September 18-20, 2015
As always, we took the South Yuba trail from the backpackers’ parking off of North Bloomfield road down to the primitive camp on the banks of the river, about 5 miles in.
Max elevation: 2648 ft
Min elevation: 2260 ft
Total climbing: 604 ft
Every year for the past three years I’ve made at least once trip to this site on the Yuba. It’s a beautiful and serene spot and this particular corner of nature holds some sort of magical hold on my heart. I didn’t want to let this year pass without at spending some time lounging on the banks of the Yuba.
This weekend promised high temperatures, and that’s the best time to be at the river. So Tikka and I made the drive out to Nevada County , through Grass Valley, across the rickety wooden bridge that offers the first view of the river, up the bumpy dirt road, and into the backpackers’ parking lot. We’d left a little later in the day that originally planned, so the heat of the day had already peaked by the time we set foot on the trail. The lower sun and lower temperature made it easy to make quick work of the 5, mostly flat miles to the campsite. We passed two hikers heading the opposite way close to the trailhead and we didn’t see anyone else for nearly the entire rest of the trip.
We arrived at the primitive camp at 4:45, after a short hour and a half hike. By 5:00, the tent was up and camp was set and Tikka and I were at the river bank filtering water for the evening. The water was surprisingly cold. Perhaps it was due to the recent rain from the days prior to our visit.
After dinner and a delicious mocha, Tikka and I retired to the comfort of the tent to read and eventually drift off to sleep. A few times in the middle of the night, Tikka woke me up while growling a warning at some unseen visitor outside.
In the morning, I debated exploring down the trail a few miles. Looking at maps, there seem to be at least 1 or 2 other spots where the trail comes back down to the river and the terrain looks like it could be flat enough for some good campsites. Laziness and heat got the better of me, though, and we ended up staying at the riverside and the campsite for the day. Tikka spent the day patrolling the permitter of the camp and sleeping in different bits of shade while I spent the day reading and relaxing.
Just after sundown, we jumped into the tent to lay down and listen to a horror short story podcast I had downloaded before the trip. The mood was perfectly fitting: waning light, alone in the woods, engrossed in a scary story when suddenly Tikka exploded into a fit of barking. She pressed her snout against the mesh of the tent door and barked into the darkness beyond. I looked out and saw a pair of legs. Her barks gave me a little start, but the sight of another person after being alone all weekend gave me a larger one. I scrambled out of the tent to greet the stranger.
Francisco had set up camp at the ledge above the river before the Humbug creek crossing, about .4 mile back up the trail. Just as he and his 7 month pregnant wife arrived there, he realized they didn’t have a lighter to start their stove and cook dinner. He’d set off down the trail in hopes of finding someone to help. Luckily, he’d found me. I invited him to move camp down to where I was; it’s a nicer spot with much easier access to the water. He agreed and set back off to retrieve his gear and his wife.
It was close to full dark when he came back. After quick introductions, his wife, Manu (I believe), asked if there was a water spigot to refill the water bottle they had with them. I smirked inwardly (I hope) and told them no, there was nothing of the sort and to get water, you have to filter from the river. As it turned out, they didn’t bring a filter with them. The light was swiftly fading, so I suggested that Francisco start erecting their tent while Manu and I went down to the river to filter some water using my filter.
Tent up, water refilled, and with some matches from my emergency kit, they were ready to cook their dinner and spend the night. Tikka and I got back in the tent to read and drift to sleep.
In the morning, I got up before my new Italian neighbors. Seeing the canvas food bag they’d hung from a sapling, I hoped they hadn’t been visited by raccoons or small rodents in the night. Soon they were up and inviting me over to their site to share some coffee with me. I happily accepted the invite.
We spent the morning chatting and getting to know each other. They were wonderful company. Curious about my recent JMT trip and eager to hike the trail himself, Francisco asked me all kinds of questions about it. Seeing my bearikade bear can, they also asked if their food hang was sufficient, “raccoons can’t climb trees, can they?” I smiled and confirmed they definitely could and gave them some suggestions about how to better protect their food at night.
After a nice chat and delicious Italian coffee, I started packing to get on my way. I filled up as many containers as they had with filtered water before taking off. They thanked me for my gifts of fire and water, and Tikka and I left the site to head back to the car and the inevitable Bay Area traffic.
See my previous years’ trips.