On the Trail of Something Good

The Beauty and the Benefits of the Sacramento River Trail…

Talk with enough people on the Sacramento River Trail, and you hear the same words of wonder, of admiration and reasons for returning each month or week or every day. You learn that folks come to walk along the river mostly to commune with nature, but also to walk their dogs, to exercise themselves and to gather with their community. The list recited is the same spoken over and over again, and with the utmost sincerely.

But every once in while, you run into someone with a unique viewpoint. Let us speak of a few of these maverick souls, who may appreciate some or all of the popular trail attractions, but add a particular joy of their own.

Photos by Richard DuPertuis

Keith Gorzell sits on a bench on the trail just outside the Turtle Bay Exploration Park museum. His seat is positioned to take in the view of the Sundial Bridge, but his gaze is aimed at something lower and closer. “You can’t see him now. He’s in the water. But a minute ago he was right there on the end of that branch,” he says. “It was a muskrat. Some will say an otter, but an otter has a flat tail, sort of like a beaver’s. A muskrat’s tail is thin and hairless.”

Raised on a ranch in Modoc County, Gorzell prefers mountain wilderness, but can see the value of paved paths lacing the land on both sides of the Sacramento River. “It’s a lot like the Bay Area, where people come to walk on prepared trails,” he muses. “They’re not tripping on underbrush. It’s far safer for people who didn’t grow up in undeveloped areas.”

So, how about we add to the list “safe access.”

Further east up this branch of trail, a woman takes in a distant view of the famous bridge, and like countless people do these days, she holds up a phone. But this is no idle snapshot. Sharon Crabill, a Turtle Bay employee, wants a scenic photo of the bridge so that she can paint it. “I want to have it done for the 20th anniversary celebration,” she says, referring the age of the Sundial Bridge.

Photos by Richard DuPertuis

She moves methodically westward, closer and closer to her subject, pausing here and there when she finds a good view through the trees and brush. “I just love being out in nature,” she says, lining up a shot. “Look at that green, and the way the light hits those leaves. It just makes them sparkle.”

Ah! We can add “artistic inspiration.”

On the north side of the river, Michelle Hagen engages in a tradition at least four generations deep, gathering with family at the river’s edge. “Grandpa used to take us bike riding all the way up to Keswick Dam,” says the young mother. “Back then, the only way to get across was the Diestelhorst Bridge.”
Her mother, Debbie Luzier, used to blaze her own trail with dad and brothers before there was a park. “Oh, yeah, we go back,” she recalls. “My grandpa was one of the workers on the Shasta Dam. It was all dirt roads here in the ‘70s and 80s. We rode dirt bikes and horses. Now it’s all paved for the grandkids.”

That’s “family.”

Photos by Richard DuPertuis

Moving westward a few miles, we trace Hagen’s girlhood route over the 109-year-old Diestelhorst Bridge and start for the Keswick Dam. Within a mile, we meet Krystal Loveless, a Shasta County employee, walking with Tina, a friend who’s a retired Shasta County employee. Loveless says she feels right at home on the river, having come from Red Bluff. “This trail is really nice. In Red Bluff, I like the river, but I would actually like to float down the river.”

But not today.

Her friend says Loveless is recovering from surgery, so today was a quick mile, out and back. Loveless says this is the first day she’s walked the Sacramento River Trail for recovery. “It feels good. I’ve been walking, but more in my neighborhood. And then Tina was like, ‘Let’s go up the river trail. Go to the river.’”
At this point, it’s a quarter-mile to the parking lot.

Photos by Richard DuPertuis

So, “healing.”

The last folks we’ll meet today are also a quarter-mile from parking, but on their way out, up the path to where they’ve never been. And for one of them, it’s their first time on the trail. Boris and Josefine Brosche left their home in Germany a year ago to come study at Bethel. Josephine had to return soon after, but Boris stayed and found the river trail, which he began running.

Photos by Richard DuPertuis

It impressed him. “And I thought this should be a place my wife should also see,” he recalls. “And I went back to Germany and told her she must see this trail, and she came back. This is her first day on the trail.”
Josefine reserved comment on the trail itself, because a quarter-mile isn’t much time for a critical evaluation, but she did offer, “It’s beautiful. We love the sun, so we love the trail.”
Boris asked to be identified in this story as “The Joyful German.”

We end today’s list, and excursions with “joy.”

Photos by Richard DuPertuis
About Richard DuPertuis

Richard DuPertuis is a Redding grandfather who writes. His stories and photographs have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. He strives for immortality not by literary recognition, but through diet and exercise. He can be reached at [email protected]

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