My husband and I drove over to Reno to follow our son back to Chico – his truck has been acting up and it’s some pretty rough country between here and there. We left our house at about 8am, birds tweet-tweeting and flowers blooming in the yard, and by noon we were standing in the freshly plowed parking lot at his apartment complex, admiring the complex artworks of melting snow that festooned the metal roofed parking shelters.
Highway 70 is always a swell ride, wherever you’re going. We left town on Hwy 99 and headed up past Butte College campus on Durham Pentz, cutting over to Hwy 70 just below Yankee Hill. It started to rain as we passed the campus, and we wondered what was ahead. Weatherman had assured us the worst was scheduled for Friday night, and that the skies would be clearing over Saturday.
But Winter and Spring continue their Seasonal SmackDown! As we rounded the bend below Pulga Road, we could see snow flying ahead.
Winter flung her best at us – rain, snow, hail…
I love Hwy 70 for it’s beauty, but one wrong move Babee, and you’re DEAD. The water is deep and fast and very, very cold this time of year. The road runs right along the river for many miles – with no safety rail for many miles – and it’s narrow and twisting. On the other side of the road you have the rock wall – at one point my husband and I came across a motorist who had just swerved off the highway and caused a small rock slide. Rock slides are a constant threat – last year the road was closed for a couple of months when a giant boulder slid right through the road, leaving a big gap. They had to blast out the canyon wall to fix it.
I try not to think about it, and my husband reminds me – Hwy 80 is not only snowy and treacherous, there are a lot of other drivers. We’ve seen stupid animal behavior cause huge wrecks and shut-downs right in front of or behind us on Hwy 80, we don’t use that highway unless it’s the only way to get somewhere.
So I hum a happy tune and enjoy the scenery on 70.
Mining, logging and PG&E dominate this area. The old power houses are worth a look – I’m sorry I didn’t get photos of those, they are beautiful, built with rock from the surrounding area. There’s great camping in the canyon, and it’s a destination for kayak enthusiasts.
There are half dozen or so little towns/resorts along the road, the biggest being Quincy and Portola.
There’s a lot of history along this road – stop in Beckworth, you can see Jim Beckworth’s cabin. It’s closed his time of year, but you can look at it here:
But if you really want to know about Jim Beckwourth, read one of his autobiographies, he is our Daniel Boone. I think his life story inspired parts of “Little Big Man” by Thomas Berger, but I’m just guessing.
After Portola we hit the high plains, and the weather really started coming at us.
The road turned very icy here, visibility shrunk, and in some spots fog moved over the road.
It seemed within minutes we were bearing down on Reno, where the snow was stacked up in the parking lot at my son’s apartment complex. We had a quick meal of leftover chicken, loaded up his stuff, and hit the road. It stormed on and off all the way back down the canyon. There was a “moderate” rock slide just above Pulga – it only closed one lane. We could tell the CalTRANS guys had just arrived, and they were nervous – the road was really skinny at that point, of course, and the flag man was having trouble finding a safe spot to stand. I’m sorry I didn’t have the camera with me for the return trip – just keep that warning in mind if you ever plan to take this route.
I’d say it’s worth the risk.