Last week I walked the American Discovery Trail from the Truckee River most of the way to Auburn, which is segments 2, 3, and part of 4 of the ADT.
My trip started in Reno where I picked up a new rain jacket from Patagonia, but did not find the lightweight hiking shirt I was hoping for, and then camped a ways up Hunter Creek, a nice walk from Patagonia. In the morning I went into Reno, ate breakfast, hung at the coffee shop, and enjoyed the river, then caught the Amtrak Zephyr to Truckee. The TART bus to Squaw Valley, and then on the trail.
Segment 1 of the ADT, which I’ve walked many times but not this trip, starts at the state line and follows the Tahoe Rim Trail down to Tahoe City and then north along the bike path. Segment 2 starts at the Hwy 89 bridge over the river just south of Squaw Valley. I’ve previously tried to find the ADT and Western States Trail (WS) through Squaw Valley, and been frustrated. I still am. The ADT waypoints follow an old pre-1999 route with confusing directions, and in fact partly follow something that I am sure has never been the WS. Since 1999, the WS now stays high on the south side of the valley. Passing Watson Monument, the route diverges from the current WS/Tevis Trail, heading south through Whiskey Creek Camp and then up over the saddle and into Picayune Valley. Picayune was the WS route some time in the past, but I have no idea how long it has been. Picayune is one of my favorite spots, and I’m always happy to hike here again. The route leaves the wilderness at Talbot Campground, followed by a boring walk along a gravel road to Lewis Campground at the head of French Meadows Reservoir, ending segment 2, 27 miles.
Segment 3, 42 miles, goes from here to the town of Foresthill. The trail follows and then climbs away from the reservoir, heading toward Duncan Stream, again with some poorly described waypoints, where the ADT rejoins the WS. So I ended up way off course and only got to water after dark. Then out of the canyon to Robinson Flat, where there is a pump handle well with water, and then along logging roads to the west. One ADT waypoint is just plain wrong (T30130), so I took another side-trip I didn’t need to take. After winding around for a long time the route finally heads down to the mostly gone mining town of Last Chance, and they to the edge of the canyon at Pacific Slab mine, where I spent the night. The trail drops precipitously into the canyon of the North Fork of the Middle Fork American River and crosses on a suspension bridge before climbing up to the plateau again.
The trail goes out a long ridge to Deadwood, and then makes a long traverse of the canyon slope before finally dropping to a bridge over Eldorado Creek. This part from Talbot CG to the second bridge, I’ve only done once before, in 2012, but from here on I’ve made several trips. The trail climbs out of the canyon to Michigan Bluff, where there used to be freely available water but is not this drought year (I’m sure the locals are seeing their springs very low), and along the plateau, down through Volcano Stream, and up to Foresthill. I took a break in Foresthill for a beer and Chinese, then dropped again into the canyons, camping down about three miles. It did not cool off that night, so I knew that it was going to be a cooker of a day.
The country west of Foresthill is very, very much drier than to the east. There was almost a month of thunderstorms which kept soil moisture up, creek levels only slightly below normal, and produced abundant flowers. But west of Foresthill there were no thunderstorms, and everything is tinder dry. The poison oak was turning fall red color, the buckeye had largely lost its leaves, the madrone and bay laurel covering the ground with brown and yellow leaves, and there were almost no flowers. It looks and feels like mid-September.
The ADT/WS winds along the canyon wall, with some nice trail and some horrible steep mining roads, and reaches the river again above Ruck-a-Chucky falls and campground. I spent mid-afternoon hanging out in the river, while the canyon turned into an oven. Late afternoon, I went up the Drivers Flat Road, where the ADT and WS again diverge, and walked out to Foresthill Road, then hitchhiked to Auburn. I walked across town to the transit station, and that walk on pavement was as hard on my feet as the entire rest of the trip had been. Placer County Transit and SacRT light rail, and back home in the evening.
I did this trip in part to acquire GPS tracks for segments 2 and 3, which I did not have. I did not really succeed in either, and the reasons point out the need for the tracks. The ADT gpx waypoint files purchased from ADTS are out of date. The Western States Trail through Squaw Valley was rerouted in 1999, yet the 2013 edition of the gpx waypoints file dated 2013 shows the old alignment. From Watson Monument at the top of Squaw Valley, the remainder of the route westward is correct. I will go back and create a track for the new Squaw Valley alignment.
I’d spent so much time using my iPad to figure out the ADT-CA-2 alignment, switching between the ADT log files and Motion-X GPS and other apps, and then getting “lost” in the early part of the ADT-CA-3 segment and again using up battery, that I was not able to create a complete track. I have pieces and will be able to fill in the rest on a future trip.
Waypoint T30130, where a little used road FR 44 departs from the main Mosquito Ridge Road, is wrong. The trail follows FR 44. There are a number of other waypoints which are vague or confusing, but this is the only one that is outright wrong.
Here is ADT-CA-2:
Previous trips on these segments (you can also search for American Discovery Trail and Western States Trail to see additional ADT trips):