We awake at Rocky Rest to freezing rain and a muddy depature pulling the trailer out of the cold slime. Hoping to get to Sierra Hot Springs, we head to Downieville with a warm breakfast in mind. Looking up on the surrounding cliffs, we realize it’s been snowing all night, just not down where we were insulated by the river. But a few hundred feet up the valley, it’s snow everywhere and big flakes coming down.
Downieville is a bust, asleep under the blanket of white, no cozy cafe to be found. We ask a trooper about Yuba Pass and he encourages us to try it. Do we have chains for the trailer? We don’t.
The storm seems to ebb for a bit making travel up the pass less scary. We make it to Sierra City, sleepier yet than Downieville, and find a sweet breakfast spot that surpasses our visions of old-time Gold Country hospitality. Tanked up on fancy coffee and breakfast porks we push up the pass. The snow gets heavier but thankfully the road is not too slick and the Highlander and trailer hold their own. We are alone in the pass and listening to dreamy sad boy twang like SunKilMoon, Red House Painters and Greg Brown. We will make it through and find the big valley and maybe it will appear to us sunlit, green, dappled with black angus, volcanic, peopled with patchouli-drenched hippies, quiet, healing, like the other time.