The Pathways retreats are located on the beautiful 18 acre Polka Creek Ranch made possible by Melanie Reagan Polka the daughter of Dr Mike and Barbra Polka. Melanies role as executive director of the Polka Creek Ranch is to carry on the legacy of her parents whose entire lives were dedicated to helping others. A breif description of Mike and Barbra is as follows:
The History of Polka Creek Ranch
Known by many simply as “Dr. Mike,” Polka held a long and storied career in Trinity County spanning 37 years in private medical practice, nearly 30 years as the Trinity County Health Officer, a stint as chief of medical staff at Trinity Hospital and decades devoted to Trinity High School athletics programs.
He served on the Trinity Union High School District Board of Trustees when the district was countywide and for many years was a regular at every Trinity High School football game, providing weekly accounts for The Trinity Journal. He started the tradition of providing free physical exams for student athletes that has since been carried on by several other doctors.
Dr. Polka also coached Weaverville Little League for 25 years, was fond of performing on stage with The Trinity Players group he helped form in the 1960s and was once recognized as Citizen of the Year, in part for being a community “watchdog” through his frequent attendance and input at meetings of the Trinity County Board of Supervisors.
Born in McKeesport, Pa., in 1914, Dr. Polka hitchhiked and rode the rails to California in 1934 after unsuccessfully trying to find work in the eastern steel mills. He took whatever jobs he could find during those Depression years and ultimately followed a friend to the College of the Pacific in Stockton where he was invited to play football, a sport he’d excelled in at high school.
When it came down to juggling time between studies, work, and football, it was football that ultimately had to go as Dr. Polka transferred to the premed program at the University of California in Berkeley.
He graduated during World War II and received a draft notice, but his military service was deferred so he could attend the Marquette School of Medicine in Milwaukee, Wis. He graduated from medical school in three years and joined the U.S. Navy, serving at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland and in Saipan after the war.
Dr. Polka came to Weaverville in 1952 after deciding to leave a busy medical practice in Milwaukee upon the death of his friend and colleague who died at the age of 47 from a heart attack.
He liked telling of his first trip to Weaverville in a January snowstorm when someone in a red pickup truck stopped to help him put chains on. He never discovered who that person was but fell in love with the snow-covered mountains and small community.
Later that year he married Barbara Pope of Stockton and was responsible for introducing fellow physician and college football buddy, the late Dr. Robert Breeden, to Weaverville. Breeden liked it so much he also stayed. The two were joined in practice for many years at their clinic on Taylor Street.
Dr. Polka retired from practice in 1989 after a career that sometimes took him to unusual places, including the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area where he attended to various types of medical emergencies over the years, whether by helicopter or on horseback. There were other times when the emergencies attended to did not even involve people, but rather horses, dogs, cats, goats and once an owl.
Barbara June Polka 1920 – 2015:
Barbara June Polka passed away peacefully from bladder cancer Feb. 12, 2015. She was four months shy of her 95th birthday.
Barbara is survived by her three children Sandi Polka, Melanie Polka Reagan, and Michael John Polka (Stephanie Polka); four grandchildren Capt. Matthew McClary (Capt. Jenifer McClary US Army), Dr. Megan Moran (Major Ben Moran USAF), Dallas Reagan and Kirk Polka; as well as three great-grandchildren Emily Grace and Mark Daniel Moran, and Madison Rae McClary; and sister Norma Sublett of West Sacramento.
Barbara June Pope was born on a ranch near Franklin, Calif., June 11, 1920, to Harold and Katherine Pope. Barbara was the great-granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson Pope, an early pioneer who settled in Lodi in the 1850s. She graduated from Lodi Union High School, Class of 1938. Barbara attended College of the Pacific (University of the Pacific) in Stockton where her love of theater began. Barbara was a founding member of the Pacific Players on campus. Also, at UOP she first met Michael George Polka.
