Saturday, June 16, 2007

Weaverville to Yreka and Home

Happy trails to you, until we meet again,
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, till we meet again.

--Dale Evans Rogers

The Trinity Alps, as seen from California Highway 3
North of Weaverville, California
Taken June 1st, 2007

A little bit north of Weaverville, I saw a sign along side California Highway 3. This sign warned that no snow would be removed from the roadbed evenings, weekends, or holidays, but since the warning was for a stretch of road some 40 miles ahead, and since the outside temperature was in the 90s, I wasn’t terribly worried about being snowed in. Perhaps I should have been as the Trinity Alps are known to be great snow catchers.

My first concern was to get a good look at Trinity Lake. Part of California’s Central Valley Project, Trinity Lake was created in 1963 with the completion of Trinity Dam. The reservoir behind the dam is the third largest “lake” in California, with a surface area of 16,000 acres. The Central Valley Project (CVP) was created in the 1930s as a way to take water from the mountains and valleys of sparsely populated northern California, and divert it to feed the agricultural needs of the San Joaquin Valley and the thirst of a growing Los Angeles. For good or ill, California wouldn’t be the powerhouse it is without the CVP.

As I drove north on 3, I kept seeing signs pointing out various marinas, camp grounds, and other access points for Trinity Lake, but no water or shoreline. Remember, this was the trip where I’d left all my maps at home, so I had nothing to check as a reference. The further north I got, the more I worried about missing the lake entirely, but that was not to happen. The lake itself is huge, and much of the shoreline is quite a ways east of Highway 3. Eventually the road came back to the shore, and once I found a viewpoint, I pulled off the road, and scrambled down to the water. You could probably spend a week or more boating Trinity Lake and never see another boat except at the marina.

Every ten miles or so I’d pass another one of those signs warning me about the lack of snow removal, but it still was in the 90s, so I pressed on. There were also signs warning that the road was going to get narrow and steep up ahead, but it seemed pretty narrow and steep (at least in places) already. The Saab was usually in 4th gear, and sometimes in 3rd. I’ve rarely had to downshift from 3rd, so I wasn’t sure just what the warnings were all about.

Eventually the road turns west, leaving the Trinity River, and begins its real climb. I’ve never seen a paved road this steep before. The Saab was now in 2nd gear, and on curves I’d downshift to first. Some curves looked, and felt, as if the car were sitting on its rear bumper climbing straight up the mountain. Remember that this is a convertible and with blue sky and sunshine, I had the top down. I could see the road immediately in front of me ABOVE my windshield. As I neared the summit I saw full-sized pickups towing boats heading down the mountain. I wouldn’t want to have that much weight on such a narrow, steep road.

At Scott Mountain Summit, I pulled off and took some pictures. The first thing I noticed was the altitude sign. This summit is at 5,401 feet. Who knew that the coastal mountains were so tall. A second sign I noticed said that the Pacific Crest Trail crossed the highway at this point. Then I noticed the California State Historical Marker which told me that this route had been the original Portland to Sacramento stage route. Now I know those folk were a lot sturdier than we are. I was complaining about putting my trusty Saab through its paces. How on earth would you get a stage coach up and down this road? The road was completed in 1860 and was used as the main north/south route until the railroad was completed in 1887. According to the historical marker, “The Winter road was kept open by Oxen to break trail and sleighs to carry passengers and express.” Those folk were much sturdier than we.

They mean it! (may have to enlarge the pic to see the second sign)
Steepest road I've ever driven, California Highway 3
Scott Mountain Summitt, 5401 feet
Taken June 1st, 2007

The summit was also where I crossed from Trinity County into Siskiyou County. The road down the north side of the crossing was smooth and not nearly as steep as the south side had been. I was able to drive most of the way down in 4th and even 5th gears. At the bottom of the grade is the wide spot known as Callahan. I continued north on 3, but I could have turned west at Callahan, climbed over Carter Summit (6100 feet) and dropped down into the Salmon River canyon, ending up at Somes Bar on California Highway 96. I’ll have to take that road one day, if only because about half way along you come to Methodist Creek.

Being more interested in Methodist churches than Methodist creeks, I drove on to the farming community of Etna which is part of the Scott Valley Parish for the United Methodist Church. Downtown Etna looks like a well preserved Old West town, and there are some lovely Victorian era homes in this community of less than 800 folk. The church, however, looks to be of much newer construction.

