Monday, April 13, 2015

Redding, CA

There is no National Park in Redding, CA, I know. We took a slight detour. We were actually on our way to Lassen Volcanic NP only to realize 1.5 hrs before our arrival that the main road through the park was closed and so were all the campgrounds. We've grown so accustomed to summer weather (by Boone standards) that we didn't really consider that winter, unfortunately, is still upon Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately this means no Crater Lake, Yellowstone, or Grand Tetons which is a little disappointing, however, it just means we need to stick to the southerly route on the way back to North Carolina.

Before leaving to come out west Cori spent way too many hours researching what flies she should tie so that she could successfully fish in the Sierras. She contacted Mike Mercer who is somewhat of a fly tying prodigy in the West to get his opinion on what patterns she should use. Not only did Mike provide suggestions, but he also graciously donated an entire box of all the flies he thought she would need along with some other fly fishing goodies. The Fly Shop where Mike is now the Alaska and Chile Travel Expert is located, you guessed it, in Redding, CA which was about and hour west of where we were. Cori really wanted to meet him and offer to give him his donation back since we left the trail without ever making it to the Sierras.

We changed course and headed to Redding with the intention of possibly meeting Mike (we weren't sure if he would actually be there), seeing The Fly Shop, and then heading over to Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area to camp. Around 3:30 we pulled into a small parking lot adjacent to a modest sized brown, two story building. The staff inside were just as humble as the building itself, genuinely friendly, with no pushy sales pitch. We walked around for a bit before Cori asked if Mike was in. Fortunately he was and Cori spent some time talking with him. I felt like this was an important moment for her and didn't want to impose so I stepped outside to read .

An hour later she meet me outside with a huge smile on her face and her arms full of new goodies. Not only was Mike understanding of her situation, but was encouraging about her career as both a fly fisher and a hiker. "The trail isn't going anywhere and neither are the Sierras. There's no reason to give up on either one." Since we had no definitive plans he offered to set us both up with fly fishing gear for the weekend and he would take us to some places just to show us where to fish. I passed on the fishing part (I really didn't want to wet wade or spend an entire day fishing), but this was a great opportunity for Cori. Most trout fishing is closed throughout the state of California until the last week of April, except for here, small pockets here and there including Redding. What are the chances of that? Plus she would have one of the best experts in the area telling her exactly where she needed to go. Who could say no to that?!?

We grabbed a quick dinner at a local Fish and Chips restaurant, found a hotel for $5 more than the campground we were planning on staying at, and met Mike back at the shop at 6:30.

We followed him down to the Sundial Bridge which crosses the Sacramento River. As the name implies, the bridge is in fact a Sundial. According to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park website the bridge "is one of the largest in the world. The sundial shadow traces such a large arc that it can record only four hours a day, from 11am - 3pm. It is not accurate in winter because the shadow is too far into the arboretum to be seen. The shadow, when visible, moves about one foot per minute, so you can readily see it move." The bridge also connects to the Sacramento greenway trail system which was a huge plus for me.

We spent the next hour or so with Mike. We walked around from spot to spoy talking about the ecology of the river, the drought (which is a whole other blog post in itself), entomology, conservation, and of course, fishing. Right now is a winter salmon run. The winter runs are significantly smaller than summer runs but there was still a good chance we would see salmon in the river. If by chance she hooked a salmon she would have to break the line since it's illegal to catch them (at least where we would be fishing). Good to know. Before parting ways Mike also left us with a few recommendations on good places to eat. I really have to agree, he just might be one of the nicest guys in the world.

So Saturday would be fishing day. We were on the river by 9:15. By 9:30 Cori caught her first trout of the west coast.

Around the time she was landing her third fish of the morning we met a really nice couple, Rob and Frederica, who were also visiting the area. Cori invited them over to see the fish she had landed and we got to talking about our travel plans (or lack there of). They had been doing some traveling of their own around the area and left us with plenty of new ideas for adventure back home.

I stayed on the river with Cori until lunch. By this time she had already landed four fish. After a while they all looked the same and the thrill was gone for me so I took off to explore some of the greenway trails around the bridge. There was a nice loop trail that circled the bluff and a portion of the trail passed through a botanical garden which had some interesting plants. Altogether I covered nearly six miles.

On my walk I passed a chain link fence and one of the panels was covered in locks. I was curious. Locks of love I assumed since most were locked together and/or had their names engraved on them. A quick Google search revealed that they were in facts "Locks of Love." It is a romantic custom that has caught on in Europe with precarious numbers of locks attached to fences and public bridges. What a strange symbolic practice.

I met back up with Cori around 3:30 and laid out on the beach in my neon yellow Nike Pro shorts and matching Boston Strong T-shirt. Thank goodness there's no picture of that!

By dinner the fly tying expo that was being held next door at the Turtle Bay Exploration Museum was wrapping up and a group of men had began to gather at the top of the bank. After Cori landed another two in a row they started trickling down from the bank and from across the river. "What are you throwing?" At the moment it was actually ties she had tied (an olive green frenchie). "Man you're just slaying them!"

We called it quits when our stomachs started screaming. Originally we were going to get Thai food (Mikes suggestion) but we just weren't feeling it. We found a local brew pub, Woody's, instead what ch turned out to be a very tasty decision.

The next day we headed over to the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity Recreation Area. As the name implies the area is split into three seperate, non-adjoining units. We started off in the Whiskeytown Unit where big attraction is the massive reservior, but after all that time on the river it was time to spend some time on the trails.

Ironically enough we decided to hike to two waterfalls (so maybe not too much time near water yet); Crystal Creek Falls and Whiskeytown Falls. The walk to Crystal Creek falls was a short, easy half mile (round trip) leg stretcher with a beautiful view of the lower falls.

Whiskeytown Falls is on the same creek as Crystal Falls but it's further upstream, and the falls are larger (longer). The hike to Whiskeytown Falls was nearly straight up for 1.7 miles. I found it odd to be hiking up to a waterfall rather than down to one. The hard effort paid off with beautiful views. The falls were viewed in two stages. When you first arrive to the falls you're seeing the lower portion of the falls.

Then you climb a series of really steep rock steps to to get to an upper view. The steps actually went up further to see the upper most portion of the falls but the gate was closed so I did my best to get photos from different angles.

Here is the profile of both trails together. the Crystal Falls trail is the first little bit before the straightline jump from 1840 ft. to 2200 ft. The whiskey falls trail starts around elevation 2200 ft. and climbs to almost 2900 ft. in just under two miles. It felt much steeper than a 700 ft. elevation gain :/

We drove over to the Trinity unit to camp this evening. As I sat down to male dinner Cori pointed out the Osprey sitting I'm the tree across the river. Just then, it swooped down and caught a fish right in front of us. Oh. My. Goodness. Coolest moment of the day for sure.

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