This May, sadly, not so much. The rivers were up but business seems down. The grocery is closed, although the sign mentions something about being in escrow. The Gallows eatery also closed but with no such sign. An ad in the window of the offices of Sierra County Realty shows that the Grubstake, a world class restaurant with living quarter upstairs was being marketed for what seemed an unreasonably low price. At least for “world class.” But, the hardware store is open as is the St Charles Saloon. And the Mountain Messenger – California’s oldest weekly newspaper (Mark Twain wrote here) – still publishes that which is fit to print and then some.
A mile west of town, the Coyoteville Café was open. I recalled that, in the past, it was the one place I could depend on not to be open. Today, a trio of dual sport motorcycles, including a KLR, was parked outside. Good enough for me.
I entered, sat at the counter and ordered: “I’ll try the chili burger and fries.”
“No fries.” The proprietress, cook, waitress, bottle-washer looked sheepishly resigned.
“I’ll try the chili burger.”
“It’s award winning chili!”
“Really? Yuba Pass cook off?” (The annual anybody who is anybody social event in Sierra County.)
“Yeah, but only fourth place this year.”
“Judges from the east side this time?”
BACK IN TOWN in the window of the realty office, next to the Grubstake ad, is a flyer for a place up in Cal Ida City. I’d driven past Cal-Ida Road many times but never have I tarried up that way. Today there could be no excuse. Only about eight miles west of Downieville, Cal-Ida Road twists and scales the north slope of the Yuba River canyon.
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Cal Ida, in its most recent iteration, was a mill site. The area is graded flat and remnants of the concrete work supporting the long-gone lumber mill still poke out of the ground. A few cabins are dotted around the area with a modern home, having been constructed in 2009 the centerpiece of “town.” The whole area is privately owned and, as noted earlier, for sale. I didn’t pause for pictures because it felt I might be invading the property owner’s privacy snapping pixels here and there. However, a nice “virtual tour” of the town site is available from Sierra Realty at http://www.sierracountyrealty.com/idxSearch/listingDetail.asp?mls=1039889&offset=6 Look for the “virtual tour” button and enjoy a five minute display of the property and the historic buildings that go along with. Basically, that’s Cal Ida.
Brandy City lies two miles beyond Cal Ida. The map shows a nest of roads along this ridge top, all of which seem to lead back to here. It seems building thoroughfares into and out of the tributary canyons of the Sierra come at a steep price. I look at my gas gauge, then longingly at the map, shrug, and turn for home, adding yet another place name to my evolving bucket list.
Church of the Open Road Press