Out of Susanville
The Nobles Trail headed out of Susanville on the north bank of the Susan River. If you’re driving the route, take Main Street west and it becomes Highway 36 on the edge of town. There’s an overlook on the left just past Harris Drive with room for a couple of cars. The vista to the east across Honey Lake Valley is impressive. Looking down into the Susan River gorge is spectacular, as well, just watch your step since there’s no railing. The cliff below is popular with rock climbers, as you can see from the climbing gear attached to the edge of the rock.
Down in the gorge, on the south side of the Susan River, you may be able to spot Hobo Camp, a day use area along the Bizz Johnson Trail, with picnic tables, BBQ grills, and fire rings. Hobo Camp is where the Susanville Indian Rancheria and Bureau of Land Management host Public Archaeology Day in October every year (2020 excepted).
Back on the road, the Nobles Emigrant Trail continued up the bluff on the north side of the Susan River, approximately following today’s Highway 36. After 1857, the Humbug Wagon Road split off from the Nobles trail in this area. The Humbug stayed to the south, eventually crossing the Susan River and heading for Marysville, California. By the late 1850s and early 1860s, a lot of mining had moved out of California to silver mines near Boise, Idaho (Ruby City and Silver City) and Virginia City, Nevada (the Comstock Lode). The Humbug Wagon Road brought miners and supplies from Marysville and Chico east to the mines, using part of the Nobles trail, and Susanville became an important supply hub.
The Nobles Trail stayed to the north after the Humbug junction, keeping Roop Mountain on the right and the Susan River on the left, along what is now Highway 44, also known as the Feather Lake Highway and the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway around here. Much of this area burned in July and August 2021, part of the 10,000-acre Hog Fire. Click this link for some photos of a terrifying “firenado” near this location. “The fire exploded to more than 6,000 acres and created its own weather, generating lightning, thunder, rain and fire whirls out of a huge pyrocumulonimbus ash plume towering above” (CBS SF BayArea). That’s some scary business. Eight months later there’s no doubt about the severity of the fire.
Just past the burn area on the south side of Highway 44 is Big Spring. The spring, which feeds into the Susan River about a mile to the south, was a popular watering spot for those on the trail and was built up by Isaac Roop. There’s a turnout in the highway bend and from there a dirt road crosses a cattle grate and heads into the pine trees. This is as far as I went, since the area is marked private property of Sierra Pacific Industries. Sierra Pacific is a lumber company based out of Anderson, California, which we’ll visit closer to the end of the Nobles Trail. I have no idea how serious they are about trespassing, and didn’t see anyone around to ask, so I played it safe and respected their signs.
The Nobles trail continued west through the trees, along today’s Highway 44. Coming from San Diego, California, I’m entranced by this view: the tall pines, the dense cloud cover, and even the dirty snow along the road edge are all novelties. Clear blue skies and sandy beaches are for the birds 🙂 Once past the base of Roop Mountain, the land levels out at about 5,600’ elevation. A couple miles on you can see Hog Flat through a break in the pines on your left. It was dry when I came through in April 2021, but in wetter years it should be the first in a string of wide shallow reservoirs surrounding Crater Mountain to the northwest.
Just over five miles west of the Big Spring turnout on Highway 44 is the intersection of McCoy Road/Bridge Creek Springs Road. The Nobles trail veered right at this point, following what is today Bridge Creek Springs Road (County Road 112) around the east and north side of a prominent knob. Highway 44 stays south and west and runs much straighter. There’s a wide turnout at the beginning of Bridge Creek Road. Let’s pull over here and take a break for a bit. Stretch our legs, breathe in the crisp air, maybe brew a cup of coffee with our camp stove on our tailgate.
On that note, I’ve finally quit fiddling with my coffee setup (for now). I love having fresh coffee on the road, and I’ve gone from a very complex to a very simple setup over the last year or so. What I’m using now are Mount Hagen Freeze-Dried Single Serve Sticks. They’re under $10 for 25 packs and taste nearly as good as slower-brewed methods. I heat the water up with my JetBoil Zip. It’s the simple model without electric start or simmer control, so it’s really just for boiling water, but it does that in about 60 seconds, which is pretty impressive. Pour that into something like a Klean Kanteen Tumbler or a basic road mug and you’re good to go for another couple of hours on the trail 🙂
We’re almost to first summit that Nobles discovered, though the slope is so gentle you’d be hard pressed to notice. But let’s save that for the next post and just enjoy the view and the coffee for now. If you’ve got a favorite tailgate or campground coffee method, let me know in the comments below! Thanks for coming along – see you again soon!