Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

April 22, 2011

Mossy Rock Trail, 2 mile easy hike, Auburn, CA

Difficulty: Pretty easy, though it is a little workout right at the beginning
Distance:  Less than 2 miles.
Notes:  Trail head is located at the new restroom on the left side of Foresthill Road just East of Highway 49 bridge crossing the river on your right. Free parking at this time although there is talk about fees being required soon. For more info: Stagecoach Trail History . Dogs are allowed on leashes (per a sign at the trail head), and children who like the outdoors could do this hike.  Some of the Mossy Rock Trail would be unsuitable for a stroller due to deep trench like sections eroded from water and use. I haven't used GPS there, but Wikiloc may have tracks for it.
  • There is now a $10 parking fee at the Confluence.
This was expected to be a rainy day hike so I carried my day pack with a waterproof shell and a warmer fleece, just in case.  The Stagecoach Trail, which began climbing uphill toward the giant Foresthill bridge, was wide, weathered, and lined with ferns and wildflowers. 

As I climbed I caught views of the bridge.  It was gratifying to see it at almost eye level! 
I put the hiking poles away and focused on hiking and getting photos. 
The trail "Mossy Rock" took off to the left, narrowing quite a bit,
but intrigued me...almost a deer trail.  Bicycles had obviously used it, even recently.  
The butterflies floated playfully around me,
but I had the hardest time catching them in my camera frame! 
With persistence, I finally captured shots of a couple of them resting and snacking. 
They shimmered and glistened in the sun.  When they rested on the trail, 
they flopped down and spread their wings flat to the ground as if dead!  
But as soon as I got close enough to frame and shoot them, 
off they went, teasingly defiant.
The American River Canyon photographed from the Mossy Rock Trail.
The storm I expected to hamper my hike was visible in the distance. I was hiking in short sleeves.  I had to reset my camera lighting for too much brightness.  The view was rewarding when it opened out into the canyon every so often.

This was a surprising view, caught just between the trees and

shrubs along the trail,

of the old Quarry Bridge crossing the American River

just downstream of the confluence.

Rounding a corner another window opened a glimpse of the river rapids.

This bench was placed in remembrance for a person who loved the canyon.  
It makes a nice resting place to just soak in the warmth and views.
This was part of the Mossy Rock Trail, lined with blooms that day, and well shaded.  
There were several small and shallow water crossings along the way.  
A final canyon view and it was back to the car.    I spent three hours there, 
but quite a bit of it chasing butterflies!

Happy Trails and I hope you have a great time!

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April 16, 2011

Windy Point Wildflowers

Foothill Hikers
Together with experts in geology and botany, we hiked the Windy Point trail, this time, really taking close looks at the wildflowers, and I played with macro shooting.  

Length: 2.8 miles one way
Difficulty:  We have seen people turn back because the steep hill on the lower side of the trail with the view to the river scares them.  I'll call it difficult for that reason and there is creek crossing involved.
Driving Directions: Out of Colfax, CA off of Highway 80, take Iowa Hill Road to the trail head .  Parking is on the right where there is a small TH sign and parking is a decent pull out area.


This small flower is part of the sunflower family, and if you magnify the photo you will see the center is composed of a ring of TINY flowers of 5 flower petals each. There are smaller "bumps' in the center which are just the tiny flowers waiting to bloom.  The long petals easily seen are called "ray flowers".  I never knew!

I heard this called a star flower...maybe a "blazing star"?  I'm not convinced although it has star-like qualities!

This is another variety of lupines.

Meet our old friend the monkey flower!  Didn't you love these when you were a kid?

The hillside was covered in mostly yellow blooms, but if we come back in a couple of weeks, it may be yellow but it will consist of other varieties of plants in bloom!

Our downhill view across the trail into the river wonder we were warned to keep our eyes on the trail, even while we investigated flora along the way!  This is where less experienced hikers turn back.

In California we often think everything similar to this is a California Poppy, but this doesn't have a pink disc at the underside base, and the blooms are smaller.

I caught a glimpse of this kayak-er, in an opportune moment, making his way down the river. He's the first one I saw this year riding through the whitewater.

Foothill Hikers listening intently to one of our experts while breaking in the shade.  I couldn't hear him and focused on getting more macro shots, making my time productive!

The Experts enjoying a break at the river.

These reportedly provide large amounts of nectar.  So many diners to choose from with cluster flowers!

My own favorite lupine shot!  The sun was hanging in the perfect angle 
to glow through the vibrant purple petals.

This plant has extremely tiny leaves and flower petals so I am happy to give Nikon bragging rights for the S8100v1.0.  Once you get the hang of it, and take the time to achieve the lighting and focus area you desire, there are details beyond what you can see in person, but discover when you get home. Use you computer to zoom even closer!  It also has a wider lense than previous models which is helpful for canyon or panoramic shots.

I heard these referred to as popcorn flowers but they resemble pussytoes in my book, The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada.  I am waiting for the Native Plant Society book for identifying wildflowers in Nevada and Plumas Counties.  I will keep you posted.

A Sierra newt in hiding at the creek we crossed to get to the river.

Brown Bells of the lilac family.

With this shot zoomed, you can find the purple spots the blooms are known for.

Penstemon varieties.

Tiny little things as you can see by the finger size!

In a couple of weeks we will see hatched monarch eggs which are laid on the underside of these leaves!

Kayakers floating leisurely by before the next small whitewater challenge.

For more information about this hike and directions, 
This group is dynamic and has something for everyone. Of all the hiking clubs I have joined and left, none had the number of hikers allowed on a trip limited so groups are small and a new person doesn't get lost in a crowd.  It also makes a hiking experience a truly peaceful, pleasurable and pressureless event!  Pausing for photos or rest aren't frowned upon, and you won't get lost!  Dogs are included whenever possible. Whatever length, and difficulty level you are ready for, hikes at a variety of times of day for invigorating adventures 
with a group of friendly, supportive, outdoorsy people are the norm.  Meetup also invites you to other organizations' events that can enrich your knowledge and 
outdoor opportunities including:
REI trainings and events, and more!

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