Guided Tour To My Top Five Outdoor Favorites, In Northern California

The great outdoors of Northern California is my home, and I love it. There’s several small towns that I like in the area, and that I surely appreciate to visit, but it’s the great outdoors that is my home; the mountains, the never ending National Forests, our National Parks, our volcanoes, our waterfalls, the lakes, the streams, the sky, the fresh air…you get the picture. When other people think of San Francisco, and Sacramento when they think of the northern part of our state, I’m more of the let’s take the backroads kind of girl. If you want to see a smile on my face, take me for a ride on your favorite dirt road, and you just made a new friend. It’s that smile, and that feel-good-feeling that I want to share with you, with my photos, and this post. That’s where I’m taking you on this guided tour.

It would be impossible to get all my favorite places in one post. After a lot of consideration I picked five of my favorites, just for you! It was really difficult to pick just five, I could of easily picked 100, but that would of been a really loooong post. (I didn’t even touch Lake Tahoe, Shasta Lake, Subway Caves, or Yosemite in this post. Places I love dearly.) A couple years ago I actually started to write a book about my favorite places in Northern California; hikes, day outings, small towns, favorite scenic drives, beautiful architecture, ghost towns, vista points etc. One day I might just finish the book, bear with me, and enjoy this post for now. One could easily spend a lifetime exploring wilderness areas of Northern California and still only be scratching the surface.

 

Faery Falls;

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Faery Falls is located in Ney Springs Canyon, north of Castle Crags (CA.) My daughter and I found Faery Falls on our second attempt to find this beauty. We read reviews, and descriptions of how to get there, even used a trail app on the phone, but we still managed to get lost twice, before actually finding the falls. There’s no signs, and a gazillion different trails. The reviews we’d read had warned us for this. In the end we decided to follow the sound of the rushing water of the 40 ft waterfall. The forest is dense, and the sides are steep, but we finally found the right trail. It’s actually a short hike 1.2 miles from the road we parked at. Next time we will get there in no time. Why I really like this place? The beauty, the tranquility, and the potent air, filled with the scents of the surrounding pine forest. The challenge of finding it only added to the thrill of the adventure. My 5 year old had some opinions of the steep uphill hike on the way there, but those opinions faded away when we actually found the falls. She even found a cave on the right side of the fall, and her day was made.

These are the coordinates that will take you to the trailhead: 41.265953, -122.32439. The trail you’re going to take is the old dirt road, on your right side. It’s only a road in the beginning, it turns into a trail. Keep walking until you pass the ruins of an early 1900’s spa. It’s pretty cool. There was a group of people admiring the ruins as I passed by, I didn’t wan to intrude, so I did not stop for pictures this time. After the ruins, it’s about 1/4 mile to the falls. I suggest taking the second, bigger trail, on the left side to get to the waterfalls. (There are other options as well.)

 

Burney Falls;

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Burney Falls on the other hand is super easy to find, and you can drive all the way. I visit this waterfall at least 2-3 times a year, to inhale the unearthly beauty deep into my system. I enjoy going here when there’s little chance of meeting other people, on rainy days, and during the off season. During the most popular season it has lots of visitors, because it’s so easy accessible. Here’s a link to my last visit.

These are the GPS coordinates to Burney Falls 41.0107° N, 121.6528° W. You hardly need them though, there’s plenty of signs as you pass the small town of Burney. The falls are located approximately 6 miles (10 km) north of town. It’s really easy to find.

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park;

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Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of my absolute favorite hiking destination. You can go for day hikes, or longer multiple-day-hikes in the wilderness (need permit for that.) Above is Lassen Peak, reflected in Manzanita Lake. During winter the park is a popular destination for snowshoeing. During summer there is a road winding its way through whole park, giving you a fantastic experience right from your vehicle. There’s several fantastic vista points that are well marked along the way. The through road is completely blocked by massive amounts of snow 8 months out of the year.

