Monday, September 30, 2019


… by not taking a favorite route, 
I discover a new favorite route…

There are many, many ways to cross from California’s I-5 corridor to the coastal US 101 corridor.  Each is engaging.  Each is repeatable.  Each can become a favorite ride.  State Route 96 from Yreka to Willow Creek can be traveled over and over because it is one of those  favorite rides.

This day – exploring with a riding buddy – I chose an alternative…

After heading south out of Yreka through Fort Jones and Etna on State Route 3, also a favorite route, we head west at Callahan.  Cecilville Road begins as a luscious ribbon of nice pavement, glorious curves and second-gear switchbacks as it winds to a Pacific Crest Trail trailhead at Carter Meadows Summit.  

The view back toward Scott Valley is spectacular and the rugged ridgelines recall alps somewhere in Europe.

An easy descent drops us from alpine forests into mixed deciduous pine and oak along the south fork of the Salmon River.  

Thirty miles and more than an hour on, we arrive in Cecilville…

… where the gas is self-serve…

… and so are the groceries.

Note the box for 'honor system' purchases at the bottom of the chill box which is located just outside the locked front door of the store.

Don’t leave your child unattended!

Also just outside that front door.

Disk golf is available, but we didn’t pack a frisbee.

The stretch between Cecilville and Forks of Salmon gets little use, I suspect as for the entire nineteen miles, we encountered no vehicles.  Which was a good thing.  Even on a motorcycle, passing an on-coming anything would be harrowing.  

The road narrows to perhaps three paces wide except where the gnawing south fork – maybe 300 feet below – has undercut the canyon wall and collapsed a few yards of blacktop.  There, it’s narrower.

Then there’s the rock fall littering what’s left of the pavement.  The drive becomes a delicate, slow dance.  Getting pitched from the saddle after hitting a chunk of schist or quartzite would prove calamitous and, as Butch told Sundance, “The fall’ll kill ya!” 

Forks of Salmon is an even smaller berg with a post office, a campground and, to my view, no mercantile of any kind.  

Horses might be seen loitering in the street – though none this day…

… and near that campground, preserved is evidence of the area’s gold mining past.

Forks is where the two branches of the Salmon meet.  

The main intersection offers a chance for one to follow the north fork of the Salmon east back through Sawyers Bar toward Etna.  

I’ve heard the road is a good one, but it will have to wait as we hold reservations at the historic Eureka Inn out on the coast.  Bucket list it.

West of Forks, the stream carries twice the volume, the canyon is broader, but deeper and the remaining route out to CA 96 is less daunting.  

Latter-day prospectors dredge for gold, fisher people fish and I’m sure the huntin’ is good in season.  I am reminded of this as I round a bend to be stared down by a four-point buck standing in what turned out to be his roadway.

I like remote areas and the roads that carry me there.  I like the echoes of history and admire the rugged people who live in and care for the environs – be they the native Americans of yesteryear or ranchers or miners happy to live off the grid keeping a pocketful of quarters handy in case they need to use the phone.

My imagination wanders and fantasies about the romance of the past abound.  And I think I’ve discovered a new favorite ride.

© 2019
Church of the Open Road Press

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