One ‘hot’ isn’t enough to describe life in Northern California in the middle of summer 2020! Redding, our anchor for the month, is a town of just over 90,000 people in Shasta County. Some of you may recall that Redding was at the centre of extensive wildfires in August 2018 — Carr Fire and Mendocino Complex Fire – but more of that later. Naively perhaps, we didn’t expect these non-stop (Fahrenheit) triple digit days, but hey, we were determined to explore this area known as “Trails Capital of California” on the Sacramento River. It’s all part of the adventure, right?!
But first, a bit of context if I could, on the type of RVing lifestyle we have embraced over the last (almost) two years since we’ve been doing this. For us, RVing has little to do with traditional ‘camping’ where one gathers round a fire every night with S’Mores on a stick. Families love this of course and all the power to them… As “retired full timers”, we no longer need to get away from the stress of a workplace or busy household or from cold winter locations come to that (unless we want to!). We are fortunate to be at a stage in our life where we have all the time we need to stay or move on! So our own preference is to get to know a place and the people who live in it. It means staying in a region long enough to go ‘beneath’ the tourist attractions, see how locals live their life (farmers markets are great for that!) and what the local Mother Nature has to offer. Admittedly, that aspect of travel exploration has been a bit limited with Covid in our midst. But, like all of us no matter our life circumstances, we’re sort of making it work.
So Redding didn’t disappoint on the exploration front. It’s a beautiful, pristine, wild mountains & heavy forested region, a fascinating ecological phenomenon. From the bubbling sulfur pools and volcanic rocks at…
Lassen Volcanic National Park…
…to the crucial importance of the Shasta Dam and Shasta Lake in providing adequate water to agricultural lands—all together offering a fascinating look at a fragile ecological balance. People here love to take their flat-bottom boats and kayaks on Lake Shasta, go fishing – all the while keeping an eye on the lake as the Shasta Dam and other dams in the region adjust water levels.
Shasta Dam and Shasta Lake
Not too far from the Lassen Volcanic National Park is Burney Falls (129 ft/39 m), an outstanding example of a waterfall and stream fed by a large underground springs. Predictably, visiting the Falls was by far the busiest tourist landmark we’ve been. To be close to the falls was cool and refreshing, hence its popularity! We didn’t stay too long as very few people wore face coverings.
Then there is the elegant architecture of the Sundial Bridge, brilliant work designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish-born architect, structural enginer and sculptor known for his bridges, railway stations, stadiums and museums around the world. Calatrava’s projects include the World Trade Center Oculus among many others.
One afternoon, we drove to Weaverville, in Trinity County, about 30 mi/48 km west of Redding. A lot of Gold Rush history lives in Weaverville with the downtown area still proudly displaying the ‘Old West’ heritage.
California Route 299 is an absolutely gorgeous stretch of road between Redding and Weaverville. However, the region now displays quite a different type of landscape. The devastation of the 2018 Carr Wildfire that burned 229,651 acres in Shasta and Trinity Counties demonstrates the sober reality of how long drought conditions due to climate change is affecting not just this region but the whole of the western states and provinces. We drove for miles and miles through vast parcels of land with nothing but ashes & burned trees as far as the eye can see. We’d be hoping to take on a certain trailhead, only to see it closed—no, not due to Covid—but to still dangerous fallen debris of burnt trees and shrubs that have all but buried the trail.
As we all are painfully aware, wildfires are now expected annual disasters in this dry, hot part of the world. As I write this, the Lake Hughes Fire” is raging just north of Los Angeles. Sights of CalFire trucks speeding toward another alarm are unfortunately all too common. Signs thanking the intrepid fire crews are everywhere; amazingly, young recruits can be found in training everywhere.
Fresh young recruits training at Burney Falls
In addition to having big name retail stores all around to satisfy the most sophisticated of shoppers (including a Trader Joe’s, woohoo!), the City of Redding has several farmers markets, breweries and wineries — most of them only open for takeout in these Covid times, but with excellent selections nonetheless!
This draft beer, at 10% ABV hits us pretty darn hard… lucky we bought it at Final Draft Brewery to consume at home!
Oh and a ‘bonus’ find… A privately-owned (i.e. not part of a big chain) meat and seafood retail store, R & R Quality Meats & Seafood — where locals get choice selection of meats and fish and shellfish (& more) the likes of which we’ve not seen since leaving Seattle or Toronto! Chef Mark was in Heaven! 🙂
We hope to be back to Redding one day to visit some of the museums and visitor centres we couldn’t get in this time around — but it will definitely have to be in the Spring or Fall. Summer w definitely a bit too hot for our Northwestern taste!
Driving the Jeep in the “middle” of Lake Shasta!