Paradise Lake beckons those wanting a mountain experience

Paradise Lake has more than 7 miles of shoreline. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It doesn’t take long to get out of the flatlands of Chico and be surrounded by pines. In 20 minutes it’s like you are in a different world.

Welcome to Paradise—elevation about 2,000 feet, with conifers the dominant flora.

Walking along Paradise Lake it’s like being transported to the mountains. It’s magical in many ways, especially with there being no evidence right at the lake of the devastating 2008 Camp Fire.

A few of us are out on this first day of the new year. It’s a wonderful way to start the year—hiking a little more than 5 miles in a rather secluded area. Much of the trail is wide enough for the two of us.

Most of the dirt trail is flat and meanders along the lake. When the water isn’t visible the tall trees envelop us.

A kayaker and fisherman are out enjoying the tranquil waters.

In some ways this 204-acre lake is reminiscent of Jenkinson Lake near Sly Park in El Dorado County.

The Paradise Lake trail goes along the east shore. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Paradise Recreation and Park District has been responsible for the recreation amenities and operations since June 2020. Prior to that the Paradise Irrigation District took care of everything at the Butte County facility.

The 84 acres available for fun include walking trails, picnic area, two boat launches, fishing, and kayak rentals when it’s warm.

However, with the primary purpose being the water supply for nearby residents, that means motorboats are not allowed. Dogs, horses and swimming are also not allowed.

This is one of two reservoirs providing water to the surrounding community. Paradise lake contains about 11,500 acre-feet of water. Magalia Reservoir is smaller, with a capacity of 796 acre-feet. It is along Little Butte Creek downstream from Paradise Lake. Paradise Dam separates the two bodies of water. No fishing or recreation is allowed at the smaller body of water.


Deets:

  • Parking is $3.
  • Boating is $10, which includes parking.
  • The lake is closed Wednesdays for maintenance.
  • For more info, call 530.872.8619.

Migration of birds fill the sky, waterways of NorCal

Waterfowl on Jan. 21 at Llano Seco south of Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s not your imagination. As the sun sets, bird calls do get louder.

If only I knew what these animals were saying. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the people who were watching and listening.

A spectacular sunset danced along the wetlands at Llano Seco. Some of the birds huddled together in the water, while others took to the sky. It was hard to know where to look, but wherever my eyes landed I was almost on sensory overload.

Birds find safety in a protected, non-hunting area of the Pacific Flyway. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“Dim light is classified as low-intensity light, which causes birds to erupt into birdsong. Some daytime birds become nighttime singers. Birds like the thrush, dunnock, robin, and other similar species can sometimes be heard continuing their songs well into the darkened evening and night,” according to BirdWatchingPro.com.

Llano Seco, which is about 10 miles south of Chico, is one of three units of the 9,600 acre Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area. Llano Seco has 765 acres open to the public, while 967 acres are off-limits as they are designated a sanctuary.

As the temperature drops, waterfowl find warmth in the water. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“Historically, this basin consisted of a braided network of sloughs, channels, and oxbows resulting from the meanderings of the Sacramento River and Butte Creek, and comprised a significant portion of the wetland habitat available for wintering migratory birds. Today it is still considered one of the finest wetland habitat complexes in North America. The wildlife area was created to protect and/or restore some of these historical wetlands,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

One of the reasons the Sacramento River is considered California’s most important river is because of its riparian habitat.

This swath of land in the Central Valley is part of the much larger Pacific Flyway that goes from Alaska to South America.

An array of birds make a stop near Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This week (Jan. 26-29) Chico celebrates the 31st Snow Goose Festival.

The festival’s website says, “Millions of birds representing hundreds of species use this great avian highway each year, and nowhere is this abundance of wildlife more accessible than right here in the northern Sacramento Valley. With an ideal combination of mild winter weather, abundant food and rich quantities of water, the area attracts a huge wintering population of waterfowl and raptors. A local favorite among these is the majestic snow goose. With the estimated overall population of snow geese exceeding 5 million, as many as 1.5 million use the Pacific Flyway. Tens of thousands of these will winter right here in our own backyard.”

While there are a slew of events during the four-day festibal, most of which cost money, the birds put on a free show every day—and night.

Glorious waterfalls spill forth from Table Mountain

Phantom Falls at Table Mountain on Jan. 15 dance in the wind. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It won’t take much effort to search for waterfalls this year. Water is flowing in some unusual places thanks to all the rain that has been dropping on California and points east.

