We, Ben and I, take off for the high Sierras in Topher’s Truck. The weather is beautiful, the Toyota motor hums for the open road as we cross the new Bay Bridge and head east on Hwy 80. The best book in the world is “Backcountry Adventures: Northern California.” Actually, the best book in the world is “Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson but “Backcountry Adventures: Northern California.” is the best book in the world in a different sort of way. It gives routes of 4WD adventures in the most remote parts of the State, with full historical detail. A massive piece of research that lends itself to toilet reading. Buy it even if you never come to California.http://www.amazon.com/Backcountry-Adventures-California-Peter-Massey/dp/1930193084 I have worn out 2 copies but luckily James has just bought a third. Soon we are in Gold Country and driving up the old mule train roads that the prospectors used.
The trails are very broken, frequently with thousand foot drops a few feet from your offside wheel. Topher’s Truck has 200,000 miles, 4WD with lockable front hubs and low ratios. She doesn’t care about the wind and weather.
We camp by a lake. There is nobody. There are probably lots of bears.
A Dutch Oven is the best cooking device ever invented. We fry up onions, garlic, bacon, a big hunk of beef and then add potatoes and turnip. We feed the fire with a few small stick and an hour later there is the best “Ragout de Boeuf aux Navets, Favorit de L’Ours” that has ever lured a Bear out of the woods.
We drink Sierra Nevada before the meal and strong Californian Shiraz with the meal. Holy cow, we are in the wilderness and life is at its best.
Ben goes fishing.
The leitmotif of this trip is to visit old mining towns. We set off the next day to Summit City, a mining town at 7,500 ft. In 1865, at its peak, there were 500 buildings and the population numbered up to 6,000 residents. By 1868, the population had dropped to fewer than 100 residents. The history in these high mountains is made more vibrant by their current total remoteness.
It is a big climb. As we approach the town the trail is blocked by a massive tree that has totally crashed.
So we go for a hike following the Bear tracks that are all around and looking over hundreds of miles of high mountains. California is a wonderful place.
We finally emerge from the mountains at Truckee, a town that was named after Topher’s Truck. We then blast back to San Francisco. Ben drives, I sleep. Thanks Ben, thanks Topher’s Truck.