nor for wildlife. Pinyon Trail is a beautiful and inspiring trail for unpretending, enduring souls and for anybody who loves to experience the open space of Nevada.

There are a few marked intersections along Pinyon Trail with narrow trails for motorized traffic, but we didn't hear or see any motorized vehicles.  

Getting there
Please, see the section Getting to the Pinyon Trailhead in my previous post. Also, the Vicinity Map inset of the Pinyon Trail Map provides a good overview of the 6.7-mile-long road connection between Hwy 395 and the Pinyon Trailhead.

Mountain biker on the non-loop section of Pinyon Trail

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pinyon Trail east of Gardnerville open to hikers, joggers, mountain bikers, equestrians and dogs

Pinyon Trailhead: (in)formal trail opening 
Between 10:00 am and 10:45 am on Saturday, March 14, the new, hand-constructed Pinyon Trail on the east side of the Carson Valley near Gardnerville, Nevada, was officially opened [1-4]. The trail project was funded by the Carson Valley Trails Association (CVTA) in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Douglas County. It all started less than two years ago with surveying the area by including an archaeologist. During the opening ceremony a Native American woman pledged respect for this recreational site of cultural and ecological significance.

The new non-motorized trail traverses gentle slopes of hilly pinyon-juniper woodland. The single-track trail provides access to public land and is open to hikers, joggers, mountain bikers, equestrians and dogs [5,6]. Pinyon Trail provides grand vistas of the Carson Range and the Pine Nut Mountains. According to the CVTA overview article, the trail system is much surrounded by not-always-marked private property [7].

The total round-trip length of Pinyon Trail is 5.2 miles, including 1,1 miles (one-way) for the trailhead-to-loop-junction section and 3.0 miles for the loop itself. The trail surface is soil with very few patches of bedrock.

Getting to the Pinyon Trailhead
The Pinyon Trailhead is located 6.7 miles east from the intersection of Highway 395 with the westbound Riverview Drive and the eastbound Muller Parkway at the southern outskirts of the Town of GardnervilleNevada. At this intersection, turn east on Muller Parkway. After 0.2 miles, turn right at the round-about and follow Pinenut Road (becoming Pinenut Road 2 past Dump Road) for 4.4 miles. At the Y-junction in which the paved Out-R-Way Road goes left, you will see the sign shown at the top of this post. Continue on the graveled section of Pinenut Road 2 for 2.3 miles until you arrive at the Pinyon Trailhead, which is on the left side, but has overflow parking further downhill to the right.

References and more to explore
[1] Bureau of Land Management News Release, Carson City District: BLM and Carson Valley Trails Association to Hold Opening for Pinyon Trail [].
[2] Carson Valley, Nevada: Grand Opening Celebration!! [].
[3] David Jacobs: Pinyon Trail set to open up on March 14. Reno Gazette-Journal, March 8, 2015, page 7A (also:
[4] Carson Valley Times: Pinyon Trail Grand Opening March 14 [].
[5] Carson Valley Trails Association: Pinyon Trail [].
[6] Carson Valley Trails AssociationPinyon Trail Map [].
[7] Carson Valley Trails Association: Pinyon Trail Information [].

Pinyon Trailhead during opening ceremony on March 14, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hiking on reddish-brown silty trails on top of the Jurassic Copper Hill Volcanics bedrock

A reddish-brown Hidden Falls Park trail
Placer County's Hidden Falls Regional Park features diverse trails through blue oak forest and riparian habitat. The park's eponymous waterfalls attract visitors from northern California and elsewhere. While hiking, mountain biking or horse riding in Hidden Falls Park, you may have noticed its reddish-brown silty soil: red dust during dry seasons (most of the year) and red mud after heavy rain.

Hydrogeologist Robert H. Sydnor writes about Hidden Falls' natural history and educates about the park's soil and rocks in his illustrated posts [1-3]. The reddish soil overlays the gray to blue-gray bedrock, which you can explore, for example, in the Coon Creek Canyon next to where the Deadman Creek water cascades down over the Hidden Falls hard-rock bed and then meets Coon Creek. Nearby, an interpretive panel explains:

Hidden Falls Regional Park is composed of one formation: the Jurassic Copper Hill metamorphic rocks. The waterfalls occur because of an unusually hard section of rock within the Copper Hill Volcanics, a geological formation of Jurassic age. Copper Hill Volcanics are a metavolcanic formation that was originally volcanic ash. The ash was changed by tectonic shearing along the Bear Mountains Fault Zone to become a foliated (sheared) metamorphic rock.

The formed rock no longer looks like regular volcanic rock due to its metamorphosis by uplifting and shearing activity—about 153 to 139 million years ago [3].

The Geologic Map of the Sacramento Quadrangle allows you to zoom in on the Copper Hill Volcanics (Jch) formations, which now are part of the western Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento [4].

Keyterms: geology, Jurassic Period, Bear Mountains Fault Zone, Sierra Nevada range, Sierra Nevada foothills, clayey soil.