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This is one of the roaring fumaroles, a steam and volcanic-gas vent, in Lassen Volcanic National Park. They indicate that the volcanic center in Lassen is active and that there is a potential for a future eruption at some point. Most of the hydrothermal features in the park is a mix of condensed steam, and near-surface ground water. They are extremely hot, near boiling, and one should keep a SAFE distance to them. The ground that surrounds them can give in at any moment. If you’re on the designated trails, and follow signs, you’ll be fine. You can view, and read more about Mt. Lassen here. I usually visit Lassen Volcanic National Park many times every year.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is located about three hours northeast of Sacramento. The park is accessed via Hwy 44 (to the north) or Hwy 36 (to the south). Plenty of signs will take you there. Both entrances have visitor centers. During the summer months I recommend entering from one direction, for example Hwy 36, and driving a loop through the park, and when exiting taking Hwy 44 towards Redding, or the other way around. Which way you choose as your starting point doesn’t really matter. It’s a scenic drive, and by entering from one direction, and exiting the other way, you get the most out of your visit. Mt. Lassen is close to Subway Caves, and Burney Falls as well. If you’re in for a bigger adventure!

 

Castle Lake; 

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Castle Lake is a glacial lake located in the Trinity Mountains, in Siskiyou County of northern California. Castle Lake is the deepest and largest alpine lake in the Shasta area. It has quickly become one of my favorite spots, and I’ve returned many times since my first visit last Thanksgiving. You can drive up to the lake and have a nice family picnic, or go fishing. There’s decent restrooms at the parking lot. If you want adventures, there’s several awesome hikes, and amazing photo opportunities. I took this photo of Castle Lake while hiking the Castle Lake Trail (yes, it’s Mt.Shasta in the background,) up to Heart Lake, during one of my first visits, this was in the beginning of winter. I’ve done the same hike up to heart lake when the trail was covered with snow as well. It’s well accessible with good hiking boots. You don’t have to follow a particular trail, just aim for the ridge right behind the lake (while standing at the parking lot,) you will see Castle Lake beneath you as you climb up, when you’re at the top you’ll see Heart Lake. It’s easy to see the heart shape when the landscape isn’t covered with snow. For now, bring your ice skates. Castle Lake is not safe to skate, but Heart Lake often is. I’m not responsible for your safety if you choose to enter the ice! That said, I’ve done it many times. During the weekends there’s often people skating on Heart Lake. 

Trailhead address: Castle Lake, Castle Lake Road, Dunsmuir, CA 96025. It’s easy to find the parking lot, the road ends here.
Trailhead coordinates: 41.2303, -122.3816 (41° 13′ 49.07″N 122° 22′ 53.76″W)

 

Mt Shasta;

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Since I mentioned one of our two volcanoes, I feel a need to mentioned the other; Mt. Shasta, also a part of the Cascade Range. Mt. Shasta, and Mt. Lassen are two important landmarks in our part of Northern California. You can see one of them, or both  from a distance of hundreds of miles. I took this photo of Mt. Shasta two days ago, while driving back from Castle Lake with some friends. If I walk outside, down the street I live on, I can see Mt. Shasta, and further down the street Mt. Lassen as well. Mt. Shasta has a town with the same name, at the base of the mountain. It’s a beautiful, little mountain village, with friendly, open minded, outdoorsy, mostly spiritual inclined inhabitants. You can drive to town and enjoy amazing vistas of the mountain, and the equally fantastic food at the local restaurants. During summer time Mt. Shasta offers great hiking, and (sometimes) during winter the ski park offers snow activities for the whole family. I actually got a ski pass here for Christmas, but the park have only been open a couple times so far, and I haven’t had a chance to try the slopes yet. I promise an update on the slopes later in the season.

Mt. Shasta is located 60 miles north of Redding, and 60 miles south of the Oregon border, along Interstate 5. It’s impossible to miss if you’re driving along the I-5.

I hope you enjoyed the tour, and will consider another one soon! There’s so many crazy amazing places to enjoy the great outdoors here in NorCal. Feel free to link to this post, share it on your Facebook wall, or with anyone you think could use some ideas for amazing experiences in Northern California. With the exception of Faery Falls, the other destinations are easily accessible, suitable for day outings, and family friendly. For the more adventurous explorer, they could be turned into as big of an adventure as your imagination allows! Follow me on Instagram to check out my latest adventures.

Love,

Ms Zen

PS. If you’re interested in prints of any of these photos, just click on the photo.

