This week we continue exploring how and why to travel after disaster. Why we’d want to? We may not be able to help ourselves, being curious, compassionate, and often deeply connected to a place. Consider Gettysburg. Ground Zero. New Orleans after Katrina. As for how to do it: with great sensitivity. When? Soon enough to make a positive contribution to community rebuilding—spending money locally, to boost the economy—but not so soon that you invade people’s privacy or otherwise do harm.
It’s clearly too early to inflict our compassionate curiosity on Paradise. Speaking as someone who lives there, it will probably be some months before rubberneckers will be welcome. If then.
But it’s not too soon to support Redding as it begins recovery from last summer’s Carr Fire. Start downtown on California Street, which is already transforming, because Redding has been working on downtown revitalization for some time now. The idea is to create a compact, walkable, bike-friendly city core. This community revisioning even has a temporary headquarters, thanks to a grant from the McConnell Foundation—California Street Labs, a pop-up maker space in a warehouse at 1313 California Street dedicated to prototyping the possibilities. For an entire year, you can come by on Thursdays and Saturdays to participate in an ever-changing roster of projects and experiments.
California Street Labs features a brand-new blacklight room. All kinds of room for performance art, market space for local farmers. You name it, it’s either already here, or probably soon will be. The lab offers pedal-assist bike tours along the Sacramento River, too, if you want to test out the latest in electric-bike technology. Most river trails are open, by the way, despite the fire. Not far away is The Park, an open-air eating area where food trucks pull up in the evening to offer dinner. (Lunch will come later, perhaps next spring.) Don’t miss the cool new Brasserie, which also shows movies. And the Enjoystore on Placer, kind of a brick-and-mortar version of the popular local magazine.
Back to the hiking and biking trails, a Redding wonder: Almost the entire trail area burned in the Carr Fire, and is still environmentally fragile, so before setting out you’ll want to consult the city’s Greater Redding Area Trails map, online. Many trails near Redding are fully accessible, even along the river, except those connecting to Keswick Dam north of town. The river trail beyond Keswick is open, though, so with a little strategy you can still go far.
Before or after doing the trails, check out the new Sheraton at Turtle Bay, near the iconic Sundial Bridge, or its new restaurant, Mosaic, contemporary Italian that’s pretty darn local too.
Beyond Redding proper, it’s still a challenge to see and do much, because everything is so delicate. You could plan a partial drive-by gtour, seeing, doing, and otherwise supporting what you can in areas scarred by the Carr Fire while continuing on to someplace else—Weaverville, say, or Dunsmuir, Mt. Shasta City, or McCloud north of Redding. Heading west on Hwy. 299 into the heart of the beast leads first to Shasta State Historic Park, one of my all-time favorites. But because of the Carr Firemany areas are currently closed to the public, including the Courthouse Museum. Almost all of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area burned, and most of the park is closed, including trails. Whatever you do drive by, be sure to bless.