Lassen Volcanic National Park in the age of pandemics

Touring Lassen Volcanic National Park in late summer…

Boiling hot springs, steaming fumaroles, sulfuric mud pots, multiple volcanic peaks – fire and ice. Like a small version of Yellowstone National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park happily lies only 3 1/2 hours from San Joaquin County. One of nine national parks in our state, it’s both inspiring and much more lightly visited. 

Hoping to get out of the wildfire-smoked skies of central California, we looked at the air quality forecasts and bet that Lassen might be out of the smoke. We took the scenic route to get there, following Highway 49 through Nevada city, Downieville, Sierra City and connecting to Highway 89 for a route the took us past scenic Lake Almanor.

The Lakes Region lies above Sierra City, framed by the rugged Sierra Buttes North.

Towing our vintage 64 Scotty camp trailer, we turned off Highway 49 just above Sierra City, following the Gold Lake Road into the Lakes District and spent one night on beautiful Gold Lake at  6500 feet, lying in the shadow of the Sierra Buttes North. The Buttes are jagged peaks, with multiple lakes and campgrounds – though the smoke here was still pretty thick, we made a note to revisit in clearer weather.

Happily, as we reached Lake Almanor and started to ascend towards the southwest Lassen Park entrance, the smoke dissipated and we found ourselves in clear air and blue skies. 

Our Scotty trailer, with Lake Helen and Mt. Lassen in background.
Hwy. 89 winds 32 miles through the park, with frequent stops to
see the volcano’s might from the 1914 to 1921 volcanic activity period.

Lassen, at the south end of the Cascade Mountain Range, is part of the “pacific ring of fire“, a string of volcanoes surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Lassen formed about 27,000 years ago from a volcanic vent on the flank of Brokeoff volcano (which is about a half million years old), resulting in one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes, rising to 10,457 feet. 

The visitor center explains the four types of volcanoes found throughout the world, all of which can be found within the park. Those include composite volcanoes (Brokeoff Volcano), plug dome (Mt. Lassen), shield (Prospect Peak) and cinder cone (Cinder Cone). Mature children and teens will have an interesting time attempting to identify these four types of volcanoes on the park’s horizons.

Bumpass Hell’s boardwalk winds its way through this eerie hydrothermal area.
Hot Rock in foreground, just after the 1915 explosion that leveled the Devastated Area (courtesy, National Park Service photo)

Towing our trailer, we proceeded on to our reserved campsite in scenic Manzanita Lake Campground on the park’s northwest corner. It’s a big campground with several hundred sites spread throughout tall fir and pine trees. We sited our trailer, then walked to the southern campground end and hiked up the Manzanita Creek Trail in the direction of Lassen Volcano (All Trails is a good app to identify nearby hiking trails and their degrees of difficulty).

The next morning, we started early, retracing about half our drive through the park to reach the Bumpass Hell trailhead. Here a 3.5 mile round trip hike took us first up, and then down into the valley called Bumpass Hell. In 1864 mountaineer and explorer Kendall Bumpass first discovered this hissing, steaming hydrothermal area. He and his partner, Major Pearson Reading filed a claim with the intention of developing it as a tourist attraction and mining its minerals. Soon thereafter, Bumpass broke through the thin crust into a boiling mud pot at nearly 240°, causing severe burns and the loss of his leg, interrupting his development dream.

Author’s spouse Susan next to 25,000 lb. boulder hurled off Mt. Lassen,
three miles away, leveling the Devastated Area in 1915.

The 32 mile drive through the park, from south west to north west entrances offers a wealth of interesting points-of-interest, including the Sulfur Works, the Bumpass Hell trail head, the Lassen Peak trailhead (requiring a 2000+ foot ascent of the south east side of the peak), Kings Creek trailhead down to Kings Creek Falls, the Summit Lake area with two campgrounds and the Devastated Area, which was leveled by the volcanic explosion, covered with pumice, ash and mudflows and littered with boulders the size of cars blasted off the peak almost 3 miles away. Stop further down the road at Hot Rock, a huge boulder that remained hot to the touch for days after the volcanic blast. The park is interlaced with 150 miles of trails including 18 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

Visitors can find three campgrounds, Manzanita Lake, Summit Lake North and Summit Lake South. The less-visited eastern side of the park is interlaced with several score large and small lakes, the Painted Dunes area, lava beds and more. It’s a hiker’s paradise, with limited vehicle access to the eastern, wilderness-designated portion of the park.

Lovely Manzanita Lake, looking NW, from the campground on its shore.

Please practicepandemic/leave no trace methods, donning facemasks, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from fellow visitors and packing out all of your trash.

How to get there: from Stockton it’s about 250 miles taking the most direct route (I-5 to Red Bluff, then east on Hwy. 36 and 89 to the park’s southwest entrance). The scenic route, about 100 miles longer, is up I-5, east on I-80, follow scenic and historic Highway 49, connecting with highway 89 into the park. Definitely check the road report – Hwy. 89 through the park is not open until July and close early in fall due to snows.

What’s nearby: Mount Shasta and Burney Falls State Park to the north; Chester and pretty Lake Almanor to the east, and Redding and Shasta State Historic Park to the west.

Burney Falls State Park is a nearby destination.

For more information: Lassen Volcanic National Park, nps/gov/lavo, (530) 595-6100.

Contact Tim,, or follow him:  Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Northern California, Sierra Nevada | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Record website allows access to hundreds of travel articles!

