Walking through Yreka history–illegally

IMG_20170507_193817487_HDR[1]I didn’t see the no-trespassing sign until I had walked across the decaying platform, feeling the wood give under my feet as I snapped pictures of the old Yreka Western Railroad station and the abandoned train cars covered with graffiti. The sun was about to set, and there was no one around. I had had a long hard day and should have been relaxing in front of the TV at the Best Western instead of wandering around alone.  I considered ever so briefly that I might break my neck, but the writer in me couldn’t resist.

Yreka, near the California-Oregon border, is the halfway point on I-5 between San Jose and Newport. After seven hours of driving, I needed a walk. Usually I walk in town, looking in the windows of the shops, all closed by the time I get there, and the restaurants I might go into if I weren’t traveling solo. I say hello to the brass sculptures, nod at the firemen in the fire station, and study the sign at the Catholic church, thinking I might go to Mass in the morning, but I never do. I’m too anxious to get back on the road.

IMG_20170507_193905186[1]This time, I headed the other way, across the freeway, away from “town.” Up a hill lies an old cemetery where I walked among the graves, reading names and dates, imagining their stories. Taking a different path down the hill, I wound up close to the train station. The 1910 station building looks as if it just closed for the night, but it has been out of business for several years. After its citizens learned in the 1880s the Southern Pacific Railroad/aka California & Oregon Railroad planned to bypass their town, they built their own railroad line to connect up with the main line seven miles away in Montague. They moved the station in 1910 to avoid seasonal flooding at the original site. Trains used that line for passengers and freight for nearly 100 years. Starting in 1986, the city of Yreka operated a summer excursion train called the Blue Goose. But times change, and the Blue Goose went out of business. The station has sat idle for the last few years.

IMG_20170507_194120720[1]Imagine the stories that crumbling old platform could tell. I’m so glad I didn’t see the sign until I had walked all over the station, my only company a couple of crows cawing from the roof.

For more info:

http://yrekahistory.blogspot.com/2008/05/yreka-rail-station-1888-1910.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yreka_Western_Railroad

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMJFNK_Western_Railroad_Station_Yreka_CA

By the way, the origin of Yreka’s name is not what you might think, not what I thought. Here it is, courtesy of California City News:

Yreka comes from the Shasta Indian word “wáik’a’,” which roughly translates to “white mountain,” in reference to nearby Mount Shasta. An article from 1876 in the Yreka Journal said that the city was intended to be named Ieka, but through some kind of mistake, it was called “Wyreka.” The name stuck and the error continued (other than the dropping of the “w,” which officials considered superfluous.)

***

This was my third trip to California since March 25, when my 95-year-old father broke his leg. He will be riding the wheelchair and I’ll be doing the I-5 commute a while longer. Bones that old take a long time to heal. I have made the journey back to San Jose at least 50 times since we moved to Oregon 20 years ago, but I always see something new.

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Maybe we should change I-5 to "Dry-5"

Weed after the fire, Mt. Shasta in the background

View of Lake Shasta from the rest stop–no water

As I sit here on the Oregon coast with rain looming in the weather forecast, it’s hard to believe that I was in San Jose a little over a week ago, that the sun was shining every day and forecasts of rain were met with laughs because actual rain was so unlikely.

I spent 28 days back home helping my father, who broke his hip in late August. Dad, who is amazingly resilient, is healing well. Now we’re back to comparing weather over the phone. Those 700 miles make a big difference.

Me: It’s cold. I had to light up the pellet stove and turn on my electric blanket.
Dad: It’s hot! 91 degrees right now outside, and about 85 in the house. I’ve got all the fans going.
Me: They’re predicting rain here.
Dad: Hah. We don’t know what we’re going to do if we don’t get some water pretty soon. Send some down here.
Me: I’m trying, I’m trying. I keep telling the rain to go south.

Most of my trip between San Jose and South Beach takes place on Interstate 5. It’s a nice wide road with lots of rest stops and plenty of places to eat, sleep or shop. It’s also loaded with trucks and RVs.  I keep awake by playing “dodge-truck,” passing the slow-moving 18-wheelers, muttering when they try to pass each other and block all the lanes.

Traveling I-5 in the fall, it’s usually hot. But this year, the heat and the drought have had dramatic effects. Fire is a big problem. Watching the news, it seems as if half the state is burning. While I was in San Jose, one of those fires destroyed a large section of Weed. This town of 3,000 at the foot of Mt. Shasta is a place where we have often stopped on our trips.We have stayed in its motels, eaten in its restaurants and walked its streets. The news reports were awful. Homes, schools, and churches destroyed. Was anything left? I had to see. I also had to see Mt. Shasta, where it was reported a glacier at the top was melting, causing a giant mudslide.

As I headed north last week, tearful from saying goodbye to my father, the reporter in me was anxious to see what had happened while I was gone. Most of the way, nothing had changed. The hills and fields were brown. The cows still grazed and dozed in the sun. The road was still lined with trucks. It was still hot. Lake Shasta was still nearly empty, vast areas of exposed dirt between the road and the water.

