Odyssey 2015 CNHT Journals

Wednesday—May 27, 2015
Trail Day—00
Trail Mile—00.0/000.0

Location—Parting of the Ways/Raft River Crossing

It’s quite remarkable when a long-time plan, especially such a grand one, comes together. And this particular idea? Well, it started forming way back early spring. I’d been intent on hiking the remainder of the California National Historic Trail since before the completion of my Oregon Trail trek last summer, but hadn’t given the least thought at the time to inviting anyone along. Anyway, who’d want to walk across the Nevada desert, especially in the heat of early summer? Then I remembered Bart Smith. Bart hiked the Oregon Trail in 2012, and I figured he’d someday want to finish the California Trail—from Parting of the Ways/Raft River, same place I’ll start. So, got in touch with Bart. Hot dang—one short email and Bart was in. So now, here I sit in the Greyhound parking lot, Burley, Idaho, waiting to pick up Bart!

Oh yeah, how’s this for a plantwining  together? Gonna be a memorable time, folks. Here we go!

“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth, I ask not good fortune, I myself am good fortune.”

[Walt Whitman]

Thursday—May 28, 2015
Trail Day—01
Trail Mile—22.2/22.2
Location—C3 Raft River Valley, then on to Malta

The bus arrived Burley yesterday at 2:00, right on time! Great finally meeting Bart personally.

A quick trip to Wal-Mart, and from there we headed to Heglar Creek Farms, where is located Parting of the Ways/Raft River. Parting of the Ways is one of the most important of all the historic landmarks along the Oregon and California Trail(s). For, at this trail junction came final decision time for all the emigrants traveling west. “Do we turn northwest here to continue on to Oregon, or do we turn southwest to head for California?”

When Bart and I arrived Parting of the Ways, our respective journeys west, we both stayed the Oregon Trail, to Oregon City.

Ah, but now we’re back once more to Parting of the Ways, this time to take the left fork, the California Trail, to Sutter’s Fort, Sacramento.

At Heglar Creek  Farms I’m once again greeted by Kim, then soon comes Jose, to also greet me once more.

Following Jose in my old pickup, we’re soon at historic Parting of the Ways. Just a short distance past Parting of the Ways, there are emigrant engravings on an overhang of large jutting rocks. Scott, from the farm, comes to show us this remarkable place. Time for pictures, lots of pictures, and videos. In the evening, as Bart and I set camp, comes Joshua, from the farm, to also once again welcome me, and to meet Bart. Just a most memorable day.

This morning, much final preparation. Bart loads his “handcart” and I get my pack organized. The folks at Heglar Creek Farms will be coming for my truck. They’ll keep it for me during the forty-some days I’ll be gone.

A little after eight Bart and I set out for Sacramento, to immediately pass another emigrant grave. And so begins another very emotional journey.

On the road now, comes Jose, then Mark, and we once again see Joshua and Scott. They all wish us safe travels. Just a perfect morning as we begin our journey ever west.

Late morning and passing a farm, out comes this little terrier to meet us. The fellow takes a liking to Bart and decides to travel along. No amount of discouragement from Bart, then from me, will turn him back. Six miles he follows us, till finally the owners come for him. A neighbor had called to tell them their dog was clear down by the interstate, following hikers. They were glad to get him back—and so were we!

Late afternoon, and after taking a couple shortcuts that kept us closer to the old trail, and saved us some miles, and as we realized we were near Malta, we hiked it on down to Malta—to tent for the night near the south end of McClenden Springs.

What a joy having company along—sure enough going to be a memorable journey!

“Mrs. Adams, who was wounded in the fight of the other train, died last night. We buried her this morning. Here some of our train will leave us and take the road to California”

[Robert Scott, August 12, 1862] (Grave at Parting of the Ways)

 Friday—May 29, 2015
Trail Day—02
Trail Mile—11.6/52.4
Location—Elba, then on to Almo, City of Rocks National Reserve

Second day out and we’re already a full day ahead. And no, we haven’t hiked 52 miles in two days. The shortcuts we were able to take yesterday saved us probably six miles or more—but we have covered some ground, all roadwalk, all good surface.

There has been considerable rain all along, the mountains and hills, which are normally desert camo brown are entirely green, the valley’s lush with spring crops—very unusual. Hopefully, we’ll not suffer lack of water this trek—all the streams, normally just dry sand-washes, are all running. Plenty of snowmelt runoff, too.

Gravel and paved roads again today, near as we can get to the old trail. Light traffic. Bart can really haul with his “handcart.” I’m managing three per, but he moves way out ahead of me, just a dancing dot on the lake-like mirage ahead. But then he stops, waits for me, and we rest awhile before continuing on.

Today we pass where the Hudspeth Cutoff (out of Salt Lake City) comes to the main trail (out of Fort Hall) the route we’re on. For the emigrants, it was supposed to save time and distance, but like many of the later alternate routes, it did neither.

Late afternoon we arrive Almo and head straight for the City of Rocks National Reserve Visitor Center. Here I get to personally meet Kristen. She has helped and provided much vital information concerning the “Silent City” and our next few days. She’ll be guiding us up Pinnacle Pass, and we make arrangements to meet at Two Sister’s parking at two tomorrow.

We’re also able to reach two of the land owners, Stan Ward and Eric Bedke and have been granted permission to hike the trail across their property.

Evening now, we’re enjoying one of the best pizzas I can remember, at Brady’s place—Rock City. Ah, and Brady has permitting us to pitch for the night behind, where Dave, Brady’s father, has set to mowing the spot and setting a campfire. And looking at our map, we determine that the California Trail passed right through their place!

Ah, just a great day, safe travel—on the California Trail!

“And so my prayer; a path this day,
From harm and travails be.
Then lead me safely to’rd Thy way,
Till pure the light I see.”

[N. Nomad]

Saturday—May 30, 2015
Trail Day—03
Trail Mile—00.0/52.4
Location—At South Entrance City of Rocks near Salt Lake Cutoff

A fine night’s sleep behind Brady’s. She opens Rock City at nine and we’re right there. Coffee and a grilled ham and cheese gets me going.

Brady has a fine little store, caters to the outdoor folks that come to the reserve nearby. Bart and I get provisions together for six days, five nights, the time we figure it’ll take to reach Wells, Nevada, and the Humboldt River.

At ten-thirty we’re on our way to City of Rocks. A good steady climb, all gravel. Bart has kindly offered to haul my food bag in the bottom compartment of his handcart. So, with the additional weight, he’s digging in a bit as he pushes uphill.

I’ve read and studied up on the City of Rocks, seen the pictures, read the glowing emigrant accounts. But I just wasn’t prepared for this remarkable, natural wonder. First comes Camp Rock, a most impressive huge piece of polished granite. It stands alone, many feet in the air, covering probably at least an acre. The protected cove-like east side is covered with emigrant names, many plainly legible, dating to the 1840s. The mountains that protect this small valley-like area are just a stacked jumble of fortified granite. Next, and as we climb comes Register Rock, another huge uplifted chunk of granite. Many more emigrant names painted under the protected rock overhangs—with wagon axle grease. Bart sets up his tripod. Lots more pictures.

It’s two in the afternoon now, and we’ve not yet made it to Twin Sister’s parking. Kristin and Saxon from the park office catch us. We’ve tarried too long, taking more pictures—now of the most recognized natural features, Twin Sister’s Peaks.  Not a problem that we’re late, though,  as they go ahead to wait.

Our hike up to Pinnacle Pass is most enjoyable, as is the time together with Kristen and Saxon. Much history here, which they share with us.

The old ruts are still present on the west side of Pinnacle Pass and we’re given permission to hike them back over and down to the road. Thanks, Kristen and Saxon, for taking time on this Saturday to come and guide us through Pinnacle Pass!

Late afternoon now, and we’re nowhere along the distance we should be—and a mean looking thunder storm is kicking up, headed our way. We make it to just past where Salt Lake Cutoff come in. We must hasten to pitch before the hail hits. Just manage to get in as the pelting begins.

Still a few hours of hiking time left as the storm clears to the east—but we’re in and call it a day. Granite Pass tomorrow…

“Traveled eight miles when we entered Pyramid Circle [called City of Rocks today]. This is one of the greatest curiosities on the road. In some places a piller rises to a height of one dred and fifty feet, with smaller ones piled on the top and sides, looking as though a breath of air would hurl them down. These pyramids are of various colors. The sides have been washed by the rains in all manner of fantastic shapes, giving the place a most romantic and picturesque appearance. The circle is five miles long and three miles wide, level within the wall around and entirely surrounded by these pyramids or cliffs except an inlet at the east end of about fifty yards, and an outlet at the western end just wide enough to permit the wagons to pass through. The rocks are covered as far up as one can reach or climb, with names of emigrants. We left ours with date Aug. 18.

[Helen Carpenter, 1857]

Sunday—May 31, 2014
Trail Day—04
Trail Mile—21.7/074.6
Location—C13 Devils Grave, Birch Creek, below Flatiron Mountain, near Utah State Line

A fine night; the gentle melody from Goose Creek lulled me straight off. Another glorious cool morning, jacket on and I’m up and out at eight. Strange sight this morning.  A rock quarry out here in the middle of the desert. All shapes and sizes of rock. Great for walkways, walls, landscaping (big rocks).

A bit of a problem finding our way. We can see where we need to go, Granite Pass, but which dirt road? Trusty GPS sets us on the right path to Steve’s property, owner of Granite Pass. A fair climb to the top. From there we followed the original trail down—cleared out a number of years ago by the Boy Scouts. Of course we get lost. Guide directions for the first “Y” intersection: “Go straight!”

The old ruts (parallel in places) are difficult to follow. Forest burn-over, plus a century and a half of erosion has created the problem.

Kicked up a single quail along the bushwhack down, a very rough and rocky descent—which brought us to Birch Creek Road. Just impossible to imagine thousands and thousands of emigrants, men, women, young children actually passed this way.

We camped for the night by an irrigation ditch running off Birch Creek. We’re now near the Utah line.

“Saw a women on horseback packing it through to California, merry as a cricket, hope she’ll make her pile, and catch a mate, she deserves the best of luck.”