Search on-line travel features in the Record; a huge variety of destinations and travel topics!

Did you know the Record offers a wide variety of travel features, well over 300 articles, which can be selected by “Category” (various portions of the USA and Canada, Europe and beyond)?

Hence, you can go to the Stockton Record’s blog site, choose ‘Valley Travel: Little Places That I Know’, go to the upper right-hand corner of my home page (under my winsome picture, as you will see, above), and you’ll find “Categories”.

You’ll find this portion of my blog in upper right hand area of the blog home page.

Find the “Categories” option in the upper right-hand corner of my travel blog home page, then click on the appropriate selection. Those categories include:

Canada, Eastern,
Canada, Western,
Central California,
East Coast US,
Midwest US,
Mountain West (Montana Wyoming, Utah, Colorado),
Northern California,
Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho),
Sacramento/Capital region,
San Francisco Bay Area,
Sierra Nevada,
Southeast US,
Southern California,
Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas),
Stockton/San Joaquin county,
Teardrop and tiny travel trailers,
United States beyond

Hence, if you’re headed to the Pacific Northwest, click that category and you’ll find dozens of articles on places and special sites in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. If you have a hot spot for teardrop and tiny travel trailers, click that category for scores of articles about touring the US and Canada in tiny, efficient travel trailers. Freshen your travel planning with advice on just those places you want to go, places you’d like to get to, or modes of travel! Just into a New Year; time to freshen up your travel “bucket list”!

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on FacebookInstagram or Twitter; or, email him at Happy travels in your world!

Posted in United States beyond! | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Road trip; Calavaras County, Murphys, Big Trees, Bear Valley, Lake Alpine!

Come explore: Calavaras County, Murphys, Big Trees, Bear Valley, Lake Alpine!

Resorts packed with family activities, towns awash in gold rush history, towering redwood trees, high Sierra lakes and…glamping tents… all along Highway 4 bisecting nearby Calaveras County.

Take a break from the valley heat and our forest fire smoke-laden skies with a road trip up to Calaveras County, and prepare for a laid-back adventure.

New Melones Lake is just south of Highway 4 and is one of the largest reservoirs in the state, winding miles easterly into the Sierra. Houseboats, ski and fishing boats are offered for rent at the marina of the same name (, and two nearby campgrounds just off Highway 49 offer scenic camping options. For an interesting detour, turn south off Highway 4 on Parrots Ferry Road, to the tall concrete bridge over the lake. On your approach to the bridge, note that the center span of the bridge has about a five-foot sag (the drupe not intended) that required special bracing added underneath the bridge to shore it up.

Grove of towering redwoods in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

Stop in Murphys, long a favorite among gold rush fans. Main Street reflects success in  historic preservation and offers many places to dine or spend an overnight. Favorite eateries include the historic Murphys Hotel and, just down the street, the highly-acclaimed Alchemy Restaurant. A variety of quaint shops, B&Bs and wine-tasting outlets (Twisted Oak, Zucca Mountain Vineyards and Milliare are favorites) line a pleasant. shady five-block walk. Ever-popular Ironstone Vineyards and Winery is just a few miles above the town, offering fine wines and outdoor entertainment.

Cruising east, visit Calaveras Big Trees State Park, home to scores of towering redwoods reaching up to 250 feet tall. Largest, in the park’s South Grove, is the Louis Agassiz tree, reaching well over 250 feet in height and 25 feet in diameter. The nearby North Grove is home to the Empire State Tree, almost as large. The park offers brisk, fairly level hiking options, camping among the redwoods, cabins for rent and tours led by rangers offering big tree’s insight.

Historic Murhpys Hotel anchors their venerable main drag and is a favorite for both food and drink in this charming old city.

Heading up highway 4, the town of Arnold offers several places for a snack and late-trip provisioning. Circling the town find the increasingly popular Arnold Rim Trail (, featuring a popular hike to take families up 900 vertical feet on a 4 mile round-trip hike to the top of Cougar Rock for marvelous sunset views spreading across the Sierra foothills.

Bear Valley Resorts popular “glamping tents” offer visitors all the comforts
and view deep into the Mokelumne River Valley.

Bear Valley Resort has long focused on summertime family fun with a host of adventure packages and variety of lodging options. Boasting an adventure park, hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, kids activities, archery, outdoor movies, good food and live music, it’s a mecca for families; though plan pandemic precautions, including masks and plenty of social distancing.

The resort continues to offer it’s popular ‘glamping tent’ options, with expedition-style tents pitched with a stunning view into the Mokelumne River Canyon. The tents are fully furnished with queen bed, bedding, rugs, chairs, tables, lamps wood-burning heaters, perfect for couples or small families (with additional sleeping options). RV camping and hotel accommodations are also offered; and you can plan your coming winter ski or snow-shoe trip!

Bear Valley Village, Bear Valley Mountain and nearby Lake Alpine offer visitors lots of options to venture out into the scenic mountain country. The area is a boon for hiking, fishing, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing and camping. Lying just east of Bear Valley, Lake Alpine is a high Sierra gem set at 7,388 feet, with canoeing, kayaking and fishing and the Lake Alpine Resort as well as nearby campgrounds in the Stanislaus National Forest. For a challenging hike, take the trail up to Inspiration Point for great sunrise or sunset views. For four-wheelers, head south from Lake Alpine on the Slick Rock 4WD Trail to reach both Utica Reservoir and Union Reservoir.

