Downtown Truckee Streetscape

Brickelltown District (Photo Credit: NoeHill Travels)

Since the Town of Truckee incorporated in 1993, a variety of streetscape projects have been planned and implemented in downtown. Some of these projects include Commercial Row, Brickelltown, Reimagine Bridge Street, and West River Streetscape. As of 2019, the Commercial Row and Brickelltown projects have been completed while the Reimagine Bridge Street and West River Streetscape projects are in the preliminary design and public input phase. The historical buildings in downtown date from 1885 to 1930. Downtown Truckee is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Nevada County, California.

Commercial Row includes the businesses from the east end of downtown Truckee to Spring Street. Brickelltown includes the businesses from Spring Street to the west end of downtown. Brickelltown serves as the western gateway to Truckee and is named after E.J. Brickell who was a partial owner of Truckee Lumber Company. Goals for the historic downtown area include emphasizing the preservation and restoration of historic structures and maintaining the general historic alignment and construction materials of buildings. Additionally, the district should enhance the pedestrian experience and minimize the visual impacts of cars.

To meet some of those ends, the Commercial Row and Brickelltown streetscape projects converted business frontages from a sea of asphalt into pleasant and walkable spaces for pedestrians. These projects are typically constructed in phases due to either funding or traffic control. After Commercial Row was completed, one of the goals for Brickelltown was to draw pedestrians across Spring Street to the rest of downtown. Brickelltown was identified as a project priority in 2003 and construction finished in 2017.

Two of the most dangerous intersections for pedestrians in Truckee are on Bridge Street, where it intersects with Donner Pass Road and where it intersects with River Street. Preliminary planning for these projects has been going on since before the Town incorporated in 1993. They became project priorities more recently, with protected crosswalks as a top goal.

To meet a variety of goals in a physically constrained historical downtown area, the streetscape redevelopment projects on bridge street will consider multiple intersection types, roadway alignments, and parking/sidewalk configurations. Opportunities for public input have been in the form of workshops and online polling. As soon as the preferred alternative is identified, final designs will be pursued and construction tentatively scheduled.

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Desolation Wilderness

View of Lake Tahoe from the Summit of Mt. Tallac (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)
View from the Summit of Mt. Tallac (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)

Backpacking in Desolation Wilderness is on the top of my local To Do list. Last summer I had hoped to plan a trip for Memorial Day Weekend, but was unsuccessful due to the snow pack. Instead, I planned a trip on the Western States Trail, which is on my local To Do list to complete in sections. After learning the lesson that later in the season is better for Desolation Wilderness, I intend to plan a trip this summer.

Desolation Wilderness lies southwest of Lake Tahoe in California. The 63,960-acres was designated as Wilderness in 1969 as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Much like the Three Sisters Wilderness will be next summer, Desolation Wilderness is on a permit system. 70% of overnight permits are able to be reserved ahead of time online, whereas 30% are first come first served, day of. There are 45 zones, each with their own quota. Daily quotas range from 25 to 2 total capacity of visitors.

Both the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail pass through Desolation Wilderness. Additionally, there are sixteen other trailheads from which the area can be accessed. At this time, dogs are allowed in the wilderness area. Pyramid Peak is the highest point in the wilderness and within the Crystal Range at 9,985-feet.

Adjacent to Desolation Wilderness is one of the most popular mountain day hikes in the area, Mount Tallac. The trail is 10.2 miles long with 3,290-feet of elevation gain. The summit sits at 9,738-feet, nearly a thousand feet shorter than Mount Rose. From the summit of Mount Tallac, hikers can see Lake Tahoe to the east and Desolation Wilderness to the West.

What I have found to distinguish Mt. Tallac from other mountains near its elevation was the rocky climb. Although no technical experience or equipment was required, Mt. Tallac may take a toll on your knees due to the bit of scrambling required as hikers make the final descent. Due to its proximity to Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness, Mt. Tallac has a very stunning view of a natural environment.

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Backpacking in National Parks

A Dog Called Silho in Crater Lake National Park (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)
Crater Lake (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)

For the next two adventures in our annual series which has included Big Sur and Marble Mountain Wilderness, my Corvallis friend and I backpacked in Lassen Volcanic National Park in 2017 and Crater Lake National Park in 2018. Instead of going to our usual destination of anywhere near Mt. Shasta, we took turns driving a little farther.

