van camping in the shasta/trinity marble mountain beauty

There are some places that are filled with beauty everywhere you look. Despite recent fires in the area, Shasta-Trinity area is one of these places. Alpine lakes, cold streams, single track trails, and secret swimming holes. In July we chose to load up the van and take a 5 day trip to explore the area that for me is filled with familiar and still unfamiliar places. We made our way along dirt and gravel roads in the old Toyota. It held up just fine and it was nice knowing that we can stop anywhere, sleep, make lunch and have everything one would need.

A view from Sawyer’s Bar Road.

We made our way around up I-5 through Redding and past Whiskeytown Lake which was burned recently. I’ve never stopped at this lake before but it’s nice view driving by. I believe I’ve seen some sailboats in this lake too which would be a lot of fun. Sometime after Whiskeytown Lake you take a right and meander over and around Trinity Lake and the KOA campground. Somewhere after the KOA campground, we took a left and drove down a paved road that eventually turned to gravel and has many trailheads for overnight backpacking trips. You’ll pass waterfalls even in the middle of summer. It was late at night and the new LED headlights lit up the road well. I knew where the waterfall is alongside the road and made a special stop. We could hear the sound of the waterfall and with a quick flip of the switch, the side spotlight lit up this beautiful waterfall. The best use of the side spotlight so far. We eventually made it into camp and were grateful that it wasn’t occupied.

An advantage of the van is that no bed needs to be made. We popped open the back of the van, made some tea, danced and watched the stars late into the night. We then decided it was time to go to bed but not before admiring the Milky Way and watching the bats dance above our heads. There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound of a rushing creek except for the sound of waking up to rushing creek.

Along a dirt road in Shasta-Trinity National Forest area.

I set up my tenkara rod and tossed a few dry flies into the nearby creek, pulling out a couple small rainbows before deciding to take a cold dip. We stripped our clothes and took a dip into the icy cold water. We made breakfast, then made our way to a close trailhead where we packed our bags for a short hike. Not but one mile in we came across the small bear who also thought it was good idea to be on the trail today. What a magical animal to come across. Humans (including me at times) tend to walk around with fear of certain animals like sharks and bears but often they want nothing to do with us. This bear was no exception when it quickly ran off. We bathed again along the creek and green vegetation before heading back to the van.

Creekside.

The next day we head North through the town of Etna for a hike at Taylor Lake. We didn’t drive through Etna without stopping as the heat required an ice cream stop at the local cafe. We got back on the road and got to the trailhead where we met with a fire crew that just got done fighting a lighting fire. There was some smoke in the air but if you live on the West Coast, it was nothing like what we’ve faced in recent weeks. A friendly crew that was quite lively, dirty, and grateful for the ability to work outside. We thanked them for the work they do before we answered a few questions about the van and headed towards Taylor Lake. Smith Lake requires you to reach hike to Taylor Lake (1 mile) then head straight up a slope which is quite intense, especially in the sun. We made it to the top where it meets the PCT and tried to find a route down to Smith Lake but it was pretty gnarly so we decided to head back to Taylor Lake. If we spent more time route finding we could have made our way down but at that point we were low on water and wanted to take a swim which Taylor Lake was the perfect place for that. Taylor Lake is pretty popular so heading down to Smith Lake will get you away from the crowds.

A beautiful garden in the cute town of Etna.

At this point, it was time to find a place to sleep for the night and get prepared for our next hike which was going to be to Statue Lake. Halfway up the road to Statue Lake, we found a spot to pull over next to a creek and it was nice place to lay our heads, do some bird watching and cook dinner.

A rock where we enjoyed a morning meditation together.

The next day we woke up slowly, watched the birds, deer came to visit and they were curious about what we were doing. We made our way to the trailhead and began our hike. A lot of the area up to the top is burned but there were some nice wildflowers blooming along the trail. Statue Lake had visitors when we arrived but we were glad we made the stop. Jumping off the rock on the far side of the Lake, laying in the sun and enjoying being far away from cell service.

A beautiful woman and a beautiful lake (Statue Lake).

The last night was spent along the N. Fork of Salmon Creek where we found a spot all to ourselves. The fishing wasn’t great but the creek was ride and Mallory found a spot to take a cold plunge. We danced until the stars came out and the full moon showed itself. We were feeling the fullness of the moon and the trip as we counted down our last hours.