Friday, January 10, 2014

The Deep Side Trail

Just like the old Chisum Trail was carved from San Anton to Abilene in the late 19th century, The Deep Side Trail was carved up a hillside in Nevada County in the early 21st century.  While the Chisum Trail mostly carried cows and cowboys, The Deep Side Trail mostly carries kids and kaboodles.  The Chisum Trail is no doubt a lot longer, and maybe a little more important to history, but just by judging from it's name, The Deep Side Trail, you can tell it was no less necessary than the old Chisum.  More or less.

The "Deep Side", coined by my lovely and loquacious grand daughter Sophia, is the middle 40 of the property here.  It's located right below the level landing where the house and parking area lie, but there is a sizable twenty foot STEEP embankment to contend with to get there.  Hence the name, the Deep Side.

Why on earth would Sophia want to venture down to the Deep Side?  Well, this last spring when I had Tarzan out to do some tree trimming, I also had him hang some rope for a dandy old swing.  You can read all about those exploits here at Tarzan the Tree Man.

Well, as the Deep Side infers, it was a major endeavor to get down there.  Besides rope, pitons, carabiners, and a machete, you needed a compass just to find your way.  But not any more.  This last summer this old man made the Deep Side just a little more accessible for human beings.  With trusty pick, shovel and bad ankle, away I went and cleared a trail that has a reasonable slope and slices diagonally up the side of the hill, through the bushes and trees.

These shots (above) are looking upward about midway on the trail.

The shot above is looking up about three quarters of the way down the trail.  The red handle is where the previous photos were taken.  The shot below is looking down from the location in the photo above.  

Me too..

Besides this long, slanted, and nicely sloped trail, I also wanted a quicker route.  A route that would essentially head straight up the embankment.  This route would require steps, unless you are a mountain goat.  It also required a lot of picking and digging.  A little dynamite.  A number of cinder blocks.  I just started at the bottom where the trail lies and "stepped" my way on up.

Trusty tools of the trade.  Pick and shovel.  There's also a level around there somewhere. 
 I go through two pairs of work gloves a year.  Doesn't matter if they're leather or lace. 
Looking up.
Looking down.

Each landing step (area) is actually larger than just the cinder block.  The cinder blocks all act as anchors.  There's compacted loose dirt around them now, but once some rain comes along it'll compact more and turn into a fairly solid clay.  I will also be adding some low ground cover around the steps this spring as well as Rosemary on the hill.  Both will be deep rooting, fast spreading and drought tolerant.  I've done this before in these here hills.

As you can see, the steps and trail must be working since some darling of mine happened upon a Christmas swing.

I have been consternating the rail down this section, as well as another steep stair I have heading to the Upper 40 from the house.  

I had originally thought about doing a manzanita post and rail, but I had been balking because the manzanita post would probably split somewhere down the line and then I would have a huge, pain in the patoot project to contend with.

I'm not getting any younger, and the last thing I'm gonna wanna to do in my late 60's is dig up a failed post (including concrete) and put in another.  Especially on a hillside.  Everything I do around here is done to last.  I don't want to revisit anything if I can help it.

At any rate, I decided to go for treated 4x4 posts.  They'll last.  At least as long as I am here.  As I have been cogitating the rail, a chum of my son's suggested manzanita, which was in my original plan.  Only I got sidetracked by the potential of metal.  I don't know why.  I totally forgot about the manzanita, of which I have a forest of.

If the manzanita rail splits, I can easily replace that.  Without any digging at all.  Plus, it will add that creative dimension I desire.

I have chosen a few lengths (pictured above) from my mountainous Manzanita pile.  I had hoped to work on them and have them complete for this post, but a little ankle surgery got in the way.  There's actually enough to do to them that the Manzanita Trail Rails will be the subject of another post.

Steve, my right ankle, is coming along quite nicely.  I got the green light to get out of the boot yesterday, and now have a few months of physical therapy.  Steve's still pretty swollen and painful, but the doc said the best way to go is to just go.  Damn the torpedo.  Just go.

Raccoon Scat

A local friend bought me a copy of The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada for my birthday this last September. Thank ya Brother Bill!  It's fabulous, and a must have for anyone living in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  From birds and bats to turds and scats, it's got it all.  There's even information on all the native plants and trees and flowers and bees.  Marmots and varmints, fungi and frogs, as I mentioned, it's got it all.

I'm almost sorry to say, I first turned to the couple of pages on scat.  Living out here in the country there's all sorts of critters and varmints that live in these here hillsides and woods.  One way to tell who or what's been running around in the night is by their tell tale droppings.

Deer are easy, they leave little piles of raisinettes.  Unfortunately they are still leaving them all over the place around here.  My efforts at creating an 8' high U shaped fence around the property and down to the road have failed.  The dang deer are relentlessly persistent, clambering around the fence on the cliff side above the road.  The scent of our fenced off roses draws them like a siren to a sailor.  Or bacon to a rutabaga pie. 

Unfortunately, it looks like I will have to stay with Plan A and build a fence along the front of the property.  Which, of course, will have to include a driveway gate high enough to keep those pesky, abhorrent pests OUT!  Yes, Bambi and her ilk are no friends of ours.  We are very much into horticulture around here, and those dang deer can destroy in seconds what it takes you years to cultivate.  You can read more about my deer efforts here at Bambi Can Eat My Drawers.

Moving off from deer raisins, I have noticed piles of another nature here and there around the property.  A couple times I have noticed a couple large piles underneath two very tall pines.  My suspicion was confirmed, it looks like a black bear spent a night or two in one of our lofty conifer chateaus.  Or at least hung out long enough to well, you know.

There was another pile I have noticed in a couple specific locations.  After identifying it in the book, which posts both pictures and print descriptions, I discovered it was raccoon scat.  Right next to the description were a few other words, in red, that said, Do Not Handle!

Now I'm not really in the habit of randomly picking up poop, but that is good to know.   I mean, there was a raccoon scat pile on the lawn yesterday.  I moved it with a shovel, which is how I usually move animal poop.
But it's a good thing I didn't pick it up.  And then pick my nose.

Why be concerned about raccoon scat?  The reason is simple, the scat contains a parasite called Baylisascaris procyonisAnd that'll eat your brain.

Baylisascaris procyonis is a roundworm nematode, found ubiquitously in raccoons, its larvae migrating in the intermediate hosts causing visceral larva migrans (VLM). Baylisascariasis as the zoonotic infection of humans is rare, though extremely dangerous due to the ability of the parasite's larvae to migrate into brain tissue and cause damage. Concern for human infection has been increasing over the years due to urbanization of rural areas resulting in the increase in proximity and potential human interaction with raccoons.[1]

I can see it now.  If I hadn't been diligent and looked it up, and then maybe quickly or accidentally came in contact with it by hand, and then happened to touch my mouth, or nose, or ear.  The next thing I'd know, well, would actually probably be nothing since my brain would slowly become the size of a pea.

What a world, what a world.

My next post will probably be the Manzanita Trail Rails, although now that I am on the mend several other projects are calling.  If we are heading into a drought situation here in Northern California, I want to be sure I am as fit as a fiddle fire safe as possible.  To that end there is a little more clearing I'd like to get done before summer.

I also hope to be involved soon with my book's final edit.  "Late Night Letters to the Moon" will hopefully be available on in early spring.  

Time for some rain dancing.