All posts by denis

Wormholes and updates

Some months back blog posts by Tom Fearer at Gribblenation.org regarding local roads in my area ended up leading me down the proverbial wormhole for more information. I have to say the trip was rewarding. While not answering all my questions about the original subjects – Siskiyou County Road A12 and the first routing of US Route 99 through Weed, California – the search for information resulted in answering a few questions about previous railroads in the area (the Weed Lumber Railroad/Southern Pacific Railroad) and the locations of the first Weed Airport and the long-gone Yreka Airport.

A recent exploration of a segment of the abandoned Weed Lumber Company Railroad yielded clues to the original routing of US 97 northeast of Weed, California. These are remnants of wooden highway guardrails prevalent in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

Most of the research involved internet searches for historical maps between the years of 1915 and 1945. While my search started with historical topographic maps at the USGS website, other map sites included the David Rumsey Map Collection, aeronautical charts and airway bulletins at the Library of Congress, as well as posts and articles at Gribblenation and cahighways.org. While my research continues, enough information was accumulated to post a worthy entry about the Yreka Airport on the Siskiyou County Aviation Infrastructure page of this site.

Within the next week, I will also post an entry on the aforementioned page about the original Weed Airport. I had first seen a mention of this airport in the September 1, 1931 Airway Bulletin No. 2. The 1927 (revised 1930) Army Air Corps Air Navigation Map indicates an approximate location of the former airfield, but it was the 1935 California Division of Highways Siskiyou County Highway Map that really helped in nailing down the exact location in a ranch pasture along Old Highway 99/Stewart Springs Road a mile south of the current Weed Airport.

1935 California Division of Highways Siskiyou County Highway Map, with arrow pointing to the rectangle representing the Weed Airport.

The lesson is that it is the journey through the wormhole can be just as rewarding as the destination. Being mindful that seemingly unrelated resources can result in clues to other research projects should always be kept in mind. The only problem is that usually leads one down other, numerous wormholes!

exploration quikie: Salt creek bridge

One of the usually submerged historic highway bridges in Shasta Lake

The Salt Creek Bridge was built on the Pacific Highway in 1925 between what is now Lakehead and Redding. This bridge apparently replaced one built some years earlier, as the older abutments are visible underneath the newer structure. It was later abandoned in 1941, as US Route 99 (the former Pacific Highway) was rerouted in anticipation of Shasta Lake inundating the older route (as happened in 1948).

In dryer or drought years, the Salt Creek Bridge is one of the first submerged artifacts to make its appearance as the lake level falls. It is easily accessible from the Salt Creek exit on Interstate 5. Take Lower Salt Creek Road west for about 3 miles at which point you will come to the bridge underneath the towering Union Pacific railroad trestle.

My visit to the site got a little more interesting, as I ran into a gentleman making casts of footprints in the muddy bank of creek upstream of the bridge. He believed them to be evidence of Bigfoot-like creatures. I have to say the footprint and casting of others he had made in the area didn’t look quite human. He proceeded to show me dozens of pictures of like footprints he had found at numerous sites, as well as other weird things that apparently Bigfoot hunters believe are evidence of the mythical creature actually existing. I came away from the conversation thinking I might have to make my forays into the area forests with a new viewpoint.

The Salt Creek Bridge underneath the towering Union Pacific railroad trestle. This is looking south, as the Salt Creek Bridge is oriented east-to-west.
The south side of the bridge.
Looking west down the old highway grade. The shadow is from the trestle above.
Looking east.
Another south side view.
Date stamp on the Salt Creek Bridge.
Another south side view looking east. Notice the flared ends of the railing.
Flared railing at the ends.
Footing from a previous bridge on this spot, probably built when the US 99 predecessor Pacific Highway was built. The previous bridge would have probably been only 15 feet wide.
The underside looking towards the east end. The previous bridge footing can be seen in the center.
Since the 1925 bridge was higher than its predecessor, the road approachmentds had to raised. This is the reinforcement of the east approach.
Evidence of Bigfoot?

All in all, the bridge is in great condition. This is likely due to being submerged in the cold waters of Shasta Lake most of the year. If you decide to drive across the span, beware of the approaches, as there are gaps between the bridge and the road.