Lake Alpine offers several resorts, fishing, swimming and fine views on Hwy. 4.

Press ever higher, to historic Ebbetts Pass at8,736 feet, reputed to be the first Sierra pass crossed by a non-Native American, when Jedediah Smithcrossed the Sierra in spring, 1827. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail crosses here, offering high altitude hiking options going north or south with the most alluring Sierra views. Views headed either north or south are breath-taking, though altitude of 9,000-plus feet also take one’s breath away!

How to get there: Take Highway 4 east to reach New Melones Reservoir, Murphys, Calaveras Big Trees, Bear Valley and Lake Alpine. Murphys is about 60 miles and 1.5 hours from Stockton.

For more information: Arnold Rim Trail,, Bear Valley Resort,, (209) 753-2301; Calaveras Big Trees Park,, (209) 795-2334; Lake Alpine Resort,, (209) 753-6350; Visit Calaveras,, (800) 225-3764.

Contact Tim at, or follow his blog, Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sierra Nevada | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring in your own back yard…

In this brave new world we live in, it’s the perfect time to explore, literally, in your own backyard. Admire the plants and fauna that you find in your yard, from native plants, plants you’ve selected/planted, and native populations of bees, birds, butterflies and more. Take your morning coffee outdoors, and admire the excitement of nature around you.

Or explore nearby parks and recreational opportunities; Stockton offers regional parks like Oak Grove Regional Park, estuaries accessed by trails like the Calaveras River Bike Trail, the downtown Deepwater Channel and Joan Darrah Promenade, or miles of hiking possibilities on the San Joaquin Delta just to the west. Lodi offers Lodi Lake Park, Micke Grove Regional Park, and just north of Thorton, the lovely Cosumnes River Preserve. Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy offer a network of parks and hiking/biking trails, and Caswell Memorial State Park follows the Stanislaus River just south of Ripon.

So, grab those walking shoes and your trekking poles, or your bikes and check out local attractions!

Reach Tim at, or follow him Happy travels in your neighborhood!

Egret in marsh, Cosumnes River Preserve.

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Notes from the road in the age of COVID19

How to travel safely in the age of COVID19

We are now nearing end of month five of the COVID pandemic impact upon our lives. After a few nearby road trips, we are planning an upcoming six day camping trip to California’s north state, with a several night stop in Lassen Volcanic National Park. My spouse and I, retired, are of the age where we pay rapt attention to the pandemic facts of life. A recent rebound in cases and deaths across the US has our highest attention. So, we don’t travel outside our home without considerable circumspection and aforethought. Here are factors that play into our thinking.

Frozen Lake Helen, with Mt. Lassen looming in background, Lassen National Park.

Focus first on the great outdoors, outside your own door. Relax in your backyard, sitting in the shade, with a pair of binoculars and a cold drink, checking out birds, butterflies and critters that visit. Explore your own neighborhood, admiring neighbor’s yards and other nearby attractions. Journey to the great outdoors within your city and county. Oak Grove Regional Park, Lodi Lake Park, Cosumnes River Preserve (just north of the county line, above Thornton), Caswell Memorial State Park in Ripon, the wild areas in Manteca and Tracy and the San Joaquin River Delta along our county’s west side offer truly wild and memorable spaces.

Author’s grandkids picking blackberries in Cosumnes River Preserve,
just north of Thornton, CA.

Bike and hiking trails bisect all of these cities, offering relatively safe and hassle-free access to gems nearby. As example, the Calaveras River bike Trail in Stockton connects east and west destinations and is split in the middle by University of Pacific, a lovely campus full of interesting  destinations and attractions in its own right. And from UOP, follow Kensington and Baker southbound to get to Stockton’s Deepwater channel. The Joan Darrah Promenade circles the channel taking in on the North Shore the Stockton Ports Ballpark, Stockton Arena, linking to Weber Point Event Center, the Waterfront Warehouse, Stockton Marina and Stockton Children’s Museum on the south shore.

The lovely San Joaquin River Delta offers plenty of nearby touring destinations.

In the last five months, following the COVID-19 pandemic machinations, we’ve done a pretty good job of checking out local hiking and biking destinations. We have journeyed a bit further afield to some hiking and biking options in neighboring counties, avoiding weekends when crowds form. Three weeks ago, we took a day trip up to the western shore of Lake Tahoe, hiked the Mt. Tallac Trail and spent a leisurely lunch and early afternoon on Baldwin Beach. We left with a full tank of gas, brought in our own food and drink and had no interaction with Tahoe residents but for passing a few of them on the hiking trail from a distance of 6 to 10 feet (we wore masks, most of the other hikers did not). On the beach, it was easy to keep 20 to 40 feet of distance.

DeRosa University Center, just off the Calaveras Bike Trail,
allows bikers to stop for a respite on the lovely University of Pacific campus.

After I wrote about the trip, I received a thoughtful email from a Tahoe resident, decrying the impacts of the crush of visitors on Lake Tahoe in recent months. She went on to note that their cities are not set up to handle an onslaught of visitors, residents fear the Covid virus being brought into their towns, that many visitors don’t practice medically-sanctioned precautions and too many leave trash. After swapping several emails, I thought it was worth writing about, again.