[John McTurk Gibson, July 29, 1859]

Monday—June 1, 2015
Trail Day—05
Trail Mile—20.9/095.5
Location—C17 Little Goose Creek

Pitched last right on the banks of Goose Creek, very near the Idaho/Utah line. Out again at eight, and again, to a beautiful morning.

In no time we’re through Utah and into Nevada, (the trail just clips the northwest corner of Utah), and we’re now on Pacific time.

A very lonely road, sure off the beaten track. But along the way, and to our great fortune, we meet Matt, Ranch Manager for the Larkin/Judd Ranch. Weren’t  aware we were on private property. Matt just chuckles: “You’re fine,” he says. He also gives us specific directions to Register Bluff, a blessing for sure, as no way we’d have ever made a critical turn—onto an obscure two-track.

Register Bluff, another historic landmark. Many 49er names engraved in the soft sandstone, a good number still very legible.

Here, today, I gain a whole new respect for folks who really take photography seriously, like Bart Smith. He is incredibly passionate about his work. The time he takes here at Record Bluff, his prep and setup, quite impressive indeed.

And to Eric Bedke, owner of this land—thanks for permitting us to pass through your ranch and to visit this remarkable and historic California Trail landmark.

On up the valley—wildflowers, lilies in total profusion, mark and sharply align the ruts as they course their way. Just a most striking display, as if Ma Nature intended to personally enshrine this old road.

At the upper reaches of the valley, and before entering Little Goose Creek Canyon, there’s an Elk reserve. No Elk to be seen, but quite the impressive fence.

Two intense afternoon storms are brewing to the north and west. Either or both could hit us, and one finally does, driving us in again, as before, around five, So we call it a day here in Little Goose Creek Canyon, and pitch for the night right on the hiking trail.

“He who rides and keeps the beaten track studies the fences chiefly.”


Tuesday—June 2, 1015
Trail Day—06
Trail Mile—17.6/113.1
Location—Past C20 Rock Spring, then on to C24, Thousand Springs Creek

A very cold night after the storm cleared (we’re above 6,000 feet elevation). Managed to break camp quickly and get moving a bit after six.

Wildlife these past few days? Jackrabbits, pronghorn, deer, Elk, roadrunners, killdeer, and many other birds with beautiful voices of song.

A long, very long roadwalk today, on roads across the vast Winecup Ranch. The journal entry below by Howell describes my day across the sage-covered desert.

A most remarkable trail related feature today, Rock Spring. Journal and diary entries describe it as unique and different than any other spring along the trail. And, oh my, now that I’m standing here gazing slack-jawed into it—no spring I’ve ever seen like it, either!

Only two vehicles along, this whole day, workers repairing a road washout by Rock Spring.

Camp for the night is by Thousand Springs Creek. Poor water. Difficult to filter.

“leaving the valley, followed a branch [Little Goose Creek] to its head and struck across a Sage plain with a few stunted Cedars to the Warm Spring [Rock Spring]. This Spring issues from the foot of a cliff of rocks on the right, and running a few yards across the road to the left, loses itself in the sand. It is a beautiful spring and the water very tolerable tho’ nearly milk warm.”

[Elijah Preston Howell, August 3, 1849]

Wednesday—June 3, 2015
Trail Day—07
Trail Mile—41.5/(136.3 – 7.4 mileage error)162.0
Location—Past C25 Hot and Cold Spring, then on to just past C26 Humboldt Divide, US-93

Another cold night, but no storms for a change. And another long roadwalk today (but not 41.5 miles – short remains of  one itinerary mileage click plus another) as we continue across Winecup Ranch toward the Humboldt Divide, which we’ll climb later today.

There are at least two routes over the divide, the old emigrant route, and the modern US-93 one. We’d like to climb the old one, and seems, continues our good fortune. Late morning, and along the road to Winecup Ranch comes this pickup. The fellow stops to check on me—and I meet Jake, Cattle Boss for Winecup Ranch. Mentioning my interest in the old divide route, Jake takes time to show the way. “See that dark green area, and the sloping ridge behind; that’s where the trail climbs to the divide.” Talking it over, Bart and I decide to head that way rather than over to US-93.

Two hours and we’re standing next a pasture fence looking at a California Trail marker—right where Jake said it’d be. We were hoping for at least the semblance of a two-track, but there is none. No visible ruts, nothing. In order to visit the two markers at the old trail divide—for the thru-hiker this would be the way to go. But alas, and no doubt, there’d be a rocky, rutted climb ahead at best. So, decision is to stay the ranch road on over to US-93. We’ll miss the old trail pass and markers C27 and C27A, but we’ll still climb and pass over the current-day divide route (US-93) on our way to Wells.

Still on the ranch road, headed for US-93, comes another storm pushing through. More rain and hail. What a muddy mess! The wet clay-like desert dirt immediately turns to playdo, lumping up on our shoes, making them lead-heavy and lifting us taller. Bart is having one devilish time with his cart as the mud cakes and clings to the tires. Finally, we clear the ranch road and come to US-93 below the divide.

Late evening we pass the divide to take water from a Winecup Ranch cattle water tank, then to pitch up the draw as yet another storm passes.

“[From the hot and cold springs] a distance of five miles brought us to the termination of the thousand spring valley its termination being a narrow kanyon leading into the mountains [Humboldt Divide] where we found a spring of good water…the road strewed with dead cattle and the atmosphere tainted with the nausea which renders traveling disagreeable…”

[Caroline L. Richardson, August 9, 1852]

Thursday—June 4, 2015
Trail Day—08
Trail Mile—11.7/173.7
Location—Wells, Nevada

Our camp last was on Winecup Ranch land. The only posting: “Please close the gate.” The water in the cattle tank was clear enough to treat with an Aquamira tablet, and it actually had a pleasant enough taste; so we were well blessed to have water where we hadn’t expected. After the storm cleared, the evening turned sunny and warm, right to sunset, and remained warm the entire night.

A fascinating incident: Late evening I’d gone back to the cattle tank for more water, and when returning to camp, and from the ridge above the little cove where we were camped, a pronghorn came running down, passed right by Bart’s tent, then just as quickly disappeared over the next ridge. It had passed no more than twenty paces away from Bart, but was so swift and quiet, Bart had neither seen nor heard it.

Anxious to get to Wells, there, for a warm meal and a bone-soothing bath, I’m up and gone well before seven. It’s down, down, and down some more, past the old trail crossing below the Humboldt Divide, all the way to Wells. We’re in before noon. First stop, Bella’s Restaurant, right by the interstate. Then it’s to the Sharon Motel for a room, a bath, and a much needed rest. Evening, we head to Luther’s for supper; a fine cap-off to a mighty fine day. Ah, and to have shared it with a dear new friend—all the better!

“Good company in a journey makes the way seem the shorter.”

[Izaak Walton]

 Friday—June 5, 2015
Trail Day—09
Trail Miles—0.00/173.7
Location—Starr Valley, a few miles west of Wells

The stay at the Sharon was okay; clean room, hot water, and so-so WiFi. Not the most welcome greeting from Fred (owner/inkeep), though, but we all have our bad days, time-to-time. I guess yesterday happened to be one of Freds.

Back down to the interstate, truck stop there, a good-energy hot breakfast, then to resupply for an overnight, perhaps two (by the trail) before reaching Ryndon, on down the Humboldt.

An iffy morning weather-wise, a little sun, but mostly clouds. On our way out of Wells we stop at the visitor center where we’re greeted by Ron. Ron was raised in Wells, remembers the town’s heydays. That was before the advent of the interstate—and the destructive earthquake that flattened a fair chunk of downtown. Today, save for the businesses by I-80, most are closed. Many old abandoned motels, hotels and other mid-twentieth century establishments. The interstate’s done its usual good job of pretty much wiping out the little communities it passes through, Wells—no exception.

But Ron? Ron is still filled with excitement and enthusiasm for Wells, it’s great trail history—and the potential for economic revitalization from recent gold discovery down by Wendover. Anyway, Ron, a neat place, Wells. We wish you all the best in the future!

A short distance out of town the wind picks up, the sky darks over and the thunder begins—followed by cold rain and hail. By the time we reach Welcome RV Campground, it’s time to get out of it. Knocking the door, we’re greeted by owners Elaine and Larry. Elaine invites us to sit their dining room table. We talk a spell, about their years in California, and now here in Nevada. The rain has slacked but the cold driving wind continues as we thank them and head back out—and back into it. Soon comes more rain, hard rain, mixed with pellet-size hail—and the wind is really kicking now. We tough it out a couple more hours before turning in at a farmer’s lane. The dogs let the owner know we’re coming, and we meet Corey, who gives us permission to get out of it by setting up in his barn. What a relief to find shelter. And Corey’s barn? Absolute first class accommodations! We choose the two stalls in the back. Both have been recently cleaned out, the floors freshened with straw. A blessing to be in, to bed down, and get warm. Not where we wanted to be to end this day, but thankful to be where we are.

“Carefree to be, as a bird that sings;
To go my own sweet way;
To reck not at all what may befall,
But to live and to love each day.”

[Robert W. Service, A Rolling Stone]

Saturday—June 6, 2015
Trail Day—10
Trail Mile—Remainder of 18.7+19.2/211.6

What remarkable good fortune to find shelter last. My skimpy gear, I’d certainly not planned for such cold, harsh conditions, not in June, certainly not out here in the Nevada desert.

As we continued into it yesterday afternoon, as the wicked wind kept driving the cold rain, I could feel my core temperature slowly dropping, the early throes of hypothermia setting in. I knew I needed to get off the road and out of it, and soon. Bart had gone ahead, I was following. In the grove of century-old cottonwood sheltering the homestead that is Winchell Ranch, he stopped to wait for me. I think he sensed I was having difficulty. When I caught up and told him I needed to get out of it, without hesitation he immediately turned up the Winchell driveway.

A note about the Winchell Ranch barn where we stayed the night: It was constructed many, many years ago from old railroad ties, masterfully fitted together and tightly snugged one to the other. And so, in the back stalls, against the foot-thick old barn walls, bedded down in fresh, sweet straw, Bart and I were comfortable and remained warm all night, beyond all reasonable expectations. Amazing, an old barn, dry, clean stalls—indeed, it is amazing what little we often truly need.