Heading west along US 99 through the settlement of Salt Creek before the site was inundated by Shasta Lake. Some structures were move elsewhere before inundation.
Eastman, Jervie Henry. (1941). “Salt Creek Bridge” on Highway 99 near Redding, Calif. Retrieved April 2, 2021, from https://digital.ucdavis.edu/collection/eastman/D-051/B-1/B-1367

The Salt Creek Bridge on bridgehunter.com

CONTENT UPDATES

Recent new and updated content to the site in the past week or so:

A SEARCH FOR W 12

An abandoned railroad bed, a lost benchmark, & things found

Shortly after moving back to the Mount Shasta area (after leaving as a child in 1963), I began exploring the remains of the Weed Lumber Railroad. The railroad was built in the early 1900’s by lumber baron Abner Weed, to exploit the abundant forests east of the town he founded, with the segment from Weed to Grass Lake being sold to Southern Pacific shortly thereafter. When Southern Pacific opened the new Black Butte Subdivision (from Black Butte, just south of Weed, to Klamath Falls) bypassing the Weed-Grass Lake segment in 1926, the original ex-Weed Lumber Railroad portion was abandoned.

One piece of old right-of-way of interest winds its way along a tongue of lava south of US 97 to Bolam Road, a road which heads south from 97 to the Union Pacific control point of Bolam. I initially walked this segment one day after noticing the raised manzanita and creosote choked railbed heading south off of 97. Later, after checking topographic maps of the area, I noticed that older maps indicated the presence of a benchmark along the railbed. Searching the National Geodetic Survey benchmark database, I found that this one was still listed as Siskiyou County W 12 (PID MX0021).

The datasheet station description of the benchmark is one of the more confusing that l’ve read.

  • First, it lists the benchmark as being monumented in 1919, but the description seems to have been written in 1954, during a recovery visit to the site by a Coast and Geodetic Survey team. However, it also says that the benchmark was not found.
  • Second, it describes the mark as “on the abandoned Southern Pacific Co. roadbed, 9-1/2 poles (156.75 feet) southeast along the roadbed from the crossing of the Weed-Dorris highway” which matches placements on the 1934 Macdoel and 1954 Lake Shastina topographic maps. However, then the description reads “about 300 feet west of the highway, about 300 west of milepost 12“, which doesn’t make sense as the indicated position of the benchmark on the 1934 and 1954 maps puts it south, not west, of US 97. Of further note, the description notes the old highway – I can find no record of any highway other than 97 at this spot predating 97 before its construction. The only thing I can think this refers to is perhaps that US 97 was straightened between its original construction around 1936 and 1954, when the above mentioned topo map shows its present roadbed. An aerial photo on historicalaerials.com seems to show an older highway trace crossing Yellow Butte Road (which itself is the old Weed Lumber Railroad bed heading north from the segment being discussed here) about 75 feet north of the modern US 97.
  • Third, the description says that the mark is “near the middle of a side hill rock cut, 12 feet east of the centerline of the roadbed, in bedrock, 1 foot higher than than the roadbed”. Okay, so the 1934 Macdoel map seems to indicate that the mark is on the west side of the roadbed (or, railbed), as the roadbed travels north-to-south along the east side of the lava flow. The railbed climbs up in elevation from US 97 along the lava flow, on a constructed berm, with no rock existing on the east side of the railbed. Additionally, the aforementioned “9-1/2 poles” or 156.75 feet placement from the intersection of the railbed and the Weed-Dorris highway, either from the modern intersection placement, or the suspected original intersection, lands nowhere near any “bedrock”.
Macdoel 1934 topographic map
Lake Shastina 1954 topographic map

The datasheet states that two recovery efforts were made in 1981 to locate the benchmark, both unsuccessful.

My search efforts

I’ve made three visits to the area to search for the benchmark. I examined both sides of the railbed, including the east side which does not travel next to any bedrock formations. On the west side of the railbed, I searched further than the 12 feet from the centerline where I could, and up to 10 feet or so up the side of the lava flow. Significant erosion of the andesite bedrock along the east side of the railbed has occurred, with several small landslides along the alignment present, and in other places the hillside rock has broken in large chunks, falling onto the roadbed. I spent a lot of time scraping dirt off of the hillside bedrock, hoping to find the brass disk underneath, but it wasn’t to be. My efforts extended from the railbed crossing at US 97 south for 2000 feet, well beyond the distance stated in the datasheet.

Looking south down the abandoned railbed from US 97. At the center of the photo, the railbed starts to curve to the left (east).
Example to the eroded hillside along the west side of the railbed.

I did find numerous railroad ties, remnants of signal poles, a piece of a glass insulator, and a railroad spike, as well as numerous tin cans, probably left by railroad or salvage crews.

