Bruce Herring: Check out the new Wolf Creek Trail
On a recent morning, Sally and I took a stroll on the new trail. It begins from the parking lot of the Mining Museum on Allison Ranch Road. You descend on freshly laid black-top, do a zig, a zag, a loop, and head downstream through Glenn Jones Park. The first thing you see is an unobstructed view of Wolf Creek gushing merrily out from the culvert under Hwy 20.
You head through the park close to the creek and directly across from the museum, which is definitely worth a look.
Proceeding downstream you quickly come to the wastewater treatment plant, blocked by a chain link fence. This used to be the end of the line. From here the trail veers left up a slope along the perimeter of the plant and behind GV Animal Control. When you emerge at the entrance to the plant just walk to the right and continue downstream along the fence. Once past the plant there is an upper and lower option, as well as the chance to venture along a dirt trail at the water’s edge. It is down that dirt track where students from Grass Valley Charter School continue to act as trail stewards, and assist the Wolf Creek Community Alliance in regular monitoring of the quality and quantity of the water. The dirt path ends at the confluence with Little Wolf Creek which comes down from Empire Mine State Park. This is a lovely spot and could eventually be developed into a picnic area.
The main trail turns upslope again and emerges from the mixed conifer and hardwood forest at the infamous sinkhole. A spur switchbacks up to Freeman Lane and the main trail continues downstream. Soon one is right above the creek in a steep heavily wooded area. Almost imperceptibly at first, the sound of the creek grows louder and louder and soon commands your attention. Stop for a moment. You are now in the deepest part of the Wolf Creek canyon and will remain so the rest of the way. We mused about starting in a park, followed by an urban area with accompanying sights, sounds, and smells – and had now entered a place that was surprising wild. We found this to be an intriguing part of the whole experience. Toward the end you pass by a steep stairway up to the Wolf Creek Lodge, and end up on switchbacks leading to River Otter Lane. We returned the same way, about a two mile round trip.
The trail is well engineered, designed for multiple use, and accessible via wheelchair. The eight foot wide blacktop makes the trail an ideal winter walk as you could stay out of the mud! It’s a great place to go with a friend or two, and for dogs on a leash. The trailhead is about 3/4 of a mile from downtown, and easily walkable down the Mill Street sidewalk – which adds another mile and a half to the round trip.
Many thanks to the city, the Wolf Creek alliance, and Bear Yuba Land Trust for making this happen. In a strange twist of fate we must also give a nod to the massive sinkhole that sprang from the overburdened culvert on Little Wolf Creek. That mess led city officials deep into the canyon. They found two things — a beautiful spot remarkably close to town and major homeless encampments. With resolve the city jumped on the opportunity to move forward on the trail that had been talked about for decades. More on the homeless connection to area creeks another time.
So where do we go from here? The city appears to be committed to continuing the trail all the way through downtown and up to the Loma Rica development. There are plans to continue downstream to the Berriman Ranch subdivision. There’s a potential spur up to the North Star House. To keep up with these developments check out the Stewards Log on the Wolf Creek Community Alliance website. And expect a grand opening with city officials very soon!
Bruce Herring is a retired teacher and administrator from Bitney Prep High School, and presently volunteers for the Wolf Creek Community Alliance as the trails steward.
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