And so, to Corey at Winchell Ranch, to you and your family, thanks for your kindness and hospitality—to us, to this old hiker.

We’re out to a cool, clear morning. No wind, a welcome, warming sun. Here in Starr Valley, we’re still a mile above the sea, with the snow-capped Ruby Mountains forming the massive northern valley escarpment. Not long, a cloud cap begins forming above the more lofty peaks, then along the entire range. Thunder can again be heard in the distance, and the dark mass appears to be heading at us once again. Ah but, and as we’ve managed to put a fair distance between us and these mountains the past two days, and as the dark clouds cling more to the high places, we manage to escape Nature’s wrath this day!

Starr Valley is a most picturesque, pastoral setting. Fields of grass, the cattle quietly grazing, an old country school, entirely set away from the rushing times we are all accustomed to and must daily deal with. I envy the folks here, their way of life, for sure tis their good fortune. And oh, dear friends, have Bart and I not noticed many of the names on the mailboxes along—same as those who kept journals and diaries—emigrants who passed here, through Starr Valley, over 150 years ago!

Late morning, early afternoon, we pass the rail-iron markers at both the Deeth and Halleck post offices. Be sure and check out the photos taken at Halleck!

Afternoon, late, the I-80 traffic wearing on us (yup, we’ve had to take to the interstate through here, westbound in the eastbound emergency lane), we pull up at an oasis (for us), Ryndon Sinclair Country Store. Great burger and fries. Plenty of room in the desert sagebrush out back, where we pitch for the night.

“Half the confusion in the world comes from not knowing how little we need.”

[Richard E. Byrd,

 Sunday—June 7, 2015
Trail Day—11
Trail Mile—12.6/224.2

A (less than) pleasant night behind Ryndon Country Store. Problem: When 18-wheelers hit the rumble strip, tends to make a whole lot of racket. Don’t know why they kept running off the road the entire night, but the incessant noise did tend to disrupt my sleep the least.

We’ve got around a twelve today on into Elko. Already made reservations for a room in the old section of Stockmen’s Hotel and Casino right downtown. We’ll be permitted to check in at noon, so after a full breakfast here at the store (plus a pot of their coffee), and at eight, we’re off to Elko.

More emergency lane eastbound I-80, up and over “Sandy Ascent,” a difficult climb from the valley past Devil’s Gate. The interstate has cut a deep notch through, but enough is left to see the challenge faced by the emigrants. Ah, and when they  passed, no country store!

We’re in Elko before noon, the last four miles along old US-40/Victory Highway. Reaching Wendy’s, in we go. It’ll be a challenge, the short time I’ll have to corrupt Bart. But I think I’ll manage—to get him hooked on Wendy’s delicious chocolate frosty!

Our room, we end up out by the pool. An old section for sure, but neat and clean. We’re in. Not used to such a short day.

Afternoon, time for a good soaking, both me and my clothes. Then a call out to the BLM California Trail Interpretive Center west of Elko. Information I had: They’re closed Mondays. But their schedule changed recently. Tomorrow they’ll be open, our very good fortune! Should hit there early afternoon (got a bounce-box drop to tend to).

Evening now, down to the fine Stockmen’s Restaurant, where I treat Bart to dinner—on his 56th birthday. Happy Birthday, Bart; keep living well my friend!

“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”


Monday—June 8, 2015
Trail Day—12
Trail Mile—0.00/224.2
Location—G4 (Greenhorn Cutoff) Dry Susie Creek

Elko, a much larger town than we figured. A cattle and mining center, vibrant and thriving. A good-sized oasis.

Our stay here has been very beneficial, a chance to really rest and recoup for our long, continued journey down the Humboldt.

Haven’t mentioned, but I’m blessed to be doing well, one more trek. My legs have definitely come back under me. Some shin splints suffered the first week, not uncommon for me, but they’ve settled down. The new Sun Dogs provided by Oboz, just a fine hiking shoe, ideal for conditions we’ve been dealing with. A bit of left instep discomfort to start, but probably more my fault than anything to do with the shoes. Laces a bit too tight likely the cause. Anyway, hips, back, knees, shoulders, all happy and once again into the program—thank you, Lord!

We expected to find a food store, at least a jiffy, on our way out of Elko this morning, but no luck. No services at Exit 298 either, where we’re back trekking west once more, the eastbound emergency lane, I-80. So, we’ll be getting by tonight with what food’s left in our packs. I’ve some trail mix.

The highlight of this day will be visiting the BLM California Trail Interpretive Center just off I-80 west of Elko. We arrive early afternoon in good order, to be greeted by Alex, Julia, and Robb. The Center? First class, top drawer, what I’ve come to expect from BLM. Impressive displays, life-like dioramas, movies, old wagons set in camp fashion outside. All free; well worth the time. Alex, Julia, Robb, thanks for the warm welcome, for your kindness!

Late afternoon we head down the two-track, which continues south from the Center. Robb went out earlier to scout it for us and found it passable. Two miles and we arrive Marker G1 (“G” for Greenhorn Cutoff), where the trail leaves the valley to climb the mountainous hillsides above Carlin Canyon. For those emigrants that didn’t want to ford the Humboldt four times while passing through the canyon (or if the river happened to be up), this was the only other choice.

A very long, steep climb. A few carsonite posts to begin, but in less than a quarter-mile, we’re on our own. I’ve set the coordinates for G2, and with GPS in hand, we head that way. The old ruts were visible to begin with, but on the upper slopes, there is no evidence whatsoever. Where the wagons might have originally passed, we have no idea. Bushwhacking along, up, down, and around, we finally locate marker G2.

And for G3? Same problem, same solution—a difficult bushwhack, especially for Bart. He customarily pushes his 70-pound pack (loaded down with camera gear) along on his three-wheel stroller. But here, through this difficult terrain, he must shoulder his pack, then move and manage, best he can. A very arduous, tiring ordeal for him, to put it mildly.

From G2, and descending from the summit toward G3, we’re treated to amazing ruts, as the old trail bails off the mountain. A giddy time (and picture time) for both of us!

Late evening, bone-weary tired, and after another bushwhack to save some time and distance—and just at dark we arrive Dry Susie Creek. Ah, and true to its name, Dry Susie is dry. We were so hoping for at least a puddle or two. We scout the creek bed, but no luck. We’ve both conserved today, best we could, the little water we were able to tote from the center, but we’ve precious little left.

Camp for the night is between the ant mounds by Dry Susie. What a day. What an exhausting day. Time to lie down and rest—and to give thanks for the strength and resolve to have met this grueling challenge…

“So thou shouldst kneel at morning dawn
That God may give thy daily care,
Assured that He no load too great
Will make thee bear.”

[Anna Temple Whitney]

Tuesday—June 9, 2015
Trail Day—13
Trail Mile—Remainder of 16.0+7.1/247.3
Location—Past G6 (Greenhorn Cutoff) Susie Creek, then on to Carlin

A short hiking day, and a short entry to go with it.

A bright, clear, desert day; we’re out and trekking a bit after six. The two-track (and trail ruts) continue down, past G5 (Hot Springs) and G6 (Susie Creek), where we’re able to take water. The remainder of the Greenhorn Cutoff follows Greenhorn Cutoff Road, back down to the interstate, there to intersect with the main California Trail coming out of Carlin Canyon.

Across the interstate and once again on Old US-40/Victory Highway, we’re soon in the little village of Carlin. Early check in? No problem at Cavalier Motel. Breakfast right away, right across at State Inn Bar, Cafe, and Casino.

“Continued downstream, grass nowhere tolerable & about 10 o’clock found the road leading us away from the river up a narrow canon to the right. Thinking the road crossed only one range of hills & would again strike the river we entered the hollow. The road continued to get steeper until a very high mountain was ascended when we wound around the various mounds composing the range, now to the right then to the left until we suddenly ascended another peak from which we saw the St. Mary’s [Humboldt] lying before us some 5 miles distant. There was neither water nor grass in all this distance. We were altogether unprepared for this, for which we were of course sufferers.”

[Samuel Tutt, July 21, 1849]

Wednesday—June 10, 2015
Trail Day—14
Trail Mile—11.8/259.1
Location—Emigrant Canyon, then on to Gravelly Ford

First person I met coming into town yesterday, Pamela, bartender at Cee Cee’s. She befriended me, told us where to stay and where to go for a good meal. She showed interest in our hike, and when I mentioned we’d missed Carlin Canyon (as a result of hiking the Greenhorn Cutoff) and that we’d like to go there, she offered to take us after she got off work. Ah, and right at six, she and grandson, Caleb, were here to fetch use and take us in. And Carlin Canyon? It is certainly a special place. And as to its place in history, the scheme of things, it’s run full circle, from little use early on, to being the way for hundreds of thousands to pass—then back once more to little use. I-80 now passes directly  through two tunnels drilled in the canyon wall, bypassing the sweeping circuitous horseshoe that is Carlin Canyon. There was no one else in the place, we had it to ourselves, as the canyon is now entirely blocked off at the east entrance.

A bit cramped in our little room last night. Barely enough space for the rollaway that Bart ended up with. But we both slept well and are rested and ready for another adventurous day trekking the California Trail.

Pretty much an I-80 day, at least to begin with. Picked it up again a short distance west of Carlin. Then came the long, steady climb, up to Emigrant Pass. Lots of eighteen-wheelers flying straight down at us. Strong, unmistakable smell of asbestos, their breaks hot and smoking.

Bart had gotten hold of Stan Gralien with Horseshoe Ranch, T-S Ranch, and Newmont Mining Company, and we’ve been granted permission to enter their property at Emigrant Canyon. We do so by climbing the I-80 fence at the head of the canyon. Entering this way we’re able to hike the uppermost extent, a tight squeeze, around and down, and back and forth. After passing a trail marker at one mile, and as the trail leaves the narrow confines of the canyon to shortcut across—and now descending—remarkable parallel swales, as many as five running side by side. No question their origin or existence. Some of the finest examples of untouched swales we’ve seen yet.

