The Carrville Inn is the last stop on our pre-round-the-world-trip-limbo tour of California. We are here for the wedding of Lindsay’s sister, enjoying three nights (Thursday, June 13–Sunday, June 16, 2013) away from civilization in the Trinity Alps Wilderness with family and friends of the bride’s and groom’s (we have to leave a day earlier than most other guests to catch the plane to Boston on Monday, June 17, to kick off our round-the-world trip).
Beginning in 1853, the spot served the northern end of Trinity Valley as, in the words of the current owners, “the Queen of Stage Stops” on the California-Oregon Wagon and Stage Road (its successor, the California State Route 3, sees only an occasional car whizz by). Stage coaches ran between Trinity Center and Yreka, aiding the areas’s gold rush. The first Inn was completed in 1867 and underwent a series of additions and expansions over the years to its current 3-story, 9-bedroom form. Silent today, this used to be a booming frontier town of 2,000, according to the guest book. Even at the turn of the 20th century, Carrville Hotel served as “Headquarters for Mining Men and Tourists.”
The settlers, James Erastus Carr, who also built the road itself and was a mining property owner, and his wife Sarah Carr, who picked the spot for the Inn, are buried at a tiny cemetery in the forest behind the Inn. The names of their children are engraved in the pedestal of the Statue of Madonna. Time and nature take care for the cemetery most of the time.
Butterflies frolic in the flower beds. A lone emu watches cows graze on fenced pastures, breaking from its slow gait into a dash only when the owner’s terrier Ranger pays a visit. A pair of tiny black birds chase away an osprey on the hunt. Cottonwood puffs float overhead, on their way from nowhere to nowhere.
Chickens announce new eggs, which the Inn’s guests are free to use. The windmill creaks when the wind whips it sideways with a change of direction. An owl hoots in the forest further down the Carrville Loop Road.
Trinity River, an easy 5-minute hike away, and the alpine forest all around us whisper incessantly like natural white noise. The scent of pine and fir trees mingles in the dry air with the summer the wind carries upriver. Crickets and birds sing all around. Bumble bees buzz between the blackberry bushes.
Waffles, bacon, cupcakes, coffee, the wedding dinner, and other foods waft from the commercial kitchen in the back. Dozens of period antiques scattered around the building, along with more current heirlooms and decorations mixed in for quaint, historic effect, evoke the Inn’s 159-year history.
As guests arrive to celebrate their loved ones’ love, the sounds of humanity multiply: groups converse on the front porch and the balcony; glasses clink to the jukebox songs in the saloon; gun shots echo by the fire pit where, late at night, a blaze burns the past into our eyes; mallets hit wooden balls in the game of croquet on the side lawn; laughter rings from the swimming pool.
Folding chairs clack as the bride and groom arrange them on a big lawn under the giant oak tree across from the main building. Pom-poms, made from multi-colored tissue paper, hang from the trees, rustle in the breeze.
One night in the parlor and library room, I witness the birth of a song. The woman named Laurie Cipriani, the caterer’s partner, sits down at the piano, which is in a dire need of major tuning and restoration, and plays a lovely, melancholy tune. When I ask her what the song is, she says, “I made it up just now.”
Carrville Inn is a magical place, well worth the 7-hour drive from Portland, Oregon, or Sonoma County, California. If you can get in, that is: The owner declined a request for a conversation, claiming he needed no promotion because he’s booked solid for the next two years.
- Kit Waller, “The Carrville Inn”. A photocopy of the story appears in the binder, found at the Inn’s bar, Information of Interest to Our Guests About the Trinity Alps Area. It appears to be from a book about the area’s history, but I wasn’t able to track down the title.
- Memorabilia scattered around the Inn
- Carrville Inn Resort website