Up The Road

Wednesdays at 6:44 p.m. and Thursdays at 7:45 a.m.
  • Hosted by Kim Weir

A production of NSPR

Hosted by Kim Weir, produced by Sarah Bohannon

If you’ve always assumed travel is simply a matter of putting one foot—or hoof or ski or paddle or wheel or axle—ahead of another, then Up the Road host Kim Weir suggests you think again. Travel matters. Here in Northern California as elsewhere around the world, responsible travel means appreciating and conserving natural resources, preserving cultural and historic sites, and supporting local and regional economies in healthy ways.

Each week Kim Weir will take you Up the Road, pointing out things to do and places to go while exploring history, natural history, and other aspects of “place” that create the ecology of home.

Host Kim Weir, a former NSPR news reporter, is editor and founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project dedicated to sustaining the Northern California story. She is also an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers. North State Public Radio’s Up the Road program is jointly produced by Up the Road. 

Photo used with the permission of California State University, Chico, Meriam Library Special Collections

Today we go “adventuring” with Mary Ellicott Arnold and her life partner, Mabel Reed, in the wilds of the Klamath and Salmon River country in 1908 and 1909. They worked as “field matrons” for the Department of the Interior’s United States Indian Service, an experience they generously share with us in In the Land of the Grasshopper Song, first published in 1955, which should top your must-read list. Their job was to “civilize” the Indians—the point being to take a kinder, gentler approach than clearly barbaric military action. Thanks to Annie Bidwell, Mary Arnold’s Chico cousin, they had met the special agent for California Indians, and asked to be sent to the roughest, toughest territory. He obliged.

Photo used with the permission of California State University, Chico, Meriam Library Special Collections

This time we explore the legacies of John and Annie Bidwell quite close to home. Annie gets a bad rap for her missionary “maternalism” toward local Native Americans—their “improvement” being one of her causes, right up there with Temperance and women’s suffrage. Improving the Mechoopda meant eradicating all traditional ways and introducing education—book learning, but also new practical skills—and of course Christianity. Instead of a dance house, the Mechoopda village soon had a Christian chapel. And a brass band. And a school. Annie may have stood just four-feet-eight inches tall, but her intentions were mighty.

Photo used with the permission of California State University, Chico, Meriam Library Special Collections

We head up the road this week to look more closely at the legacy of Annie Ellicott Kennedy Bidwell—including the spectacular city park that bears the family name.

Photo used with the permission of California State University, Chico, Meriam Library Special Collections

We head up the road this week to summer with John and Annie Ellicott Kennedy Bidwell. As anyone who has survived a Chico summer without air conditioning can attest, it’s just plain crazy to stay put when there are big, cool mountains so close by. Native people certainly had more sense. In summer they would migrate into the foothills and mountains, following wildlife—also very sensible—and enjoying berries, tubers, and other summer edibles as they ripened. Come fall, when the days cooled, they’d head back toward the valley—just in time for the annual acorn gathering, with ample time before winter to gather and store acorns, a dietary staple.

Photo used with the permission of California State University, Chico, Meriam Library Special Collections

We head up the road this week to continue exploring the legacies of John and Annie Bidwell, Chico’s founders and immensely generous benefactors, fascinating, far-sighted people who were fortunate to have found each other. Their immediate community often opposed them and their principles. John Bidwell brought in soldiers from San Francisco to stay on his ranch for more than a year to protect the Mechoopda from vigilante attacks, for example, and later Annie was denounced by the Presbyterian minister, in the church she’d built and financed, for her support of women’s right to vote. (John Bidwell was so incensed he made a point of cutting off all financial support to the church.) But they had each other, and a wide if far-flung circle of like-minded friends and supporters.

Wayne Hsieh

We head up the road today and in coming weeks to revisit the legacies of John and Annie E.K. Bidwell, official founders of Chico, though of course the place they most loved, with its rich, marshy bottomlands and tangled riparian forests, had been here practically forever. Just ask Mechoopda people. The tribe’s website offers some thoughtful history and cross-cultural perspective.

Today we head up the road to Lake Tahoe in the Roaring Twenties, when the rich were very rich and no one else counted for much. Sound familiar?

Tom Hilton

Today we head up the road to Manzanar National Historic Landmark, a US government “relocation camp” on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, some six miles south of Independence. At first the sparse landscape says little about the devastation experienced by Japanese Americans held under armed guard here during World War II. But stay awhile. There are many, many stories. The longer you stay, the more this sad landscape speaks.  

leiris202

This week we continue exploring the Sierra Nevada’s dramatic east side, where the mountains drop sharply into the Great Basin. We head up the road from Big Pine to the White Mountains and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, home to the oldest known individual trees in the world—bristlecone pines, gnarled and gristly members of the species Pinus longaeva. Sometimes people skip the correct Latin–or attempt thereof—and just say “pine-us,” for the genus name, to avoid raised eyebrows in polite society.

Joe Parks; Flickr

Today we head up the road to Mono Lake, an ecological marvel on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

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