DBD 11.8.10 Your California: Colusa/Lake




1876- Post Office was established in Arbuckle with Tacitus R. Arbuckle as Postmaster.

Another early wakeup was in store for today.  I was driving toward Eugene and Seattle along I-5, which shoots due north through the increasingly narrow Sacramento Valley.  Passing the tiny towns of College City, Arbuckle, and Grimes (or Grimey as the locals liked it to be called), the Tahoe region could be seen in the sunrise to the east, 6am just gone.  But to the west, the nondescript coast ranges pass by, increasing slowly in elevation as to the north, on the way to the dual highpoint of Colusa and Lake Counties.  Clear Lake is the highlight of Lake County, along with active geothermal areas used for generating power, The Sacramento River makes lower Colusa County a fertile farmland, where longstanding riparian area water rights (and water subsidies) make rice a very profitable crop.

            But farm issues were not my main concern for the day.  That would be Snow Mountain, a prominent, often passed but little-visited mountain, hidden, one might say, in plain view, on the fifth installment of Your California: Colusa and Lake Counties.        




Vital stats

Population: 18,804 (.26 Sold-Out Memorial Stadiums)

Major Towns: Colusa, Williams

Highpoint: Snow Mountain, elevation 7,056 (23 Sather Towers)

Location (Berkeley terms): Not so far from Davis. 

Major Landmarks: The Sacramento (!) River.

University of California Affiliations: Home to the University of California Cooperative Extension, Colusa County, where you can learn to be a Master Gardener.



Vital stats

Population: 58,309 (.81 Sold-Out Memorial Stadiums)

Major Towns: Clearlake.  That’s it.

Highpoint: Snow Mountain, elevation 7,056 (23 Sather Towers)

Location (Berkeley terms): Not so far from Davis. 

Major Landmarks: Clear Lake, Cache Creek

University of California Affiliations: Home to the University of California Cooperative Extension, Lake County, where you can also learn to be a Master Gardener.  Biters.



Then as now, no dirt bikes are allowed on the highway. 

Lake County, best known for the (obviously) green waters of Clear Lake, is disparate from Colusa County, which was named for the Colus Rancho, located on the west side of the Sacramento Valley in Alta California days.  Which reminds me: can you name a geographic duality where one half is so ridiculously more impressive than the other?  I mean South Dakota and North Dakota are both basically flat and filled and dead oxen.  North and South Carolina have mountains, plains, and racial issues.  But Alta vs. Baja California?  Please. 

But back to Colusa: the original name for the rancho came from the "Co-Lus" tribe. Historians believe the true pronunciation of the word in the local language meant "scratch," as tradition dictated newly married women in the tribe to scratch the faces of the grooms after the ceremony.  During the gold rush, the Colus Rancho (and many other ranchos) came into being in order to aid miners traveling to the Shasta goldfields who needed supplies for their horses and hotels along the stagecoach route to the northern mines.

To preface my journey, I’d just like to state that while now I think it’s pretty amazing, Google Maps hasn’t always been rock solid.  It once had me turning left onto Market from the Central Freeway in SF; when I got there, I found that a more illegal left turn can probably not be made.  However, the "Deafy Glade" trailhead (so named because it accesses a small clearing a few miles away of the same name) is found, easily.  Gmaps doesn’t find the trailhead, though, it finds the actual glade

I can’t find any record of anyone with a last name "Deafy," or how the locale got its name, or anything about it at all, for that matter, about Deafy.  Maybe Deafy was a herder, or a miner, or a homesteader who happened to live on that land who knows how long ago, and all remains of him are lost to time, forever.  But thanks to Google you can find out how to get there in a matter of seconds. 


Maybe Deafy was a total dick.

In any case, the road from Maxwell to the TH was long and windy and I had to stop to pee.  Good thing I didn’t miss anything going on in the world thanks to Dish Network. 


The Super Bowl is a smelly affair. 

After another half hour driving through Places Where Weird People Live, I finally reached the TH.  It had rained recently and the ground was wet, but other than that a fine day, weather-wise. 


Twitter, circa 1965



Cal broke several of these regulations vs. OSU

Starting out, after about a half mile the trail crossed a creek in a canyon.  Stopping for a minute, I noticed the surrounding trees and rocks had many reddish patches on them.  Then I noticed the patches moving.  Looking closer, each patch was thousands upon thousands of ladybugs, crawling over each other slowly emerging from nighttime torpor.  At that moment, Ladybugs ceased to be the cute insect representatives of rain boots and umbrellas and more like parasites that could eat my flesh if motivated to.  If you were quiet enough you could actually hear them squirming. 




…it was creepy. 



I kept walking.



Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away h-OH GOD THEY'RE ON MY NECK. 

The Snow Mountain Wilderness is notable for several reasons.  One is that Snow Mountain itself is over 7,000 feet.  Just north of Clear Lake, this often makes it the southernmost coast range peak to receive regular snowfall in the winter.  The upshot of this is that the trees and plants resemble those found much, much further north. 



According to Gary Suttle, something like 30% of plants are found no further south than Snow Mountain.  It’s also somewhat isolated in terms of elevation, which makes it something of a "sky island."  With over 3000 feet of climbing to do, it definitely felt as such at the moment. 




The forest thinned out the higher I climbed, and the terrain flattened out. 



Pine trees dominated here.  Evidence of fire could be seen in the not so distant past, turning some sections of forest into rather dead stretches.






There are actually two summits, an East and West peak, the East being higher.  In between the peaks is a wide, open bowl.  At the top of the bowl was a deep snowbank.  The mountain had indeed lived up to its name, even this late in the year. 


Views were fairly limited in some directions; the South and West were clear, while the East was clouded over.  I was surprised to find so many people on the summit, since we had seen no one up to that point on the trail. 


There was a nice register box as well, and I signed in. 






The hike down was mostly uneventful, except that on the return I stopped to kill all living things in the creek at the bottom of the canyon.  You know how salmon are dying in droves everywhere?  It was me.



Sorry, fishermen

Driving back to civilization, I passed a house with some unique sculptures by it:


Why bother with Stonehenge?

Once again I had entered a realm of the state I had never seen before and may never see again.  I had found a canyon crawling with insects, a town named after a man called Tacitus, a cow in the middle of the road, and snow in June, but for some reason it all seemed to fit together.  Sometimes, the foibles of place are more interesting than the ones shoved in your face for the simple fact that you had to go out of your way to find them, much like uncovering something cool at a garage sale instead of Macy’s.  You might find a Cezanne oil, or a Rodin bronze, or an Adams black and white photo.  But you also might find a giant fucking cement goblin with an American flag.  And that’s cool. 


This picture would be much funnier if the cow was operating a vehicle. 





Suttle, Gary. "California County Summits." Wilderness Press, 1994.


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