We had an extra day during the week of Thanksgiving and decided to take a hike along the South Fork of the Merced River. The river itself is designated a Wild & Scenic River and there is a trail some three to four miles from Highway 140 to the old mining site of Hite Cove. The trailhead starts some 20-plus miles northeast of Mariposa (and a few miles west of the Yosemite National Park entrance) in Mariposa County, California.
November is a good time of the year to make the hike if you want to have the trail to yourself. The wildflowers that draw most visitors won’t be out for another few months. The scenery is nice nonetheless. Long terraces of moss-covered stones line the river and are reflected from the limpid slow-moving river.
Because the sun is low in the sky this time of year, Gimasol Ridge (to the north) kept the canyon shaded and cool in many paces while the bright sun also warmed us up in other places. The few autumn colors were clothed in a diffuse November light that made for a beautiful day.
There weren’t many insects out so late in the year but we did find a few things. Most notable were the several lady bird beetles (Hippodamia convergens) that had congregated en masse on the pines and other plants near the metal ruins just down-stream from Hite Cove.
Apparently Hite Cove was a mining settlement. It was named after John Hite who discovered gold here. There was once a small settlement - including a post office – during the late Nineteenth Century. There are still a few large processing tanks with fittings still attached, along the trail. In a few places you can still see old stone walls and even an old house.