The Black Forest Lodge- A Slice of Germany in America


black forest lodgeIn the 1970s travel to Germany was expensive, but my parents still wanted that German Vacation experience. So, instead of hopping on a cheap flight to Germany on Condor, they packed up the family’s green 1970 Monte Carlo with supplies and headed north to Chester, California near Lassen National Park where we would stay at a German run hotel and restaurant called The Black Forest Lodge.

It was a 10 hour drive, and dad insisted on all of us getting in to the car at 3am to get “an early start“.
My sleepy eyed sister and I were shoved in to the back seat… no leg room (the wells were filled with Dad’s beer and the extra cooler of food and drink), but we sort of stretched out on our designated half as well as we could. 10 hours later, after a million rounds of “she’s touching me” and “she’s on my side” and ” Hört ihr jetzt mal AUF!!!” (“Stop it right now!”) we’d arrive.

And we were free!

black forest lodge

The Black Forest Lodge

The owners, Walter and Helga Albert,  and much of the staff were German. It was like stepping out of our California life, and slipping into Germany. The language changed. My parents relaxed. We had the run of the place for the next 10 days with other German Families that we knew.

The Black Forest Lodge was a fairly rustic and basic place to stay… exactly as it should be for a place in the woods. There were cuckoo clocks on the wall, plaques with German expressions and images of stags (and for some reason, that famous dogs playing poker tapestry was hung in the bar…) There were only 9 rooms in the lodge, and there were no TVs in them. Personal computers were still years away, but there was serious fun to be had. It also meant eating German Food (lots of schnitzel and brat kartoffel). MMmmmmm. And I would give a lot to have Helga’s recipe for Graupen Suppe… it was outstanding!

Heaven for Kids

black forest lodge


Every morning at breakfast we kids would ask the kitchen how many fish would be needed for dinner. The hotel/restaurant had stocked trout ponds in the back… and under Walter Jr’s supervision we could catch the day’s dinner quota.

black forest lodge

Once that was done we’d build dams in the streams, push each other in to the river, and catch snakes. I once caught 20 snakes and put them in a burlap sack (these were harmless racer snakes). BOY were they mad. When it was time to cut them loose… we ran!

black forest lodge

Trout ponds behind the restaurant supplied fish for dinner…. and fun for the kids.

Building up an Appetite

The 4 or 5 German families would travel together to Butt Reservoir ( a local lake) and spend the day playing in the water. The fathers would drink beer and play cards. The mothers would do needlepoint, read and talk. The language… German. Inflatable boats would be pumped up, and all of us kids would have to spend the day with swimmy rings on our arms. We’d swim and play, build forts with washed up logs, and get serious sunburns on our fair skin.

black forest lodge

We did a lot of wandering and hiking through fields and up mountains. The air was fresh, and with nothing to do in the rooms, we were outside building up an appetite.

Black forest lodge

You can almost imagine that you are in the Black Forest


Ahhh…the meals were especially memorable. The owner, Walter Albert, would take us to our seats. First we would be served the soup of the day; my favorite was the Graupen Suppe (barley soup) with fresh bread. Then our meal… Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, Forelle (trout) fresh from the Teiche (maybe even the one we caught!). And always always ALWAYS there were Bratkartoffel (fried potatoes).  It was a family business, and Walter’s wife Helga ran that kitchen with German precision. Their children Ada and Walter jr. worked as waitress and busboy. The food was delicious and plentiful.

After dinner, the men would head to the bar for beer and cards. Some nights we kids could sit in the bar drinking Shirley Temples. Mostly though, we headed to the rooms. Mom always packed games and we’d spend hours playing Rummy, Quartet, and the Memory Game. Some nights we would have bonfires. It was always gemütlich.

The Black Forest Lodge Today

A few years ago I went to Lassen County on a camping trip, and was amazed to see the Black Forest Lodge still standing. I wandered around back with the kids to show them the ponds, and there was the old owner, Walter. I introduced myself, and I was amazed to find out that he actually remembered my family and their friends. Don’t know if I should feel flattered or nervous that we were so memorable. (There were some LOUD nights). I do know that it was a special time that I will never forget. A little slice of Germany in California.

black forest lodge

Note- For the past few years,  the restaurant and hotel have been closed. Walter passed away, and I just learned from Ada that Helga had a stroke, and has also passed on. The Black Forest Lodge itself is still standing though, and there is always talk about reopening. In fact, while doing some research, I learned that the building and property are for sale! Who knows? Maybe another generation of German kids in America will have a chance to immerse themselves in a piece of Germany in America. It just needs a bit of love.

If anyone remembers the Black Forest Lodge, and maybe has some photos they can share… please email me at [email protected]. I can pass them along to Ada. She would love to see them.

