Monday, June 4, 2007

Arcata to Weaverville and Beyond

The Mountains rising above the Fog
Taken from California Highway 299
Humboldt County, California
6/1/07





Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high.

--John Denver

Lots of sunshine on my shoulders last Friday. So much I began to wonder about sun poisoning, but so far no problems and they would have shown up by now. Leaving Arcata at 6 a.m., I headed east on California 299, following the Mad River (don’t ya just love that name) for the first five miles, then climbing rapidly through the fog to the Lord Ellis Summit at 2263 feet. Looking down into the valley below it seemed like I was looking down at a prehistoric landscape rising out of the mist.

Two weeks ago when I drove the Klamath River Highway, I turned west at Willow Creek where I saw many restaurants (well, at least three) all advertising breakfast. My thought in leaving Arcata was that I’d grab a latte before hitting the road, but I’d wait to Willow Creek for breakfast. Apparently, they eat breakfast late in Willow Creek. Not one restaurant in town was open, unless you count Subway, and the place east of town that claimed to open at 7:30 was full of Forest Service folk at 7:15. I drove back into town, stopped at the grocery store and stocked up on provisions for the road, including yogurt, cheese sticks, and one of those cheese, meat and cracker lunch sets. Heading east again I saw a sign out on the side of the road for a “Bakery,” and stopped there. Apparently it had just opened for the day and the sign had just been put out. Only reason I can think of that I didn’t see the sign the first time through town.

Sitting at a table in the small cafĂ©, I wrote out my morning 3 page exercise that Julia Cameron recommends, then had a great breakfast of turkey and cream cheese on a kalabata olive roll. A large mug of chai washed the turkey down, and I was ready to get back on the highway. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the place, but if you’re heading through Willow Creek, it’s right in the middle of town on the south side of the street, next to the real estate office. The folks were friendly, the customers all local (except for me), and the food was outstanding. Before I pulled out of the parking lot, I lowered the Saab’s top. The temperature was in the mid 70s, the sky was blue and the sun was shining.

Father Leo had told me that gas was cheaper in Willow Creek than in Arcata/Eureka, and I believed him. He is a priest, after all. And he was right. Gas was a dime a gallon cheaper in Willow Creek. This makes absolutely no sense to me as Willow Creek is a small town on a side road, forty miles inland from the coastal cities. I didn’t need to fill up there, however, and waited till I got to Weaverville where gas was even less expensive and where I did finally fill up the Saab.

From Willow Creek east the road follows the Trinity River. There were so many photo opportunities that I finally had to ration myself. I would stop only every 10 miles, UNLESS something absolutely special came into view. Then I had to say, “OK, that’s special, BUT….” Highway 299 is a beautiful drive, especially if you’re not in a hurry, the sun is shining, and you’re in a convertible.

Thursday afternoon, driving south from Smith River to Arcata, I passed a spot in Del Norte Redwoods State Park where several Park Service vehicles were parked and lots of rangers were out standing around, looking carefully at the ground, talking on their cell phones. I wondered what was up, but Friday, when I kept seeing Highway Patrol cars driving slowly and making U-turns on the narrow highway, I really wondered what was going on. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the TV show CHiPs, but none of these guys looked like Eric Estrada, unfortunately. I was tempted to flag one down and ask if there was trouble ahead, but somehow I’m just not comfortable stopping a CHP officer on patrol.

California Highway 299 Bridge over the Trinity River
Taken 6/1/07

Nearing the Trinity County seat of Weaverville, I saw a sign telling me that Helena was only one quarter of a mile away, off the road to the north. Since I wasn’t aware that I’d driven so far east as to be in central Montana, I headed north to see what the state capitol looked like these days. Alas, Helena is a ghost town, surrounded by burned forest land. But what a photo op. I must have spent a good hour wandering around taking photos of buildings, ruins, the landscape. There’s one abandoned house in particular that I’d love to use as the location for a nude photo shoot. Don’t know how to get permission for that, or if I have the guts to just go ahead and do the shoot, figuring that it’s always easier to beg forgiveness. Four of my pictures from Helena are available on Eyefetch. The links are Helena California, Unknown Flowering Tree, Ghost Barn, and Ghost Home.

A month ago, driving back from Missoula, I drove through Damascus. Today I found myself in Bagdad, and boy, it’s worse than the press lets on. I saw absolutely nothing except a California Historical Marker indicating that the town of Bagdad used to exist on this spot. Ya know, the Saab really does get around.

