October 1, 2004
Steven W. Ells
The ville in Weaverville was added by outsiders when referring to the little town on Weaver Creek — locals referred to their place as Weaver, as in "I plan to return to Weaver as soon as this plays out."
The gold that drew miners, camp followers, and the Chinese laborers to the Trinity Mountains eventually did play out, and Weaverville is still there. With less than 4,000 year-round inhabitants it would be easy to dismiss Weaverville as just another little town that makes its living squatting astride one of California's two-lane mountain highways. But that would be a mistake.
The spirit of the town transcends that prosaic picture, especially in the way its residents respect its history.
Pilots that fly outbound from the Redding VOR for 33 nautical miles on the 279-degree radial have set their course for Lonnie Pool Field/Weaverville Airport at the foot of the Trinity Alps.
The former mining town of Weaverville is the county seat of Trinity County. The town sits at the base of the Trinity Alps, a 500,000-acre wilderness area in the remote mountains of northern California.
The Weaverville drugstore is still open for business in the same location where it has been dispensing prescriptions continuously since 1852 — that's nine years before Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as this country's sixteenth president. The Hicks family has owned the pharmacy since 1941. Frank and Patricia Hicks run it with a nod toward the small-town ways. For example, there's always a selection of penny candy available for children stopping by for a treat.
Patricia is very involved in researching and preserving Weaverville's history and has written a number of booklets with titles such as Stories of a Gold Miner and Some Call It Weaver.
Based on the quality of the guidance pamphlets produced for visitors, and the variety and quality of the exhibits in the exceptional J. J. Jackson Memorial Museum, History Center, and Trinity County Historical Park (all administered by the Trinity County Historical Society), Weaverville is blessed with town members who take part in protecting and preserving the town's history.
The depth and breadth of the exhibits are exceptional — ranging from a wide selection of well-preserved women's clothing to a collection of Native American arrowheads to a complete jail cell, the walls of which are adorned with artwork created by unknown guests from years past. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May 1 through October 31. In the months of April and November, it's open daily from noon to 4 p.m. The museum is located on Main Street in the historic district.
In 1874 the Chinese workers that came to the Weaverville area on the heels of the pioneering gold miners built the temple that now stands in what was then the Chinese section of Weaverville — the original temple had been destroyed by fire. This temple was built in the style of Chinese rural temples. Weaverville's temple is the northernmost, and best preserved, of the Chinese temples in California and is named Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds.
In 1875 the names of 697 temple members were inscribed inside the temple. The descendents of these pioneers still visit the temple to witness this record of their ancestors.
In 1956 the temple was donated to the State of California and became a state park. This move benefits American visitors and is of great importance to Chinese visitors since almost all the examples of these rural-style temples in China were destroyed during the country's Cultural Revolution.
According to a museum docent, the term Joss has no relevance to the Chinese — the word is a bastardization of the term Casa de Jeus, a term that the Chinese had heard from Portuguese speakers in the area.
The Joss House State Historical Park is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Guided tours are scheduled every hour. The weekday I was there the docent gave me a personal tour since there weren't any other visitors. He took the time to point out the stylized fire-repelling fish dragons adorning the corners of the roof, explaining that these were chosen instead of the more traditional evil-repelling dragons because fires were so common in early California towns.
A good many of Weaverville's historic buildings are still being used. A historical society walking tour pamphlet lists 116 points of interest within a small area of town.
The Weaverville airport is located three miles up valley north of the town center. The airport altitude is 2,350 msl and although the runway is in good shape, there are some nonnegotiable restrictions on airport use.
The touchdown zone at the south end of Runway 36 is 120 feet lower than at the northern end of the runway. Because of the pronounced (3.5 degrees) runway slope and rapidly rising terrain to the north all landings must be made uphill on Runway 36 and all departures are made downhill on Runway 18. No exceptions.
Permission for night operations must be obtained prior to landing from the Trinity County airport office (530/623-1354) and touch-and-go operations are prohibited. That said, the slope on the 2,980-foot-long-by-50-foot-wide runway actually shortens stopping distances and decreases takeoff ground runs. But it does get hot in the mountains during the dog days of summer — familiarization with the effects of density altitude on takeoff performance is a must.
The Trinity County Pilots Association has a Web site which has plenty of airport-specific information, and the Weaverville Chamber of Commerce can be contacted at 530/623-3251.
Weaverville is surrounded by mountains. The maximum elevation figure (MEF) for the block of real estate between Redding VOR and the Weaverville airport is 8,900 feet. Following the road west out of Redding past Whiskeytown Lake doesn't require as much altitude but does require prudence because of sharp turns along the route and the possibility of turbulence because of mountain winds. Radio coverage from the Rancho Murrieta Flight Service Station is good because a remote communications outlet (RCO) on 122.4 MHz is located just south of the airport.
Transportation from the airport into town can be obtained by calling the Trinity Cab Company at 530/623-5400, or by waiting for a shuttle bus that passes the airport at regular intervals. For more information on the Trinity Transit shuttle bus, call 530/623-5438. There are no rental cars available.
The area abounds with outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, river rafting, and camping. The Trinity Alps Wilderness Area is a wild natural area that is dotted with mountain lakes, streams, and a wide variety of wildlife. Contact the Forest Service at 530/623-2121 for the latest information on access and attractions within this vast wilderness.
The airport is a little different because of the runway slope and the rules about one-way operations, but these irregularities shouldn't cause the reasonably competent pilot to shy away from a flight to Weaverville. There's plenty to see, and airplanes shrink the travel time to manageable proportions. Before Highway 299 was finished in the 1920s, the stagecoach ride from Redding took 13 hours. Take advantage of your flying time machine to pay a visit to Weaverville — the historical attractions are so compelling, so well cared for, and so interesting that you won't be sorry.
E-mail the author at [email protected].
Trinity Center Pilots Association www.tcpilots.org
The Joss House www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_ id=23105
Trinity County information www.trinitycounty.com
Bigfoot river rafting www.bigfootrafting.com
Weaverville information www.weavervilleinfo.com
Trinity Alps Forest Service www.r5.fs.fed.us/shastatrinity
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