Table Mountain’s magic was on display Jan. 15 and will likely continue for weeks to come.

According to Explore Butte County, the local tourism agency, 14 waterfalls can flow at Table Mountain after a major rainstorm. The larger ones will continue to drip water into April in a normal year.

Ravine Falls cascades with power. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s too soon to know if Mother Nature’s spigot will stay in the on position or if she has let everything out. Either way, it’s not too early to seek out waterfalls.

At Table Mountain this weekend various parts of the trail were flowing with water, thus necessitating jumping, rock hopping and getting one’s feet wet.

I’m very much a “better than fair weather” outdoorswoman these days, so the fact that I was even outside when the forecast was for rain was surprising in itself. But I couldn’t handle one more day inside.

Water runs across several places along the trail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Plenty of other people had the same idea, as the parking lot at this Butte County ecological reserve run by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was fuller than I expected. Not like when the wildflowers are out, but still, impressive based on the weather.

Witnessing Ravine and Phantom falls on this grey, blustery day was worth enduring the cold, blowing rain for half of the nearly five-mile round trip excursion.

Last March when I did a similar hike it took some effort to see Phantom Falls, as it was living up to its name. One could barely see a dark on the rock that day, signifying where a trickle of water still flowed.

This week there were two distinct waterfalls tumbling down from the rocks, making me wonder what the other one is called or if both are Phantom Falls.

Ravine Falls from the far side of the trail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Table Mountain is aptly named—a mountain (remember I most recently live in Tahoe, so calling it a mountain seems exaggerated) that is flat as a table at the top. It’s distinguishable from afar.

Because of its flatness, the water coming to create Phantom Falls seems illusory. Getting up closer you see the small stream coming across the “table” that then spills over the rock face into Coal Canyon.

Ravine Falls this year is also raging. Fourteen months ago a few strands of water trickled down the moss covered wall which required some imagination to know it can be an actual waterfall.

One of the great things about Ravine Falls is being able to see it from the top and bottom, making the grandeur of it even more spectacular.

We opted to head back a different route that took us essentially across the top of Ravine instead of going to the bottom again. The trail was kind of obvious, kind of a cross country crap shoot. It’s flat, exposed rock and short grass, so it wasn’t like there was any chance of getting lost. Plus, we weren’t the only ones with this idea.

As beautiful as it was, hiking in the rain is not going to be a regular thing for me.

Changing terrain throughout Upper Bidwell Park

Hiking in Upper Bidwell Park can feel remote. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The problem with going down first is that the end of the hike will be uphill.

Even knowing this ahead of time didn’t stop me from being a bit whiny as I trudged up the hill. Good thing no one was around me—I was that slow on this particular day. Some days are like that, where it’s like you are not firing on all cylinders.

It didn’t matter, I loved that I was seeing areas of Chico’s Upper Bidwell Park I had not been to. We started on the Guardian Trail, which had us going downhill quickly. Considering the highest point of the whole route was our beginning and ending points, downhill had to be the first thing we would do.

Big Chico Creek flows through Upper Bidwell Park. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Then we got on to Bloody Pin; never a good name for a trail.

The weekend before this hike in October the Bidwell Bump Mountain Bike Race took place. I was looking at the steeps, the narrowness, the turns and just hoping I didn’t slip in my hiking boots. No way would I ride there—even with body armor, aka fully padded protective gear and helmet.

While the grasses were brown this time of year, the scenery was still spectacular. For a hike that is not far out of town, it is amazing how remote it felt.

At times the vastness could be seen for miles. Other times the trail was narrow and the foliage dense.

A short section of the trail is wooded and feels enclosed. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Our leader, Kristin, pointed out where a waterfall flows during the winter and spring if there has been enough rain. On this particular day we had to use our imagination for what it would look like.

We wrapped up the day by going across Legacy Trail before heading up Ten Mile to Green Gate, which was our starting point.

Green Gate, which is also known as Ten Mile House Road, off of Highway 32 is where we started. The “we” was the Chico Orville Outdoor Adventurers. We finished the morning hiking 5.21 miles, with an elevation gain of 893 feet. The lowest point was 690 feet and highest was 1,533 feet.

Chico parks and rec crews screw up public tennis courts

City of Chico employees make tennis and pickleball impossible. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

First there were eight, then six, and now there are four. In this case, less is not more.

That is the plight of public tennis courts in Chico.

It’s sad.

