After breakfast, we set out for Bridgeport, which is ten miles away from the cabin on Pleasant Valley Road. On the way we passed Wildwood Lake and pulled into a small parking area to take a closer look. The lake was formed when the Anthony House earth dam was constructed. The name of the dam intrigued me and I have tried to find out more about it. The only information I found just said that the dam was named after a house called Anthony House which had been submerged by the lake.
The main reason for traveling to Bridgeport was to see the longest single span covered bridge in existence located in the South Yuba River State Park. We caught a glimpse of it before pulling into a car park. From the car park we walked across the road and found the trail leading towards the covered bridge. The first covered bridge I ever saw was in Oregon and to date I have seen many covered bridges and they are a pretty sight. This is a particularly fine example. Just before we reached the bridge we took a detour down to the river. The bridge crosses the South Yuba River which, at this time of the year, is swollen with the melting snow from the high Sierras. Looking up at the bridge from the edge of the river was an impressive sight and Tom took lots of photographs. While mooching around I was amazed at the number of butterflies flitting around. The Monarchs were easy to spot but there were several I did not recognize at all.
I climbed back up the bank and wandered towards the bridge. I imagined what it must have been like in its heyday with the mule trains
hauling wagons through it. It is constructed of Douglas Fire and even after all this time – it was built in 1862 – the smell of the wood is very strong and pleasant. I stood at the end and looked through to the far end. The interior was dim but light from the three windows on either side brightened up the inside. Running the whole length were four thick raised sleepers, presumably to keep the mules on track as they crossed the bridge. I walked along the top of one of the planks and tried not to look down between the gaps at the river below. When I came to the first window and stopped to gazed through it. The windows have no glass in them so I was able to poke my head through. Down by the river I spotted Tom still busy taking photos. I called but he didn’t hear me.
(Click on the images for larger versions. There are some other options on the larger photos too)
At both ends of the bridge are commemorative plaques which gave interesting facts about the construction of the bridge and when I got home I looked on line for more information. This site gives information about the construction and the toll road and this one on the three plaques.
By this time Tom had caught up with me but then he disappeared from sight. Finally I tracked him down in the Historic Barn. Outside the sun was beating down but inside the barn it was deliciously cool. On display were eleven huge wagons and I marveled at their size. The wheels of the older ones were made out of a solid pieces of wood and rimmed with iron. On the walls were photos and interpretive panels which told the history of the wagons. Some of the wagons were pulled by up to 42 mules because they were so large and heavily laden.
Nearby was a small visitors center with some interesting displays. A full sized Kodiak brown bear, a near relative of the Grizzly Bear, was the first object that caught my eye. There were fascinating displays featuring wildlife, plant life, how the original native tribes lived, pictures of I.O. Wood (who built and owned the bridge) and domestic objects from the gold rush days. There is no charge to visit the South Yuba River State Park but we left a generous donation in the box by the door.
Outside there was a hands on experience on panning for gold with volunteers ready to explain and answer questions. We were tempted to try our hand but the table was crowded. Under the shade of a huge tree a table had been laid out with leaflets. Behind the table sat a volunteer who was eager to hand out leaflets and to give information. One leaflet I picked up was called Bridgeport Trails. As Tom and I plan to walk one the trails I thought it would come in very handy. John and Judy told us that one of their favorite hikes is the Buttermilk Bend Trail and, sure enough it was on the leaflet. I was also handed a printout which pointed out interesting things to look for on the walk. To get to the trailhead we had to return to the car park. The docent informed us that we didn’t have to recross the road but could take the path which led under the bridge.
It was a hot day but we had a big bottle of water and Tom, of course, had his camera. As it was a holiday weekend there were quite a few hikers on the trail and several large family groups. The trail was wide to begin with so getting past the slow moving groups posed no problem. Later on, when the path became narrower we had left the families behind and passing other hikers was easy.
The printout explained that most of the trail is the course of a ditch which carried water down to Englebright Lake and was used to lay down dust on the turnpike. It was certainly a very scenic route and for most of the way we looked down on the fast flowing South Yuba River. A short way along we spotted a small sandy beach on the other side of the river and there were lots of people making the most of it. There were quite a few swimmers in the river. Large rocks in the river had sun worshipers stretched out on them. On such a hot day the water did look exceedingly inviting and Tom wished he was down there in it. Not me, I would be too frightened of the strong current.
Even though it was relatively late for wildflowers there were lots around and most of them were labeled. I was impressed with this as it enabled me to identify most of them. There were the bright orange Canyon Dudleya, cornflower blue Globe Gilia, yellow Tufted Poppies (they looked identical to California Poppies but maybe not so tall), tiny yellow Silverleaf Lotus, light and bright purple Winecup Clarkia, pretty purple Elegent Brodiaea along with Clover and Purple Vetch. One plant which intrigued us was the Woody Sunflower Gumplant and it did indeed have a gummy feel to it.
At one point the trail turned inland along the edge of French Coral Creek to a footbridge across creek. The leaflet told us to look out for ‘substantial stonework…probably where a flume crossed the ravine’. We both searched for it on both sides of the creek but somehow we missed it.
Along the way there were several benches to sit and admire the scenery. At one such stop there was another couple and I sat and chatted for some time. The view looked downstream and beyond. It was a very pleasant way to spend half an hour while I waited for Tom to catch up with me.
We didn’t quite make it to the end of the trail. For one thing we were nearly out of water plus we had promised to call and see Aunt Thelma at her house in the afternoon. Our route to Nevada City was along the scenic Bitney Springs Road. Aunt Thelma showed us around her beautiful home and, along with John, the four of us took a stroll down her garden to Deer Creek. The last part of the path was very steep with many obstacles but Aunt Thelma had no problem at all getting down and back. She is a remarkable lady and, would you believe it, 98 years old!
Tom and I rounded off our fantastic weekend in the Gold Country with a wonderful meal at the New Moon Cafe on York Street in Nevada City. It was a slap up meal and I tried soft shelled Dungeness Crab for the very first time.