Not too long ago, I read that the US government is officially going to clear it’s first East/West cross continental trail. I didn’t read where it would start, nor where it would finish. But it got me thinking on a couple of other trails that America’s had in its history and I went to try and find them on current maps. Given that there are already a lot of historical trails in this state, you’d figure it’d be easy to find quite a few of them. Contrary to this, and contrary to the extensive map coverage that I have of the Sierra Nevada via National Geographic’s topographical map series, you’d figure I could find quite a few of them. Not so.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard about or read about the Pony Express. This should be about everyone above the age of fifteen in this country. It was a famous part of the wild west, the mail trail that riders took from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The END of the Pony Express trail is in the Wells Fargo bank that’s Still in Old Sacramento right on the river. The beginning is fairly well documented. This would be a very good, historically relevant east/west trail for the US. But the trail itself for either equestrians or hikers?? Would you believe that the extensive map coverage I have only has Portions of the trail marked out?
It seems to follow Highway 50 up the Sierras to Tahoe, and then it disappears. It does not appear to overlap any other trail that it comes across (and it’d have to cross the PCT at Tahoe around Echo Peak). National Geographic doesn’t really cover it. The trail way isn’t officially marked anywhere around Sacramento other than the mention that it Ends in Old Sac. I have yet to see a historical marker for it on any trail in the American River Valleys, though according to some (but oddly not all) of my National Geographic maps of the areas, it does and does NOT exist.
The National Parks Service has a somewhat accurate Historic Trails Interactive Map. I’m not at all certain how accurate it is as I have found no correlation with other maps of the area. Nat Geo, I’m afraid, has a few inconsistencies itself. Observe…
The Emigrant Gap trail is a historic California trail. It’s the pass that 49ers took in Getting to California’s Mother Load region. It’s also the trail that Kristin’s ancestors likely took over the mountains before they settled in what is present day Rocklin and Roseville. It’s supposed to go over Donner Pass and drop back down. The historic marker for it is along Highway 80. However, according to National Geographic, it’s down south of Lake Tahoe.
Unless that’s the Carson Pass Trail. Notice Grover Hot Springs State Park there on the lower right?? Yea, it’s about *pulls up Google Earth to get a distance…* 18 miles and change south of South Lake Tahoe, and a couple of miles west of a very small town called Markleeville. This image is taken from the National Geographic map number 803. It’s the older map in the series, but has that Carson Emigrant Trail going out of a trail head a bit west of Grover Hot Springs State Park. Ah, but watch as time goes forward a little bit, National Geographic does the map just south of the area and heading west…
This picture is of a later map that overlaps the same area. Notice what’s missing?? Carson Emigrant is nowhere to be found where it was on the earlier map. So, where is the Emigrant Gap trail? From what I’ve been reading, it’s along I-80 and breaks off on the western slope of the Sierras. Is there a map for it? Sort of. Not that Nat Geo has covered it. That map does have A trail marked for it, but not very well, and only around the Emigrant Gap itself. The rest of the foot trail is pretty much left to the choice of other foot trails in the area that connect up with it and head west. The people that came over the Sierras didn’t start that trek from the middle of the range, they started from around what’s now Reno. That National Parks Service has a trail marked, but the path itself isn’t labeled. Is that the trail?
I guess in some ways, there really is no one set trail for some of the historical routes. The 49ers took just about any route they could find, get a guide for, or stumble across to get to the gold rush territory a little faster. They went over any pass they could find. Not all of them made it.