Up The Road

Wednesdays at 4:44 and 6:44 p.m. and Thursdays at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m.

A production of NSPR

Produced by Matt Fidler 

About Up the Road

If you travel mostly to escape the daily drudge, Up The Road host Kim Weir suggests you think again. Travel matters, every bit as much as other choices you make every day. Which is why Up the Road encourages everyone to travel responsibly. Here in California as elsewhere around the world, responsible travel means appreciating nature, valuing natural resources, respecting and preserving culture and history, and supporting local economies in healthy ways.

Up the Road is dedicated to responsible California travel—to sustaining the California story by deepening your connection to this unusual and surprising place. Each week Up the Road shares stories about the land, its natural history, and its people, the lives they have lived, the stories they have told over the centuries, and the stories they are creating right now. The stories that keep us all here, that create California’s unique ecology of home.

Host Kim Weir is editor and founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project dedicated to sustaining the California story. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, and author of all of the original California “handbooks” put out by Moon Publications, now Avalon Travel. Weir lives in Paradise, California.

Up the Road is a joint production of Up the Road and North State Public Radio, initially produced by Sarah Bohannon. The show is now produced by Matt Fidler and distributed by PRX. Up the Road’s theme song was written and produced by Kirk Williams.


Damian Gadal / Flickr Creative Commons

Unless you’re long in the tooth, like me, you’ve probably never heard the Midwestern witticisms of Bill Vaughan, editor and columnist at the Kansas City Star, who died in 1977. Here is some sample wit:

“A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” That one, not always true, given the turnout in our most recent presidential election, but based on past ones, true enough.

Bob Doran / Flickr Creative Commons

To wrap up our socially distanced tour of California’s North Coast, we’re visiting entire towns originally built of old-growth redwood, trees otherwise harvested and milled to build post-Gold Rush California.


Just south of Eureka is tiny Ferndale, first settled by Danish immigrants in 1864, when this delta plain was still heavily forested. Ferndale is famous for street after street of colorful, ornate redwood homes and businesses—Queen Anne, Eastlake-Stick, Italianate, Neo-Classic, Bungalow and Mission styles. And gawkers galore.

John Andrew Rice / Flickr Creative Commons



When visiting the ocean in winter, one particular fellow traveler pops to mind—the Western or Pacific gray whale, also known as the California gray whale. A close-up view of California’s official mammal is life-changing.


Dark, barnacled heads shoot up from the deeps to breathe, blasting saltwater from blowholes with the force of a firehose. That spouting is how you’ll first spot them, all along the California coast. Not so close, but close enough.

Henry Zbyszynski / Flickr Creative Commons



MacKerricher State Park is Fort Bragg’s park, deeply woven into the community’s story, past and present. Most people enter this gorgeous stretch of ocean, tidepools, forest, coastal prairie, and sand dunes three miles north of town, where the visitor center and campgrounds are.


But you could start south of Pudding Creek at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg proper, a former dump site where polished pieces of old glass become dazzling finds, a beachcomber’s paradise renewed with every high tide. Or begin far to the north near the mouth of Ten Mile River, where the park’s Inglenook Fen-Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve begins.

Bob Wick / US Bureau of Land Management



State parks along California’s North Coast offer great opportunities to explore—up close and personal—the long-ago processes that created the land beneath our feet. And that continue to power change, from continental drift and emerging landforms to volcanic explosions and earthquakes.


Lands associated with the Mendocino Triple Junction’s earthquake faults offer colorful surprises, such as polished jade in gravel bars along the Eel River’s South Fork, in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Outcroppings of jadeite and nephrite jade were squeezed up through miles of Franciscan Complex sediments then freed up by erosion.

Bob Wick / US Bureau of Land Management

The Great California Road Trip has rolled west—to explore more of the North Coast, “the brink of the world,” as an ancient Ohlone dancing song has it. Gain new appreciation of our edge of the world, up close and personal, by taking along a nifty state parks geology guide produced with help from the California Geological Survey.

Geological Gems of California State Parks, available online as a free download, includes 50 different geological “notes” that describe and illustrate key geological processes and unique features you’ll see at parks all over the Golden State.

Bob Wick / US Bureau of Land Management

It’s a cliché to say it’s magical to meander through coast redwoods. That’s probably because the experience is magical, so people keep saying it. The magic is strongest among stands of surviving old-growth redwoods—the last stand, ecologically, of these prehistoric giants.

President Ronald Reagan’s most famous gaffe, while still governor of California, and fighting the expansion of redwood parks, was widely quoted as: “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen ’em all.” Which of course is ridiculous. Reagan was misquoted. What he actually said was: “A tree is a tree—how many more do you need to look at?”

Sharon Mollerus

The Great California Road Trip heads west this week, to the edge of the continent.

California’s isolated, sometimes isolationist human history has been shaped by the land itself. That even early European explorers imagined the territory as an island is a fitting irony, because in many ways— geographically, yes, but also in the evolution of plants and animals—California was, and still is, an island in both space and time. With small islands within the larger one, such as the North Coast. The redwood coast.

Henrique Pinto / Flickr Creative Commons

Consider last week’s thumbnail sketch of Death Valley a preview of California’s deserts. As it happens, fall, winter, and spring are ideal times to explore them.

Which is the first point: California has multiple deserts. The 25 million acres typically considered desert extend east from Los Angeles and its edge cities into Nevada and Arizona, south into Mexico, and north to the eastern Sierra Nevada.

BFS Man / Flickr

We visit Death Valley this week, the lowest point in North America. Death Valley’s depths are all the more impressive when you consider that the highest point in the continental U.S., Mount Whitney, is just 100 miles away, in the southern Sierra Nevada near Lone Pine.

To stargazers, Death Valley is the closest thing to heaven in light-blinded Southern California. To rockhounds, it’s a timeless monument to very grounded geologic grandeur. To botanists and bird-watchers, it’s a study in successful adaptation. Its vast spaces sprinkled with petroglyphs, ghost towns, mine ruins, and other enduring marks of human aspiration, to hikers and history buffs it’s one endless discovery trail.