Trail Information (Trailhead to Rush Creek Spring)


The Rush Creek Wilderness Trail

C5 Landscape Database API 2.0 image

Image produced by the C5 Landscape Database API 2.0 comparing the Rush Creek Wilderness Trail in red, (produced by the StepwiseArcHiker) to a three degree of freedom least cost path in blue.

The Rush Creek Wilderness Trail is possibly the world's first computationally derived, unofficial public wilderness trail. It traverses the backcountry of far northeastern California, extending to near the border with Nevada. It was first "discovered" by a computer algorithm called a "virtual hiker" that pre-explored the landscape by "hiking" through a virtual landscape consisting of data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey. The virtual hiker found a traversable hiking path between the trailhead and the terminus, both of which were very much arbitrarily chosen by Brett Stalbaum, the author of many virtual hiker algorithms for C5 Corporation. The results of the virtual hiker's exploration produce a tracklog (computer file) which can be uploaded to a GPS device and then followed by a real hiker through the actual landscape. There is no "trail" per se, only a rugged overland backcountry track that can be followed with the assistance of a GPS device. The trail provides beautiful views of the Great Basin desert environment, plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities, and the unique experience of comparing the wayfinding abilities of a virtual hiker to your own wayfinding skills and intuition.

Phase 1 of the trail (From the Rush Creek Wilderness Trailhead to Rush Creek Spring) was opened by Brett Stalbaum December 27th and 28th of 2005. Phase 2 (from Rush Creek Spring to the Terminus), was opened by Stalbaum and Paula Poole June 19th through 21st 2006.

Before you travel to the Rush Creek Area, please read

How to get to the trail head
Shinn Ranch Road is a barely maintained 4-wheel drive road starting on U.S. 395 roughly between Litchfield and Ravendale, which lie 57 kilometers (35 miles) apart by highway. Past the corral just to the east of U.S. 395 on Shinn Ranch Road is a good parking area for two wheel drive vehicles, at approximately the following coordinates: 10 T 733625 4496155 (NAD 27). From here, you will need to walk the approximately 7 kilometers up the alluvial valley to the trailhead. Alternatively, if you have high clearance 4WD, continue east on Shinn Ranch Road approximately 7 kilometers and look for a place to park off the road, wherever you can. Record a waypoint for your parking spot so that you can find it again, also noting local landmarks. Using GPS, proceed to 10 T 740340 4497120 (NAD 27). Note: the waypoints file can be found here.

Hiking the Rush Creek Wilderness Trail
The trail runs over the watershed between Five Springs Mountain to the South and Rush Creek and Cherry Mountains to the North, following Stony Creek (draining to the West) and Rush Creek (draining to the East.) The climate in this part of the Great Basin varies from below freezing temperatures and rainy or snowy conditions in the winter to well above 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) and dangerously dry conditions during the summer months. Spring is often the best season for backpacking in the Great Basin deserts. Backcountry experience and careful study of the seasonal requirements (particularly relating to water) are mandatory for backpacking safety in this area, as is the possession of topographic maps of the area, a compass, and knowledge of their use. The Rush Creek Wilderness Trail is a virtual trail that can only be reasonably followed with the help of GPS device. Download the tracklog file(s) and then upload them to your GPS device. (The process differs by model. Ron Henderson's G7towin software is a valuable free resource - worthy of a donation. Thank you Ron.) Using the ability to navigate a tracklog (most "outdoor" GPS devices are capable of this) you can follow the Rush Creek Wilderness Trail. The Bureau of Land Management's backcountry guidelines is a useful safety primer. Because the Rush Creek Wilderness Trail passes through BLM land, it is important to review these.

Virtual Hiker Background
The virtual hiker that discovered the Rush Creek Wilderness Trail is called the StepwiseArcHiker. It seeks a reasonable hiking path by examining the terrain in front of it in various directions, and choosing the best sub-segments it can find using both one degree and three degree tracks (the least cost paths) in the various directions. In moments of indecision it produces ridiculous, unnecessary switchbacks, but otherwise produces generally reasonable walking paths. It is a feature of the C5 Landscape Database API 2.0a.

Printable Trail Map

Adobe PDF format, 11x17 inches

Map Locations (Phase One)

Rush Creek Wilderness Trail Trailhead

Trail Head (10 T 740340 4497120, NAD 27), note that waypoints and track files can be downloaded here

1) Arbitrary beginning location for the trail situated on a typical volcanic basalt outcropping.

The Falls

Falls (10 T 741812 4497588)

2) The falls are an intermittent waterfall where a small tributary enters Stony Creek. Note that the trail does not descend into the creek canyon here; stay above the canyon rim if you are heading toward Stony Creek Mouth.

Stony Creek Canyon

Stony Creek Mouth (10 T 742008 4497566)

3) The mouth of Stony Creek Canyon is marked by a historic era graffito "Ed Fallon". Note that the trail does not descend into the creek canyon here; stay above the canyon rim if you are heading toward Falls.

Watershed Divide

Watershed Divide (10 T 744123 4497509)

4) At about 5100 feet elevation in this area the watershed between the Stony Creek and Rush Creek drainages is divided. Along this crest you can see both where you have come from and where you are going.

Virtual Hiker's View

Virtual Hiker's View (10 T 745527 4497085)

5) The virtual hiker made a seemingly unnecessary hike above 5400 feet here, (it is easier to go around the hill than over it), but the extra effort pays off: revealing a nice view of the unnamed draw on the other side of the hill, draining into Rush Creek. It is also a reasonable camp site if you have plenty of water.

Unnecessary Switchbacks

Unnecessary Switchbacks (10 T 746372 4497062)

6) These switchbacks are an artifact of the StepwiseArcHiker algorithm. They are produced when minute advantages are found between steps to the left and right in an oscillating pattern. They are safely cut in mild terrains such as this; so proceeding down to Rush Creek Spring is good idea.

Water Crossing

Water Crossing (10 T 746656 4497398)

7) The virtual hiker found this ideal location for a water crossing at the confluence of two small streams, one descending directly from Rush Creek Spring. Rush Creek Spring may be the best source of water along this section of the trail.

Rush Creek Spring Camp

Rush Spring Camp (10 T 746628 4497273)

8) The terrain in this area of California is dominated by outcroppings of relatively young, sharp, volcanic basalt that has been baked black by the sun (desert varnish). There are relatively few comfortable (or even possible) places to pitch a tent. There is a relatively safe high bank along the stream which makes a comfortable campsite in most weather, although it is not recommended in severe torrential rainfall.

Go to Phase 2 of the Rush Creek Wilderness Trail

(See Photo Journal for more info)

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