Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tahoe National Forest: Boca Historic Townsite Interpretive Trail (Blog Hike #587)

Trail: Boca Historic Townsite Interpretive Trail
Hike Location: Tahoe National Forest
Geographic Location: east of Truckee, CA
Length: 0.6 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: June 2016
Overview: A short lollipop loop through a dismantled town site.

Directions to the trailhead: East of Truckee, take I-80 to Hirschdale Road (exit 194).  Exit and go north on Hirschdale Rd.  Drive Hirschdale Rd. 0.4 miles to the signed gravel parking area on the right.

The hike: For any aficionado of rural California’s many historical mining and industrial sites, the Boca Townsite makes a first-rate destination.  Located at the confluence of the Little Truckee and Truckee Rivers, Boca was established between 1866 and 1868 as a construction camp for the Central Pacific Railroad.  The Central Pacific’s segment of the first transcontinental railroad ran through here, and a lumber mill was built here to supply railroad ties for the construction.
            Later Boca became a major local source for ice cut from area lakes (Boca sits at an elevation of 5600 feet), and in 1876 a brewery was established that would produce international award winning beer.  The famous Comstock silver mine located just across the Nevada state line was the major destination for the ice: temperatures in the mine often reached 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  The brewery continued production until it was destroyed by a fire in 1893.
            By the dawn of the 1900’s, the wheels of industrial change had left the town of Boca behind.  The Comstock mine closed in the 1880’s, and extreme overharvesting of timber caused the Boca sawmill to close in 1908 due to lack of supply.  Refrigeration made natural-cut ice obsolete, and the town’s ice company closed in 1927.  Boca was abandoned and dismantled shortly thereafter.
            Today visitors find only a grassy hillside where the town of Boca once stood, and only small clues hint of the town that was located here.  High mountains above and the Truckee River below make a scenic setting despite the fact that modern I-80 is also in view.  On the bright side, the interstate’s route less than a mile from the site makes this hike a good leg stretch when driving between Reno and Sacramento.
Trailhead: Boca Historic Townsite Interpretive Trail
            The hike starts at the rear of the parking area and to the left of a restroom building.  The packed gravel trail is firm enough to support a wheelchair, but the trail is far too narrow and occasionally too steep to be handicapped accessible.  Numerous interpretive signs tell the history of Boca.
What remains of the school's flagpole
            The trail switchbacks up the hillside on a gradual grade.  The climb passes several rusty metal reminders of the town, the largest of which is the flagpole that stood in front of the town’s school.  Just past 0.2 miles, the trail splits to form its short loop around the townsite’s highest point.  To pass the interpretive signs in the intended order, continue straight and use the trail going right as the return route, thus hiking the loop clockwise.
Boca's cemetery
            At 0.3 miles, you reach the town’s cemetery, a collection of small headstones surrounded by a black iron fence.  A special interpretive sign sits at the cemetery: all of the other signs are black and white, but this sign features a nice blue sky with flowered background.  The sky on the sign looked almost identical to the passing clouds in the real sky on my visit.  Past the cemetery, a brief descent closes the loop, where a left turn will return you to the trailhead and complete the hike.

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