Mary West: Exploring the Olmstead Loop
The fire bellied newts mate in Knickerbocker Creek. I’m sure there is a more scientific name but that is the name Eric Peach gave them, so it is good enough for me. Dozens of mating balls just under the surface. Each with anywhere from two or three up to eight to 10 entangled lizard-like creatures in the spring mating frenzy.
To get to the creek and the trailhead that leads you there, head to Cool, California in El Dorado County. You can park for a $10 day use fee in the Auburn State Recreation Area parking lot just behind the Cool Fire Station. Your hike begins behind the large green gate on the paved road. The road will curve to the right. You will leave the road and catch the trail on your left, look for signs.
The Knickerbocker/Olmstead hiking area is a maze of trails on gentle rolling hills. It is easy to get lost. The Canyon Keepers park volunteer group added some signage and there is a map but deer trails can be confusing. I know Highway 49 is behind me and the lights on the tall antennas are on my left going in and the opposite on the way out.
The wide open spaces of Cool can be a refreshing change from the more forested areas, dense with trees and brush of our foothills. But the open air exposes you to direct sunshine. Take extra water and maybe a floppy hat.
Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II and III (Available on Amazon). The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country Trail Guide by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram.
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