Monday, June 4, 2012


Tahoe National Forest Road 54

Artist's Rendering
Bassett’s Station is at a crossroads.  East on CA 49 rests Yuba Pass, a wonderful route.  West on CA 49 rests Sierra City and Downieville, a wonderful ride.  North on the Lakes Basin Highway rests Gold Lake, Silver Lake and Graeagle, a wonderful route.  South is Weber Lake and Jackson Meadows Reservoir on the old Henness Pass Road via Tahoe Forest Road number 54, again a wonderful route – one I’d only taken from south to north. 

Given that any ride at another time or in the other direction on a road you’ve already taken is a whole different ride all together, I left Bassett’s Station, fueled with peach pie and coffee and headed south.

Green Acres
A tiny subdivision of summer homes called Green Acres occupies one of those checkerboard square miles of private land just south of the Yuba.  Years ago, a lot came up there for about 20k.  I traveled up 49 several times to walk the property trying to develop a rational for buying the lot, building a cabin within earshot of the river, living close to Eva Gabor, and composing a series of nationally renown literary best sellers.  Waiting too long to formulate a plan, the lot sold, a cabin was built – something like what I would have placed there – and now the little home is on the market.  I stopped, walked the property and added another item to my list of shoulda-coulda-wouldas.

Tahoe Forest Rd 54
Forest Road 54, I’d forgotten, had been, at one time, paved.  After a millennia of summer sun and winter snow and lack of maintenance, said pavement now consists of large dry lakebed sized chuckholes inconveniently dotting the ancient tarmac.  I set my suspension on “mountain terrain” and sallied forth.

Tahoe Forest Rd 54
A wonderful thing about the high country is the collection of olfactory sensations one is likely to encounter.  Smoke from a summer home’s morning fire; must from the moist duff in the forest’s shadow; lilac where some pioneer broadcast seed; pastureland fetid with that which makes pastureland green.  Easily one is lost in these sensations.

Sierra Buttes - filtered
I’m not sure of the origins of Forest Road 54 but tiny roads fork here and there to logged forests, grazing meadows or fishing access.  North facing slopes are thick with firs.  Though one stand I glimpse the heights of the Sierra Buttes, an 8,000 foot granitic uplift a few miles north of the river.  I travel further eying the forest for a break through which to take a photo, but, like the spoiled former belle-of-the-ball, the hummocky pavement reminds me to concentrate on it.  The suspension performs yeoman-like service but the occasional jolt makes its way to my jaw.  The best picture I would get of the Buttes would be filtered.

The road courses around a ridge end and into a glade drained by a stream.  Willows arch over the creek.  Snowplants dot the shaded surface and mules ear sprouts from the recently snow covered clearing.

End of the line
The road continues to climb.  Small banks of snow at the side of the road appear to almost be creeping onto the right-of-way with each tick in elevation.  One covers the right while rut; the next reaches all the way to the midpoint.  A few hundred yards beyond, a mass covers the entire passage – one several soccer venues in length.  It is the one time I wish for my no-longer-owned old Jeep CJ over the GSA.  The big Beemer doesn’t cotton to snow.  The tire clogs quickly, I recall.  And then I fall over.  I recall.

Duc Club at Yuba Pass: circa '08
I opted to reverse course and return to Bassett’s.  The entire round trip to nowhere took thirty-five minutes.  A return will be in order in a few weeks.   In the meantime, I think I’ll head over Yuba Pass.

Today’s Route:  From CA 49 at Bassett’s Station south on Tahoe National Forest Service Road 54 to snowfield.  Return:  Reverse course.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. So...what was the price of the cabin? Are you going to buy it?

  2. $175K. And Eva Gabor has left the area...