Whiskeytown National Recreation Area has the most extensive nonmotorized trail system in our region, and it’s about to get even better. First, though, the National Park Service needs your assistance.
Saturday, August 8, is “volunteer trail day” at Whiskeytown. Hardy individuals are sought to help complete a stretch of the Shasta Trinity Trail between Sheep Camp (about two miles up Shasta Bally Road from JFK Memorial Drive) and the Boulder Creek Trail near Boulder Creek Falls. A whole lot of work needs to get done on Saturday, as the official opening day for the trail is scheduled for August 15.
Volunteers must register in advance by calling the park at (530) 242-3410 before 4:30 p.m. on Friday, August 7. Workers will meet at the Visitor’s Center, located at Highway 299 and JFK Memorial Drive, at 8 a.m. on Saturday. You’ll carpool to a trailhead on Shasta Bally Road, from which you’ll hike to the work area. Bring work gloves, water and a snack, and wear very sturdy shoes. The Park Service will supply hand tools and additional water. Work will conclude at about 12:30.
I’ve been excited about this five-mile trail since I first heard Park Service officials talking about it four or five years ago. The trail opens up a previously inaccessible part of the park and it creates a number of good trail loop possibilities. Construction got started two years ago, and crews of up to 35 people from the California Conservation Corps and Student Conservation Association have logged many hours this summer, cutting trail, clearing brush and building footbridges, according to Park Superintendent Jim Milestone.
Saturday’s event is “a chance for the public to get involved with building this trail,” Milestone said. “We’re about a half a mile away, with a partial trail completed through there.”
Earlier this summer, about 15 volunteers donated their time to the project. Organizers are hoping for double or triple that turnout on Saturday.
The focus right now is on the Papoose Pass area, about 1,000 feet in elevation above Sheep Camp and roughly halfway up Shasta Bally Mountain. “It’s a very remote part of the park that few people have ever seen before because the vegetation is so dense,” Milestone said.
Most of Whiskeytown’s trails started as logging or mining roads, or as water ditches. The new trail is designed specifically for recreation, with maximum views, minimal creek crossings (two of three have bridges) and access to the most interesting flora and fauna. The trail will be open for foot traffic, mountain bikes and horses. The trail traverses areas of old growth incense cedar, Douglas fir and black oak, with some trees more than 300 years old, according to Milestone.
The Park Service has planned a “golden spike moment” for 9 a.m. on August 15 at Sheep Camp. After the ceremony, rangers will lead a hike on the length of the trail.
“This is going to open up all sorts of possibilities for long-distance trail runners,” Milestone said, noting the new trail’s connections and potential loop routes involving Mill Creek Trail, Boulder Creek Trail, South Shore Drive and Brandy Creek Trail.
Indeed, this long-distance trail runner thinks all of the trail work during recent years has primed Whiskeytown for a 50-mile or even longer event. What do you say ultra runners?
No matter your sport, Whiskeytown is the place to be in coming months.
First up is the Whiskeytown Lake Open Water Swim, set for September 13. Based at Brandy Creek Beach, the event features 1-mile and 2-mile courses, as well as a youth 500-yard swim. The annual race is part of the Pacific Masters Swimming Series and is hosted by the Redding Ducks Swim Team. The entry form has the details: http://www.pacificmasters.org/comp/09redowwhiskey.pdf
Next on the schedule is the Whiskeytown Relays, a four-person, 20-mile relay run around the lake set for September 20. Now is the time to get your team together and draw straws for the infamous fourth leg of the race. If you need a runner or two to complete your team, or if you’re a single runner looking to join a team, race director Tori Parks can help. Details: http://www.sweatrc.com/Whiskeytown_Relays/index.html
The Whiskeytown Classic mountain bike races fill the weekend of September 25 through 27. On the docket are a short-course cross-country race using a 1-mile loop, a cross-country race with one, two or three loops of a 10-mile course, and a 3-mile “Super D” that may be best left to the crazies and experts. The scoop: http://www.teambigfoot.net/whiskeytownclassic.htm
If you just can’t get enough mountain biking, then return on October 3 and 4 for the 24 Hours of Whiskeytown featuring – no kidding – 24 hours of grinding on an 8.25-mile loop course based at the NEED Camp. There’s also an 8-hour version for riders without iron butts. All you need to know: http://www.teambigfoot.net/24HrWT09.htm
Following the mountain bike craziness is the fifth round of the NorCal Adventure Race Series on October 10 and 11. Hosted by Redding-based Shasta Orienteering and Adventure Racing (SOAR), the event will feature a 24-plus-hour course that includes running/trekking, mountain biking, paddling and orienteering. There will also be a more sane 4- to 6-hour course that includes smaller doses of the same disciplines. Details and registration: http://www.norcal-ar.com/events5.html
The Whiskeytown Trail Runs conclude the late summer/fall competitive calendar with 50K (31-mile), 30K (18.6-mile) and 8.3-mile runs on October 24. If you’ve completed a marathon and are thinking about trying an ultramarathon, this 50K would be one heck of an introduction. The course offers more than 10,000 feet of elevation change, stretches of very rough trail and – by my count – 28 creek crossings. Again, the shorter distances provide a more sane option. There is also a 1-mile “grade school challenge.”
Paul Shigley shakes the Whiskeytown trail dust from his shoes at his home in Centerville. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.