After a vigorous autumn and winter with great storms, lots of rain, and snow piled up in the high country, the sun came out and it is trying to warm up in El Dorado County. What’s considered warm differs from one end of the county to the other.
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The western side of the county has had days of spring-like weather, warmer than for the folks from Pollock Pines to Lake Tahoe. Warm there means the nights might be in the 20s and 30s while the daytime temperatures rocket up to 50 degrees — sometimes higher. We can go outside in the sun without big jackets, hats and gloves. It’s pretty nice no matter where you are.
A note of caution: When the dogwood’s flowers are fully open, there will be at least one more snow storm. It’s not over yet. There’s been more than one “last storm” so far in this record season — and it looks like more to come.
In the meantime, it’s time to take full advantage of whatever benevolent weather there is. Hiking in the high country still requires snowshoes or cross country skis, but it is beginning to loosen up a bit. The floor of Hope Valley on Highway 88 is more bare ground than snowfield. Near Forestdale Creek Road and Carson Summit, there’s still a lot of snow and the Crystal Basin is hit and miss for bare ground as well.
One of the best places to explore now is Cronan Ranch on Highway 49 near Coloma. The main trail head is on Pedro Hill Road. The area is a multiple-use area including hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Be aware of what or who is around you. Courtesy is always the best policy.
There are no coffee carts or refreshment vendors so bring what you need. The main trail will take you on a very pleasant walk to the South Fork of the American River. The rafting companies you drove past on your way are downriver from Cronan Ranch.
You’ll need sturdy shoes and knowledge of what poison oak looks like. Watch for rattlesnakes and if you come across one, back off.
Most of the terrain is open country. Bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen. You can spend all day exploring different trails and the views from several points are remarkable.
If you take the main trail to the river you are in for a treat. The water in spring always moves pretty rapidly, but this year it’s moving like a freight train due to the heavy snowmelt. There are a couple of places close to shore that are protected from the main channel where you can dip your toes. Stay out of the main river channel until the flow diminishes. Fast-moving water in a river is a very powerful force.
One can go all the way to the Salmon Falls Bridge in El Dorado Hills but it’s a long round trip. One suggestion is to park one car at the Salmon Falls trail head, drive with a hiking friend to Pedro Hill Road, take the trail and drive back. Anyone on a horse needs to make sure his or her mount is up to the trip.
Whether you hike, ride your bike or ride a horse, make sure to take enough water, food and other gear to make it a pleasant day. The best time to explore Cronan Ranch is before it starts to get hot. It can be pretty toasty there as spring gives way to summer.