June 6, 2015
Last time I was here I was telling you all about the horror that was the motel my hubby booked us for our mini vacation. OMG it still makes me shudder to think of it! Despite the rocky start we ended up having a great time. We drove around the entire area, spent the day in Reno one day, enjoyed the mild weather, and had some great food. I decided to purchase a small Keurig-style coffee maker while we were there because there was no coffee in the room. One of the things I enjoy most about our get-aways is the fact that I can savor a cup or two of coffee in the morning while playing on my laptop or just sitting in my room enjoying the view. I can’t do that on a daily basis since I leave the house at the butt-crack of dawn so if the room doesn’t come equipped with a coffeemaker it just sort of ruins the day for me. I also bought some pre-packaged coffee pods at the local grocery store for fairly cheap and I have to admit that coffee was pretty darn tasty! So now on our little trips I can have my coffee any time I want–I’m a happy girl!
My husband’s dad lives near Redding, and Lake Almanor and the surrounding area is where he and my husband have camped for many years. One of the places Doug, my husband, wanted to visit was a little town in the middle of nowhere called Seneca. I use the term “town” loosely since I don’t believe anyone has actually lived there in several years and even then it only consisted of a couple of cabins and some old derelict trailers. It has no running water, no electricity, and if you don’t know where it is good luck finding it! There is a bar there called the Gin Mill, which was run by a woman named Marie Sabin for about six decades until she passed away in 1996. She was known as “The Guardian Angel of Seneca”. She and her husband Don moved there in 1934 and she never left. My husband and his dad and his dad’s hunting buddies use to drop into Marie’s when they were up at Butt Lake (no , I’m not making it up–that is its name!) during deer season every year and have a few beers and shoot the breeze with other hunters. My husband heard that it had been for sale recently so he was curious what was still there so off we went with a map of the fire roads in our four-wheel drive Jeep and a general idea of where Seneca might be.
So. This is Seneca. When we drove up my husband got a big grin on his face and said “There it is!!” like we had arrived at the Taj Mahal. I looked around the forested area, complete with a couple of ancient motor homes and two shacks that were literally falling down, searching for something that resembled a typical bar–maybe a neon sign in the window would have helped–and then I noticed the……. bar. I was incredulous!! “You’ve GOT to be kidding!” was my response. Nope he wasn’t. We got out of the Jeep and walked up on the porch, which is still in surprisingly good condition. Someone had removed the door and so we were able to just walk right on in. It was like walking back in time…
This place is amazing. Talk about a piece of history! The walls, the ceiling, the counters are all covered in old business cards, student ID’s, expired licenses, and pictures. Hundreds of pictures of past patrons, their kids, locals–everyone that had ever stopped at the Gin Mill seemed to have wanted to leave a little reminder that they were there. I walked around, fascinated by the old receipts, photos, and other reminders of days gone by. The bar had names scratched into it by people probably long dead and gone. The piano was old and out of tune but was still playable despite the damp coming in through the open door. There were a couple of old refrigerators that my husband said Marie use to operate via a generator. She stocked them with ice cold beer and had a full bar behind the counter from which she served whiskey, gin, tequila, and whatever else the guys wanted. She was only about 4 feet tall but no one messed with her! I can’t believe that she was willing to live in such a place her entire life. The cabin that she stayed in was so dilapidated we couldn’t go into it–the roof had caved in and it was pretty much a lost cause. I was a little saddened to think that this incredible piece of California history will probably continue to molder away until it was nothing more than a memory to the few lucky people who happened upon it. We drove away finally but not without many pictures stored in my phone and in my mind.
Anyway. My husband requested that on our way home that I map a different route–something a little more scenic perhaps. I decided that we should see what the other end of Highway 49 looked like, since we have been on it from the Sonora area up to Auburn but never past Auburn. I am so glad we did!
Highway 49, in case you have never had the pleasure of driving this wonderful road, winds through some of the prettiest country California has to offer. Small towns dot the area, offering quaint eating places and incredible photo ops along the way. The changes in elevation means that some parts are in the pines while others are along winding rivers through oak forests. As we came around a bend near Sierra City I gasped and stopped and backed the Jeep up. This is what I saw:
I mean how incredible is that?! (And yes I took this with my cell phone.) We continued on our way but I started thinking about how we would have never seen this beautiful place if we had stayed on the main highway. I’ve been lucky that way. Over the years I have made a habit of taking those scenic byways. My dad would never stop while we traveled. I would see those historic markers on the side of the highway and beg to stop and read them but he was more interested in the destination and not the journey and he wouldn’t stop. Now that I am an adult I stop and read those markers. I take the roads marked “scenic byways” and I discover some of the most amazing places. My husband has discovered the joys of these side trips and we often get on Google Maps to see if there is a different way to go to the places we are heading that might be more interesting than the beaten path…
Its summer time and I know that many of you are going to be heading out on vacation. I challenge you to take the road less traveled. Look for those scenic byways and highways along the way. Take time to see the sights. Enjoy the journey. And share what you find!