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What could be sweeter? An 8-foot wide trail that winds for 26 miles through gorgeous country on an old railroad bed with grades never steeper than 2%--and an overall elevation loss of 1000’. The Bizz Johnson trail that traverses some of the most beautiful and inaccessible country in California’s Sierra foothills. One of the finest gems in the national rails-to-trails network, it’s also arguably the country’s most scenic marathon route, and particularly impressive in the fall when gorgeous seasonal foliage is on display. The trail follows the route of the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific railroad, which was built in 1914 by the Southern Pacific Railroad to service the logging community of Westwood. The line delivered lumber all the way to Fernley, Nevada, where it was shipped to markets throughout the nation and even the world. The Bizz Johnson course winds 26.2 miles from Mason Station to Susanville. The last 16 miles traverse through the rugged Susan River Canyon, crossing the river 12 times on picturesque wood railroad bridges and passing through two tunnels, 800 feet and 450 feet in length. In the first 12 miles, the course gradually climbs 500 feet from Westwood to Westwood Junction, then descends 1,300 feet over the last 14 miles from Westwood Junction to the finish line in Susanville. The trail surface is aggregate material that’s fast on the feet and soft on the knees. The Susan River canyon is ecologically unique, as it encompasses characteristics of three distinct geological provinces: the Great Basin, Sierra Nevada, and Cascade Range, featuring semi-arid canyon, high desert landscape, grassland, oak woodlands, and a forest of pine and cedar. The trail is used by horseback riders, hikers, joggers, and mountain bicyclists and is popular in the winter months among cross-country skiers and snowmobilers. Many birds are attracted to the plants along the river--look for belted kingfishers, hooded orioles, calliope hummingbirds, and canyon wrens. Also keep your eyes open for turkey vultures, American kestrels, great horned owls, and other birds of prey. The Susan River attracts beavers, who build their dams with riverbank brush. Lucky observers may catch a glimpse of bats, raccoons, porcupines, coyotes, and even black bears. The river features a wild trout fishery that attracts catch-and-release anglers, and offers big but wily rainbow and brown trout for those with the skill and patience to catch them. A few adventurous whitewater kayakers visit the canyon rapids during high water in the spring.
Local time: 6:19 PM