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.

 

Darron Birgenheier / Flickr Creative Commons


It’s clear that 2020 is the year of the Great American Road Trip. Roaming around in our own personal “safety bubbles,” be they family cars, funky campers, or travel trailers, fits our COVID-19-era need to control personal exposure to the virus while also seeing new or favorite places, and doing fun things. Having a life, however we define that, and embracing something close to “normal.” Of course, we all want that—and other options for making travel safe, including bike touring, say, or hiking from here to there, campground to campground.

Thomas Kriese / Flickr


It’s going to take strategy to come up with a travel or vacation plan that delivers as much freedom and enjoyment as possible—maybe even good old-fashioned fun—while also fully embracing this strange new world we’re living in. The one in which the subtext of every trip is the need to sidestep strangers, avoid even friends, and keep dodging the coronavirus. Can that even be fun?

Jason Hullinger / Flickr


I thought I knew something about responsible travel. I’ve thought a lot about it over the years, and have tried to put those thoughts into practice. You know the gist. Avoid travel’s dark side as much as possible, the big-carbon impacts of air travel and cruise-ship tourism. The destruction of rare places, and their plants and animals. The thoughtless use or overuse of natural resources.

California Department of Fish & Wildlife / Flickr Creative Commons

At Red Rock Canyon, we’ve arrived at the edge of the Mojave Desert. Before we push on, let’s take a side trip. Let’s go romp with the reptiles at the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area—some 40 square miles that protect these venerable but threatened ancients.

The Desert Tortoise Natural Area is not a place to free your backyard tortoise, now that you’ve gotten an apartment and can’t keep her. Do the right thing and call the local animal shelter instead. Your beloved pet will not survive here, a very harsh environment. And pet tortoises often bring dire diseases that threaten the already threatened wild animals who live here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ruggybear/47536072802/in/photolist-2fqANj7-2epLGPW-2g28YgR-2imkbRu-2imUTtK-24TBDBT-2g4KZMw-2imzCL7-25mVKJz-2epxWXm-2eMMx3N-2eAgv1Z-2epWVtJ-2evBG8Z-2fraBC1-RHUVHM-2eMsKgU-2g3o5Yo-2g3zai4-2eAgten-2fUByvA-2g3o5PL-25nVMwB-2fp7Vfd
Matthew Dillon / Flickr Creative Commons

When nights get nippy, some of us dream of the desert. Writer Mary Austin explained it best, more than a century ago:

“For all the toll the desert takes of a man,” she wrote, “it gives compensations—deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of the stars … They look large and near and palpitant . . . Wheeling to their stations in the sky, they make the poor world-fret of no account. Of no account you who lie out there watching, nor the lean coyote that stands off in the scrub from you and howls and howls.”

Courtesy of California State Parks, 2020

We’ve been wandering the western Sierra Nevada, visiting unique California state parks and revisiting the legacy of the California Gold Rush, cultural and ecological.

But how do you revisit the world obliterated by the gold rush? That’s the dilemma when it comes to Native American culture and community. The gold rush rushed in so violently that entire communities disappeared overnight—those that had somehow survived earlier encounters, and introduced diseases. The first Californians had no immunity.

J. Cook Fisher / Flickr

We tend to romanticize California’s gold rush, picturing, in our mind’s eye, grizzled old guys in wide-brimmed hats wading into scenic mountain streams, alone, to pan for gold.

Most miners were quite young, though, and well-educated, if a bit wild—rarely alone—seeking adventure as much as wealth, at least in the early days of the gold rush.

And California’s pretty scenery was destroyed by mining. It didn’t stand a chance once the world rushed in, hell-bent for wealth.

Tom Hilton

Winter is upon us. Fortunately, even in winter, when we desperately need a cure for cabin fever, most California parks are wide open and welcoming. Including our 200-some state parks, most of them still open at least for day use.

One notable, still almost a secret even in Northern California, is Plumas-Eureka State Park—a perfect summer getaway for family camping and hiking, but also a wonder in winter. Among other unique details, Plumas-Eureka near Blairsden is home to the annual Historic Longboard Revival Race Series, now in full swing.

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. 

Pages