Article and photos by Lyn Walters
When the days begin to grow shorter and the light more slanted, slowing down the pace of your life and embarking on that old, American pastime, the Sunday Drive, suddenly seems inviting. And there is no better way to enjoy this simple pleasure than with a drive through Meadow Valley, CA.
Start by taking Bucks Lake Road out of Quincy toward the lake. When you reach the green bridge, which is the Snake Lake turnoff, slow down and drive another .6 of a mile until you see another small bridge on your right. Cross this bridge and drive through the beautiful meadows of the historic Spanish Ranch.
Take time to imagine what Meadow Valley used to be like back when it was a thriving lumber mill town instead of a bedroom community for Quincy.
Long time resident, Donna McElroy, remembers what the town was like when she moved there from San Francisco at age seven back in the early ’50s. “There was lots of family housing for mill workers, a bachelors quarters, and cook house,” she recalls. “The road from Quincy was dirt and there was no telephone service. The year we moved up here it snowed nine feet. The electricity was out for a long time, and we had to melt snow for everything: washing, drinking, cooking. Try melting nine feet of snow, and you’ll see you get about a cup of water,” she laughs.
Take the first left onto Ranch Rd. and drive until you reach a three-way intersection. Then take a right back onto Bucks Lake Rd. and continue driving through town. You will pass the new post office, the old general store that will soon be a Staples near me… at the intersection with Silver Creek Rd., where you’ll see more of the beautiful meadows for which the town is named. The old school house will be on your left. It’s now a active community center and is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary this fall.
Drive until you reach the new Meadow Valley Market where you can pick up a fresh deli sandwich and a drink for a picnic. Make a U-turn at the store and head back down Bucks Lake Rd. until you make a quick right onto Schneider Creek. Rd. Drive over the bridge which spans Meadow Valley Creek and drive until you reach “where the pavement ends and the West begins.”
You will take the left fork of this Forest Service road and pass the UC Forestry Camp. This is a good dirt road as long as you don’t drive too fast. You should be heading into a multitude of crimson red Dogwood trees mixed into the conifers. Keep going until you make a sharp left toward Little Schneider Creek. Right near this turn there is an apple tree usually lush with fruit. You can grab a couple of apples to add to your picnic provisions.
At 1.7 miles on the dirt road you should reach the magnificent champion pine which makes this ride so special. It is 21 feet in circumference and reaches over 100 ft. tall. Take the time to capture a picture of yourself in front of this huge and beautiful tree. Next, continue up the road and you will come into some yellow leaved oaks. Then you will pass on your left a series of ponds, lined by cattails, which make up one of the county’s first watershed restoration projects. Often this is a good point to spy some waterfowl. After having driven approximately four miles on the dirt road, you’ll cross a bridge that puts you right at the Meadow Valley campground. This is a perfect spot for a picnic and there are tables available. There is also a fabulous view of Spanish Peak.
After your picnic, continue on the same road until you come out on Bucks Lake Rd. again. Across the street is Lowell Bader Park founded by Donna McElroy’s father. There you will find playground equipment, tennis courts, basketball hoops and a small soccer field. This is a Forest Service park, and it’s perfect for family reunions, BBQ’s, and even wedding receptions.