A glimpse into California's past


Anne Marie Novinger poses in front of the Sundial Bridge. This beautifully designed glass bridge is in Redding, California. No skateboarding, obviously!

On August 16, 2015, eleven of us met in Sacramento for a five-day tour of historic and beautiful places in Northern California. Two former Directors of the California State Park System led this tour: Paul Romero and Pete Dangermond. These brilliant men guided our group through many adventures.

We traveled in two spacious vans to visit a few of our 278 State Parks and Historical Sites. We not only saw behind-the-scenes in the places we visited, but also learned the workings of the State Park system, politically and organizationally, and learned a great deal about the history of California, its geology, and native plants. An added bonus was the opportunity to enjoy good restaurants!

The route for the trip started with Lake Oroville, its museum and fish hatchery. After lunch we climbed through the three-story Bidwell Mansion, a historical building in Chico. The next day we toured the William Ide Adobe, the historic home of the founder of the short-lived California Bear Republic. We were then on to the incredible Rainbow Bridge in Redding, an engineering wonder in white, surrounded by several fascinating sites that would delight anyone interested in California history and native plants. That day ended with a visit to the charming old town of Shasta and it's courthouse, an historic California art gallery, a grim basement jail, and an amazing old store filled with authentic and/or carefully reproduced merchandise items from prior days. Shasta was the lusty "Queen City" of the northern mining district in our state, intensely busy during the Gold Rush. Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide there shared amazing stories from early days in California.

In Redding, we enjoyed a cold swim and a soak in the hotel's outdoor spa. The next morning we wound our way through smoky skies to Weaverville and its Joss House. This historic structure is the oldest continuously used Chinese Taoist temple in the state, still a place of worship today. After another pleasant overnight in Redding, and another swim and soak, we headed toward Lassen Volcanic National Park, home to steamy fumaroles, blue mountain lakes, and many volcanoes. Smoke from western fires obscured some of the views, but we could see Mt. Lassen looming above us from many stops. A look at Castle Crags provided views of this lofty geologic formation, on our way to view Lake Shasta and its low waterline. After a fine farewell dinner and overnight in the town of Burney, we drove on our last morning to stunning MacArthur-Burney Falls where most of our group hiked from the upper viewpoint to the base of the falls. The campgrounds and facilities there were superb.

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We made good friends in our group and hope to travel with them again to the desert next spring.

The Bridwell Mansion in Chico, California

On this tour, there was plenty of time for photography and for hikes, and we became stronger after all of that walking. We heard from expert historians and saw many places that brought back the early days of California. You too can visit these places, perhaps avoiding summers when most visitors are gone! Send for California State Parks maps and information at http://www.parks.ca.gov and plan your own trip!

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