Turning off US-395 at Milford, we drove up the Milford Grade to the site of the Laufman Ranger Station of the Plumas National Forest. My home town, Challenge, was the location of the Challenge Ranger Station of the same national forest. In a reorganization some years ago (I'm not sure exactly when), the USFS merged districts, reducing the Plumas NF from six districts to three, and two of the stations that closed were Challenge and Laufman, both of which were reduced to "work centers."
You can't get into the station site anymore, at least not legally. (This gate would have been easy to walk around, but we didn't want to leave the minivan unattended; besides, it would have been a federal trespassing offense to have done so.) This cattle guard is the site of a very unpleasant memory for me. In 1977, aged eleven years old, I fell through this guard and came very close to breaking my leg. I was lucky; I merely got a notch in my left shinbone and a scar that is there to this day.
There used to be a house on this site. On August 4, 1977, while most of the station staff were out fighting a couple of huge fires under my father's command, their spouses organized a birthday party for my sister. During the party, the sky turned red, as the two fires had burned together and generated an immense plume of smoke. Minutes later, ash fell from the sky and the birthday party quickly adjourned into the house.
This entire area used to be houses for the station personnel, plus the district ranger's office. Off in the distance beyond a work compound were spaces for mobile homes, one of which was the one in which we lived and which we were to live again when my father transferred from Milford to Challenge at the end of 1977.
Not being able to legally explore the place I lived for the last half of 1977, we drove back down to the bottom of the grade, where the Milford Store used to be but is not anymore, as it has closed. (I'm guessing that after the ranger station closed, there just wasn't enough business to keep it going.) The station was somewhere back up this mountain, although I don't know exactly where in this shot.
This was a rather somber visit, even though I don't have great memories of this period of my life. It was strange to see it all razed and the land reverting to forest.