My conclusions

The NGS benchmark locator shows both benchmarks in the wrong locations. D 495 RESET is on the north side of the highway, and W 12 was located 2000 feet to the southwest.

What happened to the benchmark disk? I suspect one of several things could have occurred: 1) a worker took the disk as a souvenir during rail salvage and demolition; 2) someone else took it while exploring the area after railroad operation ceased, looking for collectibles such as bottles, glass insulators, or tools (my grandparents did this for years, searching out old railroad, lumber, and fire camps); or 3) the disk is still attached to a piece of rock that is now buried amongst the erosion.

My efforts were not without accomplishment. On my last visit, I did recover a nearby benchmark, D 495 RESET (PID MX0023), as well as 3 Caltrans survey markers, and found a geocache as well.

W 12 on the Siskiyou County benchmarks page

EXPLORATION QUICKIE: abandoned southern pacific winters branch

Driving home from the Bay Area up Interstate 505 (the “Winters Cut-off), I jumped off the highway at the Midway Road exit just north of the Nut Tree Airport to look for remnants of the Southern Pacific Clear Lake/ Winters Branch along the modern interstate.

I vaguely remember seeing rail cars along the interstate’s predecessor 2 lane highway as our family travelled back and forth between the Bay Area and Siskiyou County in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I rediscovered the railroad branch while looking at old topographic maps of the area recently.

USGS 1953 Allendale, CA topographic map, photorevised 1973

The above topo map shows the railroad running between Hartley Road and the under construction Interstate 505. I explored the stretch between the two arrows, heading north from Midway Road to Allendale Road.

Google Maps of the same area
Looking south across Midway Road, from the northeastern corner of Midway Road and Hartley Road.

Starting from Midway and Hartley Roads, the railbed would have come through the middle of the warehouse shown in the above picture. (7 January 2021 update: It should be noted that a brand new warehouse has been constructed on the land in the above photo)

Looking north from the northeast corner of Midway and Hartley Roads at the path of the railbed.

Also at this corner is found a USGS benchmark with its associated witness post, monumented in 1904 (Solano County B 44, PID JS1521).

Along this stretch of the abandoned railbed, a number of small drainages are crossed. Below is one the the concrete culverts used to cross these.

Looking east from Hartley Road. Interstate 505 is in the background.
Top view, looking north.
East side of culvert.

At Hartley and Allendale Roads, we look back south in the next photo, the the raised railbed to the left in the image.

My quick exploration ends at Allendale Road. The next stretch of railbed is now private property across the road.

The railbed heads north towards Winters through the center of the photo.

REFERENCES

Vaca Valley and Clear Lake Railroad – Wikipedia

A Daytrip Around a Big Mountain

After a few weeks of self isolation, and the onset of great spring weather, my wife and I headed out for a day trip through eastern Siskiyou County, as well as parts of Shasta, Lassen, and Modoc counties, California, and Klamath County, Oregon.

This is sparsely inhabited country, consisting of national forest lands, large ranching and farming operations, small towns, and stunning volcanic, forested, and high desert vistas. This was mostly a scouting trip to plan future explorations. Some parts of this country I had never been to, and others it had been decades since I visited. 

We drove this loop counterclockwise, starting in Mount Shasta.

Inside the 300 mile round loop is found Mount Shasta; the Medicine Lake Highlands, including the massive Medicine Lake Volcano; the McCloud, Pit, and Fall rivers, which flow into the Sacramento and then the Pacific Ocean through the Golden Gate some 300+ miles south; Lava Beds National Monument; the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges; the remains of historic lumber, agricultural, and railroad operations; large cattle ranches; numerous alfalfa, hay, potato, garlic, onion, and horseradish farms; and Native American reservations and historic sites. The trip also skirts the Klamath River along the Oregon border.

This region on the eastern side of the Cascades is classic Basin and Range landscape, combined with the spectacular results of Cascade volcanism. 

We loaded on provisions for the day to minimize our contact with others. We drove counterclockwise from Mount Shasta on this loop. State Route 89 (Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway) going east takes you through the former lumber town of McCloud, then through federal and privately held forest lands for about an hour until reaching the junction of 89 and State Route 299 (Lassen State Highway). This portion of the drive treats one to an impressive view of Mount Shasta’s east side, as well as titillating turnoffs to a multitude of destinations (McCloud River and its falls; Pondosa ghost town; stretches of the abandoned McCloud Lumber Railroad (now a multi use trail); and Burney Falls and the nearby railroad bridge used in “Stand By Me”). 

