Memorial Day Weekend was a bit unusual in Sierra County this year. Most of the “summer people”, those who have private summer homes or USFS Recreational Recreation Cabins in the area above Sierra City, open their summer homes on Memorial Weekend. Several cabins in Clark Station and Carvin Creek Tracts were occupied, however Carvin Creek, The San Francisco Camp and Clark Station all had county notices to stay away on their entry signs.
The Haskell Creek Tract is one of a very few USF Tracts in the United States to have its own water system. Its fire hydrants connect with the USFS and Sierra City Volunteer Fire Department’s hoses in case of fire in the area. There was no notice at Haskell, and several of its summer residents are looking to sheltering in place for a good part of the summer.
Driving down Highway 49 from Yuba Pass to Gold Lake Road, it was apparent that the USFS has been at work doing wild fire remediation, thinning and clearing areas along Highway 49 and around residences, summer home tracts, and camp grounds to help mitigate wildfire threat.
With the recent torrential rains, dirt roads in the Lakes Basin suffered washouts. Many of them will need major repairs. The Forest Service is also doing some logging along Gold Lake Road.
Forest Service camp grounds along Highway 49 and over Gold Lake Road are closed. However, private campgrounds and RV parks along Highway 70 from the Greagle turn-off to Beckworth were open and full. The boat launch area at Gold Lake was busy, but it was day use only, no camping.
Everyone we spoke with was concentrating on social distancing. Some Haskell residents are going on long hikes, kayaking on isolated lakes or Gold Lake and/or lake fishing. A few area restaurants in the area are open for take-out. Bassetts is open and their gas pump is open. There is no gas available in Downieville or Sierra City. One cabin owner had a new electric car and tried it out on this trip. He and his wife were very pleased with the car and its action on the road.
This was a great weekend for birding-in-place. Sitting on our porch we watched Evening Grosbeaks, Dark-eyed Juncos, a pair of White-headed Woodpeckers, Mountain Chickadees, Cassin’s Finches and Purple Finches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Stellar Jays were very active, and there were the usual American Robins. We heard the cry of a hawk overhead but could not see what it was. (As the Yellow-rumped Warblers always disappear from the Reno area just before Memorial Day, we have always joked that we are seeing the same birds. We see them at our bird feeders in Reno throughout the fall and winter and at Haskell in the summer.)
Driving through Sierra Valley on the way to the cabin, we saw multiple Brewer, Red-winged and Yellow-headed blackbirds, as well as Tree, Cliff, Barn and Rough-winged Swallows, nesting Sand-Hill Cranes, American Coots, Gadwalls, and other ducks as well as Ravens, Crows and Turkey Vultures. Sierra Valley is a nice day’s drive from Reno, without having to stop anywhere. However, if you do it on a Friday, you can shop at the Farmer’s Market at the Romano Farms just south of Beckworth on Route 24.
As noted in a previous Booster article, Sierra Valley depends on the income from its summer residents. Many of the usual resorts are not open yet. If you are planning to go to your summer cabin or have plans to stay somewhere in Sierra County, check in with your favorite resorts and restaurants well ahead of time to see if they are open and if they are not, ask if they have take-out. Remember to take your masks and gloves if you are going to be in a public place.