Our destination this evening is Gravelly Ford, a rocky road to get there, and we arrive just in time to set up and get out of it. Bart manages a few pictures of the unknown emigrant graves and the old rugged cross there, but the wind and beginning storm soon drive him away and into his tent.

The storm is intense, much wind-driven rain, thunder and lightning. We had quickly pitched in the sagebrush, the sand and dirt, which quickly becomes a glorious mess! Somehow I manage to stay reasonably dry.

Later in the evening I walk back to the last bend in the Humboldt for water, just as the storm clears to the east, presenting an on-fire blazing red sunset.

“Drove the whole distance 18 miles without nooning, the first time we have done so. Road very Rough & hilly and the most all fired, goll-durned rocky jostler road I ever saw. Country barren – no vegetation but sage. Just as the road and River join [Gravelly Ford], the road forks we will take the left, crossing the river, we don’t know which is right.”

[Dan Carpenter, August 24, 1850]

Thursday—June 11, 2015
Trail Day—15
Trail Mile—20.4/279.5
Location—C50 TS Road west of Shoshone

Yesterday had been a tiring day for me, so didn’t take much to lull me to sleep last night. After the blazing sunset, the storm subsided, tapering off to steady rain; that was it, I was gone.

We’ve a two-track roadwalk out of Gravelly Ford. Good solid surface most of the way to the highway, save for the final 200 yards, which are submerged in mud—rough going for Bart.

Trail markers? Missed a few. Found a few. Back on the interstate again for seven miles, heavy, heavy truck traffic. We get off the grinder by shifting to TA Road, an I-80 frontage road. Here, the old trail is little more than a stone’s throw away.

A hard day on the road. Looks of it, those hazy days of summer are here. Crossing the tracks and climbing a fence, we pitch late afternoon right next the Humboldt River, near Stony Point and Marker C51 A Lending Library. Another grind it out sort of day as we steadily descend Humboldt Valley. There are trails both sides of the river now. We’re on the south side for the next while.

“We drove fast, over a good road, and stopped to camp near the famous Stony Point. This has been the battle ground of the Indians for the last six or seven years. Many men have been killed or wounded, and much property stolen by the red skins at this place…”

[J. Robert Brown, September 5, 1856]

Friday—June 12, 2015
Trail Day—16
Trail Mile—17.1/296.6
Location—Battle Mountain

Anxious to get out and going this morning; want to get to Battle Mountain, some 11 miles, for breakfast. Good plan. Arrive the Owl Club at 9:30. Corn beef hash, taters, and eggs, plus sourdough toast—and lots of coffee.

Went for a room at the Owl. Even paid for it, but didn’t work out. Bad deal; got our money back—long story. Anyway, ended up with Elvey Comb, his Enchanted Garden Inn on up the street. Neat little bunch of rooms. Really kind old fellow. Loaned us tools to do some much needed repair to the “Bart Cart.” It’s taken some pretty hard hits these past 300-miles.

Evening, Bart prepares pizza in the little common kitchen a few doors down. Really fine treat.

A most relaxing day.

Back to the open road and the straightaway for miles tomorrow, the old trail following nearby…

“My road calls me, lures me
West, east, south and north;
Most roads lead men homeward,
My road leads me forth.
To add more miles to the tally
Of gray miles left behind,
In quest of that one beauty
God put me here to find.”

[John Masefield]

Saturday—June 13, 2015
Trail Day—17
Trail Mile—14.6/311.2
Location—C56 Near Treaty Hill, then on to C58 Iron Point (itinerary mileage error—again)

Don’t wake till near eight this morning. Bart’s loaded and ready to go. I need to check/send email, so he heads to McDonald’s, where we’ll meet. It’s after nine before we finally get out of town.

From Battle Mountain we’re able to stay off I-80 by picking up old US-40, (Victory Highway established in 1921). Through here, what’s left of the old road (that hasn’t been paved under by the interstate), remains as a frontage road, albeit pretty rough, busted up, and gone.

Early afternoon we reach the busy oasis that is Valmy Station. Everything a traveler could need here (except lodging). From their deli, I order the chicken basket—and manage to drain their fountain of Sprite.

More old Victory Highway out of Valmy Station. Then, as that old trace disappears under I-80, we take to the two-track utility easement along the live Union Pacific grade, all the way to Iron Point switch (on the live railgrade). There, we’re able to find the old abandoned Central Pacific Railroad grade. It’s open and we hike it on up to Iron Point, Marker C58 (dashed blue line, Route Map #019).

During the afternoon, then especially toward evening and onto dusk, the mosquitoes become vicious, a real problem. A long, long day—glad to get in my tent and away from them.

All along this day we have remained very close to the old trail, evidence of short swale segments (possibly) visible.

“The two to three-week emigrant journey on the California Trail along the Humboldt River between 1849 and 1860 was miserable enough with the extremes of heat and cold, intense clouds of dust, lack of potable drinking water, and the monotony of daily travel, especially west of Gravelly Ford. But there was another misery that arose from the numerous sloughs along the Humboldt River – clouds of voracious mosquitoes.”

[Don Buck]

Sunday—June 14, 2015
Trail Day—18
Trail Mile—20.5/331.7
Location—Iron Point, then on to Tule Switch, Union Pacific Railroad live grade (next the trail)

We managed to reach the Iron Point marker last, with barely enough light to pitch. Mosquitoes carried us off.

And as to Marker C58? Historically, a very significant event occurred here in 1846. I’ll close this day’s entry with a quote concerning Iron Point.

We’ll be hiking right next the trail most of this day, along the old Central Pacific railgrade (turned utility easement). Many old spikes, fragments of telegraph insulators, telegraph wire, cross-tie fence posts, other remaining evidence of the old original transcontinental railroad that first spanned this great nation—the western Central Pacific segment having been completed in 1863.

Today, as we make our way along, beside the old trail and on down the Humboldt, we pass Markers C59, C59A, C60 and C61A (see dashed blue line Route Map #020). All have been placed in order to relate the incredible struggle and hardship endured by the emigrants.

Narrow canyons along, requiring emigrants to turn their wagons and climb the steep slopes, this too, presented additional, significant hardship. Remains of such swales can easily be seen by the rocky ascent at Iron Point—also, at the descent from Edna Mountain.

There are no services in Golconda. Not much of anything in Golconda, save the delightful old restored one-room schoolhouse. We stop there, to rest on their cool, green, manicured (and shaded) lawn. Ah, and oh my, water, cold, pure and sweet, from the faucet right here in the schoolyard. We need “camel up” then take enough water to sustain us through this evening, then on into Winnemucca tomorrow.

More mosquitoes, they’re out and attacking us even in the afternoon heat. This valley, the Humboldt, few virtues—certainly can’t point to the water. Very poor water in the Humboldt. How the emigrants managed to deal with all this is a total mystery.

Early evening, and now past Button Point, we pitch in the meager shade offered by a few scraggly creosote bushes—next the two track we’ve been hiking, next the Union Pacific Railroad, next the California Trail—about seven miles east of Winnemucca.  Plan is to be in there early morning, for a much-needed day of rest.

“Here at this steep hill of sand and rock…on October 5, 1846, James Reed [of the infamous Donner-Reed party] killed John Snyder…Reed was banished…forced to leave his wife and children. He traveled ahead, managing to cross Donner Pass ahead of the bitter storm that trapped 81 of the Donner-Reed party…36 members perished. Reed’s wife and children survived.

[Trails West Guide]

Monday—June 14, 2015
Trail Day—19
Trail Mile—17.5/349.2

Camped very close to the tracks last. The two-track right next the railroad; we right next the two-track. Trains passes all night. Long trains. Three engines pulling. One or two pushing. Every car, at least one flattened set of wheels. Loud hammering noise is what flat steel wheels provide, plus the minor accompanying earth-shaking quake. Needless to say, a restless night.

Sunrise now is a bit after five. Bart and I waste little time breaking camp and moving out. We’d like to make Winnemucca for breakfast. Seven miles or so, and we’re in and sitting a booth at the casino restaurant downtown shortly after nine.

Found a neat and clean mom-n-pop on the way in. Very reasonable when we split the room cost. A good day to rest and just relax. Such luxury the emigrants did not have.

Marker C62 Trading Post Downtown Winnemucca

“Saw in the distance a flag denoting a trading post. Rode over to it but found the most they had to sell was very poor whiskey…”

[Henry S. Anable, August 15, 1852]

Tuesday—June 16, 2015
Trail Day—20
Trail Mile—22.9/372.1
Location—Cosgrove Rest Area – Exit 158 I-80, then on to Travel Centers of America (TA) Truck Stop – Exit 151 I-80

A totally quiet night for a change—slept soundly!

We’re halfway through this hike, this section of the California Trail, from Raft River/Parting of the Ways, to Sutter’s Fort/Sacramento, and it’s going just great. Have said, but tends repeating: What a joy having company, someone along to share the adventure. Bart and I’ve become good friends, a blessing for me, and that’s a fact. The man is patient and tolerant well beyond his years.

Heading through downtown Winnemucca on our way out of town, we stop at Marker C62. It’s located behind a huge redwood log, claimed to be the largest piece of driftwood in the world. Took a picture of it and the sign on it, so you can see and read about it—strange!

Ah, and now, time for breakfast. And oh my, right next, the classic mom-n-pop, Winnemucca’s hometown favorite, The Griddle. Huevos Rancheros for Bart. Never heard of it, but umm-umm, sure looks good. I go for the three egg cream cheese avocado omelet, with hash browns and sourdough toast. And of course, lots of coffee.

Hard to believe, but we manage to put Winnemucca in our rearview before eight, as we head down old US-40. Marker C63 Dirty Humboldt, we bypass it—an out and back, across the tracks, way down by the river.

The old highway passes many homes. Unusual to see old wagon relics, but here, quite common—dilapidated old wagons and parts of old wagons, being put to use now as yard ornaments. Through this area, many, many emigrants wrote about abandoning their wagons, to pack what they could on their stock and their backs, then to walk on to California.

