TRAIL NOTES BLOG
Tom and family, tearing it up in the mountains.
Tom Accettola spends a lot of time swimming in the scents of the Sierra. Tom's the head of Research and Development at Juniper Ridge, and when he's not distilling Cedars and Firs at the Wild Plum Campground, he's floating with his family down the Yuba River.
For Tom, the best base of operations for Sierra expeditions is Nevada City, about an hour northeast of Sacramento. "My wife went to high school there," he says. "It's full of real people doing real things, and it has a sense of history. It's a mix of rural, red-state people and liberal hippie types happily coexisting."
Heading to the Sierra? Here are Tom's favorite things to hear, see, and do in his favorite California mountain town:
1. Listen to KVMR (89.5 FM). "It's a community radio station that plays everything from bluegrass to jazz to rockabilly. My family loves the Hawaiian show on Sundays."
2. Visit Empire Mine State Historic Park. "You can tour the mine---it opened just after the Gold Rush, along with the house of the millionaire who owned it. A lot of artifacts from that era."
3. Have breakfast at the South Pine Cafe. "The best breakfasts. Eggs Benedict. Hot links. Pancakes with lots of fruit. There's also one in Grass Valley."
4. Shop at Kitkitdizzi. "An eclectic shop with lots of cool stuff. They sell these knives that a 16 year old kid makes. My wife just got a great old 1960s map of Nevada City there."
5. Drink a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at The Mineshaft. "A super-friendly dive bar."
6. Swim in the Yuba River. "Nevada City is about 10 or 15 minutes away from really good swimming holes along the South Fork of the Yuba. Just ask locals to point you to the bridge."
(Winter shot of the campground provided to help cool down your steamy summer)
One of the benefits of wandering around in the woods a lot is that you stumble on some pretty amazing, off-the-beaten-path campgrounds. Wild Plum Campground, in the High Sierras, is one of our favorites.
Here's what we love about it:
1) Juniper Ridge was born here! This is where a young Hall Newbegin used his Pacific Coast Tree Finder to identify his first tree (it was an Incense Cedar, just in case JR ever pops up as a Jeopardy category). His original experiments with wildcrafting happened here too, a story Hall tells while walking around a wintry Wild Plum Campground in this video.
2) All the sites are non-electric and most are tent-only, keeping the RVs to a minimum.
3) Ecologically, it's a miniature version of the High Sierras—home to the different evergreens that give this area its unbelievable scent.
4) It's the perfect jumping-off point for hikes to the Lakes Basin and the nearby Sierra Buttes.
You can get directions and make reservations for Wild Plum at Reserve America.
We'll be spending most of July up in the mountains, sleeping beneath a ceiling of Sierra stars. We love traveling light during these warm summer months, but we always end up packing in a couple books to read around the campfire.
Want to make your summer reading list a little wilder? Here are Obi's five all-time favorite books about nature, the backcountry, and life on the trail.
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
The Mountains of California by John Muir
The Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
Juniper Ridge Founder Hall Newbegin is a walking encyclopedia of swimming hole lore.There are still a few mythic swimming holes out there whose locations Hall refuses to divulge, but here are five of his hand-picked can't-miss spots for a cool dip this summer. Notes and directions by Hall!
1. Salmon Creek / Big Sur CA. Despite popular opinion, the Northwest begins about an hour south of Big Sur in the Salmon Creek drainage. Plants don't know or care about state borders and this is the last coastal canyon where heading south where you'll find all those Northwest plants growing together—Redwood, Douglas Fir, Trillium, Wood Fern, Sphagnum Moss...This is the southern end of the West Coast's magnificent temperate rainforest that stretches from Big Sur to southern Alaska and as far as these plants are concerned, they're in Oregon.
Directions: About an hour south on the coastal highway (Hwy 1) you'll come to the Salmon Creek trailhead sign on the left hand/inland side of the highway. Usually there are cars parked at this turnout—follow the creek trail for a short (less than 1/2 mile hike) into an ridiculously beautiful swimming hole with waterfalls and big rocks for sunning. This place is heaven on hot days and I love how it's all of a few hundred feet from that busy highway and hardly anyone seems to go there—usually a couple of groups of skinny dippers, a little marijuana in the air, laughter a splashing. It's like a time portal to the secret '60s Big Sur.
2. John Muir Trail. Yes yes there are all those 14k+ summits and pesky alpine scenery and people get intimidated by the elevation here and think it's like some kind of extreme alpine mountaineering adventure to hike the entire 220 unbroken miles of this trail. The dirty secret here is that this trail is relatively easy walking, you could do it in running shoes, and it's really all about the endless lakes, creeks and swimming holes. You don't have to summit anything, but you are required to take a dip in at least one of those postcard-perfect lakes everyday.
3. Klamath Knot/Siskiyou Country-far northern California/ Southern Oregon. I don't know what to say here, or how to pick a favorite. This forgotten pocket of the West Coast in far southwestern Oregon/northwestern California, doesn't have the marquee high elevation peaks or glaciers of the cascades and Sierra Nevada, but what it does have is gorgeous summer weather and endless endless stunning crystal-clear undammed rivers. This is the homeland of swimming holes for the West Coast. Choose a river road inland away from the fog and park anywhere, you basically can't go wrong here—my faves are Salmon River, Smith and all tributaries (especially middle fork), and Illinois River in Oregon. This is remote country and takes a while to get there, but the swimming holes themselves are just everywhere and right next to the road,...