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Old 05-31-2020, 12:35 PM   #1
The Smokester
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Journey to an overlooked anomaly 5-30-2020

Those that look but do not see. Count me. Many of us have droned up Highway 5 north of Sacramento. I know I have. But in over 40 years, I never really saw the outcropping of volcanic rock lying east of 5 at Williams that comprises Sutter Buttes. You can Google it and see that it is the remnants of a 1.6 million year old volcano. I first saw it when it was pointed out to me on a topo map, an indirect upside of quarantine. And there it was and is, a zit in the large flat of the northern Central Valley about 50 miles NNW of Sacramento.

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Well, the isolation of quarantine has a way of playing with the mind. Pretty soon I was checking out the best way to get there. Best. For moto. Not fastest. Well, yes, fast…But not shortest.

Okay. Saturday morning forecast was iffy so I threw in a rain suit and blasted the 101 slab north past Santa Rosa, turned off at Mark West Springs Road and wound my way to Calistoga. Then, over to 29 and the fun began. I’m always intimidated by the first few miles of squiggles on 29 out of Calistoga, but soon we were putting along in the redwoods and all was good.
Finally, hitting 20, I was in new territory for me. After preliminaries eastbound out of ClearLake, the road passes the height of land and starts winding down tight washes and gullies with 15 mph corners. As the miles pass it opens up with curves becoming 30, 35mph… and pretty soon triple-digit (should you wish) sweepers through broad and spectacular valleys. Great tarmac, good sightlines, no side roads and no congestion.

Whaaaah hooooh!

All too soon 20 dumped me into the Central Valley. At about 40 miles distant, a clear day, Sutter Buttes shimmered in the distance. This picture was taken from the truck stop just east of 5 at Willliams.

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So there is a town call Sutter and I picked my way through construction, turned in and gassed up. No ‘rona masks in sight. I was wearing mine and was first worried that they might think this was a robbery. But I was greeted warmly.

There is a scenic road which partially circles, and then cuts through the buttes. I understand that the Buttes are privately owned by local ranchers, which I think is a good thing from the preservation viewpoint, but there seemed to be no place to pull off and picnic. So, I stopped at an intersection, talked to friendly locals who stopped by to see if I was okay, ate my sammich and grabbed a closeup. Mission accomplished!

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Turning back west, it appeared that things had deteriorated weather wise. A large squall was heading in from the southwest across my intended path. Should I slab it down 5 and take the easy way out, or did I want a review of 20? A no brainer. I delayed the start for about 15 minutes to let the worst of the squall to pass and then headed back west on 20. Got dumped on for about 15 minutes, and then another 10 minutes from another squall, it was warm enough I just kept going and as the good stuff opened up before me the road dried and the clouds cleared. Riding 20 from the valley east may be even better as you get the wild stuff out of the way first and then ease into the tighter twisties. Best to try it both ways and let me know what you think.

Back in the barn before dusk.

A great day made all the better by months of SIP! 332 smiles.
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Old 05-31-2020, 12:56 PM   #2
DefyInertia
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So funny. I just did a bunch of research on this “mountain range” (the worlds smallest) last weekend after seeing these from the 5 and from MNF twice recently. They look nice from high elevation in MNF on a clear day.
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Old 05-31-2020, 01:11 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by DefyInertia View Post
So funny. I just did a bunch of research on this “mountain range” (the worlds smallest) last weekend after seeing these from the 5 and from MNF twice recently. They look nice from high elevation in MNF on a clear day.
How did you come to know about them?
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Old 05-31-2020, 01:33 PM   #4
budman
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Cool stuff John.

Stunning skies in the photo's
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Old 05-31-2020, 04:43 PM   #5
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Cool stuff John.

Stunning skies in the photo's
Thank you. It was good to get out.

It was a beautiful day all around. Those pictures were shot looking toward the east. When I came out from behind the Buttes and turned to the west to go home, the clouds over the mountains were dark, and rain squalls were moving across the valley. Would have made for good pictures but camera is not waterproof.
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Old 06-01-2020, 12:13 PM   #6
N4teTheGreat
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Interesting area. I see a few dirt roads that appear to cut trough the formation, though it looks like all access on the eastern side may be private property... Anyone know if there's a way through legally?
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Old 06-01-2020, 12:37 PM   #7
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Interesting area. I see a few dirt roads that appear to cut trough the formation, though it looks like all access on the eastern side may be private property... Anyone know if there's a way through legally?
It used to be a guided hike.
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