The old highway parallels I-80 for a distance, but then, as to be expected, it’s buried under I-80, the continuing service road little more than a narrow gravel lane, then a ranch two-track. After churning and kicking up the loose pumice-like sand and dirt for four more miles, and with good effort, we manage to make it down to Exit 158, where we climb the fence to the rest area. From here, we’re back trekking west in the eastbound emergency lane, I-80, down to the TA Truck stop at Exit 151, a 26-mile day.

A 25 tomorrow, same again Thursday, and that should get us to Lovelock. If so, we just might take a day off, the first for this trek.

Evening, we stick tight at the TA Truck Stop, to pitch behind the Trucker’s Chapel. Supper here tonight and breakfast first thing in the morning. And a pint of Breyers to cap this day. Not a bad deal at all…

“I wonder what our friends at home would think if they could look at us, as we are traveling along, the dust often rising so thick that we cannot see a rod. Everyone so covered that we are all of a color, all ash color, hair, faces, cloathes and waggons, and all in them…”

[Asenath Larimer, August 25, 1852]

Wednesday—June 17, 2015
Trail Day—21
Trail Mile—21.2/393.3
Location—C68 Humboldt – Exit 138 I-80, then on to Old Victory Highway, south of Exit 129 I-80

Bart and I were both up, sun-up, and right back over to the truck stop, the Fork in the Road Cafe. I didn’t even look at the menu, just asked the waitress for Huevos Rancheros. Slightly different than what Bart had yesterday, but really good. I’d call it a Mexican breakfast pizza. Substitute mild salsa for the traditional tomato sauce, add the usual breakfast veggies to the flat crust, and you’ve pretty much got it.

Just past Mill City, a marker first thing, C65A, entitled Open Graves. The narrative: “We have seen the skulls of a number of persons who have been buried in ‘49, ‘50 & ‘51 and have been dug up by the wolves, and their bodies left to whiten the plains.” [R. H. P. Snodgrass, July 16, 1852]. Very deep and impressive swales here. Time for pictures and a video.

On the old highway down from Imlay we hit Steve’s place. Steve runs a little travel trailer park. Ah, and his store is open, so in we go. Hit his pop cooler first thing. Pictures hanging all around. Makes for great conversation with Steve. He used to race motorcycles. I used to race motorcycles. Time for a bit of bench racing. The typical bragging: “The older I get the faster I was” sort. Steve not only knows Malcolm Smith (International Six Day Trials Gold Medalist—eight different years, back in the late 60s, early 70s) but also the stunt man who stood in for Steve McQueen, in the documentary, On Any Sunday, starring Malcolm and Steve. Even if you’re not into motorcycles, you’d enjoy On Any Sunday, a really fun, entertaining film.

We’d thoroughly expected to have much difficulty with the heat here along the lower Humboldt, but the day turns out to be overcast and mild. Sure a blessing for us, not the misery suffered by the emigrants. And the forecast for the upcoming days, not bad for the desert; we might just squeak through this desolation without becoming leftover toast!

Continuing south, and to stay off I-80, we take to the old US-40 highway built in 1926. And indeed it is old, a mixture of cobblestone-like rock set in concrete, an altogether rough, crude surface; very unusual.

We miss some markers today as the trail passes along both sides of the river. We’re trekking the south side for now.

We arrive the truck stop in Rye Patch late afternoon. A so-so establishment. Nothing like the one in Mill City (Puckerbrush).

A call to Super 10 Motel in Lovelock brings Jerrie to the phone—and a Hiker Trash deal on a room for Bart and me for two nights. With that we decide to hike it on out of Rye Patch in order to knock down a few more miles, so we can make Lovelock earlier tomorrow.

“Each day adds horror to the tide of human misery which rolls down this valley. The teams that died have left the unfortunate owners no alternative but to take their provisions on their shoulders and wade the hot sands through the day, and at night sleep on the ground curtained by malarius fog, until overcome by fatigue and exposure, death finds them under some sage bush or willow, and ends the journey.”

[John Steele, August 31, 1850]

Thursday—June 18, 2015
Trail Day—22
Trail Mile—The remainder of 19.4+17.8/430.5

We ended up south of Rye Patch Truck Stop last evening, near the Old Liberty Highway, the interstate and the trains a fair distance away. So, with no road or train noise, we both had one of our best night’s sleep so far.

Temperatures are to reach the high 90s today. Hopefully there’ll be a breeze, and hopefully we’ll reach Lovelock early afternoon, before the road surface really starts cooking.

Three trail markers today. We reach the first one (C74) where the old highway passes under I-80. Off the road a ways, but we manage to find it. Some very impressive swales.

Second one (C76), by the railroad overpass just south of Oreana. Way out in the flats, but we finally locate it. Had to jump a fence to get there. Bart found some old glass and dinner plate shards. I picked up a wagon hardware part—what was left of an old washer. Definitely emigrant era stuff.

Third one (C78) Nearing Big Meadows, more wide swales right by the highway coming into Lovelock.

A blessing to reach the Super 10 Motel by two, before the heat got to really kicking. As mentioned, a great hiker trash deal for two days. Thanks, Jerrie, for your thoughtful kindness.

Time enough to hit the post office for my mail drop. Then evening, it’s over to the Black Rock Restaurant for supper.

A day off tomorrow, first since beginning this odyssey 22 days ago. Much needed.

“A man with his wife came into camp [Big Meadows] last night on foot, packing what little property they had left on a single ox, the sole remaining animal of their team; but I was informed of a worse case than this one by some packers, who said they passed a man and his wife about 11 miles back who were on foot, toiling through the hot sand, the man carrying the blankets and other necessaries, and his wife carrying their only child in her arms, having lost all their team.”

[Eleazar Stillman Ingalls, August 1, 1850]

Friday—June 19, 2015
Trail Day—23
Trail Mile—00.0/430.5

We’re staying over this day in Lovelock. Fine accommodations here at Super 10 Motel. A much welcome time of rest.

Been in contact with a friend in hopes that we might get support through the 40-mile desert (here below Lovelock), that alkali plain, which we’ll continue onto tomorrow. But alas, turns we’ll be going it on our own.

Provisions will be needed for at least three days, two nights; not a problem. But water? We’ve tried to figure for water, but there’s little opportunity, save lugging what we can—and hauling. At 20-some miles out there is a highway rest area. But from there on across the desert to Ragtown, some additional 37+ miles—we’ll need to estimate (and carry) the least water needed, a tough heads down and haul it proposition.

Talked with BLM fellows here in Lovelock. Good news is: We should be able to truck the hard alkali, not churn the loose sand. If that’s the case, we’ll get across fine. The long, dry crossing will begin Sunday, the afternoon of our second day out of Lovelock—to our second overnight in the desert. Then it’s truck the third day on through to US-50A and Squeezy’s Cafe—for water, and hopefully, a good meal.

A challenge ahead for sure, but nowhere near the ordeal the emigrants daily endured. We will pass Humboldt Sink tomorrow (thank you, Lord) to leave this desolation of a valley behind.

“What a country is this. Woe to those behind us. We have at last arrived at the sink, after toiling over three hundred miles on this abominable stream. Oh, how refreshing would a drink of the pure water from the springs and wells of Ohio be to us in this cursed country. What will become of those out of provisions? More suffering than we have yet seen is now before our eyes…We are now living on half rations ourselves, and three hundred miles from Sacramento city with the American Desert before us and the Eternal snows of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to pass over.”

[Walter Griffith Pigman, June 30, 1850]

Saturday—June 20, 2015
Trail Day—24
Trail Mile—20.4/450.9
Location—CR1 Carson Trail/Humboldt Sink, then on to Exit 83 I-80/US-95 rest stop (end of I-80 for us – Yippee!)—then to start down US-95, to CR3 Rounding Mopung Hill

Temperatures have been in the high 90s in Reno and Carson City, both west of us. Hopefully, that stifling heat will remain to the west.

A hard grind ahead today, totally a roadwalk, pretty much as usual. Plan is to reach I-80 Exit 83 rest stop where, hopefully, we’ll find water. There to camel-up and load up for the long haul across the 40-mile desert.

Very relaxing stay at Super 10, Lovelock; thanks, Jerrie! On our way out we hit Cowpoke Cafe for breakfast—we’re moving on, away from Big Meadows, by 7:30, to a relatively cool morning.

Markers visited today: C81, 82, 83. We bypass CR1 (Carson Route)  and T1 (Truckee Route). They’re by the tracks, down at the sink. We’re up on the old transcontinental Central Pacific Railroad grade looking down at the expanse of blazing white (Humboldt Sink) salt plain.  From here, we’ve great views of Toulon and Humboldt Lake(s), both completely dry. And the remarkable and unusual geologic feature, a fine view over to Humboldt Bar.

As we cut across, back toward the interstate, the rest stop, we pass T2 (just beyond where the Truckee Trail breaks from the California/Carson Trail).

At Exit 83 rest stop, and under the metal awning radiating (supposed to say “shading”) a picnic table, we wait for the heat of the day to back off. And this rest stop? Certainly the most meager and minimal of services I’ve ever seen. No well. Water is trucked in some 20 miles (thank you, Lord), to be stored in a cistern. There’s a long-handled pitcher pump to bring it back up. Vault toilets. No pop or snack machines. No trees. No grass, just loose gravel—and lots of folks scurrying, holding their noses as they rush to the honey-bucket toilets—then to scurry on.

We pump, then pack (on the Bart cart) three gallons of water, hopefully, enough for the remainder of today and tonight, then for tomorrow, tomorrow night and Monday, as we traverse this no-man’s-land, the notorious 40-mile desert.

Evening now, and as the bake-oven day cools a bit, we hike out, another four miles to CR3 Rounding Mopung Hill. Camp is in the boulders up the hill, above US-95. Here we begin the controlled task of sipping our water.

