Adam Blauert

Adam Blauert: Exploring Feather River Canyon; new season, new hobbies

Adam Blauert, outdoor columnist
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK Adam Blauert, outdoor columnist Merced Sun-Star

As the weather continues to change, I'd like to provide some updates on outdoor activities in our area:

Fishing: Just as rock cod season will be ending off the coast of California on Nov. 15, so will trout fishing in the Sierra Nevada.

Now's the time to enjoy the final trip of the year before the seasons change. If you're interested in fishing after Nov. 15, check the DFG's regulations at or pick up a regulations booklet at any local store that sells sporting goods.

State Parks: The governor recently released a statement indicating that no state parks will be completely closed. According to the statement some parks will be closed seasonally and other savings will come from reductions in personnel, maintenance, and equipment purchases.

Changing Weather: Make sure you are prepared before you set out for any wilderness adventures. Bring layers of clothing and enough food to survive for at least two extra days if the weather cuts you off from civilization.

Tioga Pass (Highway 120 through Yosemite) was closed temporarily as a result of the storm system that moved across our state last weekend. Overnight parking is not allowed in Yosemite on Highway 120 and the Glacier Point Road beginning Oct. 15. If you plan a late season backpacking trip, make sure you bring all the gear that you need to survive in case of extreme conditions.

Plan to have someone drop you off and pick you up at the end of your trip. Bring chains for any vehicle you take up to the mountains. Snow is possible at any time.

The change of weather makes some activities impossible, but also opens up a completely different range of possibilities. These include downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country (Nordic) skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobiling, hunting for Christmas trees, waterfowl hunting, exploring the vast national parks in our desert regions, and playing in the snow with your children or grandchildren. I'll share some ways to enjoy these activities in the coming weeks.

I had a good vacation exploring Butte, Plumas, Sierra, and Nevada counties last weekend. My parents and I drove Highway 99 to Oroville and then took Highway 70 up the Feather River Canyon.

A few trees were already starting to turn color, but the optimal time to enjoy the leaves will probably start next weekend and continue for the following two weeks. The weather is already changing dramatically. We drove through a few snow flurries and found a thick sheet of ice on our windshield on Sunday morning.

The Feather River Canyon is a beautiful drive up the North Fork of the Feather River. The road has nice views and easy curves. This canyon was the route of the Western Pacific Railroad, the last railroad to be constructed over the Sierra Nevada. This monumental effort was completed in 1910. As you drive up the canyon you can see the tracks on the opposite bank of the river. The highway and the railroad switch sides of the canyon several times and there are some spectacular crossings where both highway and railroad bridges span the distance in the same location.

Once you get up into the heart of the mountains, there are a number of quaint towns that were originally built to serve the logging and mining industries but now serve tourists, fishermen, hunters, and vacationers. Some of the most picturesque are Chester, Quincy, Portola and Downieville. These towns are still much the way they were

20 or 30 years ago -- much like the gold rush towns along Highway 49 were before their popularity as tourist destinations.

There are many car-accessible lakes in the region and Plumas-Eureka State Park is an excellent place to learn about mining in the northern Sierra. The museum is closed for the season, but visitors can walk around the restored buildings of the Mohawk and Bushman Mills and mining town of Johnsville. Graeagle and Blairsden have well-regarded golf courses. If you are interested in railroad history, the Western Pacific Museum in Portola has extensive exhibits and a large outdoor collection of engines and railroad cars.

The most direct way to return home is via either Highway 89 or 49 to Interstate 80. Both are enjoyable drives, but we chose Highway 49 and made our final stop in Nevada City, one of the most substantial and best-preserved of California's early mining towns. If you're looking for a new destination to explore, this region has enough roads, trails, and mountain biking routes to keep you busy for many weekends.

Adam Blauert is an avid outdoorsman and local historian. He can be reached at