Kim Weir

Host, Up the Road

Kim Weir, a former NSPR news reporter, is editor and founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project dedicated to sustaining the Northern California story. She is also an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers. North State Public Radio’s Up the Road program is jointly produced by Up the Road.

Ken Lund

Need a spa vacation but can barely make the rent?

I say: Head for Grover Hot Springs mid-week to grab one of those 20 first-come winter campsites near the park entrance (in summer, this is the picnic area). Then just settle in.

Just west of Markleeville, some 40 miles south of Tahoe, is Grover Hot Springs State Park, the perfect hot-soak antidote for weary skiers and snowshoe hikers. 

Don Graham / Flickr

We continue our appreciation of California’s unique state parks, this week stopping at a spot you’ve probably passed many times on the way to and from Tahoe.

Donner Memorial State Park has its attractions. Donner Lake, for starters, fringed with private cabins—fun for summer recreation, with public lake access, beach, picnic areas, miles of hiking trails.

Even in winter you can enjoy this place—snowshoe hiking, cross-country skiing. Almost an irony, given that right here in Truckee, in heavy winter snow, a truly shocking immigrant story played out in the days before California statehood. 

Dan Lundberg

We’ve been dipping into books for the winter reading season—books that help us appreciate this unique place, what we’re seeing when we set out to enjoy it.

But what about travel in the larger sense, world travel? Should Americans even be traveling abroad these days?

Malcolm Carlaw

To honor the ideal reading weather of winter, Up the Road is suggesting some California and travel books well worth your while. This week it’s California: The Great Exception, first published in 1949, by Carey McWilliams, to commemorate the Golden State’s first 100 years of statehood.

Long-time editor of The Nation magazine, later, McWilliams was the investigative reporter who first revealed preparations for the ill-fated U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba—in 1960, during the Eisenhower administration, five months before President Kennedy pulled the trigger on that black op.

David Berry

Cold days, long nights. The season for serious reading is upon us. And Up the Road has good reads to recommend for the winter reading season, books about California and books about travel.

Let’s start with historian Kevin Starr’s eight-book California cultural history, Americans and the California Dream, admittedly a hefty commitment. Not to worry. All volumes are now out in paperback, and you can buy them one at a time. Or hit the library.

Kai Schreiber / Flickr

You’ve probably already heard my Santa request. Maybe you even asked for the same thing. But: All want for Christmas is sanity in the public arena. Doesn’t look like Santa’s going to deliver, at least not right away. The next best thing is embracing a spokesperson for sanity—which is why, this week, we visit the state historic park that honors political humorist Will Rogers, member of the Cherokee Nation, born in Oklahoma—still Indian Territory when he was born there in 1879.

Tom Hilton / Flickr

We continue visiting unique state parks this week, this time Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, north of Mexico, east of San Diego, and south of Palm Springs. Yep, that’s serious geography, some 600,000 acres. Just the place for a family timeout, to look up and take in the totality of that dark night sky.

Stargazing is a major reason to come. The community of Borrego Springs, a big donut hole of private land entirely surrounded by the park, is the first International Dark Sky Community in the U.S.—there are a few others now—official recognition of the town’s commitment to eliminate light pollution. Plan for stargazing and dark-sky events offered by the park and the natural history association.

Matt Fidler

Some work to restore and rebuild after the Camp Fire is easy to see: Full-on debris cleanup. Cutting down dead and dying trees, to make room for returning residents and their camp trailers and fifth wheels. And new houses, springing up like mushrooms in the forest.

Other work is not so visible—including planning, in all its phases, and partnerships that come into view only if you know where to look.

Franco Folini / Flickr

We continue exploring unique state parks—this week, Fort Ross. How many states can boast of Russian settlement? Just California, Alaska, of course, and Hawaii, though none were U.S. states at the time.

Before the California Gold Rush, there was a California Fur Rush—actually, a worldwide fur rush. Sea otter pelts were particularly prized, with more than a million hairs per square inch—the densest hair of any mammal, the softest, warmest fur.

Justin Ennis / Flickr

Hearst San Simeon State Historic Monument on the Central California coast is one of those places you just have to see, no matter what you think of the man or the pleasure palace he built for himself, his mistress, and their constant Hollywood visitors.

Hearst Castle was designed by Berkeley architect Julia Morgan. Her collaboration with William Randolph Hearst spanned three decades, though the work was never really finished. Even so, Hearst’s life is somehow fully expressed here, in the country’s most ostentatious and theatrical temple to obscene wealth. After touring Hearst’s pleasure palace, you understand why many people—including Hearst—believed Orson Welles’s satirical masterpiece Citizen Kane was a thinly disguised biopic.