NOTE: Miles hiked west, in the eastbound emergency lane, I-80
Exit 333 to Exit 310 – 23 miles
Exit 298 to Exit 202 – 6 miles
Exit 261 to MM 254 – 7 miles
Exit 158 to Exit 151 – 7 miles
MM 84 to Exit 83 – 1 mile
Total I-80 miles – 44

“upon leaving the meadows [Big Meadows] we start out in what is called the sixty mile desert. The first Five miles we traveled through a heavy growth of vegetation such as weeds & vines- Fifteen miles farther over a level & Barren plain & we passed the old sink of the Humboldt…There is nothing unusual in the appearance of the River where it disappears, except that it forms a small lake…”

[William Wagner, July 27, 1852]

Sunday—June 21, 2015
Trail Day—25
Trail Mile—20.3/471.2
Location—CR7 Stillwater WMA Desert, then (bypassing Fallon) on to near CR11 at Soda Lake – the 40-mile desert

To close this entry, I’ll leave you with the poetic thoughts of emigrant Adison Crane, who gives little praise, his tribute to the Humboldt—after enduring the full extent and reaches of it for 16 days, in the searing August sun—back in 1852. Ah, and now we’ve also passed the Humboldt, after ourselves having toiled, as did Adison, “…For Sixteen gloomy, sad & weary days.”

A much quieter time. We’re away from the semi-truck racket, but the trains run all night. Up at sun-up, we’re out and hiking by six-thirty. Plan is to get most of the remaining 40-mile desert behind us today.

Hiking US-95 south now, the trail’s nearby but on the other side of the tracks. So, we miss marker’s CR4 Salt Creek Crossing, CR5 Salt Flats, and CR6 Wagon Bonfire. We’d have to climb up and over the live Union Pacific grade; bad idea.

Along the way this morning, a joy meeting Emanuel and his brother, Sebastian. They’re from Germany, over here bicycling America. They’re enjoying their odyssey, and the US. Thanks for stopping. Thanks for the water. And thanks for your contagious enthusiasm and encouragement—stay safe young friends!

At CR7 Notorious Route, we leave the highway to pick up trail, to hike it the remainder of this day, as we strike out across the desert toward Ragtown/Carson River/US-50.

Down this desert section of old trail we’ll pass four markers, their associated coordinates, each some three to five miles apart. What a benefit to know, any given time, that we’re trekking in the right direction, the trail now old, now cold, the way of the faithful, struggling emigrants lost to the drifting sand—and time—forever.

Down past CR8 Upsal Hogback, and CR9 To Rot and Rust, easy enough going. We’d been worried about trail conditions, what with Bart pushing his usual gear, and now additionally, the weight of three gallons of water. But we’re doing okay.

Near CR9 To Rot and Rust, the wind comes up and really starts pushing us around. And now, at this marker, confusion: Which two-track to follow as we continue on. Not the right choice first, but we’re soon back on trail, headed for CR10 Dreadful Scenes—after working our way around a large, low salt flat. Much loose sand through here, making it hard pushing for Bart.

Not much to talk about, what’s out here. Little to no vegetation. Just a scene of monochromic gray-brown-black—rocks, dirt, sand. But what’s this! Smack in the trail, a large, very impressive geo-thermal energy generating plant, huge piping crossing, bending, and running all around.

Hard, slow going from CR10 Dreadful Scenes, to CR11 Soda Lake. A little-used two track (the trail’s become the local dump). We work our way through. At the dead sycamore, we hit a dead end, a tall railroad-tie fence beside a graded road. No gate, no way through. To the right, nearby, an old junkyard. Behind, we jump the fence, then to pass directly through the Workman Ranch, as we work our way across an irrigation canal, around and right by the main ranch house (no barking dogs; thank you Lord) to Workman Road. Across Workman, the two-track rising to Soda Lake. Oh my, how did we ever manage that gauntlet—across private land—what a deal!

And Soda Lake? An amazing place, fixed perfectly in space and time. Looks to be the remains of an ancient caldera, what with the geometric, conical upheaval directly before us, and now on which we stand. Just fantastic picture ops, as the angular light of evening strikes the sky behind, and now, the lake wall across and within. Bart sets up his tripod; I hunt around for a couple of flat spots. We pitch for the night right on the elevated lake rim!

A quart each (give or take) of water left, that’s it. Cut it close, real close.

Three miles, maybe four, all that remain of the 40-mile desert—to reach US-50/Ragtown/Carson River, and Squeezy’s Cafe. Sure enough we’ll be in there early morning for breakfast.

What great fortune, what a blessing to put this stretch of desert behind us. We’re all but at the Carson River now, this part of our memorable adventure—over.


Farewell to thee! thou Stinking turbid stream
Amid whose waters frogs and Serpents gleam
Thou putrid mass of filth farewell forever.
For here again I’ll tempt my fortunes never
Saltpletre, Salt and Sulphur all combine,
With Carrion and matters alkaline
I enrich the ‘broth’ that in the current flows
And make a Savory odor for the nose.
Von Humboldt! thou disgraced will be,
This mass of filth to bear the name of thee.
Far better call it Styx, or Pluto’s River,
Than thus belie the name of science Ever
For Sixteen gloomy, sad & weary days,
‘Mid burning Sands, and Sols more burning rays
I’ve wandered in thy grassless Sagy plain
And took thy putrid current to my veins
Drank by compulsion of thy brothy mass
That in these deserts must for water pass
But now more welcome deserts rise to view
And Carsons River just beyond so true
Whose mountain waters, pure and clear & bright
Rise like a welcome vision to my sight”

[Adison Crane, August 14, 1852]

Monday—June 22, 2015
Trail Day—26
Trail Mile—remainder of 16.4+17.6/505.2
Location—Bypass Fallon (through 40-mile desert), past CR14 Lahontan SRA Carson River, then on to near Stagecoach, US-50

Beautiful evening on the rim of Soda Lake where we pitched for the night. Bart set up his tripod and spent the evening taking pictures.

We’re out early to complete the short bit that’s remaining of the 40-mile desert, as we beat it toward US-50/Ragtown/Carson River—and Squeezy’s Cafe for breakfast. On the way in, I search in vain for Marker CR11 Soda Lake. It should have been on the road/trail to Ragtown, but no luck finding it.

We reach Squeezy’s before nine. Neat place. Great breakfast. Kind waitress and cook—our breakfasts, their treat; thanks, kind folks!

We’re able to find the CR12 Ragtown marker. And just past, right next the road, the simple but most impressive memorial to the emigrants.

We’re headed west on US-50 now, the trail meandering very close. A number of markers along today, all requiring an out and back. I’ve noted/entered each marker narrative at its respective location on my maps. From the highway and looking in the direction of any one of them, I can see what the marker refers to. Example: CR14 Carson Trail – Bypassing River Narrows. As I descend the hill from Lahontan State Park, it’s easy to spot where the trail leaves the river. And as for CR15 Rough Bad Road, the comment about “…hills covered with cobblestones which look like they been scattered by an eruption of a volcano…” That description is true, so very accurate, as the explosion from the Soda Lake Caldera eruption eons ago must have been a catastrophic and spectacular event. Volcanic rock? It’s everywhere.

Reaching Silver Springs, we head to Silver Strike Casino for supper, their before-four special, from there to head ever west. We’re now also tracking the Pony Express National Historic Trail, as it parallels US-50 a good distance toward Tahoe, then on into California.

More homes, gentleman ranches, small businesses along. We’re on the western edge of what might be referred to as true desert. Folks here can apparently drill a well and tap into good water. Not so in the desert region east of Silver Springs, not for the most part.

I’d made a wager with Bart: First to spot the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains gets a steak dinner. Hey, I win! Believe it or not, the Sierra can be seen from Ragtown. The very tip of a snow covered peak, faintly visible at this great distance—some 50 miles.

Wild horses here? Yes, but they’re certainly more a novelty, apparently protected. I pass six or seven casually grazing right beside the highway. A mare with her frail little colt just stands and stares, being not the least skittish or concerned. And down the highway a short distance, better part of an automobile front end. Broken plastic parts scattered clear across, the mess mostly cleaned up. Poor horse probably never knew what hit him. Yup, “wild” horse running loose. Go figure that one.

We pitch once more on the desert floor—in the sagebrush by US-50 just east of the little village of Stagecoach. Looks of it we knocked down a near-27 today. Carson City tomorrow. Yee-haw!

“Passed on some hills covered with cobblestones which look like they been scatered by an eruption of a volcano-this part of the road is verry hard on the feet of animals.”

[Alex M. Cowan, October 1, 1849]

Tuesday—June 23, 2015
Trail Day—27
Trail Mile—remainder of 17.8+14.8+11.2/549.0
Location—Past CR22 26-mile Desert/Stagecoach, past CR26 Dayton SP, Dayton, then on to Carson City

We pitched on the desert floor last, a mile east of Stagecoach, US-50, so the mileage on to Carson City today will be around 27. We hope to reach there late afternoon, early evening.

We’re out, arriving Stagecoach well before seven, so we’ve got a good shot at Carson today. We’ve done near-27s the last two days, so we’re both a bit weary and trail worn, certainly grimy and trail dusty. Today? We’ll just have to keep moving and hope for the best. Anyway, sure would like to reach Carson City today, then take the day off tomorrow.

All along now, retirement housing developments. Like Carefree or Sun City. Folks just want the sun, I guess. Don’t get me wrong; I love the desert. Something about it absolutely grows on you with time. But dang, no way I could squat down out here! Give me some green, at least a little bit around, some grass, a few trees, a stream with water in it, time-to-time. I like being here, hiking here—but no way living here—no way, no how!

By Stagecoach, the highway turns from two-lane to four, and the traffic quadruples. Heavy, near suffocating exhaust fumes to deal with now. By noon the sun is anvil hot, and bearing heavy on me. At Dayton, fresh pitch black tar has been sprayed over top the Tarmac, making for a frying pan/griddle cooker. Want fried eggs? Just crack and drop ‘em!

We finally take a break in Dayton, the Subway there. Lemonade and sweet tea, what a smooth, refreshing drink!

There are more markers along today, the trail never far from the highway. But as before, they’re all a distance away, concealed in the  desert sagebrush. The highway up and over, then down to Carson Plains Market, along the road through here can be seen the old two-track/trail as it comes from the river, over to the highway, then down, returning to the river. CR23 26-mile Desert Route describes it. I’ll close this entry with that emigrant quote.

