Sunday, November 21, 2010


MID-NOVEMBER and the time-space between storms ranges from three to fifteen days. One never knows. So, with the first hint of a sunny day, I find a place to ride.

Living in Chico (95926) for twenty-plus years, I’d traveled the old road to Paradise (95969) countless times: as a kid, in the back of the ’54 Ford Ranchwagon to have Chinese served by an old red-headed waitress at the Pagoda; as an eleven-year-old, on a black Schwinn “Racer” with a Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub; as a teen with his first drivers license and a girlfr… Well, never mind.

It had been at least a quarter century since I’d made it back this way.

Google Images
HONEY RUN ROAD is a mere six miles from the hollows of Butte Creek Canyon to the top of its southern rim at Paradise by the old furniture store. The historic covered bridge was operable forty years back. We’d crossed it several times somewhat troubled as its timbers creaked and groaned under the weight of the station wagon while on our way to get Chinese. Then, one rainy night about this time of year, the farm-boy who lived behind our acreage west of Chico, got himself drunked up, took his dad’s pick-up and drove to Paradise via the Skyway.  He turned at the furniture store, came barreling down the Honey Run and crashed into the south bridgehead. The site never again endured the rumble of vehicular traffic.  About a year and a half later, a concrete and steel replacement was opened.

Google Images
Beyond the Covered Bridge, nearest the stream course, the road is relatively broad and the curves gentle. What used to be cattle pasture has yielded to high-tone homes of those seeking and inadvertently destroying a rural life style all at the same time. Further up, the Honey Run conforms to the canyon wall, narrows, and the pavement is poorly maintained. The center stripe is gone. The gradient is steep. The road twists and bends into little tributaries and out around promontories offering a panoramic view of the canyon and the Cascades. About the time I hope to stop for a picture, a car rounds a blind curve. I elect to continue rather than risk being hit.

BEFORE WE KEPT TRACK OF TIME, the land upon which we walk was sea floor. The collision of the North American Plate with the Pacific Plate prompted an uplift. Ancient rivers flowed easterly toward the Pacific. They cut deep channels in this soft former ocean bottom. Then, emanating from a deep fissure a ways to the east, volcanic action squeezed molten magma from the deep batholith. A viscous layer filled the old river canyons. Over time, it hardened like plaster in a mold. Soon the old ridge tops were of softer stuff than basalt that filled the streams. Millennia passed. Water, ice, wind and any other degrading element God could create broke those soft former-ridges down. The result is a series of canyons that are near the photo-negative of what had existed before.  In them flow the rivers and streams of the present day.  Including Butte Creek.

ABOUT HALF WAY UP the Honey Run, kids from Paradise come down to leave their mark on the land. Well, the pavement. Spray painted for all to see are the primitive etchings of this young and virile crowd. “PHS – Class of 97.” “PHS – Class of 04.” “Stacey (heart) Bill.” “GS + DD – True Love 4ever.”

I drove slowly up this windy section searching the graffiti, only to discover my mark, left in about 1970, had long ago faded.

Google Images
Close to the top, I propped the Beemer on its side stand and hiked fifty yards to one of those promontories. East, a minor bank of clouds obscured Lassen Peak, but the view up the canyon was as clear as a thousand yesterdays. In the depths, I could pick out the old steel bridge at Centerville and recalled hiking the flume that brought water to the miners of that section. Beyond that, I could picture Helltown and the little cemetery with but six markers – one with “Lost on the Steamer Golden Gate” chiseled under the name of the departed. I recalled never catching a fish while fishing in Butte Creek, running out of gas on a Trail 90 up toward Nimshew, and of getting married at the Scout Camp at Butte Meadows, just this side of the crest of the Cascades.

LETTING THE LOW SUN’S rays soak into my black riding jacket I found myself confused as to the source of the warm feeling. Was it indeed the sun or had it something to do with a flood of memories.

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. PA: Curious....what mark did you leave in 1970?

  2. Not sure I rightly recall, but it may have had something to do with " a teen with his first drivers license and a girlfr… Well, never mind."