It’s on the South Fork and it’s a beauty, as this story from the Sacramento Bee reveals.
“PILOT HILL – Something so rare in these parts as a new trail is to be celebrated, cherished and, most of all, used.
“Used often. Used not only for enjoyment, but to send a message that we’d like more of them, thank you very much.
“So I was feeling a mite guilty that, more than two years after its well-publicized opening, I’d still yet to set foot on the 11.7-mile South Fork American River Trail that connects Magnolia Ranch (between Pilot Hill and Coloma) to the Skunk Hollow trailhead just over the Salmon Falls Bridge northwest of El Dorado Hills.
“Sure, I had excuses. They ranged from the lazy – “Do I really feel like running the 23 1/2-mile out and back with this hinky back problem I’ve got?” – to the really lazy – “What a hassle it’d be to do a car shuttle between the two trailheads and, besides, I can’t find anyone to accompany me.”
“Months passed and still I had not made the trek over the route with the schoolboy-snickering acronym of SFART. Something always came up, usually a trail closer to Sacramento.
“But when I heard that a new trail race, the Gold Rush 100K on May 11, would use the SFART as part of its course that links Sutter’s Mill in Coloma to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, it was like a swift kick in the backside to get me out there.
“Turns out, Gold Rush 100 race director Bill Hambrick had been using the same type of excuses to avoid the SFART. Hambrick, a veteran ultra runner who’s completed the Western States 100 and numerous 50-mile races, had let inertia and trail familiarity get the best of him, as well.
“I’d always wanted to go; thought about it a lot,” Hambrick said. “But it was one of those things where everyone I’d run with just said, ‘Ah, let’s just meet at the (Auburn) overlook.’ You know how that goes. We always go the same places.”
“What it took to spur Hambrick onto the trail was being approached by the Sacramento Running Association to direct the organizations’s first foray into ultra races.
“Soon, Hambrick became intimately familiar with the Magnolia-to-Salmon Falls stretch. Now, it’s one of his favorite spots.
“Once I dragged my bloated carcass out to the Magnolia Ranch trailhead, I, too, became a fan.
“How about if I give you 11.7 reasons, one for each mile, to get out there this weekend?
1. Obsessive signage
“Everywhere you look, handsome wooden signs are hammered into the ground pointing the way on the south fork. The many side trails – some leading down to the river, others to the many offshoot trails swinging around back toward neighboring Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park – are marked with care.
“One quibble, and it’s so small that I really shouldn’t mention it but have to because of my own ob-com tendencies when it comes to spelling, is that they’ve misspelled the Connector Trail (“Connecter”) about 2.2 miles into the trek.
“It’s nearly impossible to get lost. My detailed map, downloaded from the American River Conservancy website, never made it out of my pocket.
2. Pristine trailhead
“Veteran trail types come to appreciate even the most ghastly portable toilet. But when you come upon a pit toilet in pristine condition, one in which you don’t have to hold your breath for the duration of your stay, it’s worth noting.”