Friday, February 10, 2012

Hike No. 4 - Clark's Hole

January 30, 2012
1.2 Miles
The kiosk map at the trail head gives a vague idea of the many interesting trails at the Confluence, where the North and Middle Forks of the American River join

Clark's Hole is also referred to more genteelly as Clark's Pool, as does the weakly informative kiosk map above. I prefer the former, coming from the early 1900's, a time less steeped in irony. According to American River Canyon Hikes, it was then a municipal swimming hole used by the City of Auburn, complete with a lifeguard and concession stands. I had failed to find it on a couple of previous outings, but figured finding it was worth another effort as a potential summer outing destination with grandchildren. Previous experience has revealed the water temperature of the North Fork at the Confluence to be noticeably warmer than the Middle Fork, since it is made up of the sun-warmed surface water from Lake Clementine that spills over the dam a few miles upstream.

I used my Canon G12 on this outing.

The subtle Clark's Hole Trail were it splits off from the road behind gate No. 137
The trail begins at the Auburn State Recreation Area gate No. 137 near the ASRA kiosk, small parking area, and restrooms. A climb up this wide trail soon comes to the intersection with Stagecoach Trail on the left. About 40 paces beyond on the right the Clark's Hole trail, barely more than a deer path at this point, carves its way down the steep slope above the North Fork. I had discounted it previously as one of several casual trails that access the river.

A pleasant, shady trail
The narrow path is well-carved into the slope, and soon widens out into a very pleasant and apparently little-used path along an old road bed. Spots of sunlight felt good, and the late January air was cool and moist following a series of rain storms. Occasional small creeks cross the trail, and ferns are numerous beneath the oaks and firs. The trail became a bit vague at a couple of spots, where the road had washed out or trees had fallen. I got into a bit of trouble where the road was buried by rubble from building of the Foresthill bridge in the 1970's, but backtracked and soon picked up the trail through the moss- and lichen-covered boulders. I tried to not spend too much time here, leery of monkey wrenches tumbling from the construction work going on overhead.

Looking across the river at the east support of the Foresthill Bridge. The highest in California, the bridge is 730 feet above the river.

Anybody home? The rubble pile beneath the west tower of the Foresthill Bridge.

Moss and ferns near Clark's Hole

The trail arrives at Clark's hole through a patch of blackberries

Clark's hole turns out to be located just below the first big bend of the North Fork above the Confluence. Bedrock slabs about 8 feet above the river provide diving platforms into the still water, but there are no shallow water beaches where small children can safely play. This would be a great place for teenagers to display diving skills and lay out in the sun, but I prefer the swimming hole just below the old Foresthill bridge, with it's gently sloping gravel beaches leading to deeper water, the current to play in, and the diving rocks on the east bank.

These rainwater-filled depressions in the bedrock next to Clark's Hole are probably bedrock mortars once used by the Nisenan or Southern Maidu Indians. In places like this I like to pause a moment to still my mind and imagine the tok - tok - tok of the pestles, the gentle conversation of the women, the voices of playing children, and the background murmur of the river.

Photographs © 2012 Tony Mindling

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