Last weekend we went to Redding, CA up Hwy 5 in the far northern reaches of the state. People asked me, “Why would you go there? It’s so hot. What’s there?” The friendly people of Redding asked, “Santa Rosa? That’s near the ocean, right?”
Well, it does get hot in Redding. It’s at the north end of a hot valley where coastal mountains meet the mountains to the East and blocking the air to the north is the 14,000’ Mt. Shasta. Hot, yes. But there are beautiful mountains and lakes (reservoirs) nearby and the Sacramento River runs right through town.
(Santa Rosa is less than an hour’s drive to the ocean. To get to the ocean from Redding, it’s a winding ride over and around mountains for three or more hours.)
Saturday night, we went to one of the icons of the new Redding, Sundial Bridge, completed in 2004. Designed by internationally-known Salvatore Calatrava, it is a magnet day and night to tourists and locals. Its amazing structure spans the river without disturbing the riverbed with posts and without leaving a shadow. This is all to benefit the fish. With an annual average of 80% sunny days, the bridge tower often acts as a sundial.
We started Sunday at the bridge and crossed to the McConnell Arboretum on the north side of the river. A wide path runs through the Arboretum, with view to the mountains. We came here when it opened in 2005 with a crowd. Today, we practically had it to ourselves. ($4/per person, on the honor system. Be honorable, please.)
The general setting is among the region’s oaks. Many benches offer a place to sit and admire the gardens or watch the butterflies. At the end of summer, plenty of flowers were still in bloom. The gardens are divided into plants from different world regions and a special garden for children.
To the other end of the arboretum is about a mile. This is where the hardy bamboo children’s garden is, with play structures. Picnic tables are nearby. A woven wood Lookout Tree cruelly taunts the children. No climbing! But there are well shaded benches inside.
The arboretum also has many fountains and sculptures to please visitors. I’m glad this garden continues to mature.
Sacramento River Parkway
Around the arboretum is one of many paved paths that are part of the Sacramento River Parkway. More paths continue past the bridge and one crosses the bridge to continue around the Turtle Bay Museum.
We took that path before going to the museum. The paved trail was being used by a Pedicab, bikes and a few of other walkers. There was a view of the river in the first section, raised above flood level with oaks, cottonwoods, willows, bays and blue elderberry all around.
Where the path curved right by Turtle Bay, we sat and looked at the shimmering river for a while. We continued on for about a mile, to where the trail ends near the freeway and some construction. We could have turned around, but we went on.
Freeway construction goes on throughout Redding, making it confusing to get around, but I think this particular spot will also include more bike trails when finished. The bike trails we walked on were used by the non-spandex crowd, as it’s probably not challenging enough for high speed and distance bikers.
Past the end of the trail was a spot to rent a Segway or bicycle. Next we came to an abandoned Columbian Construction building where the gravel pit was for materials used in the area’s dam building. A few historic pictures illustrate the site.
Turtle Bay Museum
After lunch we went to the Turtle Bay Museum. One of the museum’s goal is to describe the nearby environment, so with that we walked through a limestone cavern and watched local species of fish move through river water. There were a couple of Western Pond Turtles we hadn’t seen at the Whiskeytown Lake the day before.
An oak tree above ground and below (roots), river watershed and the use of plants, wood, earth and metals are some other natural exhibits. How people lived are represented by a Wintu bark house, railroad, mining and dam building exhibits.
The museum usually has special exhibits of science and art. We passed on the GPS show and went to Scott Miller’s photo exhibit. He spent 5 years photographing Walden Pond and the area where Thoreau spent 2 years. The large color photographs are indeed colorful and tactile. The clarity of the pictures make you feel you could touch that leaf, or mushroom or water. Also on display was an exhibition by local photographers of landscapes around Redding.
Outside this part of the museum is a wide boardwalk above the wetland to a live animal and bird exhibits designed for kids. Most of the museum helps kids to interact with the world. We like it too. It had been a long day, but we made the time to watch the butterflies in the peaceful enclosed structure, fly and rest. And amaze the kids and us.
When we came into town, we thought we should come here every other year. By the time we left, we were planning the next trip in the spring. There’s so much to do in Redding.
We stayed two nights at the Gaia Shasta Hotel and Spa in Anderson, south of Redding on Hwy 5. Considering it was near the freeway, it was a peaceful spot. By the river with lots of trees around, it also has 100 environmentally friendly features. It’s LEED certified. We weren’t quite hip enough, so we had to call the front desk a couple of times about how do you do this? and where’s the ___? We would certainly stay again. I suggest a northeast room, to minimize the afternoon sun. I’d also suggest the ground floor with a patio, where you can sit and star-gaze in the evening.
See you on the Trail!
We’ll be in Sonoma County again next week. Click on any area under My Places to Walk on the right hand side of the website to access a list of walks, choose one and you are on your way.
Photos by Mike Millar