Taking the scenic route
Finding my way around the Golden State is sometimes an adventure in itself. To help, out comes the map just so I know how to get to where I want to go (from Fresno).
Okay, so maybe you’re now thinking to get to Dunsmuir, it’s the 99 (State Route 99) to Manteca or Sacramento and then over to I-5 (Interstate 5) for the rest of my travels and in eight or so hours from start to finish, I’m there. Ordinarily, that might have been the plan. But, not this time.
On this journey, I wanted to see Lake Almanor, Burney Falls, places I, prior to that time, had only seen in photos. They looked like interesting places to visit.
So, at Marysville, north of Sacramento, you might say I veered off course. From the former I exited 99 and proceeded to first head north and then northeast and east on Highway 70. This took me to a town called Keddie, named for Arthur Walter Keddie who surveyed a route for the Western Pacific Railroad through the Feather River Canyon.
At Keddie, meanwhile, using highway 89, this would allow me access to Lake Almanor, to the town of Almanor itself and ultimately to Chester, California and there, I could switch to combination routes 36/89 where, in heading west, this would afford a way to and through the Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lassen National Park Ski Area in particular. No, I wasn’t going skiing. But, I figured a ride through the ski area would have proved quite scenic. What I hadn’t counted on, on the other hand, was even on this date in June (I think it was June 4th), was snow deep enough on the ground, just enough to dampen my plans. I understood that the pass would be open in two days. Call it dumb luck.
At any rate, I found my way to Manton. From there it was this steep, I mean really steep (and windy) climb to reach Shingletown. As it was getting on in the day, and it would be quite a ways to get to Old Station where I could get back on 89 and be on my way to the falls at Burney, I opted instead to head west to Redding where I could once again resume my travels north on I-5. That I neither traveled through the Lassen National Park Ski Area nor to Burney Falls, there is always next time. While not three-for-three, looking on the bright side, one-out-of-three of my desired destinations visited, was better than none.
When exploring different areas, one typically needs a base of operations. On my travels to South Lake Tahoe, I slept on the hard ground, in a sleeping bag, of course, but still. Just a step up from this was the tent I overnighted in on that one Yosemite National Park visit.
On this adventure, on the other hand, just outside of Dunsmuir, I lodged at a railroad-themed park spending the night in a caboose. Accommodations vary. A person can choose from cabins and cabooses and, based on what I now understand, there are provisions for both recreational vehicles and tent camping too.
Cabooses were redone, obviously. At one end was a bathroom with a toilet and wash provisions and throughout the rest of the railroad way car (as cabooses are sometimes called) beds, a T.V., a table and chairs, clothes closet and free-standing dresser; what you would typically have in a room at a motel. Some even have wood paneling throughout. The scenes out the window and around the premises, were captivating. I remember, off in one direction, I could see Castle Crags – an interesting physical formation in its own right. When it came to dining, I ate dinner in the on-site rail passenger car. To add to the ambiance was a static display composed of a steam locomotive situated adjacent to a water tank.
Now add clean air to the mix, and what you have are all the ingredients for a perfect way to spend a vacation.
Short journeys from the railroad park took me to Dunsmuir, known to many as a railroad town and Mount Shasta, both the mountain and the town. There are many locations and different vantage points from which to view the mountain – volcano, actually.
Speaking of which, when I was traveling north on 89 in the vicinity of Lake Almanor which, itself is a sight to behold, I recall seeing igneous rock everywhere it seemed, evidence of a volcanic eruption from, presumably, Mount Lassen.
In my next and last adventure in this series, I tell of my time spent at the crest of the Sierra Nevada range along Highway 70 through what is known as Beckwourth Pass and specifically at a rustic hotel in the community of Loyalton. While none of the previous clean-air experiences had snow in them to any appreciable degree, this one did.
Image credits: Michael Grindstaff (top); Siskiyou County Visitors Bureau (middle); California Department of Water Resources (bottom)
– Alan Kandel
This post was last revised on Dec. 8, 2019 @ 4:21 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.