Posts Tagged ‘Sacramento’

Getta Move On!

So many of the National Park Service’s historic sites are static. Event X happened at Location Y so we put up a visitor’s center! Come on down!

Not so the National Trails. The trails are sites-in-motion, and collectively record the most significant event in American history: the great east-west migration.  The nation has never been static, we’re marked more by moving around than we are by staying put.  From the first time the settlers crossed the Appalachians to Lewis & Clark to Manifest Destiny to underage girls sneaking away to Hollywood, we’re a nation on the move. This is true today: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 10% of the population moves from one state to another every five years. I wonder how many people live in a state other than their birth state? Quite a lot, I’d wager.

Blogging about these trails is gonna be tough. They aren’t single, compartmentalized sites, they’re a chain of locations connected by a common purpose. In the case of the California Trail, it’s a collection of sites important to the Gold Rush of the mid-to-late 1800’s. In the fall of 2007, during my trip to Yosemite, I took a little trip down (er, actually, up) the California Trail.

Sutter’s Fort — © 2008 America In ContextI started in Sacramento. What a cool little city! I had never been before, and I was really impressed with the downtown. It’s nice, clean, easily walkable, with a lot of great hotels, shops, restaurants, and (of course), brewpubs (I stopped in the Rubicon, a fine establishment 🙂 ). Went to Sutter’s Fort, an official stop on the California Trail. It’s a rebuild: all new construction meant to look like the old construction (hence the entrance fee). It’s nice enough, but it is fake. Good enough for the kiddies, I suppose, one young lad was having a grand old time playing cowboy amongst the barrels & things.

I then headed up Highway 50 to Lake Tahoe which was, and I’ve gotta be honest here, a real dump. Yeah, it was off-season, but still, I can’t see the appeal. I’m sure the lake is great for boating, and of course the skiing is renowned, but the town itself is a lame tourist trap. To see even worse, cross the border into Nevada for the casinos. “Craptastic” is a good word to describe these joints, all of which have a highly dubious clientele. Not gangster-dubious, but punk-kid dubious. Late teens & early twenty-somethings with attitudes bigger than the balls to back them up. “I’m a big time Texas Hold ‘Em player, look how cool I am!” Yeah, coolness — don’t stay up too late, I’m sure you have the morning McMuffin shift. I know some really good Hold ‘Em players, and all of them are nice guys with no attitudes and real jobs that punk-rats like you would drool over. I’m sure there’ll be a government bail-out program for jerkwads like you who blow all your minimum wage cash at tables way above your skill level. Anyway, I digress …

Sierra View — © 2008 America In ContextThe absolute best part of this little spur on the California Trail are these Northern Sierra mountain roads! I rented a Nissan Altima (well, that’s the car they gave me), and it was a blast taking it up and down those roads! Thanks to the time zones, I found myself awake at 5 AM on a Sunday morning. After breakfast, I hit the roads about 6 AM, right before dawn was breaking. Had the roads all to myself, what a ball!! Just like a car commercial, definitely a better time than breathing in Tahoe second-hand smoke.

At the bottom of Rte. 207 lies the Minden/Gardnerville area of Nevada. What a beautiful little valley! Small towns, great scenery, seemingly nice folks. A lot of bikers touring around, taking in the views. A great, quiet place, probably a great place to raise a family, and a place where I could see myself retiring (except I love New England so damn much). In the nearby town of Genoa sits Mormon Station State Park, another stop on the California Trail.  I got there too early (again, damned time zones), but it’s clearly another reconstructed site, and I just didn’t have the interest. So I hopped back into the rented Altima and took to the road again.

Quiet Hamlet — © 2008 America In Context

This time, the road was the famed Highway 395 that runs parallel to the back side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Another great stretch of road with some great vistas. I would have made great time, but I found myself stopping for pictures far too often. Eventually, the road would lead to my real destination: Yosemite National Park.

But that’ll have to wait for another post. And with that, I’ve just pissed off Ellie again (you know who you are 😉 )!

Cloud Wrap — © 2008 America In Context

[Pics on this post are mine. Sadly, due to poor photo management, I lost many others, those that are left (mostly of Sutter’s Fort), are here.]


California National Historic Trail

Sutter’s Fort State Park

Mormon Station State Park

Highway 395 Road Trip

Rubicon Brewing Company

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