As you approach the 89/299 junction, the forest gives way to views of grass covered valleys, flood basalts, and other volcanic structures, such as cinder cones and impressive secondary volcanic peaks in this eastern side of the Cascades, such as Burney Mountain (7864 feet). As you head east on 299 to the town of Fall River Mills, the highway climbs a volcanic ridge, with a spectacular canyon carved by the Pit River to the south. Here, one gets a view of Lassen Peak, as well as other prominent secondary volcanic peaks between Lassen and Mount Shasta. 

Forests give way to grass covered valleys as you near Burney, driving from McCloud.

It’s amazing how much water there is in these parts. Just north of Fall River Mills lays Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park, which is only accessible by boat. According to Wikipedia, “The park sits on “one of the nation’s largest systems of underwater springs.” They produce some 1.2 billion US gallons (4.5×109 l) of fresh water per day into the aboveground waterways. Water in the springs originate as snowmelt from the Medicine Lake Volcano highlands.”

A readout just outside of Fall River Mills reveals the volcanic structure of the area. Layered cinder cone deposits are covered by a newer lava flow.

The towns along this trip are for the most part shells of their former selves. With the mechanization of logging and farming operations, the closing of smaller milling operations, railroad mergers, and the shift towards more sustainable industries (i.e. tourism), these are settlements still looking for a purpose and relevance in today’s world. Fall River Mills has done better than most, with a golf resort, nearby hot springs, and retirement development. Other towns are struggling to repurpose themselves. 

We stopped to inspect a forest service campground and have lunch. Just a few miles north of Adin is the Lower Rush Creek forest service campground, only 3/4 of a mile off of combined State Route 299/139. It was a nice little campground with the creek running through it, but you drive past several manufactured home hovels to get to it. In fact, the campground is situated within 200 yards of one of these shacks. I’m not quite sure what a night would be like at this site, as it seems that several of the nearby properties house cannabis grow operations. There is another campground (Upper Rush Creek) farther up the road, but the road was not yet open for the season beyond this campground.

At Canby, we turned north on 139 towards Oregon, we finally popped into the southern end of the Klamath Lake Basin. We made our way into the Lava Beds at Petroglyph Point, containing one of the largest panels of Native American rock art in the United States. It was pretty awesome, but sad at the same time, as one also sees the the results of vandalism thrust upon such a significant cultural treasure. 

From here, Mount Shasta again dominates the landscape, with Mount McLoughlin in Oregon also visible to the north. By this time, it was getting late in the afternoon. We headed briefly to Merrill, Oregon, where we used the bathrooms at the local Dollar General, then headed west on California State Route 161. We stopped for a few moments to enjoy the golden hour at Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge, watching the birds at a gorgeous viewing platform. With hunger pains not too far from manifesting themselves, we headed home to Mount Shasta to grab some takeout before finally arriving home.

The Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge, with Mount Shasta in the distance.

More Portland Grub

Medical issues necessitated that my wife and I spend 5 weeks recently in Portland. While most of that time was spent in two area hospitals, we did have the opportunity to visit some new eateries, as well as revisit some others. 

Reel M Inn

A classic dive bar, this was not only a must-stop for the fried chicken, but because our adventure daughter, Claudia (IG: @claudiafabbrini) tends bar there. Cheap beer, unbelievable fried chicken and jojos, and a lively atmosphere fueled by neighborhood patrons are a hallmark of this pub in Portland’s SE side. It’s takes about 55 minutes on average to get your chicken, as the bar has only one small fryer, but it is worth the wait. Incidentally, Bon Appétit magazine just featured Reel M Inn in a web post this past week.

Reel M Inn is at 2430 SE Division Street.

Fried chicken & jojos at Reel M Inn

Palio Dessert & Espresso House

Just located 5 minutes from the Reel M Inn in the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood, Palio is a cozy and unassuming coffee house offering an assortment of salads, paninis, and most importantly, desserts. Open until 11 pm nightly, this is a great place worth the drive from anywhere in the metro area to share a dessert and conversation with a friend or partner.

You can find Palio at 1996 SE Ladd Avenue.

From top to bottom: vanilla buttercream icing, cheesecake, chocolate cake, & chocolate shavings on the backside 

Tamale Boy

Unbelievable Mexican food. Period. Having lived in Tucson for 12 years, and traveled in Mexico, what I sampled here I’ll put up against anything I’ve eaten in the Southwest or Mexico. Tamale Boy features textures and tastes from southern Mexico, so it will surprise you if you are used to a more Baja or Sonoran style. The location on Dekum (one of two shops)  where we ate has a food truck ambiance, which derives from Tamale Boy’s food truck catering business. 

