Winter in Chester. December 2014

The long trip this year was out of question. Sad. As a result I was looking for some nice place to spend the holidays. Something homy with lots of snow and good food, preferably not too far. I like the state of Oregon and I also like B&Bs. So it would be nice to spend Christmas weekend in some cabin far away in the snowy woods, with good food and skiing. I’m not sure if it even possible. Still, I couldn’t find anything reasonable. The places were either too expensive, too remote, or already booked or closed.

Bidwell House DrawingSo after some extensive searches I found a place called Bidwell House in Chester, CA. They were closed on Christmas holiday, but seem to fit all the rest of the parameters. The house was really cute. And with all the recent storms I was really looking forward to the winter cabin like experience. The place actually had a web camera to look outside on their green yard where the Summer weddings are held. Initially it was covered by wet snow, but by the time Christmas ended the snow melted and it was all green grass again.

Surprisingly, we were not the only people staying at the same time. But the place was empty with only a couple of rooms rented. I’ve picked the cheapest one called McKenzie Suite A. Not because I’m such a cheap skate (which I am), but because it was a top floor small room. Just good enough for two nights.

Friday, December 26

The B&B hosts actually required in the reservation the time we would be arriving. Why, you may ask, they set this restriction since I’m paying for it and a regular boring Hotel usually open 24/7. Well, generally good B&Bs are someone’s houses. As a result it is not reasonable to expect people to attend to your every wish, including late arrival, because of that. Fensalden Inn people, for example, were actually very particular and were waiting for us to come, to give keys to the room and the house and such. As a result we had to leave Sunnyvale in the morning. I was also not cooking forward to driving at night.

Initial traffic out of Bay Area was heavy. I suspect people were trying to take advantage of holidays, good weather, and fresh snow at Tahoe. However, after about Richmond the freeway became clear – no one really wanted to go to Lassen NP I suppose.

We’ve gotten to deserted Chester almost by the nightfall.  The last parts of the drive were a bit iffy due to the freezing temperatures and some small amount of black ice. The Bidwell House was deserted too, as expected. However, it was open. There was another outdoorsy looking couple in the house who also just arrived. They showed us an envelope with keys to our room and the rules. That was it. It seems as if anyone can come and stay. Only later I found that there were many cameras installed around the house. On the other hand no one really would be wondering around freezing Chester in winter.


The Bidwell House was nice. Large old house (though it was moved when the lake Almanor was created) with giant fireplace that had lots of Christmas little houses on it. There was also a local gorgeous outdoor cat. We found her wandering around the grounds in the freezing cold, which didn’t seem to bother her. She had so much lush colorful fur to protect against the cold that she probably felt fine. I’ve let her inside.

There was also lots of magazines to read, local activity and historical books, tea and coffee, and sherry, but no chocolate covered almonds. Aside from no snow it was just what I expected.

For dinner my other half selected a Chinese place – highly recommended Happy Garden. Well, it seemed that the reviewers had no idea how the real Chinese food taste like. And the restaurant owners were happy to change their cuisine to fit the local perverted ideas. Since I knew how Chinese food taste the Happy Garden was way a disappointment. Seriously, never expect a good ethnic food in small towns that are not populated by the said ethnicity.

Saturday, December 27

Beautiful bright freezing morning. Best time to go visit some nature. We had great breakfast at the B&B appropriately. It included omelet, juice, and dessert served by very friendly hired staff. Interestingly they had many different types of forks for different dishes in the meal. Very classy. We had a good chat with the other couple staying in the inn. They were also surprisingly from Sunnyvale. They were visiting all the national parks in California. I believe Lassen was their last. Very sporty people. But they were complete newbies to backpacking.
DSC_0080Among all the activity literature that the B&B had I finally found the one that we could both do – Lake Almanor recreational trail. The trail followed the West side of the like and was mostly flat. Surprisingly there were many trails around. In the National Park, of course, but also in many Forest Service lands around. Our fellow guests went to see some waterfall North East of Lassen. It just required several hours of driving.

Outside the town of Chester was sunny, cold and deserted. Maybe people went away for Christmas. It was possible that the lake Almanor surroundings were just tourist resort type of place. As a result, it was deserted during Christmas weekend. How nice. One down side was that there was pretty much zero snow.
Obviously I had t miss the trailhead. It was right off the CA-89. Instead I went to some gated lakeside summer houses. But eventually I found a spot that looked like a parking lot about a mile off the proper trailhead.

The Lake Almanor recreational trail was mostly flat, clean, wide, and paved. It would probably be great in summer on a bike. Especially if you are staying in one of the those campgrounds on the shore.

Lake Almanor was low. It was clearly visible. About 4 feet low. There was no snow, but there were different frozen entities in the forest like some old frozen mushrooms or ice covered logs. All in all we did about 12 miles of hiking.

We cam back right at sunset. This day I was really looking forward to some good local food. The B&B had some recommendations and the best looking one was Red Onion Grill. Little dd I know that the person who ran (and maybe owned) the Bidwell House also owned the said restaurant. Well, the B&B was ran fine, so the restaurant should be too, though the food quality depends a lot on the cook.

I’ve ordered some giant egg burger and Rita had lamb again. The burger was good, just too large. So big that I didn’t have space for dessert. Restaurant was very sparsely decorated. It had good sized outside patio with some view of the lake. It was probably very nice in summer. Now it was all dark and cold.

After dinner I walked around Chester a bit to shake that burger down. It was cold and dark and deserted.

Sunday, December 28

My plan was just to drive back – days were short and the drive was long. I found this scenic California highway 70 called Feather River National Scenic Byway that looked interesting and on the way. The breakfast was good – tasty and different from the day before. The Bidwell House seemed to be a popular place. The lady there told us that they were booked for every weekend in Summer for the weddings. It was a nice place to have a wedding.

DSC_0089The drive was great. Feather river road was not busy, clean, sunny, with many stop points to see the tamed feather river. One of our power companies dammed the hell out of it – there were power stations one after another almost entirely removing all the beauty out of this natural river. At least they didn’t make another Lake Almanor size reservoir. In a couple of places there were small hot springs coming out of sheer rock. In addition to that I managed to hike PCT, a very short section.


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