And really, the number of courts available at 20th Street is three because the first court is for the pro, so it is not available all the time.

While tennis loses a third of its courts, the number of pickleball courts is doubling. Four pickleball courts can go on one tennis court.

The reason tennis players lost the first two courts was pickleball. Same reason this go-round.

What is really sad is that no one will be playing on these deconstructed courts for several months. That’s because the wonderful people who make decisions regarding Chico parks thought it a brilliant idea to start the project at the end of October. They are not playable for either sport today.

A sign says, “Project Begins: October 27 … Project Complete: Due to inclement weather, project delayed until spring 2023.”

What the hell?

What kind of incompetence is this? Who doesn’t look at the weather forecast before starting an outdoor project? Why start something if you can’t finish it in a timely manner?

There is a QR code on the sign as though one could get more information about the project. The link goes to the city’s recreation site with information about other projects, but nothing is there about the tennis courts.

Just another sad, disappointing day in the life of a tennis player.

 

Appreciating a motor while peddaling

 

The new and the old mountain bikes. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

My old baby has a new home and I have a new baby.

After a quarter of a century, I said goodbye to the first mountain bike I owned. She served me well. She was a Trek hardtail that I bought when I lived in Las Vegas in the mid-1990s. I rode her everywhere, really treating her more like a road bike than a mountain bike until I moved to Tahoe in 2002. Even when I lived in Sonoma County it was the paved country roads where I mostly pedaled.

Most likely she is being ridden by a Chico State student. I donated her to last week’s Fall Bike Auction hosted by the Associated Students.

“I would say that 90 percent of the buyers at our on-campus auction are students. The other 10 percent are either faculty, staff or general public. So, while it is very likely that a student would end up with your bike, I cannot guarantee it,” Curtis Sicheneder, Chico State Associated Students associate executive director, said.

It feels good knowing there’s a little life left in her. Even better is that any money Associated Students makes at the auction helps students.

“Proceeds go the Adventure Outings Get Outdoor Fund which funds trip scholarships for students. That money goes 100 percent to students,” Sicheneder explained.

I knew my bike had outlived my purposes long before I took a clinic last year and the instructor told me it was time for a new bike.

The new bike has much bigger wheels than the old one. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In the last year I’ve been contemplating what to buy, if anything. Could my road bike (which is also old, but not quite vintage) be enough? Do I spring for an ebike? Then I had to think about how much I ride and how much more I might ride with something new.

What pushed me over the edge to get an ebike was my trip to southern Utah in early October where I borrowed a friend’s bike.  Oh, my, what a difference it was to be on an ebike.

Good thing Becky’s rack fits two bikes.

I came home with an ebike. I couldn’t pass up the sale. It was another one of those times to just say “yes.”

Most everyone says the downside to ebikes is how heavy they are. I’m not sure there is much weight difference between my ancient ride and the shiny new one. Mine does weigh less than my friends’ because I got a smaller battery.

I noticed the difference on the ride Becky and I took in Tahoe, but for my purposes it’s going to be just fine. I’m at a lower elevation and on a normal basis won’t be riding in Tahoe.

The bike is perfect for climbing up and over the basalt of Upper Bidwell Park and taking me around town.

I still have to pedal. I’m getting a workout. I can even turn the battery off if I were so inclined.

What the ebike lets me do is go farther, longer and with a little less oomph. It really is amazing that with a push of a button hills seem less daunting, as do rocks.

My Specialized is a Type 1 ebike (there are three types), which means for the motor to work I also have to be working, as in I have to pedal.

As WheelWorld.com describes it, “It feels like you have the best tailwind of your life on a permanent basis.”

Waterfalls tumble through majestic slot canyon

Cold water should only be for drinking. Certainly not standing or walking in.

At least that’s what I thought before traipsing through a spectacular slot canyon to Kanarra Falls in southern Utah earlier this month.

Walls in various shades of red loomed above us as we hiked into the canyon. While threatening clouds were in front of us, no storms were in the forecast. A canyon is not where you want to be during a flash flood.

Becky and Donna pick a course on the water trail through the canyon. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This isn’t an adventure for everyone. For starters, the water was 47 degrees and we were walking in it for a good part of the way because at times no dirt trail existed. Only once did the water get above my knee. Even so, my feet were appreciative when there was a dirt trail so they could warm up a bit.

Other obstacles include a 20-foot aluminum ladder at the first waterfall. Of course it would be easy enough to turn around here. Plenty of beauty to oh and ah over before arriving at this point.

