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.


Ron Reiring

Just south of Bodie is Mono Lake. You could mistake this pale gray inland sea and its ghostly tufa towers for an eerie alien swimming pool on some other planet.


Back in the day, Mark Twain had much to say about Mono Lake—then known as the Dead Sea of California. “One of the strangest freaks of nature found in any land,” was one of his kinder comments.


“Mono Lake lies in a lifeless, treeless, hideous desert,” he wrote. “This solemn, silent, sailless sea—this lonely tenant of the loneliest spot on earth—is little graced with the picturesque.

Good Hike / Flickr Creative Commons

One of the best reasons anywhere to pull off the highway is just south of Bridgeport and north of Mono Lake—Bodie, a gold-mining ghost town well worth the wander.

To get to Bodie State Historic Park from the highway you’ll bump down a dirt road for five miles, which helps, once you get there, with social distancing—a breeze here anyway, certainly during the off-season. Dogs on leashes are welcome too, good news if Fido’s bouncing along with you.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, buildings typically open to explore are now closed, the park’s popular public tours canceled. To support the town’s preservation, support the nonprofit Bodie Foundation, which sometimes offers private tours.

Jay Huang

The Great California Road Trip has rolled straight down from High Sierra summits to the edge of the Great Basin—a surprising transition, ecologically and otherwise. A particular surprise: the abundant natural hot springs, from Bridgeport to Mammoth Lakes to Bishop, many on public land.

Given the general stress load these days, you’ll want to add at least one good hot-springs soak to your Eastern Sierra itinerary. Pick up a regional hot springs guide, or chat up locals, to ferret out suitable spots. Some are quite popular and draw crowds—for most of us, not the best idea in the time of coronavirus. But others are less well known, and more remote. Sometimes you can also camp nearby.

Matthew Rhodes / Flickr Creative Commons

The Great California Road Trip rolls on, this week heading toward the Sierra Nevada’s spectacular east side.

But first—weather permitting, and assuming your vehicle can survive adventure—we’ll explore the few High Sierra spots where people managed to make trails, then roads, to cross these mountains. Elsewhere, the forbidding granite said: “Nope.”

Don Graham / Flickr Creative Commons

The Great California Road Trip continues this week, rolling over to the Sierra Nevada’s east side. Wherever you’re ultimately heading, on the eastern side of the Sierras the main road is US Route 395, which slices through Nevada on its way south to San Diego, or, north to Oregon and Washington.

Woven together last century from scenic ribbons of state and local roadways, today’s US 395 was once known as The Three Flags Highway, because it ran from near Mexico up through the West Coast states and on into British Columbia. What a trip it is, still. If you’d be smitten by the mile-by-mile history, various road geeks have researched the route and posted detailed maps, timelines, and histories, so start your trip there.

Pacific Southwest Forest Service, USDA, courtesy Redding Hotshots / Flickr Creative Commons

This week we wrap up our Volcanic California Tour, visiting several more special places you could add to the list, whether your road trip is for-real and right now, or imaginary, at this point.

Let’s start with Medicine Lake Highlands, 14 miles south of Lava Beds National Monument by gravel road. The Modoc National Forest terrain here truly qualifies for the “lunar landscape” label often used to describe volcanic lands. In 1965, astronauts from the Manned Spacecraft Center in Texas came here, to the pumice fields, to prepare for the first moon landing.

Don Graham / Flickr Creative Commons

This week Up the Road heads up the trail—for solitude and some inspiration on short trips along the Pacific Crest Trail, in the shadow of the Cascades. Round out your Volcanic California Tour on some of the PCT’s finest, least visited sections.

Officially known as the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, the PCT’s total route runs 2,653 miles from Mexico through California, Oregon, and Washington. An epic journey, by any standard. In normal years many people undertake the adventure two or three weeks at a time, as “thru-hikers” on multi-year backpacks.

Becky Matsubara / Flickr Creative Commons

There are places—still—in California that are so remote, most people never get there, a fact I deeply appreciate. One of these places is the vast Modoc Plateau in northeastern California. Prominent here is Lava Beds National Monument, first famous as the site of Captain Jack’s last stand during the Modoc Indian War—a war that riveted the entire nation during the winter of 1872-1873.

Mehmet Canli

“Lonely as God and white as a winter moon.” That’s how 19th-century poet and Pony Express rider Joaquin Miller described Mount Shasta, California’s most majestic and mysterious mountain.

The state’s fifth-highest peak but more impressive than any other, Shasta is clearly visible from as far away as 150 miles. Camp or picnic—or just sit and stare—somewhere you can commune with the mountain. (It’s not safe to drive while looking.) Up close, though, Shasta is more obscure, harder to grasp.

United States Department of the Interior National Park Service

We set out this week on the first leg of the Volcanic California Tour. This trip doesn’t cover all volcanic activity in California, but it does take in two immense and impressive peaks, Lassen and Shasta. These are the southernmost volcanoes in the Cascade Range, both “active.” The tour also includes the intriguing Modoc Plateau and the option of day-trip and overnight solitude on the Pacific Crest Trail.