We headed up to the mountains for Nimue's February week of off school. While this is traditionally "Ski Week", this year is about the most pathetic snow year I've seen around here. Bad for skiing, and most especially bad for the drought.
Fortunately, there are other ways to amuse oneself up near Downieville. We mountain biked, hiked, and spent a day exploring some of the old mining sites on back roads above town.
Can't you tell this was once the bustling mining community of Monte Cristo?
If you look around, there are remnants: shards of old bottles and dishes, saw blades, pieces of old stoves, and buckets like this one.
Nimue got bored, but the adults had a dandy time poking about.
Another old mining site up the road a bit. I think this was the old Telegraph Mine. Last year -- also a bad snow year -- when we rode up on mountain bikes, this was about the point where we were turned around by increasing giant slippery snow patches on the road. None in sight here today.
When we got up to the top of the ridge, we took a small walk up a spur road to the Saddleback Mountain fire lookout.
It has about the most scenic potty hut ever.
At an elevation of 6690 feet in February, there was not much snow in evidence. One fears a bad fire season this summer and fall.
Mt. Lassen in the distance.
We decided the weather station looked like an alien space probe.
And the old snags look like monsters:
There were strange messages carved by worms in the wood:
Our truck just looks like it belongs out here.
And it does. This is the chunk of tree we had to drag up the road a bit with the truck to a spot where there would be space to pass it. Notice the large furrow it dug.
Sadly, there wasn't much we could do about this tree without a chainsaw. Alas, we didn't make it to the old mining town of Brandy City, which was the original goal for the day. Not that it mattered much, since there was much fun to be had wandering around the maze of dirt roads up to that point.
Hmmm. Snow. What are Chad and Nimue doing?
Chad looks proud of himself.
Get out of the way, Nimue!
Here comes the truck. Note the waning light...
Ah, traction! As you see, we did find one shady part of the road that had several snow patches, and since they were melting fast, these snow patches were what my dad would call "slicker than snot". Dumb me, I didn't put the chains in the truck for this trip (there was no snow after all...); Chad's clever notion of using sticks as traction aids got us out. We had to move this set of sticks about four times onto different patches, after which we were done with the slippery melting snow and the sticks were just about pulverized.
There are clearly many more roads to explore close to town, even if they are "Not recommended for cars." A most entertaining winter day for us.