Northern California

Come away, Oh human child

To the waters and the wild.  –Yeats

After leaving the coast I spent a few days visiting several dear friends in the Bay area and in Sacramento before continuing up the highway toward Lassen Volcanic National Park. Surprisingly, although I lived only a few hours away for more than ten years, this would be my first time visiting the park.

I camped north of the Lassen, right along side of Hat Creek, and slept blissfully to the sound of the river flowing by. In the morning, before heading south in to the park, I drove thirty miles north to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. (Another place I’d always wanted to see.)

I spotted the Yeats quote imprinted on a bench just before stepping up to an overlook and laying eyes on Burney Falls for the first time. I stood there for a while, admiring the falls and pondering Yeats’ words. There is no doubt I am drawn to the waters and the wild. The two have been the focus of my journey. While searching for my next destination, with the exception of family and friends along the way, it is always wilderness that I seek. And when looking for a campsite, I find that I am always looking for water… be it an ocean, a river, or a lake. I am like a child when surrounded by nature… full of awe and wonder… curious and youthful in spirit.


Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park

Burney Falls

I hiked the relatively short loop down to the falls, along the river, across and back up the other side, and then… because the light had changed… I hiked down to the falls again. Even during drought conditions in California the falls were quite lovely, and definitely worth the side trip and entrance fee. Had I not planned on exploring Lassen I would have enjoyed camping in this park.

On the way back south I took a side road loop just for a change of scenery and happened upon one of the most interesting collections of “junk yard art” I have ever seen… at Packway Materials in Cassel. I would love to have visited with someone about these rather large and humorous pieces, in particular the artist, but there was no one around to talk to. (These pictures are only a small sampling of what I found.)




Not too far down the road I spotted a big wooden barn, and… double my pleasure… horses!  (Those who’ve been following this journey for a while know my affinity with horses and old barns.)



A short distance farther I stumbled upon a field of Belted Galloway, a breed of cattle I’d never heard of until I discovered a herd of them while journeying through Maine.

Belted Galloway, a Scottish breed of cattle happily grazing in California

Belted Galloway, a Scottish breed of cattle happily grazing in California

On my way south I made a pit stop at camp for a bite to eat and a short walk with the dogs. Since they are not allowed on the national park trails I left them behind in the motorhome and set the air conditioner to kick on if the temperature reached 75 degrees.

As it turned out leaving them behind was an unnecessary precaution because the roadway through Lassen Volcanic National Park was closed roughly 15 miles in, and the hiking I hoped to do was at the southern end of the park. I would have been pacified to hike the Manzanita Lake trail at the north end of the park, but it was closed as well!  While contemplating how far I’d have to drive to go the long way around the park to the south entrance I was told by another disappointed visitor that the southern route into the park was closed within two miles of the entrance. I couldn’t imagine why, and since the visitors center and ranger station at the north end of the park were closed as well, I was never able to find out. Needless to say I was horribly disappointed. I drove as far as I could, stopping for a few shots along the way, then turned around and headed back to camp.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Chaos Crags

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Mount Lassen from Manzanita Lake

With little else to do in the area I cut my stay one night short and rolled out toward Redding the following morning. I scored a great campsite in Mountain Gate RV Park, just north of town, and set out to explore a bit. I house-boated and water skied on Lake Shasta for several years, so the Redding area was not unfamiliar to me, but I’d actually seen very little of the town.  Sundial Bridge was my first stop. This unique bridge, which spans 700 feet across the Sacramento River, opened in 2004… long after I’d moved away from California.

Redding California

Sundial Bridge over Sacramento River

Sacramento River, Redding Ca

Sundial Bridge

Redding Ca

Sundial Bridge

I also drove out to Shasta Dam and observed, yet again, the effects of California’s drought! In all the years I have boated on or driven the I-5 bridge over this lake I had never seen it so low this early in the year. After a dry hot summer maybe, but never in the spring.

Sacramento River, California

Shasta Dam and Lake Shasta

The following morning I drove 30 miles north to Castle Crags State Park where I did a short hike out to a vantage point with a spectacular view of Mount Shasta, and then a more serious hike three miles up the mountain (elevation gain of 2200’) to reach the crags, and an easier three miles back.


Mount Shasta from Castle Crags State Park


The Crags, Castle Crags State Park




Stellers Jay

Stellers Jay

While at the top of the trail I couldn’t resist scrambling up the steep crags, which meant putting camera and backpack on ledges above me as I went so I could use both hands and climb unencumbered. The view from above was definitely worth the extra effort!

Amongst the crags

Amongst the crags

The crags, Castle Crags State Park

Castle Crags

Looking down from the crags

Looking down from the crags

High in the crags, Castle Crags State Park

crags, Castle Crags State Park

Before heading back to Redding I drove a little farther north to the town of Dunsmuir to see the Railroad Park Resort my friend Ellen had told me about. Like the Hobo Inn I found near Mount Rainier in Washington, they’ve turned old railway cars into motel rooms and the dining cars into a restaurant. At this resort they also have RV campsites available. All that and a backdrop of Castle Crags too!

Railroad Park, Dunsmuir

Railroad Park, Dunsmuir

Railroad Park Resort, Dunsmuir

“motel rooms” under Castle Crags

After one more night in Redding I continued my journey north into Oregon and over Siskiyou Pass. Just before crossing into Oregon Black Butte caught my eye, as it had during many a journey up I-5 in route to my hometown in Washington, but this time I pulled off the highway for a picture.

Black Butte

Black Butte

My next adventure takes place in a waterfall lovers nirvana… Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, close enough to my hometown that I was amazed I’d never heard of it. Spectacular even in the pouring rain!

(My journey around these spots in northern California took place May 1st-6th, 2014)

2 thoughts on “Northern California

  1. Wow. That sounds like a fantastic trip and hike. Beautiful shots. Love the spotted horse. You so remind me a little of Cheryl S in “Wild”. Although, you cover more ground and better sleeping conditions. Still, your the “Queen of the Road”!

    • Thanks Diane. Burney Falls and Castle Crags being the highlights of that segment of my journey. Cheryl Strayed… remarkable story. I’m told all the time how brave I am. SHE was brave… and rather unprepared. Quite a story.

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