Dekum location: 1764 NE Dekum Street

Tacos on the left, burrito on the right, here I am, stuck in the middle of a choice. 

Petite Provence

We went here for dessert (a reoccurring theme in my life). Located in the Alberta Street District of Portland, one could order a wonderful French bistro-inspired breakfast or lunch, but why? when so many wonderful pastries and cakes are waiting  to be consumed. 

1824 NE Alberta Street. Arrange a great day of gallery and boutique shopping on Alberta Street around your meal stop at Petite Provence.

Resistance is futile. 

Papa Haydn

Dessert. Again. Our first experience with Papa Haydn was several years ago at their 23rd Avenue location in Portland’s Nob Hill neighborhood. This trip, we stopped at the original location on the SE side. With a more neighborhood vibe than it’s uptown sister location, it’s the perfect spot on a rainy PDX day to enjoy a hot beverage and a piece of cake. And then another piece.

Find Papa Haydn East at 5829 SE Milwaukie Avenue.

Triple chocolate cake at Papa Haydn.

Salt & Straw

There’s a bunch of locations in Portland and on the West Coast. The one I frequented is on NE 23rd Avenue, a couple of blocks down from Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital, where my wife spent two weeks at the Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon (an absolutely phenomenal facility). Salt & Straw creates wildly imaginative ice cream flavor combinations, with corresponding wildly imaginative names (Freckled Woodblock Chocolate, Avocado & Oaxacan Chocolate Fudge, Black Olive Brittle & Goat Cheese). I fell for the middle-of-the-road Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons, a superb creamy vanilla ice cream with a satisfying amount of caramel and sea salt. Note: the lines get long for a cone or cup. Fortunately, pints are conveniently located at the register. Yes, I justified eating a pint, since it wasn’t much more than a double scoop in a waffle cone, and I didn’t have to wait 20 minutes.

We visited Salt & Straw at 828 NW 23rd Avenue, but there are several more in PDX, including one on the Alberta Street District.

Sea salt with caramel ribbons.

Original Hotcake House

Breakfast. 24 hours. Steak and eggs. Pancakes the size of tectonic plates. Need I say more? Just go. Indulge your breakfast desires at 1002 SE Powell Boulevard.

Tectonic plates disguised as pancakes.


Original Hotcake House.

NOTE: see an earlier post “Portland Notes” for more food experiences

Portland Notes

There is no shortage of good desserts in Portland

My wife and I had to go to Portland, Oregon, earlier this week for two days to address some medical issues. Here are a few notes from that trip.

Hotel: we stayed at the Park Lane Suites & Inn, located in the Goose Hollow neighborhood at the west side of the downtown area. It’s a hotel with outside entrances to the rooms; however, you can only access the rooms by first going through a lobby entrance. The room was clean and bright – we had a suite with a kitchen area and dining table. WiFi is provided. Numerous restaurants, as well as a Starbucks, Walgreens, and Fred Meyers are within 5 minutes walking distance. We booked our room on Priceline for $90 per night – a deal considering most hotels in the downtown area are double that.

Good Eats: dinner our first night was at Tapalaya, a Creole/Cajun tapas eatery with a Vietnamese twist in the east side Laurelhurst neighborhood. My wife and I split popcorn shrimp ($12), followed by seafood gumbo ($14) for her, and a crab cake for me ($14). But I really went for the beignets ($6). Served with a bourbon dipping sauce, they are guaranteed to induce a culinary orgasm.  They are as good or even better than Cafe Du Monde’s.

Beignets

The second night we ate at Oven and Shaker in the Pearl District. After a long day spent at Oregon Health Sciences Center, a simple pizza dinner was all we were looking for. Disappointed we were not, as we had a wonderful Neopolitan style Margherita (tomato, basil, mozzarella) pizza ($13), preceded by lamb sugo served over a crispy polenta, and followed by layered budino, a parfait of  chocolate ganache, whipped cream, cajeta caramel, and cookie crumble ($7). I could have easily oredered a second of everything.

Layered budino

And one must not forget donuts. One of Coco Donuts’ three locations is a five minute walk from the Park Lane, at 709 SW 17th. Classic donuts and great coffee.

Pure joy at Coco Donuts