While I won’t blame the weather for all my problems, it has been a little onerous being stuck inside during these howling dumpers. It’s kind of fun to watch the trees swaying and the clouds whirling from inside our comfy apartment, for a few hours anyway. But after a couple of days of this stuff, a person is busting to get out.
We had a break in the weather yesterday, the clouds broke up over town, and the sun came beaming in. I’ve been getting a cold, and wanted to stay inside watching tv, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw a couple of loads of wash on the clothes line. As soon as I got out into that fresh breeze, I felt a tremendous rush of well-being. Spring took my face in the palms of her icy hands and said, “Hello Sister!”
My husband was also feeling the tug of Spring. We decided to take the dogs out somewhere different. We headed east up Hwy 32 to get a look at the big thunderheads that were circling like big black warships.
Hwy 32 lays along the remnants of the old Humboldt Road, built over a hundred years ago by our town founder John Bidwell and his partners. It was a toll road, and Bidwell made his fortune from the fees paid by eager immigrants, toiling their way toward the gold fields. There is a short section of the original road leading out of Chico, you can take that section for a mile or two out of town and get back on Hwy 32 to take you the rest of the way to Forest Ranch. That section is very pretty, but we decided to go farther.
Stage coaches left Chico a few times a day during the big Rush. The grade was so severe they were lucky to make it ten miles – as evidenced by the road signs marking the sites of two popular boarding houses of the time – 10 Mile House, and 14 Mile House. Of course there are new subdivisions at both sites – who could resist those vistas?
Whenever I drive Hwy 32, I think of those people grinding along in those stage coaches. The old road was a winding series of switchbacks, and very steep. The new road was cut through in the 1960’s, with modern equipment, they went right through bedrock to make the road straight. That’s how they saved so much of the old road.
There is a section of the road along the Peregrine Point disc golf course. This land used to be part of a private hunting club, acquired by the city about 20 years ago, not sure exactly when. The parking lot for the course sits right on the old road. You have to know it was there – no pavement is left, but you can see old ruts in the lava cap, from when it was an unpaved wagon road.
If you follow that section east, through bushes and over boulders in some places, you will find the section of road Badges is standing on above. In some spots you can still see the white center line.
As we strolled along the old road, watching cars and trucks whiz by on the new road just below, we came across a section of what people used to call “the Chinese walls”.
You will see these rock walls around the eastern end of Chico, into the hills above town along Hwy 32. They were built by workers clearing fields, used as property boundaries. They still make a fine cattle fence. When I was a little girl, my grandpa told us this was “The Great Wall of China” – he was such a kidder! He believed, as most people believed at that time, that the walls were built mostly by Chinese laborers. Since that time we’ve found out, there were all kinds of laborers involved, including conscripted local natives. But whoever built them, they’re beautiful remnants of our colorful history, I’m glad property owners have maintained them in most places.
The sun was bright but the wind cut right through my sweater as we hiked along the highway. We could not see the mountains through the curtain of storm clouds, but we could see the Sutter Buttes, which look like a big spaceship sitting in the valley.
We were gone from our house for less than an hour, but came home feeling great. It’s simple but true – fresh air and sunshine are good for you. Get out there!