Wednesday, July 27, 2011
South Yuba River State Park: Trip 4 of 70
So charmed was I by this park and bridge that I had hoped to visit it again before blogging about it, but for now, time does not allow. South Yuba River State Park encompasses a large area. Patty, Roxy and I visited it on the same day as Malakoff Diggins. Believing the park closures to be slated for September 1, my original plan was to visit two parks in one day whenever possible. Now that I know we have a bit longer, I will only visit one park per day that involves lots of hiking and outdoors, because we missed a lot at South Yuba River by only spending 3-4 hours there. There are a dozen or so easy hiking trails, the most famous being Independence Trail (which unfortunately we didn't have time for.) Independence Trail is a 2.2 mile wheelchair accessible trail that follows old mining flumes and bridges. I hope to return to walk this before park closure. For photos of some of the trails we did not get to, here's a link to the South Yuba River Park Association.
The main entrance and Visitor's Center is at Bridgeport, where what is believed to be the world's longest single span covered bridge stands. This is a gorgeous park and I am in love with this bridge! It was built by Virginian David I. Wood who settled his family in the area during the gold rush and established a sawmill. He and his associates formed the Virginia Turnpike Co. to facilitate travel and commerce. The west coast floods of 1861 and 1862 wiped out five of the bridges on the river.
In 1862 David Wood oversaw the construction of this 229 foot long, covered bridge. It was built with Douglas fir trusses, wrought iron rods, and covered in sugar pine shakes.
We arrived at Bridgeport around 5:30pm, having spent the earlier part of the day just up the road at Malakoff Diggins If you are a sturdy hiker, the two parks border each other via a 20 mile hike. Activities at South Yuba River are seasonal. Spring offers wildflowers - although a few still dotted the landscape on this July afternoon.
Swimming and fishing are favored after the spring run-off when water flows and levels are safe. Hiking, birdwatching and gold panning are available year round. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails. Lizards confidently teased Roxy, darting out in front of her knowing they couldn't be chased!
After a couple of laps around the bridge, we spent a few minutes at Family Beach, then set out on the Cemetery Loop Trail. Although only a 1/2 mile, there were times we were uncertain we were headed in the right direction. The path and rock walls became increasingly overgrown with weeds and prickly stickly things. At times in the dusky light, it seemed that nature's minions were guarding the trail to the deceased with increasingly ominous characters.
A gentle doe watched us with great interest and suspicion.
A sharp turn of the path brought us face to face with twisted wooden warriors.
And finally, a one-eyed buccaneer of a tree warned us that "dead man tells no tales." (We know how to amuse ourselves!) We haughtily proceeded until at last we could see the cemetery in the distance - but alas - the prickly stickly things were too abundant to complete our journey.
So... we turned around - passing the mocking one eyed tree, the wooden warriors and the doe - got in the car, and drove a quarter mile down the road to the cemetery. Hah!
The small Kneebone Family Cemetery continues to be maintained by the Kneebone family to this day. In 1849, Captain William Thompson arrived with his ship in San Francisco, where his crew promptly abandoned him for the gold fields. Thus, he settled in the Bridgeport area. His daughter married Andrew Kneebone, a reknowned teamster, and their descendants have farmed and ranched the area since then. The Cemetery contains graves from the gold rush days to the present, with one stone still awaiting a spouse.
Darkness was almost upon us now and it was time to head home. Roxy curled up in the back seat and crashed, having hiked and swam her way through the day. A quick note about the dog, Roxy. She will no doubt appear in some of my future posts, but she is not actually my dog. I am fostering her through Guardian Angels for Soldiers Pets, a nonprofit org that finds temporary homes for the pets of deployed military personnel. Her "mom" returns from Qatar in March. In the meantime, she's a real treat to have along on some of these excursions.
South Yuba River and other parks that encompass large geographic areas cannot be literally "closed" in the sense of keeping people out. Perhaps we can get a glimpse of what may happen from Minnesota's recent park closures. In just two weeks there was vandalism of the buildings, theft of historic items, trash, broken glass and human waste everywhere. In the long run, structures decay, trails become overgrown, fires are started. Safety becomes an issue.
Every October, the Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribe conduct their annual Calling Back the Salmon ceremony. This event celebrates the return of salmon to the river and the bounty they once provided the tribe, as far back as 2500 years. Today, Englebright Dam blocks salmon from reaching their historic spawning habitat in the South Yuba and Middle Yuba. The ceremony involves tribal members spearing a salmon below Englebright, and a group of “spirit runners” carrying the salmon 10 miles upriver to the ceremony site. Someday, salmon will be able to access this spot and the rest of their home waters without the help of spirit runners. As one observer of the spirit runners said, "Where there is hope there is spirit. Where there is spirit, anything is possible."
I have hope!
See you at the Parks.