Dutra Creek Circumnavigation
This was an exquisite run in the Silver Peak wilderness on mostly runnable trails. The first section, climbing Salmon Creek Falls trail takes you through a shaded riparian environment. The falls are a short distance from the parking location, and this trail attracts the majority of the foot traffic in the area, so in spite of the steep ascent, the footing is superb.
At the intersection with the Spruce Creek Trail, the Salmon Creek trail disappears into an alluring canyon that merits further exploration. There was no loss today, however, by taking the Spruce Creek Trail – which was a fairy tale land of perfect running. If a unicorn or Falcor had appeared astride me, it would have seemed to be in place. By this point, you’ve already traversed oak woodland, pine forrest, grazing pastures/meadows, and riparian zones – all with steep canyon views.
Spruce Creek takes you to Carpoforo Trail, all of which is runnable. Navigating this region without a GPS would be possible… but not probable; the trails are faint tracks. At the bottom of Carpoforo, you reach Baldwin Ranch Road, which is a decent fire road.
If you intend to replicate my route, I suggest that you stay on Baldwin Ranch Road all the way to County Line. I had discovered an unnamed trail on Open Street Map, and decided to take it as a single track alternative. For the most part, I found myself on my hands and knees climbing under poison oak, and having my hands pierced by the sharp peripheries of fallen oak leaves. I named this trail “Brian’s bad idea.” Form there, you’re on County Line road, which offers you majestic views of the ocean. The mid-winter sun, combined the sheer drop to the ocean and cotton swabs of fog made for a mysterious scene – like something out of pirates of the Caribbean.
County Line Road was a real treat! At the apogee of the trail, you reach an intersection with Old Murry Mine Road, and a trail that I have named Kozy Kove Meadows trail. Starting the trail here is initially difficult (make sure you bear a little to the right instead of the left like I did mistakenly). The trail still exists – though just barely. The major challenge is the heavy leaf litter, which combined with the pitch makes 2 steps forward, one step back. As you run through this hobbit hole of a trail, you get the feeling of being in a tunnel with the Queen of Hearts right behind you. The trail emerges into a pygmy manzanita forrest which is equally amazing… and moments later, you’ll have your breath taken away by the stunning view above Kozy Kove Meadow. Life is perfect until you realize that the invisible trail now goes straight down the mountain that is responsible for these sheer views. This part was the most taxing on my body, as quads, knees, and hip adductors could barely restrain my body from free fall down the mountain.
If the trails are clouded in, and you’re heart/lungs feel stronger than your knees, I’d advise taking the loop in the opposite direction. Otherwise, I liked the sensation of surprise – emerging from the forest into the amarillo light of this vista. From the bottom of the steep drop, a little route finding is needed to make your way back to the Salmon Falls trail – but the trail is really there.
With the exception of Brian’s bad idea, everything is navigable. On the drive to the trailhead, we picked up a hitchhiker named Rocky. He had been hitching through Mexico for the last year, so we shared common experiences / stories. As we parted, he said, “It’s been greening up; maybe you’ll see some wildlife.”
As if ordained by the traveler, after Janet and I parted ways, she had the glory of her first ever mountain lion sighting – and up close too! She was terrified by it’s surprising size. I was jealous because I’ve still never seen one. Lucky her!