Lassen Volcanic National Park was created in 1916 amidst years of volcanic activity. The park also includes some areas which have been designated as wilderness since 1972. The Main Park Road is the highest in the Cascades and provides access to the Lassen Peak trail. Lassen Peak is the southernmost peak in the Cascades Mountain Range. Over Labor Day weekend in 2017, we packed in from Butte Lake and spent two nights at Rainbow Lake. Butte Lake is accessed through the northeast entrance of the park.

Likely due to the timing of our trip, Rainbow Lake was quite crowded. We arrived late in the day and ended up camping nearer to another group than we would have preferred. On our full day in the backcountry, we did a day hike up Cinder Cone which sits at 6,907-feet adjacent to the painted dunes and fantastic lava beds. The sight is quite stunning, in the distance dark cinder rocks and in the forefront colorful sand. The top of the Cinder Cone is concave, with a relatively flat path all the way around the rim. The next day we packed out and headed home.

The next year, in 2018, it was my turn to travel a bit farther and we chose to go to Crater Lake. This was my first time visiting Crater Lake National Park, which was a bit shameful having grown up in Oregon. I may have made up for it though, I went back the same summer to participate in the Ride the Rim event. However, for our backpacking adventure we ended up having to do a bit of improvising. With no campground reservations, we met at the Mazama Lodge and slept in our cars in a pulloff inside the park but before the entrance station. Since the last trip I had gotten a new dog, Silho. He is a sweet mutt-man black retriever mix who ended up being the first dog to join us on our annual adventure.

To be honest, I did not check regulations like I should have before leaving. As is typical of most National Parks, dogs are not allowed in the backcountry. Additionally, there was fire damage along the route we had planned. Instead of hiking near the lake, we ended up heading out of the park and hiking back in from the Mt. Mazama Viewpoint trailhead. From there we hiked to Oasis Springs and stayed one night. The next day we hiked most of the way back to the cars, camping near Boundary Springs. Although we were still not complying with all of the park rules, we were much farther away from the heavily trafficked areas and saw very few people.

With intentions to explore the area a bit more, we spent another day in the area and slept in our cars in the same pulloff another night. After getting off the trail that day we headed over to Diamond Lake Resort for lunch where we discovered there were a good number of waterfalls around. For the rest of the day we drove from one waterfall to another before we made our way back to Crater Lake to catch the sunset.

Some lessons I’ve learned from backpacking in National Parks include that holiday weekends will be crowded and to check the rules about dogs on the trail before loading the pooch in the car. Instead of being upset at these lessons, I understand them. The other people at the parks are there for similar reasons and too many humans have bad habits about picking up after their Dog Waste. So for now, I’ll try to plan my trips on weekends other than holidays and plan trips outside of National Parks when I want to bring the dogs.

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Marble Mountain Wilderness

Marble Mountain (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)
Sky High Lakes (Photo Credit: Caitlyn Reilley)
View of Mt. Shasta from Summit of Mt. Eddy (Photo Credit: Caitlyn Reilley)
California Pitcher Plant (Photo Credit: Plant World Seeds)

After our first backpacking trip together in Big Sur, my friend and I started a tradition of backpacking together annually. Our preferred destination is anywhere near Mount Shasta. Our second and third trips were located in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. In 2015, we camped near Toad Lake and hiked Mount Eddy. In 2016 we camped near Sky High Lakes and hiked Marble Mountain. The region surrounding Mount Shasta is usually the most ideal location for our annual trips because it is near equidistant from where I live in Truckee, California to where she lives in Corvallis, Oregon. Additionally, there are multiple national forests and wilderness areas in the region with endless trails to be explored.