Hence, Covid19 travel suggestions from my wife and me:

  • First, explore the world near your back door, in your own city and county, first.
  • Second, only when COVID19 realities affirm, look to nearby attractions across county lines.
  • Target attractions on “off-days”; we almost always avoid traveling on weekends, to beat crowds.
  • Target lesser-known destinations for day trips or longer. Skip Lake Tahoe at present, look to parks in the East Bay Hills, like Round Valley Regional Park or Black Diamond Mines Preserve, or Sierra foothills like Indian Grinding Rocks State Park, Marshall Gold Discovery Park, Pinecrest Lake or Silver Lake (plenty of Forest Service campgrounds in the Sierra, as well).
  • Check the county of destination and local chamber of commerce websites for COVID updates.
  • Strive to be self-contained: Leave with a full tank of gas, take your own food and drink; with our little trailer, we do our own meals and can travel to a nearby national park like Lassen Volcanic with nary a brush with other people. In the campground, we stick to ourselves and will hike early, on lesser known trails (hiking apps like All Trails offer low-traffic options).
  • Be the poster child for Covid19 precautions: Gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, maintain more than 6 feet of distance, avoid crowded locations. If you do shop or dine outside, avoid retailers who don’t require shoppers to mask up or restaurants which don’t allow 6 feet or more distance. Focus on outdoor, no crowd destinations (hiking trails, out of way beaches, outdoor seating with plenty of space).

Lassen National Park, here we come, with a vow to “leave no trace”!

Contact Tim at; search his blog, Stay safe, maintain your distance and remain resolute!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, Sierra Nevada, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Route 66; road tripping with history and panache!

Road trip on Route 66; find history and mystery!

“Get your kicks on Route 66”, goes the popular song from 1946 by Bobby Troup. My first exposure to Route 66 occurred summer of 1962, when my mother packed my two brothers and me in the back of a Ford station wagon towing a Nimrod tent trailer and set off from Ohio to Chicago, then following Route 66 all the way to Southern California. Before our dad flew into Los Angeles to join us – we had two weeks on our own, on a journey that changed my life.

Route 66 was rerouted in the 1930s, from its end in Los Angeles,
to a more scenic conclusion at the Santa Monica Pier.

With travel dreams on your mind and time to plan future trips, consider Route 66. Named America’s Mother Road, the historic route connected existing highways in 1927 and knit them together in a new Route 66; our government responding to the continuing popularity of automobiles and more and more American’s willingness to travel long distances.

For the route’s debut, gas went for $.16-$.18 a gallon, new Fords and Chevys could be bought for $350 and $525, respectively – a large sum in those days – and Americans were beginning to revel in the open road. Then came the Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II and its aftermath – more and more Americans used the highway to head west to rebuild their lives.

Historic gas station in Monrovia, on old Rt. 66.

The new highway took shape in 1926 and debuted in 1927.  The result was a meandering 2,445 mile highway that began in Chicago and crossed Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, ending in Los Angeles (10 years later the western terminus was shifted to Santa Monica). Aggressively promoted by the US 66 Highway Association as “the shortest, best and most scenic route from Chicago to Los Angeles”, travelers poured westward!  

Large to tiny towns along the newly christened Route 66 looked at the road as an opportunity to promote their businesses, restaurants, motor courts and gas stations.  And, today, many of these towns actively promote the “Mother Road” with museums, preserved service stations and motor courts, wall murals and more. Nostalgia reigns supreme!

The El Garces Hotel, once a venerable Harvey House,
on old Rt. 66 in Needles, CA.

President Eisenhower, seeing the success of the German Autobahn during the war, spurred the construction of a new, Federal four-lane highway system in 1956 that would become today’s Interstate system.  Five new Interstates (I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15 and I-10) would steadily replace Route 66 over almost 30 years, and in 1985 Route 66 was decommissioned (Williams, AZ was the last town bypassed).

To tour all eight states, Chicago to Santa Monica, you need at least 2 to 3 weeks. Better, for most, is to tackle the old highway in smaller segments.

Here is the compressed eight state route of historic Route 66.

Today, we’ll focus upon California and Arizona. We toured our first segment, from Williams, Arizona west to California’s border six years ago, followed by the Oklahoma, Texas and eastern New Mexico portion, then the Needles, CA to Santa Monica section four years ago, and, more recently, the stretch from St. Louis, Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma. We still have the Chicago to St. Louis stretch to navigate – hopefully a diversion on our next trip across the central US.

Our favorite Route 66 memories would fill more than this column allows.  But, in California they have to include Needles and the grand old El Garces Hotel (an old Harvey House Hotel) built in 1906, the Needles Theatre, circa 1930 and old Union 76 and Texaco gas stations.  Like most states, California offers a good guidebook, offering notes like the moldering remains of the old Carty’s Camp Motor Court, featured in the Grapes of Wrath movie, just behind the Route 66 Motel. In lovely Monrovia, find the old Aztec Hotel and preserved service stations as they appeared in the 1930s, making the town a worthy stop. Amboy features the historic Roy’s Motel and Restaurant, and the end of the route, the Santa Monica Pier, retains its nostalgia. 

The historic Aztec Hotel in Monrovia, CA.

Arizona’s Williams takes a top spot for creatively capitalizing on the nostalgia of the old highway, and, just west, the tiny town of Ash Fork, with abandoned truck stop and motels, the town almost dried up, is sober testimony of a city that lost its luster when bypassed by the new Interstate. However, the next town west, Seligman, offers an example of how a small town off I-40 can recapture much of its grandeur by focusing on the highway’s drawing power.

