With everything that has happened this past year we are finally seeing the end of that tunnel and with that many changes in our world. As we slowly start prepping for holidays, vacations and more, here are a few places that would make amazing Day Trips near you!
The Flume Trail
To describe the Flume Trail as breathtaking is no exaggeration. At over 8,100 feet at its highest point, this 14-mile route can overwhelm the lungs and senses. Perched 1,600 feet above Lake Tahoe’s eastern shore, the views are like no other in the region.
The sheer beauty of this route belies the historical, life-giving significance it once provided to the miners of the Comstock Lode. The prosperous mining district of Virginia City and Gold Hill was abundant in silver and gold ore, but it lacked potable water.
Although the water-rich Tahoe Basin is nearly 20 miles away, the differences in elevation allowed engineers to build an inverse siphon. Virginia City’s elevation is 6,100 feet. The basin which now holds the Marlette Lake reservoir resides at 8,200 feet. Under the direction of Hermann Schussler, teams of men and mules completed the system in 1873. A wooden flume carried the water to a 4,000-foot tunnel, then down through the Washoe Valley and up again to Virginia City.
This trail was carved into the rock to carry the original water flume. The wood is long gone, but the system is still in use today. Pumps deliver water to the siphon, replacing the flumes and tunnel.
In 1983, professional mountain biker Max Jones cleared the way and reopened the Flume Trail.
Although it’s a popular mountain biking trail, hiking is allowed, however horses are not.
This trail is at a high elevation. Allow plenty of time to complete the journey. Bring plenty of water, food, and sunscreen. If hiking, bring bug repellent as the mosquitos can be prolific.
The most common entrance to the trail is at Spooner Lake State Park. If traveling the entire 14 miles of the trail, a shuttle service is available on the Incline Village end of the trail to take you back to the park for a fee.
Depending on the snowpack, the trail can be closed well into late Spring and early Summer. Snowshoeing is popular at Spooner Lake.
The ride for bikers is moderate-technical. There are a couple of sections that require carrying the bike.
The trail, one way, is 14 miles from Spooner Lake to Incline Village. From Spooner Lake to Marlette Summit, the road is a steep climb on a utility road. The actual Flume portion of the trail is only 4.5 miles from Marlette Lake to Tunnel Creek Road. From Tunnel Creek Road the descent begins, in thick, decomposed granite. Keep speeds low to help maintain traction.
Bike Rentals and shuttles are available in Incline Village, Tunnel Creek Cafe, and at Flume trail bikes.
In 1848, gold was discovered close-by on the Yuba River. Soon thereafter hydraulic mining operations were set up at nearby Rose Bar and Timbuctoo. In 1858 James Smart opened a hotel, and in 1865 a Post Office opened up in the community known as Smartsville.
In 1909, the US Post Office Department changed the name to Smartville, claiming that Smartsville was grammatically incorrect. That decision didn’t sit well with residents. After several unsuccessful attempts to change their name back, in 2008 the US Board on Geographical Names capitulated and Smartville got its second “S” back.
Along with their name, residents have begun to reclaim their town. An effort to restore the old Catholic Church is underway. Several other buildings in the community are slowly being renovated.
The gold rush days are long-gone, but gold panning is still a recreational activity in the area. Fly fishing is another popular sport along this section of the Yuba River. A winery is in operation on nearby Meade Hill. Community pride is abundant in this picturesque hamlet in the northern California foothills.
Western Pacific Railroad Museum
Nestled high in the Sierras, this museum is dedicated to preserving the history and equipment of the Western Pacific Railroad.
The company was founded in 1903 to compete with Southern Pacific Railroad. Offering service between Oakland and Salt Lake City, the line created an alternate route through the Sierra Nevada mountains via the Feather River Canyon. The Western Pacific remained in operation until 1982, when it was acquired by Union Pacific Railroad.
The Feather River Route is still in use today, however, following the merger Western Pacific facilities in Portola, California were vacated. A group of volunteers secured the site and the Western Pacific Railroad Museum was born.
In addition to preserving the company’s records and history, the museum restores and maintains Western Pacific rolling stock. This 36-acre facility is home to over 100 pieces of equipment. In addition to one of the largest collections of cabooses anywhere, the museum has several passenger and freight cars as well as dozens of locomotives.
Being a privately financed, non-profit organization, this museum has a unique fund-raising offering. Guests can actually rent and operate a locomotive. Rentals are by the hour and include private instruction from a qualified engineer. Anyone who has ever wanted to operate a 2,000 horsepower, 128-ton vehicle can do so at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum.
The museum is closed during the Winter. Check their website for dates and hours of operation.
Jeremy Dunn, Select Group Videographer