This trail is one of my favorite trails, primarily because it runs through an isolated pine forest area in the northern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, at the edge of the Cascade Mountain range, and thus it is truly a western trail to me. We started at Mason Station, just north of Westwood, and ended at the old Susanville train station and museum, about 26 miles. The terrain was pretty flat because we were not only in the mountains but also in the Great Basin area that stretches into western Utah and on the Modoc Plateau (according to the brochure). It seemed somewhat similar to the relatively flat places in the Uintah Mountains east of Salt Lake City. Actual dirt roads crossed the trail occasionally, for timber work and for campers, hikers, fishers, and picnicking. The trail was a mixture of packed dirt and crushed gravel, some places a lot more dirt than gravel, which made it seem more like mountain biking than rail-to-trail biking even though the trail was wider than most single-track mountain biking trails. At some places the dirt was softer and so a little more difficult to ride through, and also at some places the effects of storms could be seen with several pine trees down across the trail, but in all except one place the trees had been cut and removed to the side of the trail. This means that people are keeping up the trail, which is good.
The immediate scenery was also enhanced with the accompanying Susan River flowing to the side, sometimes right next to us but usually about 25-50 feet below the trail in the Susan River canyon, where it had cut through the ground. We never did figure out where the mint greenish tint to the water came from, but it was pleasant to watch the river (sometimes more like a creek because of the dry weather patterns) flowing along beside us. In one short stretch in particular, the trail suddenly had green grass growing in the middle and along the sides, probably because we were closer to the water level there. I guess they were Cottonwood trees that were growing all along the river throughout its course, which made nice scenery.
The other interesting sight was all the volcanic rock, both huge and small, along the trail. These had been left from earlier eruptions and from the 1914/1915 eruption of nearby Mt. Lassen. Some rocks were gray and others black, and in the smaller rocks we could see the holes indicating the volcanic origin of the rock. We didn’t see any deer or any other animal, even though we kept looking for some because it looked like moose country.
At the intersection with dirt Goumaz Road there was a clean porta-potty, which was convenient. A campsite was indicated on the trail map and so that was where we intended to have our picnic lunch, but we never did see it, so we finally stopped near the river overlook where we saw a bench and had our late lunch. At one place we had to go down a fairly steep embankment and then walk up the other switch-back side in order to cross a main highway. That was near the long trestle bridge. We also rode across four or five shorter wooden bridges. Two tunnels gave us a good deviation from the trail and even though we had our headlights, we didn’t stop to put them on because we could see the light at the end as we entered the tunnels. In the second tunnel, quite a bit longer than the first, we should have put them on because it was an uneven surface and these long white poles with reflectors stuck out from the walls, supposedly to protect us, but they were also a bit hazardous because we each almost ran into them as we went along. We should have stopped at the beginning of the tunnel to give our eyes time to adjust to the darkness, but we didn’t. Ed had gone through ahead of us and got a good photo of Martha, Ron, and me coming out of the tunnel.
As Martha mentioned, our bike rental source and shuttle, Kimberly of Howling Dogs Bicycles, who met us at Hallelujah Junction, CA, to guide us to the trail, was a real stress releaser and time saver. Without her, we would have had to have two rental vehicles for shuttling from one end to the other and it would have taken an extra two hours at least. All four of us rode this trail, and Ron and Ed seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. Except for twice crossing the trail with Kimberly, who decided to take advantage of the opportunity of waiting on us to ride the trail herself (and who by the way put us to shame with how fast she was riding), we didn’t meet any other bikers on the trail, so we were isolated with nature the entire four to five hours we were riding. The weather turned out to be fantastic, and we had a great ride.