Round Mountain Trail to Edwards/Purdon crossings – May 1998
ROUND MOUNTAIN TRAIL TO EDWARDS or PURDON CROSSINGS
Hikers must resign themselves to a very short high-altitude season this heavy snow year. Accordingly, it’s a good time to investigate our nearby river canyon hikes. This one is a nice after-work or Sunday afternoon choice and has two different routes.
Take Highway 49 and turn right on North Bloomfield-Graniteville Road. Wind up to its T with Lake Vera-Purdon Road and turn right. Just beyond the Diamond Arrow Christian Conference Center, look for the Rock Creek Road sign on the left, before the descent into the Yuba canyon. Shortly, you will see a “South Yuba River Recreation Lands” sign; memorize its trapezoidal shape.
Go 1.2 miles on good dirt until you see the back of another rec lands sign. Turn around and see a yellow arrow pointing right; turn here. Go about a mile, and when you see a little yellow “Trail” sign, stay to the right. The road becomes single track then dead-ends in a parking area with a large wooden map of the rec area from the South Yuba Primitive Camp to Hoyt’s Crossing.
Start down the hill, and you’ll immediately hear the rapids and see a sign: “Purdon Crossing 3.6, Edwards Crossing 4.4, South Yuba Campground 5.6” miles.
Now begins the reason that, even though they are often short, I always classify so many of our river canyon hikes as “strenuous”: a merry skip down but a long, hot trudge up switchbacks.
Warnings: This is a popular mountain-bike trail, so pay attention and try to crowd over as far as possible as they labor up the hill. Also, the dominant plant here is poison oak, flourishing as a ground cover, on spindly stalks, as vines twining up the ponderosas – you name it – leering and smacking its lips, craning on its stems toward your bare legs.
In mid-April, I saw many wildflower species in the shady black-oak woodland interspersed with sloping meadows: yellow violets, buttercups, senecio, larkspur, lupine, starflower, star tulips and several “DWCs,” or what non-serious flower fans like me call hard-to-ID “damn white composites.” Even the big-leaf maple had hanging-down sprays of greenish flowers. Indian pinks proliferated, called “pink” not for their orange-red color but because their petal edges appear to be cut with pinking shears. Look for the forget-me-not called hound’s tongue for its large, floppy leaves.
I saw three different lilies – fawn, brown bells and the spectacular scarlet fritillary – and the pagoda-like foliage of Humboldt lilies, which you may see in bloom later this month. Easily the most impressive wildflower in the Sierra, its huge, stiff orange flowers speckled with brown are fit for a mother-of-the bride’s corsage.
Two downed oaks that would keep me in firewood for five years cross the path, one overarching and another you have to veer up and around. Flat, leathery rainbow brackens grow on them. With concentric rings of brown, black and cream, its other common name is more apt: turkey feather bracken.
Towards the bottom, a meadow has large, moss-covered boulders. Cool off on the way back up at the pretty, fern- and bleeding heart-filled creek.
The trail ends after less that 2 miles at a sign marking the junction of the with the Edwards/Purdon Trail. You have a choice here: Turn right for the Edwards Bridge, a 1-mile longer route with more ups and downs but, in my opinion , nicer views; or left for the Purdon Bridge, flatter with more varied habitat.
There are many ways to get down to the water for a picnic and swim, but be cognizant and respectful of any “No Trespassing” signs. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a rattler in the rocky areas.
This article was first published on 10/13/1999.
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