The Canyon Club is an historic watering hole on Rt. 66 in Williams, AZ.

Near the California/Arizona border, at the end of a long, lonely stretch of Rt. 66, is the mountain town of Oatman, site of a half-dozen movies, still featuring the vibe of bygone days, and almost overwhelmed by wild burros that roam the city’s streets and mooch from visitors!

The Copper Cart, a local emporium on old Rt. 66, Seligman, AZ.
Wild burros welcome visitors to Oatman, AZ.
Wild burros mooch for food in Oatman, AZ.

By the way, that 1962 family trip down Route 66, then north through California and Idaho into Yellowstone Park, hooked me on the west and left me forever nostalgic about the old highway. That led me to a summer job in Yellowstone Park four years later where I met my future spouse. How can we not tour the balance of that old highway that changed my life?

For more info on Route 66: Overall historic Route 66:; for turn by turn insight,; California,; Arizona, (other states have their own statewide associations).

Abandoned truck stop in Ash Fork, AZ, just three blocks off the then new I-40, offers mute testimony to the destiny of towns bypassed by the Interstate system.

Contact Tim at; search his blog, Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip; Lake Tahoe’s western shore in age of pandemics

Take a Road Trip to Lake Tahoe’s western shore

Months into the Covid19 pandemic and a month into summer, Lake Tahoe lies resplendent, as always under a hot July sun.  Winter’s snows can only be spotted at the highest Sierra elevations, melting into shady crevices, and motels, hotels and restaurants are running at reduced capacity and shortened hours (some are closed). 

Suffering cabin fever, we decided upon a one-day road trip. Our advice, take your face masks, gloves and hand-sanitizer, hiking shoes, hiking poles, sunglasses (and bikes if a cyclist)! Plan to physically distance from others, take your own food and drink, and enjoy this stunning portion of the world with less-than-normal tourists.

We were in search of hiking and beach opportunities and drove up on Highway 50 into South Lake Tahoe, bright with sunshine and light crowds.  We turned north on Highway 89, running up the magnificent lake’s west shore. Just beyond the S. Lake Tahoe city limits, you will find a lovely bike trail paralleling the highway, running north about 10 miles. Our destination was the Mt. Tallac trailhead, a few miles off Highway 89, starting at 6400 feet and climbing to near the Tallac summit at 9,437.

Departing early to beat the summer heat, we arrived at the trailhead parking area just after 8 AM, found the last space in the 20 car parking lot and were soon on the trail. The first ¾ mile is steepest, and then we began to climb a bit less dramatically on a breezy ridge high above Fallen Leaf Lake.

Author’s spouse Susan with Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe below.
Purple lupine frames Mt. Tallac above Fallen Leaf Lake.

Our journey led us up a long, steady slope on an exposed breezy ridge, with views of both Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe. Plenty of wildflowers, from purple Lupine and Indian paintbrush, enliven the trail. As we got closer to Mt. Tallac’s summit, the views became even more dramatic. The thinning air and our relative lack of fitness precluded continuing on – but even this portion of the trail ranked high in our hiking experiences.

Tahoe offers many dedicated bike (and hiking) trails, throughout South Lake Tahoe, just north heading up Highway 89, further north along 89 starting at Homewood and along both the Truckee River and Tahoe’s north shore. Hardy cyclists can tackle the entire 72 mile loop around Lake Tahoe, though it has its share of narrow, twisty turns and several steep vertical climbs – not for the faint of heart.

Don’t miss a stop at the Tallac Historic Site, located just north of Camp Richardson on Highway 89. Stop first at the Forest Service Visitor Center, get details on these three historic former luxury waterfront estates, the Baldwin Estate, the Pope Estate and Valhalla, then walk the paved trail to view what life was like for Tahoe’s glitterati in the 1920s and 30s. The remnants of the former Tallac Resort are just north of the old palatial homes; harkening to lively times in the Roaring 20s.

The stately Baldwin House is part of the Tallac Historic Site.

From the Tallac site, walk to Baldwin Beach, a half-mile sandy crescent right on Lake Tahoe. On this Monday, we found quite a few people enjoying Tahoe’s azure waters, but easy to stay 40 feet away from the nearest visitor enjoying the lofty views looking to the east. Paddle boards and kayaks for rent, right off the sandy spit.

Stop at the Forest Service Visitor Center, get details on these three historic former luxury waterfront estates, the Baldwin Estate, the Pope Estate and Valhalla, then walk the paved trail to view what life was like for Tahoe’s glitterati in the 1920s and 30s.

Baldwin Beach catches more than a few sun-worshipers on a Monday afternoon.

Further north on Hwy. 89 is Emerald Bay, perhaps the most photographed place on the lake. On the bay is the lovely Vikingsholm estate, built in 1929. A steep hike down to the bay allows closeup views of the old mansion and this highly-visited portion of the lake. Eagle Creek thunders into the bay nearby, still brisk with snow-melt; hike up Eagle Creek for access to an extensive trail system into the wilderness area, again, offering memorable views of the lake and Sierra.

We usually breakfast at our campsite, and occasionally pack a lunch for our daily tours. For dining out, our favorite restaurants in this part of Tahoe include The Beacon, and, though we did not get up to Tahoe City, our favorite breakfast place in the entire Tahoe area, Rosie’s – try it! Tahoe City and Squaw Valley Resort (home to the 1960 Olympics) are lovely destinations; they will have to await another road trip!