References and more to explore
[1] Robert Sydnor: Deer Trail, 0.6 miles, Hidden Falls Regional Park, Placer County, California [].
[2] Robert Sydnor: Foliated metavolcanic rocks of the Copper Hill Volcanics, Hidden Falls Regional Park, Placer County, California [].
[3] Robert H. Sydnor: Seven Pools Loop Trail. March 2010 [].
[4] State of California, Department of Conservation: Geologic Map of the Sacramento Quadrangle [].

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Deadman Canyon's Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls (March 10, 2015)
Hidden Falls is a small cataract in the Deadman Canyon of Hidden Falls Regional Park—a Sierra Nevada foothill park near Auburn, the county seat of Placer County in California. A platform at the end of the Hidden Falls Access Trails makes viewing of the waterfall possible from midair; just where the year-round water flow of Deadman's Creek continues on its path downhill into Coon Creek Canyon.

The Hidden Falls cataract is located about 2.5 miles northwest of the Hidden Gateway. From this trailhead area you will get into Deadman's Creek by descending the Poppy Loop Trail. After crossing over the creek via Whiskey Diggins Bridge, you will get to the above shown intersection of Hidden Falls Access Trail and Blue Oak Loop Trail with North Legacy Way. Follow the Hidden Falls Access Trail alongside Deadman's Creek through oak forest to the waterfall observation deck. Even without a waterfall this would be an enjoyable and relaxing setting.

To return to the Hidden Gateway on a different path, take the trail from the viewing platform alongside Coon Creek to the Canyon View Bridge. Notice the informative panel on the left that reviews California's Golden Geology and sets Hidden Falls Park in context with its gold mining past:

The first gold miners panned for gold in streams and rivers. When the gold became harder to find, they started using a process called placer mining. This process used lots of water to wash the gold from the earth. If there were no rivers or streams nearby, the water needed for placer mining had to be delivered by canals. The Whiskey Diggins Canal was built in the southern portion of [what now is] Hidden Falls Regional Park for this purpose. During the 1850s, the Gold Hill and Bear River Water Company built the canal to bring water from Deadman Creek. As profits from mining decreased, people turned to ranching and agriculture to make a living.

Coon Creek Canyon view near Canyon View Bridge

From the Canyon View Bridge (without crossing it), ascend eastward on North Legacy Way until you arrive at its intersection with Blue Oak Loop Trail. Turn right onto the latter and walk southeast on this trail to the Whiskey Diggins Bridge, where the Poppy Loop Trail.connects you with your starting point.

Keyterms: historywestern slopes of the Sierra Nevada rangeplacer mining, Whiskey Diggins Canal, Deadman Creek (also Deadman's Creek).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hidden Falls Regional Park in the Sierra Nevada foothills northwest of Auburn, California

Slope with trail switchbacks between Hidden Gateway and Whiskey Diggins Bridge

On the rocks near Hidden Falls
Hidden Falls Regional Park in the Sierra Nevada foothills between Auburn and Lincoln currently has approximately 30 miles of multi-use trails [1-3], which are all listed and rated in the insert table of the Trail Map. There are riparian and lowland foothill trails through oak and pine forests on both sides of the Coon Creek watershed. The Canyon View Bridge and the Salmon Run Bridge cross Coon Creek. The Whiskey Diggins Bridge near the Hidden Gateway crosses Deadman's Creek.

Hidden Falls Park is named after the 30-foot waterfall of Deadman's Creek, just before it meets Coon Creek.

The park includes scenic observation decks, areas for picnicking, fishing access and interpretive panels. The trails are well marked by signposts. Trail maps have been posted at various spots. If you enjoy to plan your own route—loop by loop, this is your park.

Getting there
The Location Map provides an excellent overview of the Hidden Falls Regional Park vicinity. You may want to find the shortest connection to the park depending on your starting location. Non-locals typically plan their visit as part of a sideways road trip north of Interstate 80.
From I-80 in Auburn take Exit CA 49 north toward Grass Valley and Nevada City. After 2.7 miles turn left onto Atwood Road. From this intersection, the Hidden Falls Park entrance is about 4.5 miles away. Go west on Atwood Road and, after 1.7 miles, continue northwest on Mount Vernon Road, winding between orchards and estates through lush and hilly ranchland. At most road junctions you'll find signs directing you to the park. Turn right on Mears Road and find the park entrance at Mears Place. Drive downhill to the parking lot and information kiosk. This trailhead area is also known as Hidden Gateway.

Canyon View Bridge in Hidden Falls Regional Park, California
Canyon View Bridge crossing Coon Creek

Keywords: hiking, joggingbikingequestrian activityfishingoutdoors, open space.

References and more to explore
[1] Placer County, California: Hidden Falls Regional Park [].
[2] The GeekHiker: Hidden Falls Regional Park [].
[3] Gus Thomson: Expanded Hidden Falls Regional Park now open. Auburn Journal, May 23, 2013 [].