Growing up in Ohio, my understanding of mountains was limited. Seriously. My interpretation of a “mountain” as a kid was the large pile of snow created by my father's plow, or Sand Hill Cemetery, which towered a staggering 32 feet above the road. Regardless of my limited experience with actual peaks and pitches, it didn't stop me from doodling mountains on the top of every school assignment. They spoke of distant lands, crystal clear alpine lakes and beautiful forests. Certainly void of endless corn fields and flatlands. Don't get me wrong, there is beauty in rolling pastures and seas of livestock, but my heart was seeking scenery with a different texture.
Five years ago I moved to Redding, California. When you say you are moving to California to a fellow Ohioan, a common response often includes white sandy beaches, surfing or meeting a Hollywood superstar. My research of Redding prior to my trek across the country almost guaranteed none of the above, but I was up for the adventure. As we were descending down route 44 toward the city in a 27-foot, jam packed moving truck, something spectacular caught my eye; Mount Shasta. My heart nearly flew out of my chest. Piercing through the sky and making her presence known, this was a serious mountain. My father's snow “mountains” paled in comparison to the peak still covered in powder despite the triple digit temperatures in the middle of August. At this point I realized I was home.
Lakes, rivers, a volcanic national park and a 14,000 foot mountain within a hour's drive and the Pacific Ocean only three hours away? Unreal. I quickly discovered something about Redding; it hardly ever rains. With over 300 days of sunshine, the opportunity for outdoor exploration is nearly endless. In Ohio, all plans were tentative at best. One day it could be 70 degrees and sunny only to wake up with 6 inches of snow and your car door frozen shut the following morning. But where to start? It seemed that any direction I drove I was bound to discover more of the beauty hidden in Northern California.
Fast forward five years and my fair share of adventures, I have only scratched the surface of my own backyard. We live in one of the most diverse, unique and awe-inspiring regions in the entire country. Although I have just begun, here are a handful of my favorite destinations and adventures in Northern California I recommend you add to your summer bucket list:
Backpack to Grizzly Lake in The Trinity Alps Wilderness
Swim at Potem Falls
Snow Shoe up Broke-off Mountain in Lassen Volcanic National Park
Climb Mount Shasta
Backpack the Lost Coast Trail
Float down the Sacramento River on an air mattress or tube
Climb the Oceanside Boulders at Moonstone Beach
Star Gaze at the top of Shasta Bally
Explore the granite spires of Castle Crags
Mountain bike the Swasey Recreation Trails
Bike the River Trail to Shasta Dam
Written by: Alex Wittmer
Photos: Alex Wittmer & Josh Huth