story: Michael O'Brien photos courtesy of Jim Milestone
The Shasta Trinity Trail Connects the Mountains With the City
Deep in the woods and along the cold streams that flow off Shasta Bally’s old growth forest, college students from the Student Conservation Association have finished constructing a new trail over Papoose Gulch. Like the miners and Chinese laborers from the California Gold Rush, these young men and women worked hard digging in the hills of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Their relief from the heat of summer came from working in the higher elevations and under the shade of trees that first sprouted in 1629.
Following the Student Conservation Association mission of “restoring national parks, marine sanctuaries, cultural landmarks and community green spaces in all 50 states,” these students worked as summer interns for the National Park Service, often camping deep in the forest to remain close to their work site. This was the third summer that the “SCAs” worked on this missing section of what is known as the Shasta Trinity Trail. The Papoose Gulch section is the critical link in this trail system that connects the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area’s east side with the trails on the western side of the park.
Previously, only two routes stretched from one side of the park to the other. One is an old dusty logging road called South Shore Drive. While the name of this road indicates the possibility of finding mansions built on the shores of Whiskeytown Lake, “it was built for logging trucks, not recreational use,” says Park Superintendent Jim Milestone. “The new Shasta Trinity Trail will be the first opportunity for trans-park travel designed specifically for recreational use.”
The idea to construct Shasta Trinity Trail was developed in 2000 by a coalition of recreational enthusiasts from Shasta and Trinity counties, and the National Park Service’s Rivers and Trails Program. The original vision was to connect Redding’s Sundial Bridge with the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area via 100 miles of continuous trail. The Papoose Gulch trail passes through the heart of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, deep into the forest linking the western Brandy Creek Falls Trail and the eastern Boulder Creek Falls Trail, and moves this vision one more step toward completion.
How was such an ambitious project accomplished? Through a previously undeveloped section of the park, Cal Fire Conservation Camp workers cleared nearly impenetrable brush. The SCAs followed behind, digging out the trail. A series of footbridges were constructed that, despite being located deep in the forest, are built to handle the weight of several horses and their riders. Special volunteer days were held to involve citizen activists in construction activities. The Friends of Whiskeytown, Inc., raised more than $20,000 to hire the SCA crew. Other donors such as the Lemurian Bicycle Race raised funds for footbridge construction materials. The Redding Mountain Biking Club, individual hikers and equestrians also joined National Park Service staff in clearing the trail.
“The best thing about this trail is all the folks that have contributed to it: The city of Redding, Terry Hanson, BLM’s Bill Kuntz and Steve Anderson and Brian Sindt of the McConnell Foundation, Brent Owen and Kim from the Redding Foundation, Bob Boeking of the Redding Mountain Bike Club and the general public who volunteered their Saturday mornings to build the trail by hand,” Milestone says.
Channeling the spirit of the last “golden” transcontinental railroad spike driven into tracks linking the east to the west, the National Park Service will host a commemorative “Golden Spike Moment” ceremony at 8:30 am Saturday, August 15, at Sheep Camp in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. A bronze spike will be placed in granite to officially link the Boulder Creek Falls and Brandy Creek Falls trails via the Papoose Gulch trail.
“Making this connection to our trail system will allow for extensive exploration of the park’s interior forest,” says Milestone. “It will make for some wonderful hiking, biking and horseback riding through nature, preserved within the framework of a national park site.”