Eagle Creek tumbles towards Emerald Bay.

For more information:, or Since the Covid pandemic causes frequent geographical variations in visitor policies, check before traveling.

Contact Tim at; visit his archive, travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sierra Nevada | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bucket list trips; Visit the Pacific ring of fire, California to Washington

Visit the Pacific ring of fire, California to Washington, fun for young and old!

We are now into 2.5 months of sheltering at home – reflecting on past and future travels. States across the west are entering into phased re-openings, as well as national parks, now’s the time to firm up one or more of those bucket list trip destinations. With California’s Joshua Tree, Redwoods and Lassen National Parks announcing re-openings, as well as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and several of Utah’s iconic parks, here is an ultimate trip in the West.

Take a dramatic “volcanic legacy” trip, to Lassen National Park, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake National Park and Mount St. Helens National Monument, about 1800 miles round-trip. Guaranteed to thrill both young and old, vivid in its scenery and showing off our most wonderful national parks, it’s sure to please the entire family. Traveling northward, see the highlights of Lassen, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake, Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helens in memorable week or 10 days.

A frozen Lake Helen (in early July) with Lassen Peak looming behind…

Northern California is studded with active and dormant volcanoes, so let’s start with Lassen National Park, only 250 miles north of San Joaquin County. East of Redding, Lassen is part of the “Pacific ring of fire”, a ring of volcanoes that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. Mt. Lassen achieved national notoriety when, in 1914 and 1915, eruptions belched ash 30,000 feet into the sky and blasted huge boulders for miles.  

Start a tour at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Center explaining various volcano types and how they shaped the surrounding landscape. Beyond the visitor center, scenery becomes increasingly interesting, with views of Lassen looming in the distance. Soon you arrive at Sulphur Works, an area of eerie hot springs and smelly, burbling mud pots.

Sulphur Works steams away, smelling of sulphur, beside Lassen’s Hwy. 89.

Continuing through the park on Highway 89, find Bumpus Hell; an easy hike takes you to this lively area full of thermal wonders, much like a small version of Yellowstone Park. East of Lassen’s peak, find the Devastated Area which will wow the kids, offering an easy hike past 25,000 pound boulders blasted off the summit of Lassen in 1915, landing three miles away and knocking down many miles of forest like they were matchsticks.

Manzanita Lake, with a stunning view of Mount Lassen, offers a lovely campground near the park’s northwest entrance. The lake provides marvelous fishing (catch and release only) and the campground with secluded campsites, showers, store and museum. Due to COVID19 restrictions, check with the park; usually, two places offer food in the park, the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and at Manzanita Lake. The historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch, accessed from Chester via the Warner Valley, offers overnight lodging, with trails to Devils Kitchen and Boiling Springs Lake.

View from Mazanita Lake, with Mt. Lassen rising in distance.

Headed north, Mt. Shasta is visible for 100 miles, a dormant volcano towering 14,180 feet with active steamy sulphur vents near the summit, dominates Northern California. But, we are headed further north, about 3.5 hours, to Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake “Is unlike any other natural wonder in the world.  It is the Jeweled Sapphire of the Cascades, set in a matrix of peaks and castled walls; we may look upon it but once then wear it in our hearts forever”, said author and poet Stanton C. Lapham in 1931. In all our visits across America, it’s one of the true jaw-droppers, along with Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and a few more.

Wizard Island rises from the azure waters of Crater Lake.

We camped at the Mazama Village campground (check with the park; it usually includes a cafeteria, store, showers, ranger talks in evening, fire rings and 200 spacious trailer and tent sites).  We do our own meals, though the park has several other places to purchase prepared food like Crater Lake Lodge.

Crater Lake, which filled the volcano’s caldera some 7,700 years ago, is the bluest blue you’ll ever see.  The lake is 5 miles across, and 6 miles long; two islands appear from the azure waters, Wizard Island, the larger, and Phantom Ship, at the lake’s north end. Walk from the Crater Lake Lodge area on Rim Drive’s southside.  The old lodge is a treasure in itself (celebrating its 105th anniversary in 2020); treat yourself to a meal there!  Walking to the crater’s nearby rim, that first view remains always inspirational.

The historic Crater Lake Lodge lies right on the lakes rim, with marvelous views!

There are several “must dos” while enjoying the park. Visit Steel Visitor Center at park headquarters and watch the graphic film that explains the chain of volcanic events that formed Crater Lake, and presage a future eruption!  Then tour the 33 mile Rim Drive, by auto, or by bicycle (though, with almost 4,000 vertical feet of elevation gain, one best be in good biking shape; we saw scores of cyclists). 

Heading north, the Cascades are lined with old volcanoes, and Mt. Hood is hard to miss, just east of Portland. Make a final stop at Mount St. Helens, just into Washington State, the volcano that exploded on May 18, 1980, killing 57 people, destroying mountain homes, bridges and leveling the forest for miles to the northeast. Ash/pumice plumes rained down on Yakima, Spokane and drifted across northern America. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument preserves the dramatic aftermath of this violent natural occurrence.

Mount St. Helens jagged crater looms over Spirit Lake, created by volcanic ash and rock flow.
Mount St. Helens explodes into the May 18, 1980 sky (NPS photo).

