We continue our slow journey north with a long, winding drive along CA-49. This route covers the area famous for the gold rush of 1849 and every town we pass boasts relics of the past. The countryside is lush with trees and the scenery inticing. We wonder why this is not a route we have heard anything about from other RVers. After a few hours of navigating the narrow roads filled with hairpin turns and near-constant grade changes we decide it’s probably the road that scares most RVs away.
While certainly not the fastest route, it was just fine for our size RV, and after steering us around mile after mile of unrelenting curves, Tim says, “Well, I can confirm that the steering wheel works well.” A few hours into the journey we stop for lunch in a parking lot…that just happens to belong to a brewery. I kid, I kid. Of course, we planned the stop at Knee Deep Brewing in Auburn.
Our eventual destination was the Schoolhouse Campground just north of Nevada City. We stop to stock up on groceries in Grass Valley and the overwhelming scent of pachouli permitting the air at the Safeway confirms that we are now in northern California. Another 30 more minutes of winding roads we pull into the campground. A quick circle around and we choose what we hope will be one of the very few sites with enough sun to provide us with power for the week. (Spoiler alert…it did, and after watching the sun filter through the trees all around this deeply wooded campground we can confirm that site 34 is the best of the best if you rely on solar).
For most of the week, it was just us, the camp host, and two or three other campers. On Friday afternoon convoys of RVs and boats rolled in for some weekend fun. While the campground itself is nice with lots of tree cover and generous sized sites, it is the lake…err, reservoir…here that is the real draw. We hiked down to the path the follows the shoreline and were stunned by the glistening turquoise blue water.
One afternoon, we biked the single track trail for many miles and I had to work really hard to avoid peddling right off the edge because the water view was so distracting.
Afer two days of admiring the water from afar, we drove over to the day use area and put the kayaks in for an evening paddle. We brought along dinner and after paddling around for awhile landed on a small island to chow down.
Friday night we drove back down to Nevada City for a walk around town. Sadly, it was too late in the day for the intriguing-looking shops to be open, but we enjoyed a stroll up and down the main street.
After a tasty, if noisy, dining experience at Jernigan’s Tap House, we returned to the patchouli-scented grocery store to stock up for the following week. There would be no grocery store between us and our next destination and no grocery stores or major towns anywhere near there, so this was our best bet for avoiding a week of poor eating options. I learned a long time ago to look ahead at the grocery situation and plan for a week’s worth of meals. I am actually a huge organization nerd and planning meals is one of my favorite things. #organizationnerdalert
Saturday was all about hiking and we drove 30 minutes east into the Tahoe National Forest for a hike up the Halls Ranch Trail. Up is the keyword for this trail. The first two miles consisted of unrelenting switchbacks that brought us roughly 1,700 feet up to a ridgeline looking out on the river below and distant mountains.
The trail then turned and descended into the forest until it crossed a river before starting back up again. The river was a good place to stop and eat lunch while admiring the forest. We normally think of the western forest as being on the dry side with lots of tall evergreens and very little undergrowth. Not here. Instead, we found ourselves surrounded by a dense mixed forest filled with vegetation of all kinds and signs of spring in full bloom.
We never did make it the ranch. Instead, after our second round of grueling uphill, we turned around at mile 3.5 and made our way back to the trailhead. No regrets though as this was one of those times when it was more about the journey than the destination.
Sunday morning we were due to depart the area, but with a short drive ahead of us and a 2 pm check out at the campground, we decided to get in one more short paddle around the lake.