Over the years we have learned that our preference for a backpacking trip schedule includes three nights at the same campsite with day hikes out of our base camp. In 2015, Toad Lake was our base camp. We met at Gumboot Campground, which was a bit difficult to find without cell reception. The hike into Toad Lake was beautiful, primarily along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Once we got near Toad Lake, there was a steep decline that crossed a few springs at which we would later return to fill up our water containers. On the other side of the lake from where we camped there was an old, unmaintained campground. Beyond the campground was a botanical area which was inhabited by some rare alpine vascular plants such as the California Pitcher Plant (Durlingtonia californica). On our second day in the wilderness, we took a long day hike to the summit of Mount Eddy. Toad Lake is at an elevation of around 7000-feet, and the summit of Mount Eddy is 9025-feet. The view from the top of Eddy was excellent, with a clear view of Mt. Shasta.

In 2016, Sky High Lakes was our base camp. We met at Lovers Camp, which was near Canyon Creek. The hike into the Sky High Lakes was along the Canyon Creek Trail which ends at the PCT. The lakes were not great for swimming, as they were full of salamanders. However, the valley was grassy and full of wildflowers, with steep mountainous crests all around. The trail to Marble Mountain was primarily along the PCT. On our journey that way, we encountered a forest service hut as well as a herd of cattle. The herd of cattle was being led on foot by their farmer through the woods. I have since been woken up by herding cattle on the trail, on a trip to Glacier Lake. The Marble Mountain portion of the hike is rather moderate. The summit is near 6,600-feet in elevation.

I have learned a lot about myself on these annual trips, and they are serve as an interesting point of reference as my life continues to change. The value of the outdoors, hiking, and trails is enhanced tremendously by the presence of and relationships with old friends. Time one the trail provides opportunities for reflection, and the perspective of trusted loved ones helps shape attitudes toward and perceptions about memories. Most often, reflections are clearer than reality.

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Mount Solmar

View of the Gulf of California from the Summit of Mount Solmar (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)
Summit of Mt. Solmar (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)
View of the Pacific Ocean from the Summit of Mt. Solmar (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)

As a celebration of myself and my partner graduating from University of Nevada, Reno with Bachelor degrees in Civil Engineering and my cousin with a Master degree in Social Work, the three of us and my Dad and another cousin (who supported all of us tremendously) spent ten days in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico. This trip was full of many highlights, including the biggest oysters I’ve ever eaten and kayaking to the end of the Baja peninsula. From my pedestrian perspective, the greatest highlight may have been the hike up Mount Solmar.

On my adventure we hiked to the top and back down, though there is an option to go through to Divorce Beach. The length of that is around two miles. The route is sandy and rocky. The trailhead is on private property. The property owner is a dog trainer, with many dogs in kennels. A human gate is left open for visitors to enter his property, ask permission, and leave a tip for providing access. In my experience the property owner was very helpful and reminded us to look for the little colored flags that indicate the route on the way up and on the way down.

The view from the top is excellent. To the left is the Gulf of California and to the right is the Pacific Ocean. During the same trip we took a dinner cruise and rented kayaks. On each of those ventures we were able to see the same view, but from the water. On the dinner cruise, there were manta rays flying in and out of the water. When we took the kayaks, we could see a variety of fish swimming below us. Additionally, we landed the boat on a few beaches along the gulf. One beach was more memorable than the others because the tide was particularly strong. Thankfully, there was a local who helped us shore the boat. Unfortunately, we had left everything behind with the rental company, so we had nothing to tip with or purchase a soda from vendors on the beach.

Another fun experience on this trip was renting a scooter that we used to ride into Cabo San Lucas from San Jose del Cabo. It was a small blue scooter, that topped out at around 50-miles per hour. On the parkway between the two towns, we were the slowest vehicle on the road. When we didn’t have the scooter we took the bus.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!

Dog Waste

Dog Waste Station (Photo Credit: Manfred Antranias Zimmer from Pixabay)

One of my favorite things about hiking is that the dogs can come too. I have a Bernese Mountain Dog called Red and a little mutt-man, rescued, black retriever mix called Silho (he’s about 40 pounds and looks a bit like a miniature lab). Silho (short for silhouette) was featured in a photo recently in my post about Big Sur. Red has been featured in photos in my Castle Peak and Mount Lola posts. The point being: I love my dogs, people love their dogs, and dogs love the trail.