My intent had been to check out the site of old Whiskeytown, so I continued east on 299 crossing Buckhorn Summit and entering Shasta County at 3213 feet. Dropping from the crest, I followed a semi and trailer at 20 mph. Two lanes with absolutely no passing points, and one curve immediately following the previous curve for eight miles. I wasn’t terribly upset at the slow speed, but having to breath in the diesel fumes and the smell of burning brakes was not comfortable.

As I neared Whiskeytown Lake, I saw a sign pointing to the south, indicating the trailhead to Whiskeytown Falls. That sounded like something to check out, so off the highway and up the mountain road we went. Everywhere I looked there were signs indicating that I was now in a Fee Area and that I needed to have my day-use fee pass visible should I park the car. All the signs were Department of the Interior/National Park Service signs, and I was confused. I had no idea that Whiskeytown Lake was a national park.

At the trailhead, the parking lot was almost full with only two open spaces, and lots of cars were parked along side the road. I got out briefly to check my options, found that the hike to the falls was 1.7 miles each way, and that I’d have to have my day use permit on the dash of the car. I will give them this, there is a self-service kiosk at the trailhead where you can pay your $5.00 day use fee and pick up the permit, but I had nothing smaller than a twenty in my wallet and no check book with me. Deciding that I wasn’t even half-way along on my Sunday Drive, and since it was already past noon, I climbed back into the Saab and headed down the mountain, stopping only for one photo shoot of the flora in the area (wild lilacs).

At the Whiskeytown Visitor Center I learned that the lake is a National Recreation Area, and that is why it’s administered by the Park Service. As I plan on visiting lots of such places on the trip east, I bought an annual pass for $80.00, and felt comfortable parking the car along the road—well at least as far as the Park Service was concerned. Heading west again, I stopped briefly to see the only building left of old Whiskeytown, and walked along the lake’s shoreline through heavy manzanita growth. I even came across one nude sunbather, and really wanted to join him, but duty and my readers were waiting, so settling into the Saab, I headed west back to Weaverville. By the way, Whiskeytown itself now lies under 120 feet of water. Only the old post office remains, having been moved to dry ground before the dam flooded the valley.

Lunch in Weaverville consisted of a reuben and fries with iced tea. The town, Trinity County’s seat, has long fascinated me, and once before I had stopped to check out some of the history of the place. Last year, returning from Mother’s stay in Redding’s Mercy Medical Center, I drove through Weaverville and wondered why I had been so taken with the town previously.

This trip I would spend more time in town, not enough to do it justice, but enough to decide that Weaverville is worthy of a day or more just for itself. After lunch, I headed down the side street to a park where I found, who’d a thunk, a folf course. There was one handsome man playing, so I waited till he stopped and asked him about the course. Unfortunately, he was a mute, and as I don’t know sign language, we were unable to communicate. But next time I’m in Weaverville, I’ll have my folf disks with me.


Kuan Yin -- One Who Listens
Shrine and Koi Pond at Entrance to Joss House
Weaverville, California
Taken 6/1/07


Back on Main Street, I headed toward the Joss House. Weaverville had a large Chinese community in its early days, and the Taoist temple they built has been turned into a California State Park. I was ready to pay my admission price and visit the temple, but a bus load of elementary children were in line in front of me. I just didn’t want to share my experience with them—although I’m sure I’d have picked up some fascinating insights had I chosen to do so. Staying outside the fence, I got some shots of the temple and the grounds. Next time I’m in Weaverville, I promise to get inside the temple. By the way, the pavement in front of the Joss House has something written on it in Chinese characters. My knowledge of characters comes from studying Japanese, and that was quite a while ago. I have no idea what these characters mean, but I’m sure it’s important to someone.

Weaverville offered one more surprise in the form of the Highland Art Center sponsored by the Snyder Highland Foundation. The Center has studio space currently being used by painters, a sculptor, and a photographer. It offers classes and exhibits on an on-going basis. Click on the link above for more information.

The Grounds at the Highland Art Center
Weaverville, California
Taken 6/1/07

All in all, Weaverville reached out and grabbed me, and I climbed back in the Saab knowing that I’d be back to spend much more time in this small mountain community. Only downside—the outside temperature reading in the Saab, as I started out of town, was 105 degrees. That quickly dropped—to 95 degrees—as I turned onto California Highway 3, but that’s a story for next time.

1 comment:

Carl said...

Thanks Bryan. The Joss House tour is a fascinating and informative one. Steve and I stopped there several years ago while returning from one of our coastal camping trips. Nicole's Restaurant in Weaverville was always a good place to stop for breakfast on the trip over, but The Brewery, the great burger and blackberry pie place we'd always hit on the way back was gone last time we were there, in 2004. Nothing lasts forever, especially good restaurants in small towns. Can't wait for the rest of the trip!