Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

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April 04, 2010

Quarry Trail, Browns Bar, WST

My hiking companion and I had plans for a hike, our first in two weeks, but we were undecided about our trail for the day. Having gotten a late start, we headed up to the familiar foothills Confluence area. To avoid paying the $10 parking fee at the Quarry Trailhead, we parked along Highway 49 near the bridge and with our backpacks full (for conditioning value) we headed out on the Quarry Trail. The website below has historical information, a trail map (that does not show many of the trail offshoots), and exact driving directions.

We had a hard time feeling motivated, between our lack of recent hiking, my friend's new backpack break-in period, and the weather looking potentially formidable. The first part of the hike is a very wide trail that leads parallel to the river on your left, and along the way are several tables and a couple of bathrooms. We passed those areas and stopped by the mine that is blocked with a very heavy locked iron gate, but you can see quite a ways into it.


Using your flash you can get an interesting photo. Unfortunately, the outer cement bridge remains are covered in vandalism spray paint, taking away from the historical feel of the old mining site.
Hiking on, we crossed two creeks and came to Brown's Bar Trail at the 3.5 miles point. This trail is only .8 miles long but provides difficult footing at times, and heads upward to connect to the Western States Trail. The elevation range is recorded as 1320'-680'. It was steep, rocky, deeply rutted from weather drainage, and muddy from recent weather. It ran alongside a creek (or sometimes the trail WAS a creek) and the area was green, shady and lush. Our mission was to follow the WST back to the PG&E trail that would lead us back down to the Quarry Trail and then back to the car.

Finally we peaked at the WST junction. It has been a goal of mine to see this section of the WST, and it was very pretty this time of year. The problem was that it is not very clearly marked as to which of the several intersecting trails we should take to get back to the Quarry Trail instead of going to Cool.We used our senses of direction and chose the path to our right which took us through neighborhoods, crossing the unmarked street. The trail did not go straight across though, so there was a mini-search for the connections. The only markers were metal poles with horseshoes welded to the tops and two horseshoes painted on the pavement. There were large, slippery muddy trail sections and numerous creeks to cross.
Poison Oak was plentiful and unavoidable!!!

We were getting tired, and the uncertainty along with our late start made it more stressful. In the worst case scenario we had everything we needed. We finally broke out to a view of the burned hills across the canyon that runs along the river, so we were sure we were still on the right track. The trail headed downhill with a more gentle slope back towards the canyon, which we gladly followed. It was pretty amusing to come across a family of four who asked us for directions and we were glad to be able to confirm they were going the right way back to their neighborhood. The "mom" looked every bit as stressed as we had been just minutes ago! They were all obviously relieved, just as we had been!

My hiking companion estimated we had hiked about 10 miles, but we had forgotten the GPS in the truck.
I would do the hike again, but enjoy it more with drier ground. My curiosity is roused about the trails that came off of WST, and I would like a map that shows those options. It would also be nicer to have the GPS along to provide distances and elevation changes of the whole hike. It took us about 5 hours without a lunch stop.
And of course, I always will welcome input from any of you who know more!

"Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush."
Doug Larson