Running on Dirt | Finally time to enjoy our backcountry trails
July 23, 2010
With only patches of snow here and there on the high-traverse trails, itand#8217;s time to venture onto our area peaks and experience their vistas.
Easily the most popular trail is the Pacific Crest Trail from Sugar Bowl to Squaw Valley. There is just a short 2-mile climb from the parking area until you reach the ridge line. There is one big junk of snow you need to cross to get to the ridge. Watch your footing and take it slow. Itand#8217;s a far fall if you slip. Once on the ridge you have incredible views and a rolling trail.
For the most part youand#8217;ll be completely exposed to the elements, so bring sunscreen. Youand#8217;ll reach Anderson Peak after about 4 miles. The trail hits several patches of snow here. Again, take it slow through the snow. A couple more miles and you reach Tinkers Knob. Once here, you can either catch a trail down to the left, which takes you into Coldstream Canyon, or you continue on a decent into a lush meadow with creeks, snow drifts and shade.
Three to 4 miles later youand#8217;ll come to a junction that says and#8220;Granite Chief trail.and#8221; After 3.8 miles of downhill youand#8217;re at the old fire station in Squaw Valley. Total distance is about 16 miles on the run. You have to invest some time and organize transportation, but itand#8217;s worth it at least once this summer and#8212; for the amazing wildflowers alone.
For a quick fix, just do the Mount Judah loop. Start from the same location by Sugar Bowl Academy. One short mile in to your run and the turnoff for the loop appears. Youand#8217;ll run through a grove of trees that brings you to a vista. Continue up where the trail hooks to the right. If you continue straight, youand#8217;ll end you climbing up Donner Peak.
Once you make the turn youand#8217;ll ascend several switchbacks until you reach the ridge. A nice traverse across the top and then youand#8217;ll begin your decent. One mile into the decent, youand#8217;ll reconnect with the PCT. Make a hard right for your return and#8212; a mere 5-mile loop.
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The catch, this trail gets a lot of traffic. Be courteous to others out there. Share the trail. But more importantly, enjoy the looks on their faces as you run by them as they are huffing and puffing and cursing you for being able to run so gracefully so high in our mountains.
and#8212; Peter Fain is a local trail runner who competes regularly in regional trail races and snowshoe runs in the winter. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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