east entrance to Pluto's Cave
With seemingly every day a mixture of wind, rain, and/or snow, I figured that a trip to Pluto's Cave would take weather worries out of the equation. I usually go out to the cave in the Summer to get away from the heat, and this was probably the first time I've been there at this time of year. One distinct difference was made immediately clear — it SMELLS! Whoooeee! I could smell the cave long before I could see it. While normally having a damp, dusky sort of cave smell to it, this time it seemed as though you were in a large room where 10,000 cats urinated at the same time.
Fortunately this end of the lava tube has several openings where the ceiling has caved in, allowing a blessed amount of fresh air to enter, so I poked around awhile but didn't continue on into the "dark" end, saving that for a later trip, most likely in the Summer.
Bored with sitting around the house during yet another rain "event" (who comes up with these terms?), I decided to visit the Ney Springs area. The falls were going strong after what seemed like weeks of on and off rain, and I walked down to the Sacramento River along the old railroad grade that served this area in the early 1900's. This is another area that has a distinct "odor" associated with it — the sulphur smell of the spring water that put this place on the map. I often wonder just how the first person to smell the springs came up with the idea that the water had any sort of beneficial qualities. For all I know it might have been the same person who watched an egg come out of a chicken's butt and figured that it would be good to eat...
With just about every hiking trail in the county under some amount of snow, I took a short hike along the Indian Creek Nature Trail, a low elevation favorite of mine. Its south-facing exposure gets rid of most of the snow in a hurry, and even though the River Trail might be slightly lower in elevation, it never gets any sun this time of year. The path was completely covered in maple and oak leaves, and the ground still frozen despite my late departure.
Taking advantage of a rare sunny day, I continued out the Flume Trail, another favorite during the Winter. Although adorned by what has to be the World's largest collection of downed branches, the hiking was very pleasant. If one were somehow stranded along this trail and needed to build a fire, you certainly couldn't complain about a lack of kindling.