Baccala Ranch Outing – July 29-30, 2023

Trails West Soldier Meadows (Baccala Ranch) Outing

Article By Dave Freeman

Editor’s Note: This is a great example of one of our 2023 outings!

July 29 – 30, 2023


We had been invited to search and document the Lassen Trail on the Baccala family property located west of Chester Ca, The Baccala Ranch was established in 1858 and the historical features have never been mapped until this year. The main feature of the 1,700 acre ranch is its 4 mile long sub-alpine meadow.

Family history tells of the Lassen Trail skirting the southern edge of the meadow and a knoll at the eastern end as one of the 1850 Lassen Trail Relief efforts of Major Ruckers and Capt. Peoples contingent. Ox shoes nailed to the wall of one of the ranch buildings attest to past oxen travels across this ranch. The Trail here was used from 1848 until about 1865, with the later years used for miners to access the Rich Bar area on the Feather River.


However, the family’s trail route conflicts with the official route of the Lassen Trail. This currently accepted route of the Trail is around the more difficult to negotiate North side of the meadow. Our task was determining which was correct.


This search was broken up into 2 outings. The first was in June with CaNv OCTA attempting to find the Lassen Trail direction where the eastern portion of the Trail entered the meadow. The CaNv OCTA group initially found limited trail related artifacts on the southern edge at the beginning of the meadow. No artifacts or trail signs were found at the outing supporting the official northern route. What was found at this search was that both possible trail routes were obscured by subsequent lumber railroad development. Broken rail bits, a train coupler and spikes everywhere!


The Trail’s West outing task was quickly changed to find the trail before it entered Soldier Meadows and then to search the possible areas of the trail where the railroad would not have obliterated the original Lassen Trail.


Saturday July 30


As the land east of Soldier Meadows was not Baccala land, but Forest Service land, Seth Ownes, archaeologist for the Lassen National Forest acquired a metal detecting / documenting permit for this area.

Those without metal detectors were supplied one by the Forest Service. The trail route was searched, following Soldier Creek downstream to Marker L- 46 at the Soldier Creek Campground. It was hoped that some of the grassy areas along the creek would yield  a pioneer campsite or two.


No such luck, but the omnipresent railroad artifacts were clearly found. Then downstream of the L-46 Trails West Marker, a nice trail bed was noted telegraphed by a wide row of bunch grass.  In short order, a period carriage bolt was found.

When the features were logged, it was apparent that this was not the Lassen Trail but the miners’ trail down to the Feather River. Seth gleefully documented this new historical feature into the Forest Service records. Next it became evident this new trail west end was directly at the junction of the 2 trails.

Our search was expanded in this area including a small portion of the Trail which the official route went over low ridge to Pitville. But again,  the logging, railroad and the public road had taken their toll and no artifacts were encountered. We returned to camp and after a rest, traveled to a possible section of undisturbed road adjacent to the Ranch buildings for a quick inspection of tomorrow morning’s search area.


Saturday July 30


Today we started back at the old road section at the Ranch buildings.


This ½ mile section of undisturbed road was searched with the first half by a metal detector and the second half only by MKII eyeballs. Near the west of this road, roughly south of the Ranch buildings, a Prehistoric site was found.

At approximately 250 yards from our start at the green gate, a damaged 52 caliber 340 grain conical bullet was found. This conical was in line with other large caliber rounds found by the Baccala family when logging.

This collection of bullets is 1000 yards from the Army encampment knoll. Early Sharps rifles were sighted at this distance. Period artifacts were found along this old road, but nothing to hang our hats on to say it was the Lassen Trail.  We then headed back to camp for lunch.


After lunch we headed to the western end of Soldier Meadow to a site known as “Tuckers”. Here we had hoped to find the trail as it would be where the southern and northern possible routes would have joined.  LIDAR showed 4 promising breaks in the low 8-10-foot-tall basalt escarpment. The Tucker site also sported a lovely lave tube spring and small adjacent grassy area which would have been a likely camp for weary emigrants. A former worker on the ranch recalled old wagon parts scattered about at the base of the escarpment at this site around 1963.


In searching the area, a prehistoric rock wall used as a hunting blind and other prehistoric items were found. The passages through the basalt escarpment were searched with metal detectors and although appearing to be wagon passages, no artifacts were found. A possible pioneer grave or marker was logged east of the lava tube spring.

The railbed crossing the meadow at this area was searched near the creek and a possible ford site was inspected to see if the creek bottom would support a wagon. I can attest that the bottom of the ice-cold creek had a very, very soft bottom unsuitable for a wagon crossing.



Archaeologist Owens felt there was sufficient evidence from the scattered wagon parts to lean to the opinion that the southern route could be the Lassen Trail route. Clearly the passage of time with the early logging railroads and logging had a very detrimental impact on the Trail features. We have found evidence from a building site at the Lassen Rancho Bosquejo at the end of the Lassen Trail (Tehama County), evidence that the Lassen Trail supported the flow of miners to the Upper Feather River until at least 1865. This increased impact on the Lassen Trail would have made the trail quite visible if undisturbed. Much further research and searching is needed to this very picturesque portion of the Lassen Trail as this section of trail kicked our butts!


We will try again next year!