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I’ve traveled this beautiful golden state of ours up and down—from the pristine beaches as far south as Coronado to northern California’s lush forests.
Many Fresnans are partial to the former, with the Central Coast arguably being the most visited. Pismo isn’t called our backyard for nothing. Yosemite National Park is also a destination Fresnans frequent. But few I know have ventured northeast (or even north period) of the Bay area. I was one such Fresnan until six years ago, when I tagged along with my would-be-husband and in-laws on their bi-annual trip to Burney, California.
The majesty of Burney Falls draws nature worshippers
At the end of July, I visited Burney for the fourth time and with the drought finally over, I have to tell you it was more gorgeous and green than ever, and certainly worth the six-hour drive for any nature lover game for one last trip this summer.
Burney is home to the most astonishingly magnificent waterfall ever (at least that I’ve seen). It’s not nearly as tall as Yosemite Falls, but its width and the sheer magnitude of water cascading down it is incredible.
I’ve been privileged to visit that waterfall many times now, staying only a mile-or-so hike away at the Lake Britton PG&E camp—a quaint campsite of eight lakeside cabins reserved for PG&E workers or retirees, like my father-in-law, and their family and friends. My family members and I would literally wake up, put on our tennis shoes, and head to our private trail, from which we would follow the fast-flowing stream that formed Lake Britton until we reached the base of Burney Falls.
It’s hard for me to believe this marvel isn’t more well-known. It’s not even part of a national park, though it is the main attraction of McArthur-Burney Falls State Park.
It’s one of those sights that makes your jaw drop every time. It’s so amazing that on this last trip, I saw a woman sitting on one of the rocks below the waterfall and raising her arms in worship—I’m talking full on praising this natural phenomenon like the most enthusiastic worship leader at your typical Christian church would. She clearly held Burney Falls in extremely high esteem.
Oregon is a quick border hop away
The falls was just one of the natural wonders I enjoyed on the trip. My husband and I, the young childless couple in the family group, often go off on our own mini-adventures while the rest of the family relaxes at the campsite. I enjoy swimming and hiking a ton, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve got a huge sense of wanderlust—there is always more to explore.
On our 2015 Burney trip, my husband and I ventured off to Oregon for the first time and stayed one awesome night in Ashland, Oregon, a Shakespeare town just 15 miles from the California border. This last time we were more ambitious and decided to stay two nights in Oregon and see the infamous Crater Lake.
Along the way to Oregon, we visited our other favorite northern California landmark—Mount Shasta. You can’t miss the mighty Mount Shasta from the I-5. The massive, potentially active volcano towers over every other mountain at around 14,179 feet and, believe it or not, it is the only the second largest in the Cascade Range (Mount Rainier in Washington is the largest). Shasta, however, is the fifth highest peak in California, but appears all the larger standing seemingly on its own. On a clear day, Shasta is visible as far south as Red Bluff—140 miles away!
When standing at the base of Burney Falls or at the edge of the ocean, I often feel small and am mesmerized by the vastness of the earth. But, when standing in the shadow of Shasta, I’m awed by the fact that I’m not only small, but could dissolve in a flash should this volcano explode. It’s a frightening thought, but also an enlightening one. It gives me a whole new respect for nature. In the battle of man versus nature, the winner is clear. Even if it takes thousands of years, nature always wins.
Nature can also do some crazy things. Exhibit A: Crater Lake in Oregon. While it is a lake, it’s also actually a volcano, a huge one that went kaboom once upon a time and basically inverted on itself. Then, years and years of snowfall—there is always snow, even when we were there—eventually created Crater Lake, the bluest, clearest lake in the world fed only by rain and snow.
Here’s where it gets crazy—many volcanos like Shasta make lists for having a high elevation, but Crater Lake, which remember is still a volcano (actually several volcanos, most underwater with one, dubbed Wizard Island, sticking up) is known for its depth. It is actually the deepest lake in the United States at 1,949 feet—far deeper than any of the great lakes in the Midwest! Isn’t that fascinating?
I can’t urge Fresnans enough to hit the road and go check out some of these natural wonders. Yes, there are great sights to behold closer to home—we really are lucky to be so close to Yosemite and Kings Canyon—but there are also amazing places to explore up in northern California, and if you’re willing to drive a bit further, in southern Oregon. And even if you don’t have time to see it all this summer, I implore you to add these natural landmarks to your list for summer 2018!