For more info: For California travel insights, ; for Oregon travel,; for Lassen National Park,  nps/gov/lavo; Crater Lake, Mount St. Helens National Monument, Camping can be booked through

Contact Tim at; find his archive, Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Utah’s iconic national parks, plus Grand Canyon’s North Rim, make for travel bucket list inclusion

Make a trip to Utah’s iconic national parks, plus the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, part of your travel bucket list

Many of us have been homebound, or mostly so, for more than two months – often dreaming of past and future travels. With states across the US beginning phased re-openings, as well as our national parks, now’s the time to firm up one or more of those bucket list trip destinations. Just in the past 10 days, California’s Joshua Tree, Redwoods and Lassen National Parks have announced re-openings, as have Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and several of Utah’s iconic parks. Here are suggestions for ultimate trips in the West.

Utah’s five iconic national parks: Plan a 10 day or two week trip in early to mid-Fall, taking in all five of Utah’s lovely national parks on a grand loop, and, include the north rim of the Grand Canyon to make it six parks. Begin your trip in Utah’s oldest national park, Zion and spend several days hiking these huge valleys flanked by vertical cliffs curve by the Virgin River, and shades of white red and blue hues, going to iron manganese shading the limestone.

View down Zion Canyon, carved by the Virgin River.

For easier hikes, tackle the Lower and Middle Emerald Pools trail and the Grotto Trail above the Virgin River. A short hike takes you to the Weeping Wall, a pleasant, drippy and misty respite on a day that can often get quite hot during summer months. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike The Narrows, a section in the narrowest part of the canyon with walls only 20 to 40 feet wide, towering thousands of feet above your head. You’ll need good foot gear that can get wet, and heed weather forecasts, for thunderstorms can breed flash ones that have recently killed unsuspecting tourists.

Water cascades lightly over Zion’s Weeping Wall on a hot day.

Bryce Canyon National Park is just east of Zion, about two hours away. With the main road and campground on the canyon’s rim, views are mind-blowing of the land that Ebeneezer and Mary Bryce homesteaded in 1862; when asked about the awesome canyon behind his homestead, Bryce noted “it’s a tough place to lose livestock”. Highway 63 traverses the canyon rim, running 16 miles south to Rainbow and Yovimpa Points.

Stop for amazing views of hundreds of red rock spires, called Hoodoos, repeated in the succession at Aqua Canyon, Natural Bridge, Farview point, Swamp Canyon, Bryce Point, Inspiration Point and Sunset Point. Camping is lovely, and Bryce Canyon Lodge, opened in 1926 by the Union Pacific Railroad, offers lovely lodge and cabin accommodations.

Hoodoos balance precariously in Bryce Canyon National Park.

From Bryce, continue to Capitol Reef National Park, then onto Canyonlands and Arches National Parks; the latter two are only miles apart. Capitol Reef is named for a section of the earth’s crust where overlapping plates create white rock domes atop red cliffs, looking like the US Capitol and rocky ridges looking like marine reefs. Hike a portion of the Waterpocket Fold, where overlapping layers of white Navajo Sandstone, red Wingate, shale and pink Entrada Sandstone offer hues like a colorful wedding cake. You’ll also find evidence of ancient indigenous people’s settlements and the Fruita Valley, where early Mormon settlers planted apple and peach trees, still producing well over 100 years later.

Bryce Canyon’s Natural Bridge is always a show-stopper!

Moving onto Utah’s final two national parks, expansive vistas are presented in Canyonlands, while Arches features not a few dozen, but 2,000 natural rock arches, from very small to spans more than the length of a football field. Canyonlands, in addition to stunning views, offers serious hiking opportunities into the Green and Colorado River canyons, while Arches offers numerous rocky spans just a short hike off the main highway.

Author and spouse Susan in front of Landscape Arch,
spanning well over 300 feet in Arches National Park.

In two days in Arches, we hiked to 15 of the 2,000 arches; the visitor center helps plot your destinations in this amazing park. Treks to Turret Arch, South and North Arches, then Double Arch (at 144′ wide, 112′ tall, 3rd largest in park) were eye-openers. Later that cloudy, cool day, we climbed from the Arches campground to Tapestry Arch – and had it all to ourselves.  We continued onto Broken Arch, following three hikers – equally impressive – logging 3.5 miles hiking over all. That night we enjoyed spectacular starry night skies above our campsite.

Our second day, we started early to hike Arches’ Devils Garden area.  Our reward was the Landscape Arch; a 1.4 mile hike to this famous arch, tall, thin and spanning over 300 feet, attracts a large crowd.  Spur trails to nearby Tunnel and Pine Tree Arch both proved memorable.  Nearby  Moab is a busy town, humming with restaurants, motels, bike shops and canyon tour-providers!

Young couple admires the view from Canyonlands National Park, with the Colorado and Green Rivers in the distance.

If you still have time and energy, complete your parks tour with a stop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here you will find all the park’s jaw-dropping vistas, only 10 percent the tourism of the South Rim, and spot some of the 400 bison that populate the area since a small herd was imported from Yellowstone over 100 years ago.

Next week, we’ll bring you suggestions on a “volcanic legacy” trip, taking in Lassen National Park, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake National Park and Mount St. Helens National Monument.

Bright Angel Point, looking serene, from the Canyon’s North Rim; unparalleled views and about only 10 percent of the visitors that jam the canyon’s South Rim area.

