Friday, August 19, 2011



TABLE MOUNTAIN (Butte County) is a Mecca for wildflower lovers, bicyclists and those who’d like to step back in time. Decades ago the family would annually trek across the flats over to Coal Canyon to watch spring run-off tumble over a precipice on the mesa’s edge. Even now, when possible we venture back to enjoy the lupine and let the dogs romp.

But that’s in the springtime. Yesterday, I engaged in another one of those efforts to not return home using the same route, and found myself atop Table Mountain. It was a dog-day August afternoon.  The air had stilled and the temperature rose in an effort to steal the last moisture from the already-well-parched ground.

CHEROKEE ROAD exits State Route 70 about a dozen miles northeast of Oroville. The road is paved and patched – too narrow to be considered secondary but too surfaced to be considered primitive.

A mile in, Cherokee the town rests. Or what’s left of it. The corpse of what may have been the Wells Fargo office rises out of the weeds; the vault’s steel door long removed.

Across the way, one of the few remaining buildings – used to be a little general store and museum many springtimes back – stands with paint cracking and a “Closed” sign hung haphazardly from a darkened window.

Relics of the gold era litter the yard of the building…

Butte County Historical Society

…recalling a history in which the quest for gold literally knocked holes through solid rock.

Southeast out of town, Cherokee Road winds through dry fields and brittle oaks.   

A sign entices me to pause at the cemetery.  An acre or so of bare ground greets the visitor.  But markers dated as recently as last year gleam nearby in the afternoon sun.  Plots are still available. (Act now!) 

But history whispers its timeless tales a few hundred yards in.  A huge Juniper grows out of one grave…

…and more than a few markers remind us that, while times may be tough now, our tribulations cannot compare with those of generations past.

At a stoppage for roadwork, what appears to be a derelict cabin from years gone by is spotted beneath a stand of trees.   

Upon closer examination, from the seat of the idling Breva, curtains are noted: draped inside wood framed windows.  Certainly there is a mix of home from mobile to ultra-modern up this way, but someone appears to be eking it out in a manner that should, by comparison, make most of us feel pretty fortunate.

Down the road a sign alerts us to a covered bridge.  There are few of these left in the entire country and only two in Butte County.  I sojourn over.  The marker recalls the site as Oregon City.  In one of those full-circle moments, I read that the earliest white folks here had traveled with Peter Lassen across the Lassen Applegate Route I’d visited six weeks ago.  The Lassen Trail was a cut-off from the historic Oregon Trail.  These folks, formerly intent on finding Oregon, settled here and named it Oregon City.

The little covered bridge is in excellent repair.  It spans a seasonal creek that, this day, is dry.  The road passes through the shelter and leads to the marker, which, outside of an old yellow house and a much newer ranch, is the only immediate evidence that Oregon City ever was.

The Church of the Open Road endorses finding the long way home.  Those little roads sketched so lightly on the map often open doors to our collective pasts.  Stepping into history gives us a healthy perspective on our todays and tomorrows.

Pack water.


Note:  Clicking on any (well most) images will prompt them to enlarge.

Previous posts that may explain that “coming full circle” remark:

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

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