The heat continues, the sun radiating off the gleaming, pitch black asphalt. We stagger our way on, then down and into Carson City. By phone this morning, I cut a hiker trash deal with Roadway Inn. We finally arrive shortly before six. A very long, hard, and tiring day.

So glad to get a bath and wash my (what have turned to) desert camo clothes. Sand and rock in the bottom of the tub. ‘bout as dirty as I can ever recall.

“After starting in the desert it is a gradual rise to near the center, from thence a gradual decent, till within about 5 miles of the river. When you assend to the top of a lower hill,-from thence decend to the river.”

[Leander V. Loomis, August 3, 1850]

Wednesday—June 24, 2015
Trail Day—28
Trail Mile—00.0/549.0
Location—Carson City

Today will be a much needed day of rest. Time to simply keep my feet up, relax, and take it easy. I will be happy and content with that.

I think we’re out of the desert now, hope so. The desert’s fine enough, but it can wear on you after awhile.

There’s a wildfire down by Markleeville, thousands of acres blazing away, out of control. Smoke is a problem, has been for days. Carson City’s been in an air choke. Ah, but this day we need simply close the motel room door, turn on the AC, and we’re out of it. And good news coming in now—the fire has been pretty much contained.

I’ve dear friends in Sacramento, Cameron and his wife, Romel. They’ve offered to support us as this trek winds down. It’ll be great to see them both again, to have their help. Cameron will be out to greet us near Placerville.

Evening, it’s back down to the Nugget for my steak dinner, the “See the Sierra first” wager I won. No brainer, I go for the prime rib, wouldn’t you!

“The happiest heart that beat,
Was in some quiet breast.
That found the common daylight sweet,
And left to heaven the rest”.

[John Vance Cheney]

Thursday—June 25, 2015
Trail Day—29
Trail Mile—18.8/567.8

The day of rest proved most beneficial. I’m reenergized and ready to go. We’re out at six-thirty to a fine Nevada morning. First stop, the Nugget Casino, right downtown Carson City. We’ve taken every meal here since hitting town—Tuesday’s supper, Wednesday, Bart’s bet called in (prime rib), and this morning, a fine breakfast.

Carson City is a friendly town, Nevada’s capital, clean (and green). US-50 goes straight through. Interesting: US-50 also goes straight through Jefferson City, Missouri’s capital.

Out from the Nugget and a few blocks down, we’re at the Nevada State Capitol—to take the tour. First, the grounds. Stately old Sierra redwood provide the perfect setting for the gardens, memorials, and the most remarkable bronze of Kit Carson, astride his horse. What’s remarkable is the tarnished bronze, how it has aged, almost variegated, in dusty shades of green. The stunning effect was likely never intended, yet is it so befitting, so striking a representation of the man. Ah, time for a video, and some pictures.

Then for a short visit inside, first floor. Here, another bronze—of Sarah Winnemucca, Nevada’s own, first Indian woman to publish a book.

And my take? Your capitol, Nevada, it’s a fine old structure, older than mine for sure. But as far as state capitols go, there’s just no comparison. You’ll have to come and see the magnificent Missouri State Capitol to even begin to understand, to appreciate  its stature. Yes, mother, I’ll be quiet now!

Two markers today, CR32 Mormon Station, and CR33 Walley’s Hot Springs, both easy to locate, the one at Walley’s, especially—right in the restaurant front yard.

By the time we finish dining at Walley’s, then to water up and head on down the road—to reach Mottsville, it’s time to call it a day. Camp for the night is in the back of an overgrown lot right next the highway.

Countless spring runs have passed under the road where we hiked today. Jack’s Valley, many fine ranches, lush pasture lands, upscale suburban homes. What a welcome contrast to the brown, barren, and vacant desert.

Got a friend whose brother lives in Minden, a fifteen minute drive from Mottsville. Disappointed I didn’t get to meet him.

“We passed around a barren portion of the mountain, where there gushed from the base…almost a thousand springs…”

[William R. Rothwell, August 18, 1850]

Friday—June 26, 2015
Trail Day—30
Trail Mile—22.0/589.8
Location—CR41 Hope Valley

Another restful night. Good energy this morning. Going to need it as we begin the climb into the Sierra Nevada Mountains today.

Bart has found a better and shorter route out of Nevada, into California. Eight-thirty, on Foothills Road, we enter California. The desert is now definitely behind us!

We take Emigrant Trail (road) on past Fredericksburg to near Paynesville. Then it’s SR-89 at Woodfords. Neat stop at Woodfords Station. Here I meet Linda Merrill, the great, great granddaughter of Willis Merrill, who opened the first trading post in Woodfords. Willis cared for the early emigrants, Linda takes care of we the stragglers!

The climb began as soon as we entered California. We were at 4,400 feet elevation where we camped last. We’re now above 7,000 feet—and climbing.

Another short stop at the store in Sorensen for a cold drink, then we’re right back out.

Near Marker CR40 Hope Valley, a fellow walks right up to me on the road shoulder. “Are you Nimblewill?” he asks. Dang Bosephus, sure enough we gotta get us some bigger shades! I meet Jim. He’s here with his crew, been fighting the wildfire over by Markleeville. Passed us in his rig. Was sure he recognized me from pictures on my website. A most enjoyable conversation. Thanks for taking the time to stop, Jim; great energy—sure enough made my day!

Evening we reach a fine camp spot directly under the tall pine. Then to filter water from a nearby lake—(wouldn’t have had to).

“Thence over a high sloping stony hill (sloping to the river) and down a steep hill to a canon…where comes the first tug of war! Through the first range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.”

[Giles S. Isham, August 5, 1850]

Saturday—June 27, 2015
Trail Day 31
Trail Mile—00.0/589.8
Location—Near Martell Flat

While taking water from the lake last evening I chanced to meet Bill (and his dog, Jesse). His motor home was parked by the lake and he and Jesse were playing “go fetch.” Bart was taking evening  shots as the setting sun played its magic across the lake. He then came up to meet my new-found friends.

As we talked, Bill related his life, a rough one, lots of health issues. He’s bound and determined, though, to work past them. He’s intrigued when Bart talks about our hike. Bill’s an outdoors person.

Anyway, during the course of conversation, Bill invited us for breakfast this morning. Oh yes, we’re right back there six sharp. Steaming hot coffee. Sausage, eggs, potatoes, toast, the full breakfast spread. What an absolutely perfect way to begin this day, thanks, Bill!

A cool, clear morning as we complete the short roadwalk to Red Lake. Here, we’ll follow the old emigrant route up to Carson Pass. We were told it was a difficult climb, steep and filled with rocks and boulders. Not knowing what to expect (Bart wants to take his full pack and cart up), we start the climb.

Well, the worry was all for naught, as the climb proves relatively easy. Bart is making fine time. Turns out there’s not a hitch. Ha, and this old emigrant trail? It’s the remains of the old highway, pieces of asphalt pavement still intact in places.

At the top, near Carson Pass, an historic spot called Devil’s Ladder. Bart goes down for some pictures. Hey, and that’s it for the Carson Pass climb—We’re at the Ranger Station by ten-thirty!

Lots of tourists and day hikers up here today, a few of them Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail hikers (the Pacific Crest Trail crosses here at Carson Pass).

Volunteer Rangers today—Janet, and the husband and wife team, Bill and Ginny (who’ve volunteered at Carson for the past twelve years). I met Bill and Ginny during my PCT thru-hike in ‘98. Oh my, ice cold pop, plus a variety of fresh fruit—their treat! Thanks dear friends, Great meeting you, Janet; Bill and Ginny, what a joy seeing you again!

We’re descending Carson Pass now, headed for the Gold Rush Trail, a 16-mile hiking trail up and over West Pass, by Melissa Corey Peak (which stands just shy of 10,000 feet). We begin our climb from Caples Lake at one (elevation, 7,000 feet).

A tough go right off the bat. Bart must shoulder his heavy pack and push (lift and lug) his cart best he can. Slow going up to the ski lift, then really slow going. We try cutting across a large, boggy meadow too soon. It’s below the main ridge escarpment. No choice, we must backtrack, then to climb higher, where we find the trail just below the scatter of rock and scree. More climbing, up and up some more, then to pass around Melissa Corey Peak. At four-thirty we’re standing in West Pass.

Each day, seems, I gain a whole new level of appreciation and respect for the emigrants (and the 49ers). How they managed to get their wagons up here, a mystery to me, just a total mystery!

As was the ascent, our descent starts out slow and difficult—then turns even slower. Really tough going now—through huge rocks and truck-size boulders—and we come to find, gaining West didn’t end the climbing. There’s not just more of it, but incredibly slow, near a crawl, going—not just for Bart, who’s now pulling his cart, but for me.

After a few more ups and downs, through the near impassable  jumbled up piles of granite, we filter water from a little meadow seep near Martell Flat, where a full assault by the most vicious horde of mosquitoes commences. Tired, wore out and totally beat, we call it a day.

“We reached the summit [West Pass] where we found the American flag, with its stars and stripes floating in the breeze…on the lofty peak of the Sierra Nevada Mountains”

[Leander V. Loomis, August 9, 1850]

Sunday—June 28, 2015
Trail Day—32
Trail Mile—19.1/608.9
Location—Tragedy Springs, then on to near Iron Mountain

Our camp last was above 9,000 feet. A cold night. I bundled up with all my clothing, then pulled the tent fly down tight all around. I slept soundly as I was bone weary tired. These Sierra Nevada Mountains have beat me good.

This morning we’ve a very rocky and steep descent to Mud Lake. Along are some remarkable swales, the old wagon path through a maze of scattered rock. Boulders ranging from the size of buckets to wash tubs have been moved aside, neatly aligned by the track, leaving just enough room for the wagons to pass but tight enough places to leave the steps and shelves of solid rock hard-scraped by the iron wagon rims.

Reaching Mud Lake, we look for (and Bart quickly finds) the grave of emigrant George Cottonwood. It is one of few, indeed of hundreds of pioneer/49er graves that have ever been identified. The Cottonwood grave is unique in that it’s marked by a headstone—the steel rim of a wagon wheel half buried in the rocky ground.

