My niece recently got married. She lives in northern California near the town of Redding. Since my wife and I have gotten our two vaccinations, we decided to fly to Sacramento and then drive the rest of the way to Redding for the wedding ceremony. As this was my first airline trip since the pandemic started (my wife had made one other airline trip before) I was interested to see how things would go.

We flew out of Denver, so we drove up and parked at DIA. Upon entering the airport, a couple of things immediately became apparent. First was that everyone was following guidance and wearing a mask. However, it also became clear that the six-foot social distancing guidelines were not being followed consistently. There were signs on the elevators that only four people should board. Of course, on our first elevator ride, as soon as four of us got on the elevator, others joined us. Either they didn’t read the signs or just didn’t care.

Further, while waiting in the security line, instead of six feet it was more of a three-foot distancing, if that. It was the same waiting to board the plane at the gate. Our flight was full, and, other than everyone wearing masks, I was reminded how much fun it is getting on a full flight. The flight crew has their requirements, such as how they handle snacks, which they followed.

Our flight to Sacramento went well and we got a rental car for the drive up to Redding. I previously had two assignments while in the Air Force in the Bay Area, so we are familiar with central and southern California. However, we’d never been to northern California and looked forward to the visit. I knew there were orchards in the Sacramento Valley, but was struck with how many there were on the drive up I-5.

It is scenic around Redding and there are sightseeing opportunities such as Lassen Volcanic National Park. Our time was limited, so we settled for going to Lake Shasta and walking across the Shasta Dam. The dam is impressive, and I was surprised to learn that it exceeds the Hoover Dam in terms of concrete volume.

If you really know your history you might remember the route we took north from Sacramento along the Sacramento River is close to John C. Fremont’s third expedition route to Klamath Lake (southern Oregon) in 1845-46. (While Fremont was known as “The Pathfinder” it really was Kit Carson who was the guide.) After a bloody encounter with Native American tribes around the lake, Fremont went south and was involved with the beginnings of California becoming part of the United States.

I will discuss the beginnings of California (it became a state in 1850) in my article next month, as it is similar to a lot of the history of the West: much bravery, vision, fortitude, and also violence and heartache.

My niece’s wedding was in a setting not far from the Sacramento River and was quite memorable. We appreciated being there. Our return to Denver was similar to flight out — full and everyone wearing masks.

Doug McCormick is retired from the Air Force after spending 21 years as a space operator. He spent 14 years as a defense contractor supporting Air Force Space Command. He is now a tour guide and has started his own business, American History Tours, LLC, specializing in taking people to see locations associated with significant American history. His email address is

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