Why We Were Stranded in Yreka
In 2002 we were stranded in Yreka, a small town in northern California along Interstate 5 near the Oregon border. We had reservations for an overnight stay in Yreka at the Klamath Motor Lodge, now our favorite home away from home when we are in Yreka, but we had just discovered it on our trip north to Oregon. Now we were eager to get a good night’s sleep and head home for the final leg of the trip the next day, which, if I recall, was a Sunday. It was May, and the weather was still comfortable. We had some dinner locally, and then relaxed for a while and went to bed. We were on our way home from a vacation in Florence, Oregon, where we had had some car problems that were supposedly fixed.
Where Exactly Is Yreka?
It’s about 22 miles south of the Oregon border with California, and is the county seat for Siskiyou County. The city itself is only about ten square miles in area. It is approximately 2,500 feet (760 m) above sea level and just a bit north of Mt. Shasta. That means that if you are headed south, Yreka is the ideal place to stay overnight if you want to see the Mt. Shasta area, including the Shasta Lake, as you continue your trip. If you are heading north and want to see the Shasta area, it’s better to stay in Redding on your way to Oregon. In any case, you don’t want to miss seeing Shasta.
Since I didn’t have a video camera with me on this trip, I couldn’t make my own video to introduce the town of Yreka, but I did finally find one that will give you the flavor of Yreka, including some places I couldn’t get to while I didn’t have my car.
We had never considered Yreka a destination in itself — just a place to spend the night
We changed our opinion in May, 2002 when we got stranded there.
After our good night’s sleep at Klamath Motor Lodge, we asked about a good place to have breakfast. Everyone we asked recommended the Purple Plum so we got in our Plymouth Voyager, which was going on 300,000 miles, and it wouldn’t start. One of the motel staff came out and tried to help us. He had some experience as a mechanic. He determined that the car would need what only a real mechanic could give, since we also needed parts . I think the problem had something to do with the transmission. The mechanic would not be in until Monday. We made arrangements to spend Sunday night at the motel as well, so we could get the car fixed.
Meanwhile, one of the motel staff took us the few blocks to the Purple Plum. I could have walked, but Kosta was still recovering his strength after hip replacement surgery and was walking with a cane. The food was delicious, and the service matched. After breakfast, we were able to get a ride back to the motel from the same member of the motel staff. That left, however, a whole day to spend without a car in a small town we knew little about.
We did know that Main Street itself wasn’t much to look at. There was a lovely swimming pool at the motel, but we hadn’t brought our bathing suits. Kosta is good at talking to people and doesn’t mind watching TV, but I like to explore new places. I decided to walk around just to see what I could see. I took off with my camera to go sightseeing on my two feet on an unguided tour.
What I Saw on my Unguided Walking Tour
Historic Homes, Churches, and the City Park
This is the entrance to the Yreka City Park. It’s a typical neighborhood type block park, but it’s been there since 1821.
Yreka is full of historic homes. Here are a few of them.
Historic Churches in Yreka
The original building of St. Joseph Catholic Church burned down in a fire in 1871, and the cornerstone for this one was laid in 1976. This church is still open for worship.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church dates from 1880 and is now closed.
Sunday Evening at Klamath Motor Lodge
The owner invited us to a BBQ near the motel pool.
She knew we were stranded, and the motel was fairly empty for the weekend. It was before the summer tourist season, and most of the people there over the weekend were people who were staying in Yreka for longer periods than the weekend. Many were working on temporary contract jobs. The BBQ was open to any guest who wanted to be there. It was very kind of them to invite us. We had a wonderful time interacting with the other guests over the delicious dinner that was served. The owner and her children were fun to get to know. This kind of hospitality certainly made our unplanned stay in Yreka very pleasant. Everyone went out of their way to help us.
Had the Tourist Information Center been open when we were there, I might have been able to get the map for the official historic walking tour. That would have helped me know what I was seeing. I might have learned more of the area’s gold mining history. I’d like to go back to Yreka and make my own video of the city. I tried really hard to find the kind I would have made, but it’s certainly not on You Tube. The historic business district is fun to walk through, but I didn’t get there until our last trip in 2008. We only had about an hour to spend in town that day, but I did find a new bookstore. I did not get any pictures that I can find, but I’m sure I must have taken some.
The next day we got the car to a mechanic and we were able to travel again when it was fixed. My memory of that is dim, but I think we were able to leave by Monday afternoon. We made it as far as Stockton before the car stopped again. We had to spend a night there, and there was nothing one could do there except just wait.
If I’m going to be stranded, it’s much more stimulating to be stuck in Yreka. After watching the few videos that I did find, I discovered there is still quite a bit left to see. On the next trip I’d like to get past Shasta in the daylight and stay in Yreka to see some of what I’ve missed. Then I’d like to cross the border and spend the next night in Ashland so I can see more of it than we were able to see on that 2008 trip. Yreka is definitely our favorite place to stay while traveling along I-5 to the Pacific Northwest from California. It’s a small, friendly town with reasonable prices on food and lodging and one can take interesting walks from almost anywhere one is staying.
The picture above is of Kosta (left) with another BBQ guest. The motel is in the background, and that’s our disabled Voyager parked behind next to the rooms.
Historic View of Yreka
Browse Yreka Posters
Randolph Collier, known as Father of the Freeways, was Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee for 22 years. He is responsible for seeing that when I-5 was planned, the plans were changed to reroute the freeway to go through his hometown of Yreka. It was orignially supposed to go directly from Grenada to Hornbrook, to the east of Yreka. This added two miles to the length of the freeway and 7 million dollars to the project. Such is politics. You can read the entire story here.
Yreka Historic Preservation Web Site This site lets you see great pictures of all the historic homes — not just the ones I photographed. There is also a historic photo tour of more public buildings. This is a great site for learning more about Yreka’s history.
What do you think of Yreka?
Could you live with being stranded there for a weekend?
We were in a motel with a microwave, frig, and TV, and there was a store where one could buy food, if one wanted to, within walking distance. Our motel had a swimming pool, as you can see. It also has free Internet hotspot wireless Internet, so if you’ve got a computer, you can use it. One can walk to the park and around the historic residential neighborhoods. I imagine one could also walk to the main historic business section and visit the variety of shops. After all, the city is only ten miles square. What would you do?