As today’s article in the Sacramento Bee reports, running along the 8.8 mile Olmstead Loop Trail in Cool can be a wonderful adventure, but hazardous—primarily from having to share the trail with horses and bike riders.
This is the situation also shared by the American River Parkway trail, and we researched some options to increase the enjoyment and reduce the danger in our 2008 report, The American River Parkway: Recreation, Education & Sanctuary, A Vision & Policy Primer, beginning on page 15.
1) An excerpt from the Bee article.
“Olmstead is also one of the area's first multiuse trails. Once called the Knickerbocker Trail – for the canyon creek about halfway in – the loop in 1993 was renamed for Dan Olmstead, a local hiker and mountain biker who sought detente with equestrian users and pushed to open the area to all forms of transportation.
“Ironic, then, that in the ongoing skirmish among equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers/trail runners in the foothills and on other Northern California trails, Olmstead has become something of a ground zero.
“Which is why I made sure to hit the ground running no later than 8 a.m. on a Friday. There's a reason Olmstead is often so crowded: It's a gorgeous, peaceful trail for a family outing, yet varied enough to keep boredom at bay. In contrast to other trails in the Auburn recreation area, Olmstead isn't daunting but still provides a sense of pleasant isolation and maybe even an encounter with a family of deer.
“My idea was to run the Olmstead clockwise, taking advantage of the flat, oak-lined grassland in the first three miles before descending and ascending in equal measure for the challenging (for both runners and hikers) next four miles until a gradual rolling meadow serves as a cool-down before returning to Cool….
“For the first two miles, the run was a fortress of solitude: not a sound save for my breathing and the shush of my feet against the overgrown grass encroaching on the single-track trail….
“But anyone could clearly see – and feel – that this was a well-trod, multiuse path. I don't know which was more prevalent: the, uh, pungent mementos left by the horses or the deep ruts left by mountain bikers in the rainy season. I could see how some hikers might get annoyed dodging such obstacles, since those in sneakers leave the smallest footprints.
“In fact, just before the descent to Knickerbocker Creek, I happened to be looking down to keep solid footing as I rounded a minor switchback. I heard this high-pitched wail: "WHHHHOOOOAAA!"
“I was 10 feet away from two women astride hulking, lathered steeds. Were they going to let me pass on their right? Neigh. Or, rather, nay.
“Established trail etiquette, reinforced by triangular signs ubiquitously posted, calls for bike riders to yield to hikers and equestrians, and hikers to yield to horses.
"Get off the trail!" she said harshly as I stopped in my tracks.
“The skittish horse bowed her head and tossed her mane like Paris Hilton, then snorted as loudly as a car horn. Slightly freaked, I stepped off, pronto. As the two riders sauntered past, the horsewoman who admonished me smiled and said, "You're fine now, darlin'."
2) An excerpt from our report.
"An issue that has long festered on the current trail arrangement in the Parkway is the lack of safe and enjoyable trail space for walkers and equestrians comparable to the paved trail used predominantly by bike riders, who naturally feel it is their trail.
"One good trail layout is that suggested by the Rails to Trails organization and it is a good place to start discussions for the Parkway.
"From their website, here is what they have come up with.
"It is a trail space approximately 40 feet wide, with 12 feet for bikes, 3 feet of plantings, 10 feet for walkers, 3 feet of plantings, and 12 feet for horses."
3) Another great option for the Parkway trail realignment, though we didn't include it in our 2008 report, is to use the existing levee for the walking trail.
This would probably require less improvement than cutting a new pedestrian trail.
By adding better paving, benches and water fountains, and continuing the trail in the areas where there is no levee, you could create a very nice pedestrian trail, with great views and plenty of space.