UPDATE- It looks like the Black Forest Lodge was purchased, and is reopening in Summer 2021!!!

Here is the link- Schmeeckle’s Black Forest Lodge

black forest lodge


22 thoughts on “The Black Forest Lodge- A Slice of Germany in America

  1. What.a.great story! My family did the same there too! We had friendsome that lived in Chester and ran the Evergreen Pizza parlor. Fun times. I remember the snakes too!

    1. WOW! the world is small…. do you still get up there?

      1. Haven’t been for a while. Lived in Charleston SC for 5 years. But just moved back to Santa Barbara for a.job. planning though. How about you?

        1. Last time I was there was 4 years ago…but I heard the family is still there

  2. My family also went there for vacation in the 70s. Still have some of the photos from that time. Both parents came from Deutschland, my sister and I are 1st generation Americans. We remember Walter and Helga. Some great times.

    1. I’m starting to wonder if we bumped in to each other….
      I know Ada would love to see some photos. My email is [email protected]… I could pass them along for you.

      1. In 1967 the Braun and Peter Families from the Bay Area discovered the Black Forrest Lodge. The parents were from Southern Germany and found Lake Almanor to be a paradise. Soon a cabin was bought by one family and two homes were built on the Peninsula by the other family – dinner was ALWAYS at the Black Forrest Lodge with Walter, Helga, Jr. and Ada and our grandfather, Opa Mike was the best bartender ever. When we were up there, we came with 2 accordians and played our hearts out with German songs. So now it’s time for the third generation to enjoy this part of God’s country. As we drive by the BFL, on our way home, we always slow down and remember the fine times. Let’s hope that we can see the inside of the dear place again, soon. Long live the Black Forrest Lodge.

        1. Someone told me that it has been purchased! Let’s hope they bring back the good food (and fix that hole in the wall in Room 9s bathroom)

  3. Our family has owned a lot of land across the street from Black Forest Lodge since 1962. I remember as a little kid in the 1960’s how that place rocked on Friday and Saturday nights. I loved the large tapestries on the wall in the bar that you could purchase for $20 back then. What I really remember is the German fried potatoes with the onions. I think they had German potato salad also. Great times.

    1. Do you happen to have any photos from that time? Ada contacted me recently hoping to get some.

  4. The Black Forest if pegged to reopen in Summer 2021.

  5. I worked there as a waitress the summer of 1970. I lived on the property working as a waitress and on off hours helping clean rooms or with kitchen work. Walter Jr was a baby then and Oma helped in the kitchen. The Albert’s were delightful people. My mom bought several of the tapestries that my brother now has. We stayed in touch by Christmas cards for decades. I stopped by the restaurant several years ago. It was closed but there was a man there who knew them and called to see if I could stop by. We had a lovely visit and they invited me to come up with my family, which I was never able to do. I wish I had. I hadn’t heard from them for several years. I hadn’t realized they had passed away.

    1. Ada got in touch with me a year or so ago… would you like me to pass your information on to her?

      1. Karenanne, that would be fine. I have some pictures from that time that I can send to her if she would like.

    2. Connie, do you remember MIKE, our Opa who worked in the bar at the BFL for several. years? In his younger
      days, we was an innkeeper in Bavaria Germany so when he heard that Walter and Helga were looking for a bartender, you didnt have to ask twice. Opa Mike traveled, for several years from San Francisco, taking the greyhoumd bus up to the Black Forest Lodge and worked for the Alberts from, Spring until end of Summer. We believe these were some of his happiest years in America, the guests never wanted to go home because he was so jovial and told the best jokes. We will always thank the Alberts for giving Mike the opportunity to spend his latter years ” up at Almanor.”

  6. Great news: The Black Foresr had a VERY close call with the Dixie Fire and emerged undamaged! The St. Bernard and Deer Creeks lodges survived, as well. Was so happy to read that.

  7. Great news: The Black Forest had a VERY close call with the Dixie Fire and emerged undamaged! The St. Bernard and Deer Creek lodges survived, as well. Was so happy to read that.

    1. Oh Wonderful! My mom and I were just wondering about this! THank goodness.

  8. The Black Forest Lodge is officially opening July 1, 2023. Rooms will be available for rent this summer, but the restaurant and bar will not be open for another year or two (probably 2). I really loved reading these stories about the lodge. Would love some photos of the lodge over the years to frame and hang in the future restaurant if anyone would like to share some!

    1. Hi Andrea! It’s great to hear that the lodge is reopening. I’ll dig through my family photo albums to see if I can find anything. Can you send mean email with more information/a link to the lodge [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!