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.

 

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.

Kyle Sullivan, US Bureau of Land Management

 


This week I’d planned to head out on the first leg of our Great California Road Trip. But listener feedback convinced me that we need to talk more, first, about responsible travel.

One challenge, in putting together my four-minute show about California every week, is that I just can’t fit it all in. No matter what I do. And especially when I’m wading into complicated stories or complex issues—such as, how to travel in the time of coronavirus. On complicated subjects I tend to start a thought in one place, one week, and finish it in another. So, I count on listeners to remember what I was talking about, before—admittedly a big ask, especially when most folks can’t catch every show.

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.

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