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Population 85: The Story of a Small Town in Northern California
History of Mineral, the gateway town to Lassen Volcanic National Park

When the temperature drops to someplace around 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit, all the water in small, shallow puddles turns to ice and 
when stepped on makes a wonderful cracking noise and splinters into a million ice particles. From October through March, my younger 
brother, Fred, and I delighted in this ritual every morning as we walked to school. The puddles were larger and deeper around the 
Standard Oil Service Station. If the temperature was warmer and it had rained, there was no ice so we just waded through, hoping the 
water would not go over our boots. If it had snowed, the puddles were deceptive and gave us a greater challenge to keep our feet dry. 
Most of the time it was ice and more ice, and we raced to see who could get to the bigger puddles first. 

West of the service station on State Highway 36 was a regular highway sign that read, “MINERAL, pop. 85.” This described the small 
town where I grew up and thence the title of this book. Mineral was, and still is, best characterized as a “WIDE SPOT IN THE ROAD.” 
But it was a magical place to me as a child. It had a special feeling for me then, and it still does now, even though I have not lived there 
permanently for over 30 years. 

Mineral is located in Northern California approximately 100 miles south of the border with Oregon and 150 miles from the eastern 
border with Nevada. It sits in a lovely mountain meadow at an altitude of 4,950 feet. This pleasant meadow is ringed by mountains 
covered with evergreens. Ponderosa pines at heights of well over 100 feet, interspersed with white firs and incense cedar, tower over 
the landscape. The climate at this elevation is delightful in the summer months with temperatures of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters 
can be severe with an abundance of rain and snow storms, rewarded by clearing skies of brilliant sun. The sky is usually a deep azure 
blue, giving way to a sparkling Milky Way after dark.

The southern entrance to Lassen Volcanic National Park is only nine miles from Mineral. Lassen Peak was the only active volcano in 
the United States when it erupted in the spring of 1914. Congress designated it as a National Park in 1916. The mountain was still 
smoking when I was in my teens but is still considered an active volcano. There is considerable volcanic activity, with boiling mud pots 
and steam vents to make it an interesting place to visit. Lassen Park is considered one of the hidden gems in our National Park system 
with its many alpine lakes and miles of hiking trails. 

With its proximity to the Park and a delightful climate, Mineral is truly a resort area, and its resort is the Mineral Lodge. My family owned 
and operated this business for sixty years. I was fortunate to be able live most of my life in this “WIDE SPOT IN THE ROAD.” --from preface by Jo Ann Beresford Perkins

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