OK, more photos.
Photo 6: About a mile up the trail from Smith Flat, where we started this morning, the nice, neat, paved portion of the El Dorado Trail ends and turns to dirt. The surrounding countryside quickly gets up close and personal. Walking this part of the trial makes me think of the many, many hikes Mr. Wren, me and the kids took back when we were all younger and full of vinegar. We never hiked groomed trails, just dirt roads and, sometimes, no roads at all, and we usually hiked carrying day-packs and fishing gear, because Mr. Wren's philosophy was "What's a hike without fishing?" We were always on our way to a good fishing hole. Of course, "good" was relative. More often than not, we didn't catch much. Fishing was an excuse to be out there, watching the great blue herons, getting poison oak and being far, far away from the civilized world.
Photo 7: This is a view to the south from the unimproved trail. What's south? Jackson, Sutter Creek, Angel's Camp (the fabled setting for Mark Twain's great story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County), and eventually, Calaveras Big Trees and Yosemite. I'll save that hike for another time, I think.
Photo 8: The trail gets wilder and narrower, with horsetails and blackberry brambles closing in on both sides. The horsetails (the bushy, feathery greenery at shin-level) were a surprise. I've seen them growing much higher up in the Sierras, but had never encountered them so close to home. The blackberries are ripe but mostly picked over by the birds and other small animals. They're hard to pick without gauntlet gloves. The thorns are unforgiving.
Photo 9: Did I say drier? Wilder? Depends on where you're standing on the trail, it seems. Here, perhaps a half-mile from the start of the dirt trail, are cattails growing on swampy ground and, a pretty picture fit for a postcard, a nice red barn glowing in the morning sun.
Photo 10: This solemn fellow popped his head up from just beyond the brambles and regarded us calmly as we walked by. He was overseeing a small herd of Barbados sheep, three times their size and quite kingly. Llamas are fairly common around the county. Some people keep them for pets, others for their utility as pack animals. Seeing them, so odd and out-of-place, always makes me smile.
More to come ...