Clean-air Adventure Series: Loyalton, California

During my younger days I traveled far and wide. Landing a teaching job, albeit a part-time position, at California State University, Long Beach in the Engineering and Industrial Technology Department in Sept. 1987 and extending to June ’88, during those nine months I vacationed twice. This clean-air adventure is in reference to the Memorial Day weekend getaway in 1988.

My vacation getaway was to Loyalton, California, located on State Route 49 (the Gold Rush highway).

Stampede Dam and Reservoir

So, why did I pick Loyalton as a vacation spot? Truth be told, that wasn’t in the original plans. Snow wasn’t in those plans either. But, on that weekend, that year, at that elevation (5,000 feet), the temperature dropped considerably (in fact, it was raining in Auburn on Interstate 80 northeast of Sacramento when I passed through), and overnight at that altitude, rain turned to snow, with as much as six inches of the frozen white precipitate covering the ground.

Yeah, I know, that still doesn’t exactly explain how I came to stay in Loyalton.

Memorial Day weekend being a busy travel time, finding somewhere to go to where there aren’t massive crowds is tough enough, especially where California mountain-based resorts and retreats are concerned.

I had visited the area before – it is located northwest of Reno, Nevada – and relished the thought of going back again, over – in this case – the 1988 Memorial Day holiday.

Now, there are plenty of campgrounds dotting the area. But, with that surprise weather event on the late date in May, that occurrence pretty much forced my hand and the hands of the many others who, like me, arrived mostly or totally unprepared.

You see, it fast became a scramble to find substitute area lodging.

I remember finding what, if I recall correctly, was a bed-and-breakfast lodge near the town of Clio located along Highway 89. That didn’t pan out.

However, the owner called around to see what if any other area lodging was available and, lo-and-behold, hotel accommodations in the town of Loyalton were located. So, that is where I went to hunker down and get out of the cold.

The hotel where I stayed was unlike – in a good way – any I had ever stayed in before. Rustic in appearance, I felt as if I had gone back in time to an earlier era. It is what, in my opinion, gave the edifice character.

Upon my awaking somewhere around 5 or 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, when I got up to look out the window, I saw snow all around. Hastily getting dressed, I made a bee line out the door, got into my car and drove to a location to watch the sun come up which, when it did, would cast its radiant glow on nearby snow-covered mountain tops. I wasn’t disappointed in the least because needless to say, for my troubles, it was well worth the effort.

It was and is one of those truly priceless moments and memories, respectively.

To put in words what I had witnessed, well, it goes something like this: Looking to the west, the mountains were partially hidden from view by what I would call low-lying wispy clouds, a break through which blue skies could be seen, under which snow had covered everything; not the distant horses in the scene but everything else, not unlike frosting on a cake. The sun shined down on a patch of land accentuating every object there, pine trees, brush and all. It was an amazing, dramatic, stunning scene to say the least.

A little later on would find those low-lying clouds more dispersed, revealing more of the skies as well as the snow-covered mountains off in the distance with the sun’s light this time projected on the sides of that uplifted strata. Had I remained asleep I never would have known what I missed. I’m so glad I didn’t miss a beat.

It isn’t just that, by 11:00 a.m. all of the snow that had been in evidence just a couple hours earlier, had completely disappeared from sight. Temps had obviously warmed. That part was also amazing in the sense that I had never before seen anything like that.


Air Quality Awareness Week comes around once a year. I could think of no better way to recognize such than to tell of my experiences with and in air that’s fresh and clean.

My one regret about the presented locales visited is that even though I have photos of some of those experiences, they are in print format and I haven’t a scanner through which I can create digital re-creations for posting online.

The many places traveled to took some effort to get to, but every place visited, was indeed worth the energy expended.

Where I live in Fresno, this week has been an interesting one. Mild temperatures in the beginning with reasonably good air quality giving way to hot temperatures mid-week (today the temperature is supposed to have warmed to 99 degrees) with the air quality unhealthy for sensitive groups (the predominant pollutant ozone), returning to cooler temperatures and much more favorable air quality by the end of the week. All of this during Air Quality Awareness Week 2017.

Bucks Lake

Image credits: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (upper); Plumas National Forest (lower)

– Alan Kandel

This post was last revised on Dec. 9, 2019 @ 5:47 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

1 thought on “Clean-air Adventure Series: Loyalton, California”

  1. I grew up in Sierra City, just over Yuba Pass on Highway 49 to the west of Loyalton. Your description of a sunrise over freshly fallen snow brought back many memories of similar mornings, a few of which I captured on film – more old school memories. Thanks for taking me back there.

Comments are closed.