Day 1- Sunday August 18, 2019
We’ve been planning this trip for quite some time- ever since we got back from our winter trip last March. We are taking a round about course back to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery where we’ll spend the months of September and October as volunteer hosts once again.
I think this is our number 4, maybe number 5 stint at the hatchery. As in the past our friends Jim and Nancy are occupying our home in our absence.
We headed up US 395 to Susanville, CA (pop. 17,000) . This is a pretty stretch of road once out of Reno. It follows the Sierra Front with it’s rugged pine covered hills north through beautifully colored hills, vertical sided creek beds cut by flash floods, and terminal lakes that have no outlet. Honey Lake is one such lake. It’s an important wildlife refuge for migrating birds. Alfalfa and hay are farmed and cattle are a raised in the area.
Susanville’s (elevation 4100′) main industries were mining, lumber and farming but the first two are no more. The main industry now is the two state prisons located nearby which employ approximately 6000 folks. Driving down main street we noticed an upswing in the commercial district.
We continued on CA 44 through pine dominated hills occasionally opening to large meadowlands. Cattle seemed to be enjoying the rich grasses growing in those flatlands. We come to Old Station, a former stagecoach stop back in the day, now a traveler services oriented community of 51 souls. where we pick up CA 89 but not before viewing the star of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Lassen Peak stands majestically at an elevation of 10,470′. I climbed to it’s summit when I was a pup. On the way up I was anticipating staring down at a boiling caldera of boiling lava. Boy was I disappointed-nothing but a little steam up there! It’s last major eruption was in 1914- the year my mother was born.
At Old Station we transition on to Highway 89 and travel on to McCloud, CA. (1100 souls). At times the highway lines up like a gun site aimed squarely at the majestic snow covered Mount Shasta (elevation 14,179′), the tall conifers framing the mountain on either side of the road. It’s a very picturesque drive.
A little history is in order: The town was named after Alexander McCloud who led a party of Hudson Bay Company trappers into the valley where McCloud now stands. In 1892, A.F. Friday George built the first mill located in what is now McCloud, but it failed because of the difficulty of hauling the lumber over the hill by oxen. In 1897, the town of McCloud was finally established by George W. Scott and William VanArsdale, founders of the McCloud River Railroad Company. The railroad made it economically feasible to transport the lumber to more populated areas.
The McCloud River Lumber Company (known as Mother McCloud) kept the town secure and prosperous. The homes were steam heated and electricity was supplied by the mill. When your faucet leaked or a light burned out, “you’d just call Mother McCloud and a crew would be over to fix it for you” recalled a third-generation McCloud native. Those days ended in 1963 when U.S. Plywood Company purchased the mill, the railroad and the town.
In 1965, U.S. Plywood transferred town properties to John W. Galbreath and Co. whose job was to help company towns make the transition to privatization. The houses were then sold to the people living in them. The McCloud Community Services District was formed and the utilities, such as water, sewer and street lighting, were turned over to the district. They also assumed responsibilities for fire and police protection, library services and some road maintenance. U.S. Plywood promised that there would be years of employment and a good economic future for the town as there were 50 years of timber to be cut. But, after privatization the economy of the town began to deteriorate due to the diminishing timber industry. U.S. Plywood, who had since merged with Champion International Corp., tried hard to keep going, but the days of the big timber companies were gone. In 1979 the lumber mill was closed.
The lands once held by Champion International are today owned by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company and managed by Campbell Timberland Management. Land management companies see their role as one of stewardship over the forests making sure that they survive in a healthy diverse way. The mill closed for good in 2002 when it was determined that it would be too expensive to modernize the WWI vintage machinery.
The McCloud River Railroad ran as the Shasta Sunset dinner train for several yards but that too came to an end. Two working steam locomotives were sold, one to Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad located in Garibaldi, OR and the other to the Virginia and Truckee Railroad located in Virginia City, NV.
Many homes are being purchased and renovated to serve as vacation housing. The area is still a haven to fishermen as the area is nationally known for it’s trout fishery. Even though McCloud is once again facing an uncertain future, it’s unique architecture, the beauty of the surrounding countryside, the purity and taste of the water, and the friendliness of the local townspeople, insure that McCloud will retain it’s charming and attractive atmosphere well into the 21st Century.
Old Dairy Barn on McCloud RV Resort Property
We pulled into McCloud RV Resort after traveling 216 miles- a perfect distance for the first day on the road. The park’s previous name was the McCloud Dance Country RV Park named in honor of the McCloud Dance Country Ballroom, a venue since 1906-” Your Northern California venue for Ballroom Dance, Square Dance, Round Dance, Weddings, Conferences & Events – Dance Packages.” The park is very nice aesthetically- lots of mowed grass, beautiful tall pine trees but not laid out as well as it could have been. But heck, it’s been here for a long time, rigs have changed from 16 foot travel trailers to the largest of all RV’s- the 45 foot diesel pusher motorhome. All in all its still a nice park- but not a resort……..