This was a group hike of a portion of the Western States Trail, which may be kind of an informal name for the trail used in the Western States Endurance Run, one of the more renowned ultra-endurance runs. The run covers 100 miles from Squaw Valley to Auburn. The trail is largely in remote, rugged areas of the western Sierra and foothills and includes a net descent of about 5,000 feet, with an additional 18,000 feet (wow!) of climbing and descent. The hiking group had hiked the entire route, mainly in 10-15 mile segments, last summer. This was a reprise of a 16½-mile section downhill from the town of Foresthill, primarily in the Auburn State Recreation Area. One advantage of a group hike is that we had the ability to set up a car shuttle so that the actual hike could be point-to-point.
In a certain sense this was an “easy” section to hike, since the slope was dominated by downhill sections. The total gain was about 1600 feet, with many small up-and-down sections and no major climb. The net loss was 2500 feet (total loss of 4100 feet). It would have been much more difficult to hike the other direction!
Soon after hiking out of Foresthill to the actual trail, we were treated to a great view of the snow-capped Sierra peaks to the east. In fact, the significant snow pack of the 2010-2011 season had resulted in this trail being selected as a lower-elevation substitution for another trail that turned out to still be snowbound.
This section of the Western States Trail mostly follows the Middle Fork of the American River. This was our first of several sightings of the river, at this point perhaps 800 feet below in the canyon it had created.
In spite of the remaining snow at higher elevations, the day was very warm and we were grateful for the shade of some lovely trees for a break.
Although the trail was losing altitude, so was the river. We saw a long section of rapids, including this section of true white water rapids, made even more exciting than usual by the seasonal snowmelt from higher elevations.
Rucka Chucky is the location where the Western States Endurance Run actually crosses the river. Apparently the crossing is done one of several ways depending on how fast the river is running each year. I’m sure that this year it was necessary to use the method for the highest water level and fastest-running current. The run did take place at the scheduled time (last weekend in June), but the Tevis Cup ride, an equestrian event covering similar distance and terrain, was re-scheduled for October this year, presumably due to the snowpack.