Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Step Back in Time

We're hiking on the old railroad in blog no. 23. There are no more ties to count on the old Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe right-of-way. Soon I'll stop counting the blogs of December.

Trails like the El Dorado Trail fascinate me. Hiking gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and peer into the thick understory. And it's a wonderful walk to enjoy with my wife.

My love of history sometimes shades my view of the trail. It's the evidence of human interaction with the environment that draws me. Each rusted hulk of an iron culvert or rotting railroad tie supplies endless hours of exploration along the trail.

As we hiked the grade, it was easy to picture one of the railroad's two 70-ton Shay geared locomotives pulling a consist of empty cars to the mill in Camino.

The Shay wouldn't have broken any speed records up the grade, which reached five percent in places. Like the turtle in the children's story, the locomotive pulled the grade with a slow, steady pace. Set in perpetual granny gear, the engine always made it to the top.

Ditches, old roads and any foundation or rotting trestle timbers help me visualize the lay of the land. I can trace a railroad right-of-way through the forest, making judgements as to its likely route.

This is really walking relaxation -- much like my love of driving forest roads -- that helps me unwind from the events of the day.

We'll come back to the El Dorado Trail often. This is the first time we've hiked the trail in our 14-year residence in El Dorado County. Often, the best outings are located in your backyard.

Even though the path fascinates me, with its connection to the short line that wound its way up the hill on a 1,900-foot climb from Mosquito Road in Placerville to the old Michigan-California lumber mill in Camino, it also gives me time to walk with Debbie and enjoy the outdoors.

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