 

Naturally all your adventures are on your own risk. I am not responsible in any way if you choose to explore any of these destinations. Wilderness areas are amazing, but you need to be prepared for weather, it can change quickly. Our area is known for extreme heat in the summer, and these destinations can be very cold during winter. We have lots of wild life, including; black bears, mountain lions, bob cats, rattle snakes, and spiders. I often bring my German Shepherd on trails where dogs are allowed, but I would never bring a smaller dog. Younger children need to be within reach at all times. I’ve taken my daughter out in our National Forests since she was a newborn, in a baby carrier. I love sharing the great outdoors with her. I also see it as my responsibility to educate her of the potential dangers, and our responsibility towards the sometimes fragile nature we’re enjoying. Follow directions, pack in, pack out. Respect other people, as well as animals we might encounter. Bringing plenty of water is a must, in any weather. It’s very wise to use plenty of sunscreen, and/or a hat/clothes that covers well. The sun is strong. Be sure to know what poison oak looks like, you will see it. I’m not trying to scare you, just doing the best I can to make sure that your visit will be pleasant, and memorable in a good way.

 

Weekend Coffee Share

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I usually have my coffee alone, at least in the morning, but I’d love to have coffee with you. Are you up yet? It’s actually almost 6am, Saturday morning..For now I would have to invite you to my living room. I think you’ll be rather comfortable there. I have a dream about a house on a mountain, with a porch, and matching rocking chairs, where I enjoy coffee watching the sunrise. I wish I could invite you to join me there. Maybe one day soon. I love watching sunrises, especially in the mountains, with an unobstructed view.

I just came back from walking my dog. (If you’re new to the blog, I have a 3 year old German Shepherd named Gretchen. She’s a rescue that I’ve had for a year. She came with zero training, and I’ve been working with her every day since she blessed me with her presence. I am very proud of her!)

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Our walk was slightly shorter than normal this morning, because we’re going on a hike in a couple hours. Where are we going? Funny you would ask that, I’ll share the photos with you later 😉

Before going on the hike, I’m going to see my horse. I currently board him at a stable about 20 min away. I try to go there in the morning, do a couple ground exercises, and take him out to a pasture for the day. Later in the afternoon I go back again, work/play a little more, and take him in for the night. I wouldn’t have to go there twice a day, I have all inclusive boarding, but what’s the point of having a horse, if you don’t spend time with him? It does makes a difference, especially with a young, inexperienced horse like mine. He knows that I’m his person, even though I’ve just had him for a month. I really like getting to know Ghost’s personality a little better for every day that passes by. He is very intelligent, a fast learner. New things makes him spook/freeze in one place. If he is allowed to stand still for a while, and compose himself, he will confront whatever the scary thing is. If he is put under any pressure, even a very light one, before I see the signs that he is ready (a lowered head in his case,) he goes into flight mode and tries to back away. He is not a terribly spooky horse at all, but he is sensitive. He’s 3/4 Arabian after all. He thrives on routine, and feels safe when he knows what’s about to happen.

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Yesterday my daughter’s lessons (I homeschool her,) took a little longer than I planned. When we arrived to the stable there were no turnouts available, they were all taken. Not ideal, but no big deal, if it only happens once in a while. I figure I’d take him for a long walk in the morning, play a little in the round-pen, and then repeat in the afternoon. That way he’d get to come out anyways, and maybe at some point there’s a turnout available. I start by walking him around the place where I board him. I ran into the owner that generously offers me to leave him in the round pen for a few hours, if I want too, she even offered to take him in for me later. I agreed. Ghost and I had lots of fun in the round-pen, and when it times for me to leave, I leave him there. He told me loud and clear that this is not part of our normal routine. I stayed nearby for  little while, keeping myself busy with little chores, until he settled down. Before leaving I groomed him for 30 min, leaving him with a good feeling. I had some errands to run in the vicinity of the boarding place, and I did plan on checking in on him before going back home. Before I got him, a month ago, he wasn’t halter broke. I’m the only one that handles him, and frankly I wasn’t sure that he was going to let the owner of the place catch him. She is a very knowledgable horsewoman, but a sensitive Arabian is a sensitive Arabian. They are very loyal to their person. (I don’t know what it says about me, having a German Shepherd, and an Arabian Horse? The two most intelligent and loyal kind of their breed of animals, one could choose to have in ones family. Is it my way of creating the family I’ve never had?  Who knows. I’m not going to have any sleepless nights about it. Though, it is true, that more than one man have told me, that he wished that he was my dog/horse ..lol.)

