The Dragoon Gulch Trail is operated and maintained by the City of Sonora’s Community Development Department. On Friday this week, Rachelle Kellogg, the Community Development director, said new brochures for Dragoon Gulch Trail are being printed and she expects to have them by the end of next week. A city website devoted to Dragoon Gulch Trail is being updated to reflect changes to the trail system. Over the next few weeks, city staff will be replacing existing trail markers, updating information at kiosks, and installing benches along the trail extension area. For more information about Dragoon Gulch Trail, see www.sonoraca.com/visit-sonora/dragoon-gulch-trail online.

A week ago I suggested to some friends we skip ambitious plans to wake up early and drive up into the mountains. Instead we should plan to meet about 9 a.m. Saturday in downtown Sonora and walk down Stockton Street to the Woods Creek trailhead for Dragoon Gulch Trail.

My preference for the local trail was based on idyllic spring weather evident up and down the Mother Lode and the rest of the Central Sierra the past few weeks. Every time you stepped outside, it felt perfect. Sunny and mild. Warm but not hot. Cool in the shade. Cool and breezy enough to keep mosquitoes away.

Recent previous springtimes in Sonora seemed to bring summer heat and high daytime temperatures in early with a bang. This springtime felt more like a real, distinct season, with continuing chances of more rain, like we saw today, Friday May 25. The extended cool spells and additional rains are a blessing.

Last week it felt like it would be overkill to spend time rising early and driving a couple hours to chase perfect conditions in the mountains when the best possible weather was happening right here in our own neighborhoods. If it rained, that would be fine. It’s fun to walk in the rain. If it was partly to mostly sunny, as forecasts indicated, that would be nice.

So we agreed to meet at 9 a.m. but Saturday morning some people were running late. Some of us departed at 9:30 a.m. and walked down to Woods Creek Park and waited for the others. Nobody drove. There was plenty of parking available in the parking areas at Woods Creek Park. I put sunscreen on my face, arms and legs while we waited.

Most of us had done Dragoon Gulch Trail before. We’d heard there was a new trail extension available higher up and we decided to check that out.

The pleasures of Dragoon Gulch Trail are simple. It’s close. There’s no need to drive. A map isn’t necessary. Once the trail leaves residential streets, it’s shaded pretty much the whole way. It’s an opportunity to spend time in oak woodland, and to share the walk with occasional deer and other wildlife. Higher up there’s manzanita and openings in the oak canopy.

The fine weather was the main event last Saturday and it did not disappoint. It felt good to walk uphill and breathe fresh air and enjoy solitude at times. There were others on the trail as well. Their chat could be heard at times from below, and on occasion from above as some people walked down the sections we were ascending.

I had water and snacks and I reminded myself to drink. It wasn’t hot and I didn’t feel dried out but I knew I’d dehydrate fast walking uphill. I took frequent sips to keep the fluids flowing.

The new trail extension was obvious when we came to it. It’s a fresh-cut trail compared to the more-worn paths that are already part of the Dragoon Gulch Trail. It climbs switchbacks up into more shaded oak woodland. No one worried about how long or how far it was. I was curious where the new trail would join existing paths. The primary thing last Saturday was the fine weather.

Near the top of a primary ridge, occasional breaks in the oaks and manzanita revealed open views east toward downtown Sonora. I could tell the new trail was getting nearer existing paths to a summit turnaround with a bench. It felt good to sit and rest. I shared peanut butter and hazelnut spread on whole grain crackers with my friends.

We admired the views for a time and enjoyed the breeze. We regarded downtown Sonora in the distance and agreed tacos on the al fresco deck at Mi Pueblo next to Sonora Creek sounded like an ideal payoff for the walk.

We used the most direct descent path to get back down to Woods Creek Park. We were soon back on residential streets approaching Stockton Street. It was past noon by now and the sun was higher in the sky and hotter on the unshaded walk up Stockton Street. When we paused to rest, I urged people to choose shady places for stops.

Reaching the deck at Mi Pueblo, we savored cold drinks, chips and salsa while we waited for tacos or taquitos. It felt like a fine start to the weekend.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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