One of my favorite places to wander is in Silverado Canyon, off a road named Maple Springs. But Maple Springs Road, and the trails accessible by this road, namely The Silverado Motorway has been closed for well over a year now due to a fire. It was supposed to re-open this past September. But when I phoned the ranger station at the end of that month, I was told that it was still closed and probably would not open until spring. I’ve been hearing though from other fellow wanderers, that the parking lot is open, that you can park and still hike the trails. Friday, I set out to see for myself.
The lot was indeed open. Two other cars were parked in addition to mine. But signs indicated that the trails were closed. And I did not see evidence of another living soul about. That’s what made Maple Springs Road so spooky on this cold and windy morning. The road was unkempt with thick dirt covering the passes where the stream usually flows. There were no footprints. No evidence of recent visitors. Broken branches were strewn about giving the appearance that no one had walked this road for years. I felt like I was running along the road of a ghost town.
Not surprisingly, the entrance to The Motorway (AKA The Silverado Motorway and The Silverado Trail) was marked closed as well. Now, I’m not saying that I actually traversed this trail on Friday, in fact, at this point I obeyed the law and promptly returned to my truck. But if I had continued onward it probably would have went something like this:
I could see immediate evidence of the burn area, with burnt foliage and darkened tree trunks. But there was a lot of new growth as well. I scoured the ground for human footprints, but only occasionally came upon a faint print. And that worried me. In the cold silence, I wondered whether the mountain lions had grown accustomed to having this part of the mountain void of humans, and if I was somehow going to interrupt that.
I didn’t wear my earphones, but instead kept my ears focused on the sounds around me. I didn’t want any surprises. About a half mile in, the trail was pretty much washed out, with rock and mountain debris covering the entire passage. So engrossed in the debris, fascinated by its abundance and multi-colored, multi-leveled layout, I missed the bend in the trail, following the debris instead. Doh!
I should have turned to the left at the tree in the background here:
When the “trail” finally became impassible, I turned back, figuring I’d just find some other place to run, perhaps an out-and-back on Maple Springs Road. I passed a satellite video camera implanted in the hillside (twice). I didn’t exactly smile at the camera, but I looked right into it, wondering if the camera was tracking humans or mountain lions. I felt relieved to be leaving.
It was on my return that I noticed my wrong turn and decided to head up The Motorway nonetheless. But I was already spooked, oddly nervous. I haven’t been afraid on the trails in years. It was so dang eerie out there – windy and cold and not a single other person around. The scene was beautiful though. I could see for miles, out to the ocean, and tiny skyscrapers in the far distance. I nearly jumped off the mountain when my phone chirped because I had a text message. And then shortly after that, something jumped out onto the trail probably about twenty yards ahead of me. Understandably startled, I noticed first the tan color of the animal’s fur, and for a split second, thought mountain lion! That is until I noticed the animal’s white tail. It was a deer, a large deer, and there were two of them. They stopped and looked at me, then hopped, literally hopped like bunny rabbits up the trail further then off the trail to continue onward along the steep mountainside. Occasionally, the two stopped and looked back at me. I half expected a mountain lion to appear on the scene and take down one of the beauties. Not long after that, I decided to turn back. I ran back toward my truck, happier with each step, anxious to feel safe again.
I drove about Silverado Canyon after that, exploring a side road called Ladd Canyon. When I arrived home, I promptly lay on the couch and fell asleep, so warn out I was from this short, but worthwhile adventure.
Elevation gained: 1,175’