However, the five of us never thought about not going forward. We wanted to go until it made sense not to.

To keep going it’s necessary to climb a ladder. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

We weren’t canyoneering—so no need for ropes, helmets or other equipment that can be used in that sport. We were merely hikers—some wearing water shoes, some in water proof boots, no one in neoprene booties, though those were in one person’s pack just in case.

Water in Kanarra Creek runs year-round, flowing from Kanarra Mountain to the canyon and eventually to the ag fields surrounding the town.

These narrow canyons are prolific throughout the southwest.

Craig at the top of the falls. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

According to Visit Utah, the state’s tourism agency, “Slot canyons are narrow gorges in soft rocks like Utah’s layered sedimentary deposits. They are named for their narrow width, often squeezing down to a sliver. It is said that Utah has the largest concentration of slot canyons in the world.”

Friends seemed to disappear as the creek curved and the walls seemed to close in upon them.

Rock wall formations keep changing in the canyon; smoothed over by years of rushing water. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

At times it was hard to know where to look because the scenery was so stunning. The water, the rocks in the water, the walls directly in front me and then hundreds of feet above me, as well as what little foliage there was that was signaling fall’s arrival. It was like being immersed in a three-dimensional painting, with the colors changing as the sun filtered in and out.

Forward we went.

Another waterfall would have required scampering up a boulder if previous hikers had not stacked some logs in the corner to make climbing possible. I’m not sure how I would have gotten up or down this section without that assistance.

Becky and Craig trek through Kanarra Creek. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Our path finally stopped when another fall, which really looked like two as a boulder split its flow, was impassable.

The website for the falls says, “This is the final falls on the hike. Do not go beyond this point!  Some hikers may put up ropes or logs to try and continue on, but these are not part of the hike and are dangerous. It is very difficult for search and rescue to go beyond this point, so it is not recommended.”

No need for more. My senses were already thoroughly stimulated by the natural beauty.

This is one of several slot canyons in Utah. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Details:

  • Permits required, though if space is available, it’s possible to get a permit walking up to the kiosk instead of buying them online.
  • 150 permits issued per day.
  • Cost is $12/person.
  • No dogs allowed.
  • Falls are in the town of Kanarraville, which is about 40 miles north of St. George and 10 miles south of Cedar City.
  • Kanarraville is at an elevation of 5,541 feet.
  • The round-trip hike was 4.7 miles, with an elevation gain of 653 feet.

Stunning scenery unfolds on mountain bike rides in Utah

 

Looking toward Zion National Park from the Wire Mesa trail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I almost didn’t go. What a mistake that would have been.

Being nervous was understandable. I had never ridden an ebike before. I was going with people who are much more into cycling than I am. I would be in unfamiliar terrain. (As were they part of the time.) I wasn’t confident in my fitness level compared to theirs.

Sometimes, though, you just have to say YES!

Craig, Becky, Kae and Donna at the cow bell.

Five of us spent the better part of a day last week on three distinct mountain bike rides in the St. George, Utah, area. Wow, wow, wow! I realize “wow” is not a great descriptor, but it’s a short, terrific word to sum up the experience as a whole and for each individual ride. In all, we rode almost 30 miles.

The day started with a ride up More Cowbell, where literally there is a cow bell to ring at the top. (This is closest to Hurricane, Utah.) This route was 5.1 miles, with an elevation gain of 387 feet. We reached 4,298 feet.

The worst part of this trail was the narrow, steep section where I walked. My fear of heights kicked in. Once on the mesa it was fairly easy riding.

The top of the mesa along More Cowbell. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Going up and down More Cowbell I had to keep telling myself to trust the ebike, that it could go over things my vintage hardtail and legs would not allow me to ride. It worked. Up, over, and down rocks I went without too much trouble.

Even so, my white knuckles and facial expressions were the give aways that I was definitely outside my comfort zone. The more I pedaled, the better it got; and my confidence increased. Encouragement from Donna, Becky and Craig helped ensure I would have an unforgettable experience—in a good way.

Next up was Wire Mesa. This was a 7.5-mile excursion, with an elevation gain of 456 feet. (Springdale and Rockville are the nearest towns.) The views of Zion National Park are stunning; those red rocks are breathtaking. Some jagged, some flat top. The white ones almost looked like they are snowcapped. At times it was hard to want to keep moving my legs because I just wanted to take in the scenery.

