Monday, May 5, 2008

Rubicon to Ralston Footbridge

There is a little know swinging suspension bridge that used to take miners and livestock over the Rubicon River between Volcanoville and the Ralston Ridge.... it is a suspension bridge that looks like it was updated in 1949 roughly. It is on a topo map, if you look really hard at the bottom of Rubicon Trail, there is a footbridge noted without any specific name. So Stuart, Gary, Logan and I set out on a journey to get to it via horseback. In theory, if we can get the horses across the bridge, it opens up the Ralston Ridge to us and a lot more trails. We could get over to the American River on the other side of the ridge and probably end up on the Western States Trail near Deadwood.

So Sunday we started out about noon. Weather looks fine, no need for any extra protection - or so we thought! The 2200' drop in elevation was pretty graduation. We meandered our way down, looking at the wild flowers in bloom, waterfalls, old mines, eating green grass (horses) and fiddleheads (people- thanks to Logan). Quiet, green, enjoyable. Good road with rocks, like one car width logging roads, but rocky. We passed the Nevada Point trail which we will probably try out next week which takes you down to the Rubicon in a different location to an old washed out bridge. With about 900' left in our decent, we got to Buckeye Flat trail that takes you the rest of the way down to the existing swinging bridge. The wide road was washed out and this was our only way down. It was a very narrow, switchback single track trail about 18" wide in some spots, and I don't think horses have been on that in many, many years. Gary and Stuart went down on reconnaissance to look for down trees and branches. They found a bunch, good thing they went first without the horses. Then I led us down the narrow, narrow trail. About 5 minutes later, a huge crash of thunder hit - I am scared to death of THUNDER!! But I just had to focus forward and get us off of the side of the mountain. Which I did, and then it started pouring... and continued to thunder and lightening. We still weren't at the footbridge yet. Still had about 500' left to decend. We got back on to a wider, but still single track trail, and followed it along until we decided to tie up the horses and go down on foot. Good thing we did because the trail was severly washed out in 2 places, and there was a strap of mountain climbing rope to help you over the area. I scooted down on my bottom for most of the journey. Turns out, there is a better trail down there that Gary explored on the way up, and looks good for horses, so we'll go that way next time. Keep in mind it is still raining, a nice, soaking rain. The bridge was gorgeous! Very safe for horses to cross, if they don't mind the feel of it swinging underneath their hooves. As I was crossing it, the skies were still thundering and I just kept thinking - I hope my mom doesn't know I am doing this!!

We tailed up out of the canyon, up the narrow fall off trail, and back onto the logging at which point we took off at a gallop and raced up. Buck and Gary won, followed closely by Annie and Logan, and Stuart and Miller. Feather and I stayed back aways, I think she knew my back way sore yesterday and she was taking care of me.... that, and with all the rain, it was humid, and she may have been overheated a bit.

As far as hoof protection - Feather was barefoot, Annie in front Renegades, Miller in Bares all 4, and Buck in steel. Everyone did fine, but there was a fair amount of rock to be aware of.

We staged out of Donaldson, and we got to admire the work of the trail clearing party the weekend before on the Volcanoville Tie Trail.

To see more photos of our journey,

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