Important dates and canyon memories

On May 24, there is a meeting for the Plumas County Veterans Collaboration folks and all interested veterans at the Elks Lodge in Quincy at 1:30 p.m. We are attempting to open a Veterans outreach center in Plumas County.

In the Canyon on May 27, the Sunday before Memorial Day, there will be a celebration of life for Tom Fridrich at the parking lot of the old Maple Leaf Tavern just west of Belden. Some of Tom’s family and many of his friends will be there. Food and beverages will be offered.

Fridrich was one of the first people I met when I moved to the Feather River Canyon in 1995. He and his buddy, Nick Oman, owned and operated Maggies, better known as the Leaf by locals. A bunch of years have passed since then, giving me some reason to travel Highway 70 and visit spots where events (good, bad and tragic) took place.

In 1997, the Leaf was filled with debris from Little Indian Creek flooding, basically destroying the tavern. I remember, vividly, taking a picture of the place standing on the roof of a telephone booth, which was the same level as the ground around it. The Leaf was filled to the roof with rocks and stuff.

Around 2000, I began working for Feather Publishing and that job took me up and down the ditch on a regular basis. Fires, accidents, truck spills, drownings, drunks and all sorts of mayhem would take me to spots in the winding, rock-strewn road that winds through the Feather River Canyon.

There is this one curve just east of Caribou that was notorious. One day I was called out to cover a lumber spill. It was the same spot I had visited the day before for the same reason. There was a Caltrans worker directing traffic who looked at me and said, “The first day ya put up a bunch a signs and blinking lights ya get two accidents in a row.”

A Highway Patrol officer was getting out his little measuring wheel when I came up to him. “Deja Vu all over again, huh?” I said. “This is ridiculous,” he replies.

Then there was the totally restored Scout that was in a huge hurry, passing cars when coming down the Pulga grade. This is a part of the road where ya don’t wanna pass anything and pray there ain’t no rocks in the road.

It’s January, temperatures in the 20s — and he enters the Pulga Bridge at speed. The roadbed is a sheet of ice and the driver is sliding out of control. A lumber truck enters the bridge from the east, sees the situation and starts to do everything he can to avoid an inevitable collision.

His trailer goes on its side, lumber spills off the bridge and strews the river below like so much straw. There is no pleasant answer to this tale. The young man in the Scout does not survive. The truck driver is not physically injured but, like me, he will carry that vision for the rest of his life.

There is a spot west of Rodgers Flat where an island in the river precedes a deep pool. An 18-wheeler missed the turn and ended up in the river. The driver was able to get out and make it to the bank. But the frigid water had sapped his strength. Fortunately, a passing truck driver was able to drag him from the river.

What made this spot so memorable was that the truck’s lights stayed on underwater for four hours. Over the course of 17 years, I have stored many memories of spots and events in the Canyon. Maybe it is time to relive some of those with my readers since I no longer have the mobility needed to cover those things.

Click here to submit a letter to the editor about this post.