I don’t even know how many times we’ve blown past the turn off for this area on our way to Ashland, but I now know how much we’ve been missing out! The McArthur Burney State Park boasts one of the most spectacular waterfalls I’ve ever seen. There is also a lake that is perfect for water sports, and some nice amenities, like a campground store and sometimes wifi at the Visitor Center. It is also not too far from the town of Burney, where one can resupply groceries and even splurge and eat out. It made for a nice long stay.
We are already noticing the shift in pace on this trip as compared to last summer. We’ve reserved longer stays with shorter driving distances between stops. At first it felt odd, like if we were just kind of hanging out, it seemed a little off. I think that is the cumulative result of summers full of miles and one-night stands. This time around, once we get set up in the site, we can relax and let things be for a while. Nice.
Speaking of getting set up in the site, when we pulled into the campground and found our spot, it looked like an obstacle course challenge. Rather than take the easy way out, which would have put our door and porch in direct view of our neighbors, I opted for some precision Caravan Mover maneuvers. I have to say, I was impressed with myself. Don’t try this without a CM, kids. We back and forth shuffled, coming within an inch of several posts at a time, before we finally called it a day. Good thing we have a generator, because that was a lot of battery usage and the site was mostly shaded.
This week there was a welcome-to-summer heat wave that saw temps in the 90s where we were, and into the 100s down in the valley. Our brave little 12v fridge kept the ice frozen and the meat cold, but it sucked down the battery pretty good every day. We ended up running the generator a couple hours each day to compensate, and I don’t think the battery could have managed without it. During the four-night stay, Richard used the Barker once, proving we can be self-sufficient when we need to be.
One modification to our set up was purchased in Burney: a little ice chest cooler for veggies. Since we’re not flying down the highway for this trip, we’ll need to pay closer attention to our food supplies. Our little fridge is perfect for weekend camping, but when you want to stock a week or so at a time, you run out of space quickly. Quickly, that is, if you also want to ever eat vegetables. So we’re trying out this little cooler with swappable ice packs to see if that works. It rides in Bruce, behind my seat. We set it outside at Burney Falls, but in bear or raccoon country, we’ll need to figure out where to put it at night.
The Blue Apron camping plan is going quite well! I’ve already done three recipes, with very little modification needed, using the Weber Q. One item that really helps is a little sauce basket thingy I got, with veggies in mind. Many of the recipes use the oven to make baked potatoes or broccoli, and I think I’ve achieved proof of concept that the little pan will allow that kind of cooking to happen. When the outside temperatures are high, the last thing I want to do is turn on the stove in Dory, so I’m looking forward to further experimentation with my outdoor kitchen.
As for activities in the park, we enjoyed a couple of beautiful hikes around the falls and to the lake and back. The Civilian Conservation Corps did a beautiful job creating an accessible walkway down to the falls and you can literally feel the moment as you’re descending when the temperature changes. It must be at least a ten-degree difference, maybe even twenty, from the overlook to the bottom. All the way down, you’re just mesmerized by the water. It’s a two-part falls system, where some of the water cascades over the top, from the river, and some comes through hundreds of channels through the lower layers of volcanic rock. There were some great displays in the Visitor Center that show the flow patterns of the water. The effect is breathtaking and the view changes with every step. It has been photographed ad infinitum, but I made sure to add my own silly shots to the mix. When I get home to fast WiFi, I’ll be sure to upload the rest, cause I know you’re looking forward to that. 😉
We also took part in a ranger led walk over to an Osprey nest. There are Ospreys all over the park, but the interesting thing about this particular nest is that it’s atop a 120 foot tree, but the base of the tree is way down in the river valley. The top of the tree is just about thirty feet away from the trail that runs along the rim. We saw mommy or daddy Osprey protecting the nest from the sun during the day, and later when we went back at dusk, we saw a cute little baby Osprey looking right at us with its fluffy little feathered head. Binoculars were essential and photos don’t really capture anything but the nest.
Speaking of photos not capturing the experience, the highlight of my trip was, hands down, the spotting of a “romp” of no fewer than TEN river otters while I was boating on the lake. I did set otter spotting as my goal of course, but never did I imagine I’d see so many. I kept a respectful distance, which did not enhance my photography. As soon as I spied one little brown head moving quickly through the water, I followed. Then I saw a huge log in the water that seemed to be covered in – NO! – YES! Covered in otters!! I just about died on the spot, but continued just floating and gazing, with a face full of smiles I’m sure. They travelled together and sometimes hopped into the brush on shore. I could see little fishies in their mouths and they did their cute otter face rubbing thing, making little grunting and chirping noises. I took as many pictures as I could, alternating angles, zoom, video vs still shots, and really none of them came out. A few make it look like there’s something in the water, but that’s as close as I got. Oh well, they’ll serve to remind me of the experience for all time. It’s going to be hard to beat that as a kayaking adventure, that’s for sure!
And another day trip we did was to drive out toward Lassen and explore a lava tube. The turn off is marked as “Subway Cave” and there is a small parking area and trail head that takes you through about a third of a mile underground. We’ve never seen a lava tube, much less hiked through one, and the most notable thing about it is how manufactured it looks. It’s really hard to believe it formed naturally. It was a very cool (literally) experience and made for a perfect escape from the day’s heat. I highly recommend making it a stop!
All told, this was a wonderful four-night stay. We learned a lesson on not letting the Aluminet shade cover hang down over the water heater vent (d’oh!), but really enjoyed the rest of our set up. We took a few trips into town and ate at a Mexican restaurant called “La Fogata” and that was both yummy and cheap, in addition to having free wifi. I will say, we could have done with less toddler screaming. At a point though, you must admire the sheer endurance of some of the youngest campers’ ability to cry nonstop. I also give serious props to the parents who kept their cool. This is a family campground to be sure, so it’s not going to offer much in the way of private sites. We’ll be stopping here again on our last leg before returning home. For now, onward to Lassen!
Total miles from Woodson Bridge: 120.8, 3 hours 25 min, 13.8 mpg. Site 2. NO cell service for either, even boosted. WiFi unreliable from Visitor Center. Best bet is to run into the town of Burney for service. Good dump. Mostly shaded sites.