Day 1818/22 – 24 Hours in California
I don’t know what it is about California, but for some reason i’m uneasy when visiting the state. Now, this is not true when visiting San Francisco… i love San Fran and would live there in heartbeat if i could ever afford it. As i mentioned elsewhere i also like Crescent City very much, too, and feel completely at-home when poking about. But the balance of the state… i can’t put my finger on it, but i feel perennially ill at ease, like i’m a secret agent who could be found out at any moment. One false move, as it were. I mention this because i just returned from an overnight at Castle Crags State Park which is only 89 miles south from where i’m currently typing these words.
California has an abundance of State Parks most dating back to the days of the WPA. The scale of the roads within the parks, the size of the campsites and the unexpected attention to detail of retaining walls and rock stairs all harken back to a very different world. Many of the original parks are not equipped to handle the mammoth RVs in use today. The campsites seem sized to accommodate a modest car and a sizable tent. Even my little 19 foot trailer seems bigger than intended.
But this trip was more about exploring the area and less about the natural environment… i prefer not to hike alone in bear country and without a single hand-held map.
The two towns along the route south are Mt. Shasta City and Dunsmuir. Everybody knows about Mt. Shasta… it’s akin to Lake Tahoe and Niagara Falls as a tourist destination. It’s old-school tourism. Before the days of i5 there was route 99, a much slower road, but a superhighway of its day. 99 brought tourists to the railroad and gold towns of Dunsmuir and Yreka and those quintessentially american things, motels, became an industry unto themselves. This was probably a good thing since the gold had long since be exhausted and the labor-intensive steam locomotives had given way to diesels. Scenery was all that remained.
But maybe that’s what creeps me out; the feeling much of the area is akin to a horse that was ridden hard then put up wet. Why is Dunsmuir still there? The railroad jobs are all but gone, the once majestic theatre, at least from what i could tell, is vacant, the aging motels haven’t been maintained like the classic art deco hotels of South Beach. I would argue the town persists largely due to inertia. And that’s why i feel like a spy… i’m an outsider useful only insofar as i spend money. No, that’s too strong, but that’s the essence of how i feel, i’m just not attaching words with sufficient accuracy. Like many regions of New York State, and the Iron Range, and the town of Anaconda, the area feels played out. Used up. Places such as this and those i mention seem to be abiding ongoing human habitation grudgingly. I imagine nature feeling much like how the aborigines of australia were described by the more observant of the whites that invaded their land: they want nothing more from us than that we leave.