California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 89

46

Exploring Modoc County
Tucked into California's northeastern-most corner, Modoc County
is vast, isolated, and exceptionally beautiful. This trip is ideal for
anyone seeking solitude and a crisp-aired adventure.

W I T H 3 , 9 1 8 S Q UA R E M I L E S O F R U G G E D W I L D E R N E S S and
a population of less than 10,000, you can drive for hours in Modoc
County without seeing a soul. Tap into the pioneer spirit as you wind
across mountain passes and through antelope-filled plains-this area
marked the gateway to California for many a wagon train.
As Modoc's only city, Alturas serves as the county seat. It's here
that you'll begin and end your two-day adventure. Make sure to fill
up the tank before leaving Alturas-gas stations in this area are few
and far between-and heading north. Take in the majestic Warner
Mountains to your right and mighty Mount Shasta on your left, and be
sure to check the telephone poles for bald eagles.
Your first stop is the Apple Shack just north of Davis Creek. Boxes of
fruit from owner Betsy Ingraham's orchard line the walls. Take an apple,
leave some cash; the store has run on the honor system for years. (Even
if fruit isn't in season, this sweet shack is still worth a photo-op stop.)
Continue north, keeping your eye out for signs leading to
Fandango Pass. The dirt road will take you east, across the Fandango
Valley before you start to climb. The roller-coaster route makes for an
exhilarating drive. At the very top, pause to admire the views. As one
legend has it, settlers stopping to camp here danced the fandango to
stay warm, thereby giving the route its name.
As you descend the switchbacks, you'll be greeted by the lush
landscape and big skies of Surprise Valley. Snow-capped mountains
and green grasslands dotted with sage brush create a stunningly
beautiful contrast. Make a short detour north to Fort Bidwell to see
the old stone schoolhouse and the site of the military outpost before
heading south to Cedarville. After an invigorating drive, few things
taste better than a hot coffee and chicken-fried steak from Country

L I KELY

Hearth Restaurant & Bakery. Let the hearty meal settle with a short,
steep hike from the Cedar Creek Lower Trailhead just outside of town.
The three-mile trail through Modoc National Forest is shaded by
juniper groves, periodically punctured by towering rocks.
East of downtown Cedarville, book a deluxe room to enjoy your

the basement full of antiques. Just short of Alturas, you'll find the

own private hot tub, fed by geothermal pools at Surprise Valley Hot

Modoc Wildlife Refuge. Hike the three-mile loop to see mule deer,

Springs Resort. End your evening with an outdoor soak, watching the

antelope, and more than 200 species of birds. Once back in town,

valley skies turn from purple to black, filled with sparkling stars.

swing by the Modoc County Courthouse. The impressive building with

The next morning, head south through Eagleville and west on

a copper-painted dome is one of the last freestanding courthouses in

County Road 64, which cuts through the South Warner Wilderness.

California. The courtroom chairs still feature hangers for cowboy hats.

Just after cresting the pass, follow signs for Mill Creek Falls. Park at

PHOTOGRAPH: MICHELLE NEALE

On your way back to Alturas, cruise through the little town of
Likely. Stop in Likely General Store for a jar of local honey and explore

Check into the historic Niles Hotel, the most prominent structure on

the campground and hike up the trail for just a quarter mile to see

Main Street. Retire to your room, or if you're feeling restless, make like

the roaring falls. Game for a dip? Continue for another 10 minutes to a

a local at the Niles Saloon where the beer-and-shot combo serves as

small wooden bridge. Downstream is a popular swimming hole.

a failsafe nightcap.

2

days

S TA R T Alturas
F I N I S H Alturas

169
miles

I N S I D E T I P This trip is best
(and should only be) enjoyed in
late spring and summer when the
mountain passes are clear of ice
and snow.

M O S T C H A R M I N G S TO P Apple Shack

89



California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures

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