For more info: For Utah travel insights, go to For Bryce Canyon National Park,, (435) 834-5322;for Zion National Park,, (435)772-3256;Camping can be booked through, 877.444.6777.

Contact Tim at; find his archive, Happy travels in the west!

Pictures to use:

Zion NP:

  View down Zion Canyon, carved by the Virgin River

  Weeping Wall’s dripping water keeps summer visitors somewhat cool

Bryce Canyon:

  Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon

  Hoodoos tower precariously hundreds of feet above canyon

  Ascending the Wall Street Trail in Bryce Canyon

Grand Canyon:

Grand Canyon North Rim’s Transept Trail offers grandeur, but modest crowds

Posted in Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cycling your hometown in the age of Coronavirus

Get out and cycle your city and county during Covid19 challenges…

Though spring is in full-bloom, the COVID19 challenge has residents of Stockton and San Joaquin County wondering how it affects their ability to ride their road or trail bicycles. A host of options await cyclists, even though today’s health challenge means new safeguards.

San Joaquin County Public Health agrees outdoor activities such as cycling are healthy and recommended activities; though current orders suggest not crossing county lines for recreation, just for essential travel. With the state, counties and cities now beginning to phase in reopening procedures, watch for those restrictions to be eased.

Stockton’s Children’s Museum on Weber Avenue, near the Joan Darrah Waterfront Promenade, offers another fine cycling destination.
Author’s grandson Jack gives the museum a hearty “thumbs up”!

Hence, dust off those bikes, air up the tires and prepare to ride. Several studies note that cyclists throw a longer/wider “slipstream” as they pedal down the street or trail, so better to maintain extra physical distancing if riding with a partner, and not to ride abreast (riding with a mask also reduces that slipstream).

For touring your neighborhood or your city, bikes offer a timely option. With many folks still sheltering at home, local bike groups offer good suggestions. Kari McNickle, of San Joaquin Bike Coalition notes, “Lots of people are bicycling who normally don’t. Awesome! It’s a good opportunity to reintroduce the rules of the road. Calbike has been sharing lots of resources, like their summary of CA bike laws: With reduced traffic, streets are more appealing to cyclists – including those that were previously unfriendly to all but confident cyclists, such as Pacific Avenue on the Miracle Mile”.

Several riders pedal north into Lodi vineyards area on Thornton Road.

McNickle adds that the down side of this is an uptick in speed. While generally frowned upon for environmental and sanity reasons, vehicle traffic does force drivers to travel more slowly. She adds, “without those extra cars to slow things down, people seem to be speeding and driving more recklessly (think of the car commercials you see during the Superbowl – empty streets mean people tearing around corners and burning rubber in their muscle cars). I’m not any less nervous riding on any of our roadways than I typically am”.

Matt Beckwith, also of the Coalition, adds, “Given the stay-at-home order issued by San Joaquin County, and because I have now been working from home for several weeks, I find myself riding a lot more, and more by myself. Also, it’s hard to not take advantage of the warm weather and fewer vehicles on the roads. The County order does not forbid outdoor recreation such as bike riding or running, but it does require that participants “must at all times maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person when they are outside their residence”.

Beckwith continues, “I’ve always enjoyed riding in and near the neighborhood where I live, and now I seem to do more of it. I’ve really been enjoying easy rides up and down Mariner’s Drive and the neighborhoods at both the north and south ends, Lincoln Village West around Embarcadero and Five Mile Drives, as well as the tried and true route around Brookside to Buckley Cove and then to University of the Pacific along the Calaveras bike path. Also, the 5-mile out-and-back route of the Weston Ranch bike path has always been a favorite of mine”. 

As another safety measure, Beckwith adds, “I now always ride with Buff headwear around my neck. It’s not ideal as the temperatures have soared to above 80 degrees but it works as an easy face mask when I inevitably meet up with other bike riders. I also have found that I’m actively trying to take fewer risks than before. Not that I was wildly riding through town before, but I keep reminding myself that I don’t want to do anything that might unnecessarily increase my chance of injury, given the last thing I want to do is a be an avoidable burden to our health care system”.

This bridge links the lovely University of Pacific campus with Stokton’s Calaveras Bike Trail, providing a safe route running east and west along the old river.

Rich Freggario of the Stockton Bike Club also notices more solo riding and that the club’s members look to the day when they can travel freely and ride in the Sierra foothills. He adds, “If it is routes for casual cyclists you are looking for, our county is blessed with plenty of flat, straight roads. And cursed with only flat, straight roads. Casual cyclists looking for some legal way to get out of the house have plenty of options”.

City of Stockton offers a good on-line map of local bike trails and bike lanes along city streets; go to: Don’t overlook the quiet side roads into the Delta, up into Lodi-area vineyards, to the east of the city in peaceful farmland and the bike trails offered by Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy. And don’t overlook nearby iconic destinations for rides when reopening takes place, like Yosemite Valley or Lake Tahoe. Look to both bike organizations to resume their monthly club group rides once the COVID19 situation begins to resolve itself; but plan to maintain physical distancing well into our futures!

Kensington, running north and south in Stockton, is typical of many city streets that offer shady riding options and relatively little traffic.

For more information, San Joaquin Bike Coalition,; San Joaquin County Public Health,; Stockton Bike Club,; Visit Stockton for additional cycling routes,

Contact Tim,; find his archive at travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
  • Categories

  • Archives