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When running my last errand yesterday, I get a text from the owner of the boarding stable, saying that Ghost doesn’t want anything to do with her, and she apologizes and says that she can’t take him in for me. Further down the road I want other people to be able to catch him, for safety reasons, if there’s a fire or another kind of emergency. For now it tells me something about the mind of my horse. That all the time I’ve put into him actually gained (some of) his trust. When I get there he is sweating, and I can tell that he’s been running around. He is not the nervous kind, and does not mind being out alone, in a place where he is used to be. He doesn’t usually run around mindlessly, like a crazy horse. He’s been happily alone in the pasture, and in the stable many times. He is not buddy sour. This was however a new place, the round-pen, where I’ve never left him before. This was out of his comfort zone. When he saw my truck pull in to the parking lot he started to call out for me. When I came to the entrance of the round-pen he trotted over, lowered his head and tried to put it in the halter, before I even opened the halter. That’s my boy. I am very proud of him too, and excited about our journey. We have so much to learn, and I really enjoy our time together. He is the reason why I haven’t written another blog post this week.

Ghost is not ready for a saddle yet, we still have some work to do. I’m not at all in a rush to get there either, as long as we keep learning together. We will get there when the time is right. My gosh, it’s only been 30 days so far. He’ve made HUGE progress, in this short amount of time. I did however, come by a beautiful saddle this week. It’s made by a famous artist; Frank Vela. He was the number one saddle maker in the beginning-middle of the 1900’s. He created handmade masterpieces for everyone who was someone, including many royalties. To come by one of his creations is very rare. I’ve been cleaning, oiling, and polishing the saddle thoroughly, and will oil it a few more times. Here’s some pictures of what it looks like now.

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The floral pattern is something extra, don’t you think? I’ve always been intrigued by old saddles. I like the feel, touch, and scent of leather. I like the thought of good quality that last for many, many years. It intrigues me to think about what horse the saddle been on before? Who did the saddle belong too? Was it a man, or a woman? I believe in this case it might of been a woman, going by the size, shape, and pattern. Of course this is just speculation, I could be wrong. Where did the little scuff on the cantle come from? It is a heavy duty ranch saddle. Maybe it belonged to a cattle rancher’s daughter, or wife? It’s made in Texas, where Frank Vela lived, and had his business. If only the saddle could tell the story. I am going to do more research about the saddle. What if I could find out who it was made for? All of Frank Vela’s saddle were custom orders to one specific person. Maybe I can find out. A lot of my thoughts this week have been about the saddle. I originally thought I was going to use it to put the first rides on Ghost. It is his size. It is a very sturdy saddle. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I’ve done some research, and the more research I do, the more I come to understand that it’s a very valuable collectors piece. I have been sitting in the saddle, feeling the leather move, underneath me (that’s another reason why I believe it was made for a woman.) It is almost like a living thing. It’s definitely not one of those assembly line made things. The saddle is somewhere between 75-100 years old, and in excellent working order! That says something about the quality alright. Even the sheepskin underneath is in excellent condition.

Sorry for hogging so much of the conversation! It’s been an exciting week 🙂 Can I get you some more coffee? I really want to hear more about your week! What’s going on in your life? What’s on your mind? Something fun planned for the weekend?

Love,

Ms Zen

 

PS. This is part of the #WeekendCoffeShare. Feel free to join it here!

Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse

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The first shot of the Super Blue Blood Moon, taken at 5am this morning, standing at the Sundial Bridge, Redding (CA.)

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At 6am the first signs of the eclipse was visible to the eye.

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Just before 7am, a little higher up, at The Bluffs, Redding (CA.)

Do you know why this beautiful moon is called a blue moon? I didn’t know, so I had to read about it. It’s because it’s the second full moon in the same month (January.) It’s more logical to understand why it’s called a blood moon, it was really red this morning. Even more than my photos shows. Night photography have never been my strength, I haven’t done much of it, but this was a special occasion. The experience made it worth getting out early. What did the Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse look like where you live? Did you get to see it?

I hope you enjoyed the view from up here in northern California ❤ May the rest of your day be as beautiful as this morning.

 

Love,

Ms Zen

 

Part of the weekly photo challenge; Variations on a theme.