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to Packer Lake 7 September 2020


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Eerily quiet and muted outside this morning. Not yet hot, streets abandoned (Labor Day) and the sun a bright orange faraway disk in a thick grey sky shedding less light than usual. We're looking forward to getting up the mountain.

Fair warning: we're going off the grid today, and may not have either cell or internet at Packer Lake. “Refreshing,” says Lindsey. Our route takes us east of Oroville and through the foothills to Camptonville, where (1) it's expected to be 100°, (2) there's a KFC, and (3) we join Highway 49. Thence through the Sierra County seat of Downieville and the nearest metropolis (think Caspar) to Packer Lake: Sierra City. National Weather Service predicts low 80s for today and Tuesday, 70s on Wednesday.

Our next sure-fire – no, I don't want to say that – our next certain communications will come from Mammoth Lakes on Thursday, where the air quality is presently just about as nasty as it gets. We are hoping for relief before we get there.


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We wound our way through the foothills in back of Oroville, the smoke thickening all the way. In the headlands of the foothills (cue John Lennon) it was thinner and dropped all the way to 85°, but as soon as we dove back down to Highway 49, it was nasty. Across the Yuba River at New Bullards Bar Dam, an impressive cement structure 235 feet high that impounds 960,000 acre feet (and at least that many houseboats) and generates 330,000kW or power that is sold to our pals PG&E, the smoke was thinning almost to nothing, the greens were back, and, by the time we crossed the Yuba above the dam, it was a natural looking river. Looking up, the sky was more blue than grey. Still no blue on the horizon.

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Back down in the canyon, however it was hot again, not brutal like Chico, but a enervating 95°. We rolled into the quaint Sierra County seat of Downieville about 12:30, and saw that there was an open ice cream store ...and then we saw an open Pizza Restaurant, Two Rivers Café. Lunch!

<p>We drank our beer and ate our...

We drank our beer and ate our pizza in the kiosk above the downtown swimming hole, and had a lovely conversation with a fellow whose eight-year old Long Haired Rottweiler had just been having too much fun swimming. He runs an auto repair training school in Pleasanton, and has spent Labor Day weekend in Downieville for 40 years.

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On up the Yuba canyon on 49 through Sierra City, little more than a wide spot in the road, and then forest roads to Packer Lake, where we found our cabin, solved the puzzle of two prong plugs (with a little help from the cleaning crew) and watched the smoke close in. What was a mountain across the valley fuzzed out and became a smoky paul. We're in a blessed little island of clear air, surrounded by greyness, at 6,232 feet.

Much to my surprise, I discovered that we have internet – slow but present – in our comfortable little cabin.

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<p>Packer Lake from the dock</p>

Packer Lake from the dock

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