Drive to LaPorte and the Union Hotel
Photos taken April 17, 2005
Posted April 18, 2005
2005, Herbert E. Lindberg

It's been five years since the Mercer family bought the Union Hotel in LaPorte, and Mary and I finally decided to drive up to say hello and look around. Last Sunday we headed out that way without consulting a map, and were also a bit late in starting. When we got as far as the turnoff to Dobbins we learned it was an additional 34 miles to LaPorte, so we instead took a loop through Dobbins and back home to Lake Wildwood by continuing on to Bullards Bar Reservoir and then back down Rt. 49 to Pleasant Valley Road. This loop is highlighted in red in the map below, and our adventures that day are given in Dobbins Loop. This Sunday we got an earlier start and were prepared that it is 62 miles from the Lake Wildwood gate to LaPorte. This route is highlighted in green, extending off the west branch of the Dobbins loop. With no reasonable loop route, after our visit we simply retraced our path back to Lake Wildwood.

Map to LaPorte from points south.


When we arrived at LaPorte after a beautiful drive through hills green with grass and newly-leaved oak trees, and then with  pines at higher elevation, we were surprised to read the sign, "LaPorte, Population 35, Elevation 5000." No wonder Microsoft Streets and Trips didn't give the route at regional scale and I had to scan the above map from a telephone book. As we passed over Rabbit Creek and curved  into town, the Union Hotel stood out clearly as our vaguely-known destination. At this time of year, between the snowmobile and summer seasons, the "Population 35" number seemed accurate as we walked through deserted streets of rental cabins and road maintenance buildings.

The Union Hotel as you round the bend into LaPorte


We gingerly pulled into the nearly empty parking lot and parked near the entrance. With such a small native population we were pretty sure this was the Mercer's place, managed by Chip and Laura Mercer, so we entered to peer into these new surroundings. With Laura's permission, I later took a few photos to retrace these first tentative steps.

Mary at the entrance to The Union Hotel.
The door is behind her, the rooms straight ahead on the left, and the dining room is behind the camera.
The bar, we learned later, is through the door at the center, decorated by two horse shoes.


Part of the dining room, with entry at right rear.


In actual sequence of events, we stepped past the hall to the rooms, turned right, and popped our heads into what turned out to be the bar. We greeted Laura with, "Is this the Mercer's hotel?" Happily, she answered "Yes," and we introduced one another. We then continued into a room with a beautiful bar and several eating tables along a windowed wall. We were about to ask where in town we could buy lunch when Laura asked us if we'd like something to eat. We were pleased to order Italian chicken sandwiches and then sat at the bar to have a beer (me) and a coke (Mary).

The bar, viewed from its direct entrance from the parking lot.


Chip, Laura, and Mary, after we ate our delicious sandwiches.


Laura with a happy smile, and Mary reflected in the bar mirror.

Hotel from the corner opposite to that in first view; entrance at far right.


Rabbit Creek, taken from the road into town, a stone's throw from the Union Hotel.
The town was founded in 1850 as Rabbit Creek and later renamed LaPorte.


We're definitely going to revisit LaPorte in the summer when it's again booming and we can drive up the now snow-bound roads to Little Grass Valley Lake, which is part of the LaPorte "metropolis." If you want to learn more about the Mercer's place they have an informative Web site: Mercer, Chip & Laura The Union Hotel - LaPorte.

Postscript: We did get back to the area on September 4, 2011. Below is the lake, about 4 miles past the town. Chip and Laura no longer own the hotel. It is now available for rent  to large groups.

We met this family camping on the lake.  Mt. Fillmore is beyond the lake in the far background.

 

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