mountains and rivers – part 1   4 comments

Posted at 12:34 pm in california,rivers

Leaving the redwoods behind, my journey turned east on a path that would eventually lead to Arizona. It was now the ninth of November, and I was becoming increasingly concerned about possible encounters with bad weather on the route that I would follow for the next few days. Although there were quicker and less risky ways to reach my destination, on most of these days, I chose solitude over speed and convenience.

In my last post, I mentioned retracing a little of the previous day’s route in order to cross the Shasta Trinity National Forest region. After leaving Scotia and Rio Dell, I headed north and then pulled off the highway at the junction with Hwy 36. A couple of friends who are familiar with the region had emailed me the night before and both wrote something to the effect of “whatever you do, *don’t* take 36 east through the mountains.” No explanation, just a cryptic warning. Under other circumstances, I probably would have taken those warnings as challenges, but the weather was looking pretty iffy. I knew that there was always the possibility of encountering snow at elevation. Although the first stretch of visible highway looked innocuous, I noticed a warning sign stating that trucks with tandem axles and anything over a certain (very short) length should not use that route. With some regrets, I drove back through Eureka and Arcata to catch 299 heading east along the Trinity River.

In retrospect, I probably made the right decision. Although the higway was winding with occasional changes in elevation, it was a good drive. But on the westward end , as we ascended into the mountains, we passed through heavy mist and light rain — the kind that makes you wonder if you’re actually driving up into the clouds. If the temperature had been a few degrees lower, that mist and rain would have been snow and ice, making the drive treacherous. For once, we were in luck as the weather remained above freezing. As we continued eastward, the sun broke through, leaving only the highest mountaintops shrouded in mist. To the north, the Trinity Alps dominated the landscape. I would have loved to take more photos, but there were precious few safe turn-outs along the route, so I restrained myself from taking any chances for the sake of a few pictures.

At one look-off, there was a terrific view of the Trinity River far below (see photo above – click on all images for larger views). I was tempted to drive down one of the steep river access roads, but decided to save that for another time. I will return. Of that I am sure. But next time, it will be earlier in the season when camping would be a little less dodgy.

On the eastern side of the range, the change in climate soon became apparent. The air was much drier and warmer. The conifers of the western side gave way to live oak, madrone and manzanita. As we descended the countless curving switchbacks above Whiskeytown Lake, the sun broke through and a certain gloominess in my spirit began to lift. I’d been avoiding thinking about my state of mind for several days, but now that I was in the warmth and sunlight, I realized just how much the rain and cold had been weighing me down. Another hour of driving and we arrived at the house of friends, one of whom is another brave C-warrior (you know who you are). After an evening walk, dinner and catching up on the latest news, Sabrina and I caught a few hours of sleep before continuing on our way…

Written by bev on January 25th, 2009