The Virgin River flowing through Zion National Park is muddy from recent rains. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The reality is I was too busy concentrating on riding to totally appreciate the rocky wonderland that unfolded around me.

The Bureau of Land Management describes Wire Mesa like this: “The trail is a mix of dirt and slick rock that winds through and around a maze of sandstone hills and through juniper and pinion pine forests.”

I would opt to ride Wire Mesa over More Cowbell next time even though Wire Mesa is listed as being a bit more difficult ride. To me the scenery was better and nothing triggered my fear of heights.

Next up was Zion National Park. We started at the nature center and went up to Temple of Sinawava. This was a 15.5 mile ride on pavement—mostly the park road that is open to limited vehicle traffic.

The start of the bike ride through Zion National Park. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Surrounded by magnificent rock formations, again, it was hard to keep going when I just wanted to feel embraced by this ancient land mass.

The National Park Service says, “Most of the rocks in Zion National Park are sedimentary rocks made of bits and pieces of older rocks that have been weathered, eroded, and deposited in layers. These rock layers hold stories of ancient environments and inhabitants very different from those found in Zion today. In this distant past, Zion and the Colorado Plateau were near sea level, and were even in a different place on the globe—close to the equator. The rock layers found in Zion today were deposited between approximately 110 million and 270 million years ago. Only in recent geologic time have they been uplifted and eroded to form the scenery of Zion National Park.”

What a day. I’m ready to explore more of southern Utah.

Finding evidence of fire throughout Northern California

Vegetation fills Sugarloaf Peak after fire took out many trees on this 6,552-foot mountain in 2009. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Today it seems impossible to hike in California without seeing scars from wildfires. I don’t remember that always being true. Maybe I’m more aware now. Maybe there are simply that many more burn areas. Likely, it’s both.

On a recent hike in Lassen National Forest I expected we would either see charred trees from last year’s Dixie Fire or we would walk through dead timber. We did both.

What I wasn’t prepared for was witnessing the devastation from other fires.

Being new to this part of Northern California I’m not as aware of past fires as I am in the greater Lake Tahoe area. It just goes to show how we don’t always pay attention to what is happening outside our sphere.

It was overlooking the Hat Creek Valley along Highway 44 that these other fires were a focal point. While it was fairly obvious to see the forest had been burned, the regeneration of flora was encouraging.

One sign about the Sugarloaf Fire (a fire I have no recollection of) said, “Aug. 1, 2009, the Hat Creek Valley was blasted by more than 800 bolts of lightning. The fury ignited 47 wildfires, scorching 9,365 acres. After the fire, the burned trees along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail were cut to increase safety, help the forest become re-established, and protect the trial from future devastating fires.”

The amount of acreage seems like nothing today. Still, it’s huge to the humans and wildlife affected by it.

Older fires that could be seen from this vantage point were the 1992 Red Rock Fire that was caused from a spark on a bulldozer. It burned 290 acres. The 1987 Boundary Fire charred 310 acres after a trash fire got out of control. Lightning caused the 1987 Lost Fire; it burned 23,000 acres.

While almost all of us understand the devastation and tragedy that comes with an unmanaged fire, the prevailing thought today is fire can be good.

One sign read, “Without fire, forest ecosystems are becoming unhealthy and contain more fuel for larger, more severe fires. Even as we work to reintroduce fire on the landscape, we remain committed to protecting lives, property and resources. Today our challenge is to blend the needs of the American public with the needs of the land.”

Sadly, we still haven’t gotten it right.

Smell of rain a soothing, natural perfume

A leaf catches raindrops on Sept. 12 in Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Waking to another overcast day can be so depressing. Then I heard it, and I smiled. That sound that has been absent from California for the better part of three years. Rain.

It wasn’t smoke filling the sky, it was actual clouds.

Not much rain fell Monday morning, but it was enough to get everything wet and bring down the temperature.

And that aroma. Mother Nature certainly has a way of stimulating so many senses.

The smell of rain even has a name—petrichor. The dictionary defines it this way: “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.”

With our doors open, this petrichor even filled part of the house. It’s like nature’s cleaner—erasing the dust and leaving this scent that is hard to describe. This fresh rain smell is unique, special and soothing.

It brings me hope that more wet stuff will fall this autumn and winter, with fingers crossed the drought doesn’t go into year four.

For now, though, I’m going to keep inhaling Mother Nature’s fragrance.

Pin It on Pinterest