I didn’t find out for sure, but can only guess that Surprise Valley was named by an earlier settler on the Oregon Trail who came upon this wonderful high altitude (4,000 ft) valley on their trek to the west coast. The valley hugs the Nevada border and stretches for 60 miles up to Oregon. About 1,600 people live in the valley, most dependent upon agriculture. The high altitude hay from Modoc County is prized by horse breeders in southern CA, Japan and other locations.
The valley’s only hospital closed in 1982 but the local citizens got together, voted to levy a $225/dwelling unit tax upon themselves and re-opened it in 1986. The local k-12 school has just over 100 students but when the school held their 100th anniversary reunion in 2007, over 1,000 alumni came back home to help celebrate. There is obviously a great deal of pride in a place like Surprise Valley and Cedarville.
A local craftsman, Louie Vermillion, has taken it upon himself to save and preserve some of the old ranching structures, moving them to the local fairgrounds with the help of the local Rotary Club. At 78 years of age, Louie is also restoring some of the old covered wagons that stopped in Cedarville on their trek to Oregon.
The local farmers have a very old but practical way of determining whether to cut their hayfields, “If you can’t see Mt. Shasta, don’t cut your hay today.” Mt. Shasta, California’s highest peak at 14,179 feet is 86 miles as the crow flies (but a 4 hour drive) from Alturas, but looks like it is just next door.
Laura Williams told me that the National Forest in Modoc County is visited by the second lowest number of Americans. It is pristine and I hope to return with my wife. Tomorrow, where I plan to stay.