From Mud Lake on down to the highway we’ve a welcome two-track, nine miles total. We arrive there to finish the Gold Rush Trail at noon.

A full day, we’ve struggled this Gold Rush Trail one full day—to hike just 16 miles. A tough go of it? Oh yes! But for the experience, to have seen the remarkable traces of old wagon trail all through—it was certainly time and effort well spent.

We soon arrive Tragedy Springs—a (tragic) historic place along the trail. For, here occurred a sad, heart-wrenching tragedy. The ending quote today fills in.

We camel up, then fill up our water bottles, last water for this day—and tomorrow, as we begin the long, dry ridge walk along Mormon Emigrant Road.

“…named [Tragedy Springs] by members of the Mormon battalion enroute to Salt Lake Valley. Three of their men, serving as advance trail scouts, were murdered here by unknown persons June 27, 1848…”

[Daughters of Utah Pioneers]

Monday—June 29, 2015
Trail Day—33
Trail Mile—remainder of 17.1+19.1/645.1
Location—Iron Mountain, then on to Pleasant Valley

There’s no traffic on Mormon Emigrant Road after dark. So, a quiet, restful night under the pine.

I’m pack-up and hiking by six-thirty. Bart’s rolling out ahead. We definitely need to reach  Pleasant Valley today.

Moving along, I’m slowly sipping the little water I’ve left, less than five ounces. The road has stayed the ridge, no water on the ridge, last 30 miles—clear back to Tragedy Springs—and it’s still twelve miles to the campground at Sly Park Lake. Finally reaching the park, we’re in luck, a spigot at the campground. Cold, delicious water. Bart and I both drink a quart!

By noon we’ve got the 18 done to reach Pleasant Valley. Time to hit Pleasant Valley Pizza—and a trip or three to their fountain.

Here, my friend Cameron tracks us down. A wonderful surprise. He’ll come for us, spend time with us tomorrow in Placerville. We should get in there early morning, only five miles.

California roads leave much to be desired. Ditches right next the white line, no shoulders, blind curves, the most dangerous conditions for roadwalking—and it goes on for miles. The way can grow weary and long at times. Camp for the night is in a field near the junction of Pleasant Valley and Cedar Canyon Roads.

We remained close to the trail all day, but it went the next long ridge north.

“After descending from the ridge by a long hill…At twilight entered on as beautiful a valley as ever I laid eyes on called Pleasant Valley.”

[Peter Decker, August 6, 1848]

Tuesday—June 30, 2015
Trail Day—34
Trail Mile—09.6/654.7
Location— Placerville

Camped way back in an overgrown field behind a convenience store last, away from the road. A quiet, pleasant night. Had a problem with the overgrown field, though—hitchhikers. Took me over an hour to remove all the clinging burs and nettles from my socks, they were loaded with the prickly little troublemakers.

This morning I break camp and cross the field with my socks off! Sitting on an old blowdown by the convenience store, and while having a delightful cup of hot, fresh-brewed coffee, I take my time finishing my sock cleanup.

The road yesterday, into Pleasant Valley (E16) and the road out (Pleasant Valley Road) were both narrow, dangerous roads, one blind curve after another. There was no shoulder, just the white line, then the straight drop off to the ditch, and heavy traffic, one of the most dangerous sections of roadwalking I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve done my share of roadwalking.

The same conditions continue this morning as we trek toward Placerville on Cedar Canyon Road. Another long, dangerous go at it for the entire hike on in, some seven miles. We’re in downtown Placerville by nine, safely (thank you, Lord), first to search for the last and final Trails West Marker. We finally track it down, right at the entrance to the municipal pool. After, no time wasted heading for Sweetie Pies for breakfast. Fine food, great service.

Time now to find a room for the afternoon and night. Not a lot of places to choose from, all on the east fringes of town. After a mile or better, no luck. Another half- mile, still no luck. Time to call Cameron! He’s free for the afternoon and comes right away to fetch us. He suggests we visit Sutter’s Mill, site of the first gold strike that ignited the mad rush to California in 1849.

Ah, and when we think of the California Trail, first thought that likely comes to mind is the California gold rush, the year of the 49ers. During 1849, early 1850s, over 50,000 brave souls endured the elements and the trail, as they trekked the California Trail, to Hangtown (Placerville) and other nearby California gold rush towns. So, as to the 49ers, the gold rush, THAT California Trail, here in Placerville we’ve completed that hike!

And as to the California Trail that continues on to Sacramento and Sutter’s Fort, where folks came by wagon to settle the Central Valley, we’ll hike on, along that way the next three days.

At Cameron and Romel’s, and in the afternoon-evening, we get showered, clean clothes, and a fine evening meal prepared by Romel.

“The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow it if I can…”

[J. R. R. Tolkein]

 Wednesday—July 1, 2015
Trail Day—35
Trail Mile—13.8/668.5
Location—(Not) Cameron Park, (Rather) Folsom

A fine night under the stars at Cameron and Romel’s in Rancho Cordova. We’re up, coffee’d up, loaded in Cameron’s car at daybreak—and on our way back to Placerville. Cameron drops us off downtown as he’s off to his next-to-last day teaching summer school. Thanks, Cameron!

We’ve got downtown Placerville all to ourselves. Great time for picture taking. Bart and I both walk right down Main Street; lots of great shots of the old historic district.

Our route this morning will take us down the old Placerville and Sacramento Valley/Eldorado Rail Trail, across the 100-foot high trestle, then on down past McDonald’s and Wal-Mart as we head toward Missouri Flats and Green Valley Road. We’ll be following this modified route into Folsom, as we’re interested in also approximating the old Pony Express route to Folsom.

More “run the gauntlet” road conditions to deal with again. Lots of traffic hot and heavy; very dangerous.

Bart gets ahead of me and I become confused. A call to Cameron at his school gets me going straight again—and Bart backtracks to let me catch up. We’re soon hiking the right way together again. Thanks for your help, Cameron. Thanks for your (continued) patience with me, Bart!

The day really heats up, and we slow down, as we hammer the Tarmac on into Folsom. Cameron calls just as we’re deciding we’ve hiked enough today. So he comes to pick us up, right across from Folsom City Hall.

My treasure take today, 28 cents in change, a really beat up quarter and three hard-life pennies. Bart fills out his first “flatwear” silver serving set by finding a scratched and bent fork.

Evening now, Cameron gives us the tour of Folsom, then we head back to his place to get the road stink washed off, and to once again be treated to a fine supper by Romel.

Two more days, and this California Trail trek will be history.

“Where you end up isn’t the most important thing.
It’s the road you take to get there.”

[Tim Riley]

Thursday—July 2, 2015
Trail Day—36
Trail Mile—20.9/689.4
Location—Rancho Cordova (Riverbend Park, Jedediah Smith National Recreation Trail/American River Bike Path)

Another fine night at Cameron and Romel’s lovely home. Another great dinner, and just the finest down-home hospitality. Thanks again, dear friends.

Cameron has us loaded and back downtown to Folsom shortly after six. This is Cameron’s last day of teaching summer school, so he drops us off and is gone. He’ll return again around two to fetch us, somewhere near Rancho Cordova, probably at Riverbend Park on the bike path.

Another great morning for having downtown to ourselves, this time, Folsom. Very impressive historic district. Oh, and a really fine breakfast at Karen’s.

Once across the old box-iron bridge over the American River, we turn to follow the bike path. A pleasant day coming on, and lots of shade for a change. Just a most-welcome final few miles o’er the California National Historic Trail.

Lots of folks out here getting their daily exercise this morning, walking, jogging, and bicycling. We hike the left-hand side as the cyclists whiz by.

A short, pleasant day. Bart is once again hiking without his stroller, just the essentials for this day in his backpack. We walk together, enjoyable conversation—just a memorable time.

At two, we’re at Riverbend Park, a short, easy day. A call to Cameron and he’s right here.

And to cap this most-perfect day, another memorable evening with Cameron and Romel. Ah, and Cameron’s brother, Mark, comes by. Mark, like his brother, Cameron, is a backpacker. Much enjoyable conversation—just a mighty fine evening.

“If I’ve made it, it’s half because I was game to take a wicked amount of punishment along the way, and half because there were an awful lot of people who cared enough to help me.”

[Althea Gibson]

Friday—July 3, 2015
Trail Day—37
Trail Mile—12.2/701.6
Location—Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, Sacramento, then on to the California State Capitol, downtown Sacramento

Another pleasant and restful night at Cameron and Romel’s. Can’t emphasize enough the absolute joy it’s been having their kind help and support. Ah, and they’ve insisted we stay with them again this evening as we prepare to shift from trekking the trail to riding the rail.

Another pleasant morning. My, have we not been blessed to have had day after day of such grand hiking weather!

We’ve got ten miles to go, that’s it, down the American River (o’er the Jedediah Smith National Recreation Trail), to downtown Sacramento, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, and the Capitol.

Out of River Bend Park, we cross the American River on a pedestrian bridge. Then it’s down the west side of the river to mile marker eight, there to again cross the river on a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge—to reach the Sacramento State University campus. Once through the Sac campus, it’s onto K Street to follow it to near downtown Sacramento and Sutter’s Fort. We’re there to finish this trek o’er the California Trail a bit after twelve. Cameron is here to congratulate us and to share in our joy of successfully completing this journey.

From the old fort we hike the remaining few blocks to the California Capitol. A tour of the grounds, the Capitol, and this journey is ended.

We’re back again for a final evening with Cameron and Romel. Another wonderful meal prepared for us. In the morning we’ll say goodbye and depart from them, not a time I look forward to. Dear friends, Cameron, Romel, what a joy seeing you again and spending a bit of time—thanks for your generosity, your kindness; thanks, especially, for your friendship!

And so, folks, this ends another amazing journey.

On the Oregon Trail last year I lived with the emigrants bound for Oregon. On this odyssey, I spent time with those who braved it to California. Few alive today have the least appreciation or understanding—the hardship, suffering, the losses endured by the courageous and brave emigrants who settled the west. To now know them as I do—such a blessing to this old man. Thank You, Lord, thank You!


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