Then I rounded a bend after Dunsmuir and there was Mt. Shasta. When I drove south in early September, the mountain was brown, except for a small area of white on the very top. Now it looked like someone had taken a giant knife and spread that white thinly down the sides of the mountain, almost to the base. It had melted like frosting on a cake left in the sun.

Then came Weed. I expected to see exits closed and signs covered, but no. I exited and found myself passing the usual restaurants, motels and businesses. Where was the fire? I drove a few miles north before I came upon charred hills and police cars blocking roads leading into the hills. Only residents were being allowed in. About two weeks after the fire, all I could see of what was left was . . . nothing where a whole neighborhood used to be. The ruins had been cleared away. What happened was tragic, 157 homes were destroyed, along with numerous commercial properties, including two churches, the library and part of the lumber mill, but most of Weed was still standing, still in business. They will rebuild. Meanwhile, I needed to drive on.

I spent the night in Yreka, the next town up from Weed, exactly halfway on my San Jose-South Beach run. Room 30 at the Best Western Miner’s Inn, dinner at the Purple Plum, a walk through the old gold rush town, some Internet, some TV, some sleep, and back on the road toward home.

Once I crossed into Oregon, the landscape turned green and clouds dotted the sky. Go south, I said, go south.

I stands for . . . I-5

Photo courtesy Photobucket.com (Can’t shoot when I’m driving!)

I stands for I-5, the interstate highway that stretches between the California-Mexico border to the Washington-Canada border. It’s the road that seems to connect everything for western Oregonians heading for Portland, Corvallis or Eugene, and for me, it’s the road home to San Jose.

We don’t have a freeway here on the Oregon Coast. We have Highway 101, maximum speed 55, mostly one in lane in each direction with lots of curves along the ocean and through the redwoods. You can get to San Jose that way, but I-5 is more efficient. The trick is getting to it. From anyplace on the coast, it takes at least an hour of windy roads over the coast range to finally get to the open farmland of the Willamette Valley and the freeway. I have driven it in sun, snow, rain and fog, and I’m always glad to finally enter I-5 Suddenly I can drive fast, with multiple lanes to pass the many trucks, Rvs and slow-movers. I can just hear my car saying, “Hooray!”

I-5 is designed for long drives. It has rest stops every so often where one can use the restrooms, walk the dog, and eat a picnic lunch. Sleeping is also good. At many of the stops, people sit near the bathrooms holding signs asking for money. Some play guitar. many have dogs with them. They claim to be homeless, out of gas, in a jam. I never know whether or not it’s true.

The freeway also offers lots of billboards and informational signs that tell us how far it is to the next cities and what restaurants, gas stations and special attractions can be reached off the next numbered exit. The road is so straight most of the way that we need something to keep us awake. Radio stations in the rural areas tend toward Christian and right-wing talk shows. One could listen to an entire audio book–or write one–while cruising I-5.

It’s 700 miles from South Beach to San Jose. I spend most of those miles on I-5. I know the landmarks well: the Apple Peddler restaurant in Sutherland; the wild animal park in Winston; the casino and antique stores in Canyonville; the great Best Western in Roseburg; the Heaven on Earth restaurant; the truck stop with the porn theater; the rest stop at Rogue River; the series of mountain passes leading to Siskyou Pass, elevation 4310; the Welcome to California sign with its yellow poppy on a blue background; the agricultural inspection station; Yreka;Weed; Mt. Shasta; Lake Shasta; Redding; Corning; Willows where I eat at the Black Bear restaurant; Sacramento, where the traffic clogs up; Stockton, and Tracy, where I exit to 205 to 580 to 680 to 280 to Dad’s house in San Jose, arriving exhausted from fighting the Bay Area traffic.

It’s a long drive, which I have made approximately 40 times, mostly alone, since we moved to Oregon almost 18 years ago. That first trip with the rental truck that kept breaking down was something to remember. It occupies a whole chapter of my book Shoes Full of Sand. And when I went back the first time to visit, I brought so much stuff, my mother thought I was leaving my husband. I don’t pack light.

These days, I go back two or three times a year. I fly sometimes, but it takes so long to get to the Portland Airport that driving seems more efficient, and it’s definitely more fun. Sometimes I think I actually live on I-5. When I drag my suitcase into my room at the Best Western in Yreka, which is exactly halfway, I often feel that I am finally home.

I stands for I-5.

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge, and I is for I-5. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:
 
A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon
G Unleashed in Oregon
H Childless by Marriage
I Unleashed in Oregon
J Writer Aid
K Unleashed in Oregon
L Unleashed in Oregon
M Unleashed in Oregon
N Childless by Marriage
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
W Writer Aid
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Unleashed in Oregon

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Visit Writer Aid tomorrow to find out what J stands for.