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Northeast California Trails, Scenery and People Combine for Perfect Cycling Vacation

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Jennifer Jardine and son in front of the historic railroad depot on Richmond Road.

Jennifer Jardine and son in front of the historic railroad depot on Richmond Road.

Jeff Fontana
Public Affairs Officer, BLM

Northeast California’s bike trails, beautiful scenery and friendly people came together this summer to provide the perfect bicycling vacation getaway for a Durango, Colorado couple and their 2-year-old son.

Jennifer and Parker Jardine were drawn to the Susanville-Westwood-Lake Almanor area after weeks of planning their dream Sierra Nevada cycling vacation were upended by wildfires burning in the northstate and the Pacific Northwest. Back at the planning drawing board, a website promoting the Lassen Volcanic Scenic Byway west of Susanville caught Parker’s eye and spurred Jennifer, a Bureau of Land Management employee, into further internet research.

She discovered the Bizz Johnson Trail, managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Lassen National Forest, and the family decided it was the ideal centerpiece for a five-day cycling, camping and hiking adventure. They drove two days from Colorado, arriving in Susanville on August 3rd, and set out on their adventure the following day.

Jennifer tells the rest of the story:

“After parking and loading all our gear, the three of us set off on the Bizz Johnson heading west.”

“The 26-mile trail was a bike tourist’s dream! The trail was well graded and gravel, the grade was easy and the scenery was beautiful! Best of all, there was no traffic! Riding through tunnels along the way was fun, as were the many bridges that crossed the Susan River. The interpretive signs along the trail were interesting and helped paint a picture of the history for us. Our son enjoyed seeing birds, deer and tall trees along the way.”

Biking on the Bizz Johnson trail.

Biking on the Bizz Johnson trail.

“After reaching the end of the Bizz Johnson trail, we headed south towards Westwood. We rode along highway 36 to our first camp site, the North shore campground at Lake Almanor. That night, Monday, August 4th, it started to rain. It poured all morning long on Tuesday, and wasn’t letting up.”

“Since most of our day would have been riding along the highway, we decided to head to Chester and get a hotel for the night. We felt it would not be safe towing our son along the highway with poor visibility due to rain. Chester was a cute little town. We enjoyed talking with locals at the coffee shop and bike shop. Everyone was enjoying the rain.

“It was probably a good thing that we got sidelined for a day because it helped us re-evaluate our route. Hauling a child and our camp gear made us much slower than we expected! Our original plan was to ride up into Lassen Volcanic National Park, but I’m glad we didn’t! The steep grade would have made very difficult climbing with the loads we were hauling, and we were on vacation. I didn’t want to work THAT hard!”

“The next day we headed south along the west shore of Lake Almanor. The rain storm was over and it was going to be a sunny day. We found a beautiful paved trail managed by the Forest Service. It was 11 miles long and meandered along the west and south shore of Lake Almanor through a beautiful forest of Jeffery pine, Ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir. That night, we camped along the east shore of the lake.”

“The next morning we biked up to Westwood along Highway 147. We stopped and had breakfast at the Old Mill Café. Their biscuits and gravy was the best we’ve ever had! We stocked up on lots of water, cold drinks and snacks at the local convenience store, where we talked to the owner who was a retired air tanker pilot out of Chester. We knew we’d have a long day riding in the heat, and no water source that night.”

“We continued north along the A-21 road, which was a nice, quiet route. Maybe the fact that they were paving the road helped reduce traffic. The construction crew let us ride through on the fresh pavement where no cars were allowed. We had several miles of road all to ourselves with no traffic! Once we made it to the Highway 44 junction, we headed east back towards Susanville. We took the McCoy road back to the Bizz Johnson and found a camp site for the night.”

“Our camp along the Bizz Johnson was our favorite campsite of the trip. We were totally isolated from civilization. The forest was quiet and the majestic Ponderosa Pines towered over us.”

Parker Jardine on a paved trail through the forest.

Parker Jardine on a paved trail through the forest.

“Friday, August 8, was the last day of our bike tour. We headed out on the Bizz Johnson and enjoyed the easy cruise downhill all the way to Susanville. We stopped and talked to some local horseback riders along the way. It was a great way to end the tour. We were able to just enjoy the trail and take in the gorgeous scenery.”

“We had a wonderful feeling of accomplishment after riding for 130 miles over a five-day period. Our son enjoyed every mile of the ride. It was a great way to spend time with my son talking and learning about our surroundings, while getting some great exercise at the same time! Once we got to our truck, the Hobo Camp Day Use Area host, Dave Praytor, greeted us and wanted us to call Stan (BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Stan Bales). We felt so welcome and were excited to tell Stan all about our trip.”

“By the time we left Susanville, we felt like we were a part of the community. It was the perfect vacation!”

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