Friday, November 7, 2014

Cronan Ranch

A waxing moon shines over the eastern horizon. Golden foothills glow in fading sunlight. Far off,  the Sierra Nevada mountain tops are covered with snow. It is autumn at Cronan Ranch.
Not looking for a walk around the block, we picked Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park for an afternoon hike. Debbie likes its peacefulness, while I like getting to see a river view. The park is located in Pilot Hill, California. It has 12 miles of trails for biking, horseback riding and hiking near and along the South Fork of the American River. There is a variety of terrain to traverse from gently sloped hills to oak woodlands and rocky riverfront trails.

 We got a late start. The sun was already beginning to dip behind hills when we started on the Down and Up Trail. It lives up to its name, as it takes us up through the bright gold colored grasses of the Sierra Foothills. We follow a ribbon of red dirt as afternoon shadows creep over the hills chasing us along the way.
The trail reaches the top if the hill and then winds us down into a ravine of oak and pine woodlands. We can hear the rush of the river hidden in the trees. Like always, I can hear the river calling before I can see it.

We follow the trail all the way to the river. A canopy of trees oaks, pines and willows cushion the water edge. In high spots we can see the river not blocked by the trees. At last, our trail intersects with the River Trail. Near the river, area commercial rafting companies have set up camps here. During the summer, boaters make a pit stop here before heading into The Gorge. On our trip we found the site quiet and the river at a peaceful low.
We walk along the river's banks for short time before heading back up Long Valley Trail. The sun has set by now, leaving us to walk back in darkness, listening to the hoots of the owls.

The Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park was purchased by the American River Conservancy,  Bureau of Land Management and other partners and placed into public trust to be used for recreation and wildlife conservation.