June 15, 1951, she, and “Dr. Mike” got married. The couple chose Weaverville as the ideal place to set up a medical practice and raise children. Barbara and Mike moved to Weaverville in 1952 and enjoyed 57 years together before Dr. Mike died April 15, 2010.
Barbara loved the people of Weaverville and helping her community. She led Girl Scouts and ran training programs for leaders while serving as the Girl Scouts northern district representative. She also loved American Field Service, a student exchange program, hosting students and helping to run the AFS Thrift Shop on Main Street.
1954 was the first of many years that Barbara Polka served as president of the Weaverville Elementary School PTA. She continued her involvement as a leader in education remaining on the school Board of Trustees for 16 years. She also sat on the Board of Directors for KIXE Channel 9 Public TV, chaired the County Cancer Drive, and even taught catechism at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church for a short time.
In 1960, Polka established The Trinity Players. She served as president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and member of the board of directors for nearly 20 years. Rehearsals happened in the Polka basement. Barb directed six plays, wrote an original one-act comedy, and presented drama workshops at Trinity High and Weaverville Elementary schools.
Barbara also appeared in many of the group’s productions, originally performed at the movie theater or Civil Defense Hall (Veterans Memorial Hall). She especially enjoyed singing and comedic roles. Her credits included “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Never Too Late,” “Harvey,” “See How They Run 1963,” “Scrooge the Musical,” “The Fantastiks,” “Reflections,” “3300 Miles from Broadway,” “Salute to Irving Berlin,” “Follies 84-85,” “The Curious Savage,” “Plaza Suite,” “Summer Stock,” and “The Drunkard.” She was one of 10 nationwide to receive the American Association of Community Theater’s AACT Award for outstanding contribution to theater arts.
Polka dreamed of building a real theater in Weaverville and wrote a successful grant to the State Parks Department getting $1 million to construct Trinity Alps Performing Arts Center.
But performance art wasn’t Barbara’s only creative outlet. She loved to paint and sketch, even doing humorous comics, some were even published in The Trinity Journal. One of Barbara’s watercolors was once displayed in an art exhibition in San Francisco.
As the wife of Dr. Mike, the first surgeon in Trinity County, the pair occasionally traveled to medical conferences, visiting Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Mexico. Trips to Eastern Europe gave Barbara a chance to share different cultural experiences with students. She noted Russian toilet paper, always of special interest.
In the late ’60s Barbara opened the Gold Pan, a unique retail gift shop, with Ione Castro. They operated the boutique store for 15 years.
With a lifelong passion for learning, Barbara studied and presented workshops on transactional analysis and psychology for regional universities. In 1969 she enrolled in aviation ground school with her husband, Dr. Mike. Both acquired pilot’s licenses and flew Cessna aircraft for many years.
Barbara also produced the newsletter for Trinity County Republican Women, throughout the 1990s, chairing the club’s scholarship committee and acting as chief inspector of the election board.
Barbara Polka loved family and friends deeply. She was caring, thoughtful, generous, intelligent, humorous, and unforgettable. She would say you can’t always be the best there is, but you can always give it your best shot.
Barbara Polka’s Final Act, a celebration with laughter, food, and spirits, is set for 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 9, at the Trinity Alps Performing Arts Center, Weaverville.
Pathways retreats are a nonprofit, donor-supported, experiential training organization at the forefront of holistic studies. Located on 18 acres in California’s in the heart of the beautiful Trinity Alps Wilderness, with direct access to over 10,000 acres of national forest. Pathways offers a wide variety of workshops, retreats, conferences, and professional training, in-person and online. Pathways welcomes visitors for reasons big and small—to spark creativity, explore spirituality, improve well-being, and connect to a community of lifelong learners.
Our Strategic Direction
As we turn our focus to Pathway’s next chapter, we see a window opening. There has never been such widespread interest in or need for the knowledge and skills we have cultivated since our founding.
We are poised to become an even stronger force for change, by increasing access to our programs and mobilizing our growing global community.
We are guided by the goals and aspirations laid out in our Strategic Plan, which serves as an organization blueprint for action.