However, dogs have an unpleasant side effect which is they don’t potty train very well. On the trail, this means dog waste. Some folks are responsible and pick up after their dogs, while others leave the waste behind for all to enjoy. There are few reasons people may leave their dog’s waste behind: they don’t care about the environment, they don’t know it’s harmful for the environment, they think it’s better for the environment to leave it behind than to create plastic waste by using a doggy bag, or they forgot their doggy bags.

There’s not much I can say for the folks who don’t care about the environment, except poop is gross.

For those of us who do care but don’t know that dog waste is harmful for the environment, maybe there are some things worth clearing up. Dog waste was labeled a non-point source pollutant by the EPA in 1991. Dog waste is not an appropriate fertilizer nor is it a natural occurrence in the magnitude of quantities that our trails receive. Instead, dog waste carries disease causing bacteria including fecal coliform, giardia, and salmonella, among others. These bacteria can make their way into water sources via storm runoff. Additionally, runoff contaminated with dog waste contributes to the success of harmful algal blooms and invasive species. This is because of the high nutrient content in dog food. The bottom line is, dog waste can be harmful to watersheds and ecosystems.

Due to the harmful effects of dog waste on the natural environment, it is important to remember doggy bags when hitting the trail with our furry friends. Although some products are made of plastic that may not decompose, other, more environmentally friendly products are available. Disliking plastic bags is not a good excuse to leave the call of doody behind. Further, it stands to logic that we should be protecting the natural environments that we cherish rather than our landfills. Although, the solid waste crisis is serious, and we should be looking for biodegradable solutions whenever possible. If you forgot your doody bag, bring double next time and pick up extra!

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!

Big Sur

Santa Lucia Mountains (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)
Big Sur (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)
A Dog Called Silho at Big Sur (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)
A Dog Called Silho at Big Sur (Photo Credit: Cindy Steele)

Big Sur is a spectacular coastal region from Malpaso Creek to San Carpoforo Creek in California. The area is accessed via the Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1) which was completed in 1937. Known for the bluffs and beaches, there are many recreational opportunities in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range which lies just inland. The region sees over four million visitors annually. The Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, approved in 1986, protects the region from excessive development. Sixty percent of Big Sur is publicly or privately owned by agencies who will not allow development.

If looking for a hike, the region includes Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Andrew Molera State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Limekiln State Park, US Forest Service Pfeiffer Beach, Garrapata State Park, Point Sur State Historic Park & Point Sur Lightstation, Los Padres National Forest, and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Once, I spent New Year’s Eve on the Pine Ridge Trail in Los Padres National Forest with a friend visiting from Oregon. It was a rather warm and dry winter. The hike was a popular route near Sykes Hot Springs. One of my favorite trail memories is that we each packed in a bottle of champagne to celebrate the new year. After a long day hiking, we posted up in our sleeping bags next to a long and bottoms up! We each fell asleep quickly after finishing our drinks, surely before midnight. After all, it was probably getting dark around four o’clock. Even though we had set up our tent, we spent the night on the forest floor. One of my least favorite trail memories is that the next morning, I woke up with a palm sized millipede snoozing on my belly. That was likely the most exciting way I ever have and ever will wake up on the first of the year. I was lucky to have experienced this trail, as it is currently closed indefinitely, and may have to be realigned before it can reopen. The cause of the closure was the Soberanes Fire in 2016 followed by the landslides of 2017.

The Soberanes Fire of 2016 burned 132,127-acres. There was one casualty, a bulldozer driver named Robert Regan. 68 structures were destroyed in the fire. The cause of the fire has been identified as an unattended illegal wildfire in Garrapata State Park. At the time, it was the most expensive fire to suppress in the country.

In May of 2017, Mud Creek Mountain slid onto the Pacific Coast Highway, leaving over one million tons of dirt and rocks on the road. The highway was closed for months.

After these natural disasters affected the area, and shortly after the highway was reopened, I met a friend from Los Angeles to spend the weekend camping in Big Sur. We enjoyed a moderate hike in the hills and a day at the beach. Our campsite at Riverside Campground and Cabins was in a shady spot adjacent to Big Sur River. I have enjoyed all of my time at Big Sur and look forward to returning, hopefully one day being able to explore the Los Padres National Forest once again.

For more on trails, paths, and sidewalks, follow this blog! You can also find me on twitter @cindysteele30!