I could live there!
Victorian Style Home in Etna, California
Taken June 1st, 2007

It rained on and off all the way from Callahan to Yreka, but the Saab's top stayed down. Frankly after all the heat, the rain felt pretty good. I didn't put the top up until I reached Medford several hours later.

The other church yoked to Etna in the Scott Valley Parish is the Fort Jones UMC. This is a much older building sporting a sign that says “Methodist Episcopal Church 1873.” Just across the street from the church is a carriage house, complete with several horse drawn buggies on display.

It’s a short drive, relatively speaking, from Fort Jones to Yreka, Siskiyou County’s seat on Interstate 5, but you still have one more summit to cross. I’d forgotten just how mountainous northern California really is. The Saab handled Forrest Mountain Summit quite easily, and in no time at all we were in Yreka, trying to find the Methodist church there. Never did find it, and it’s not on the list of churches put out by the Yreka Chamber of Commerce, but then neither is the large RC church I found as I was looking around town.

What I did find was a lot of historic looking buildings. I’ve written about Yreka in my business blog,, and I’ve noted there that Yreka still has seventy-five buildings built in the 1800s. I also found gardens in full bloom, some of which were in the most unusual places. I have to get back to Yreka and give it the time it deserves, but the hour or so I spent driving around town convinced me that there’s a lot here for the traveler.

Twenty-five miles south of Yreka is the town with the most infamous highway sign I’ve ever heard of. Wanting to see the sign again, I turned south on I-5 for a quick side trip to Weed, California. Alas, the state of California must have tired of replacing the sign, for while the option still exists, the sign is now much less controversial than the old one which gave you the choice of Weed or College. Actually, I don’t know anyone who had to make that particular choice. Most folk I know did both.

Oh Tempora, O Mores
California State Highway Sign at the "Central" Weed exit off I-5
Taken June 1st, 2007

I was now over four hundred miles into my Sunday Drive, and had close to two hundred yet to go if I was going to make it back to Smith River without spending another night on the road. My hope was to get to Medford, Oregon, before Costco closed at 8 p.m. Once I had done my shopping at the hundred dollar store, I would grab a bite to eat and continue the final one hundred ten miles back to the coast.

I’m pleased to say that I did, indeed, make it to Costco with 45 minutes to spare. Every now and then I like going to Red Lobster, so that’s what I did in Medford. Choosing immediate seating in the bar, as opposed to waiting for a table in the dining room, I took Khaled Hosseini’s book A Thousand Splendid Suns with me for dinnertime conversation.

I wasn’t able to get much read, however, as a woman dressed much better than I, was seated across from me at the bar. She too was reading, but she turned to me and asked if I were just traveling through Medford. We talked for a bit across the way, and I invited her to join me at my table. When I asked what she was reading, she answered that it was a scholarly treatise on what was at stake in Iraq. We shared an interesting dinner and real conversation that went all over the place—politics, religion, fund raising, education, you name it, we probably talked about it.

After dinner, we said good-bye, and the Saab took me the final stretch home. This particular Sunday Drive covered over 600 miles from start to finish, if we include the 100 miles from Smith River to Arcata on Thursday. The five hundred or so miles driven on Friday wasn’t nearly as tiring as I had expected it to be, probably because of all the stops I made taking photographs. Lots of land covered, and lots of places to go back and revisit. AND, sitting in the rest area on I-5 just north of Weed, I took what I consider to be my best photo yet. I’ve used it as the header for every page in my business blog,, and I remain convinced that Saab really should pay me for it.

Till next time. Happy Trails.

1 comment:

hotproof said...

Bryan, I like your writing style. It imparts this feel as if we're taking the drive along with you. I like the personal touch to it. You are truly a gifted writer, IMHO.

And, I want to mention here that today, as I read this posting, the irony of when you mentioned Khaled Hosseini & his book.

Just hours earlier, I was chatting online with a chat buddy from Michigan. He told me he was going with his best gal pal to Ann Arbor today (Sunday 6/17)to... are you ready.. a book-signing at Borders for Mr. Hosseini & his book "A Thousand Splendid Suns". What a surprise to read that in your blog too on the same day. And... I've NEVER heard Khaled's name mentioned previously or had known anything about him.

Thought I'd share that tidbit.