Story 2 – A Snow Saga


A few months ago, I search for new hiking trails to explore. I found Castle Lake Trail, near Dunsmuir (CA.) It looked very interested. I hiked it, and a nearby adjoining trail up to another lake, Heart Lake. I found the nature to be extraordinary beautiful, and I’ve been returning at least once a month to this amazing trail. I’ve seen some snow on the trail before, but nothing like last weekend!

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It’s a couple miles uphill to get to Heart Lake, from the parking lot at Castle Lake. The hike is very rocky, when it’s not snow on the trail. This weekend however the snow reached my thighs most of the time. On some places the snow was hard, and I could walk on top of it, but on many places I had to walk through the snow. It was slightly exhausting, but well worth it! My daughter was light enough to not sink, and she had a blast. We still had to stop a few times on the way up. The hike is rated as moderate, and it is a little strenuous for a five year old to hike up. Totally doable though. We took the time we needed, and enjoyed ourselves, and the view.

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Just before reaching Heart Lake, there’s a big rock formation to your right. The local calls it Castle Rock. As we climbed up on it, this was the view that greeted us. The white snow-covered mountain in the background is our volcano, Mt Shasta. Isn’t it gorgeous? I LOVE all the untouched snow.

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This is the view from the top of Castle Rock, with a frozen Castle Lake down to the left, and Mt Shasta in the clouds to the right. Below is the exact same view, taken during a hike in November last year. (Both are available as prints in my gallery.)


I can’t decide which scenery I find the most beautiful, with, or without the snow. I recently read a poll in an online outdoor magazine, that Siskiyou County, where this amazing hike is located, is rated top ten among the most desirable places to live for outdoor enthusiasts. Which is kind of interesting, since the county isn’t very populated. It has many remote places that rarely see people, and the towns are small towns. Maybe it’s  on peoples wish lists, but to actually live there isn’t doable for most people (jobs etc.) ? I don’t live there, but would definitely consider it, if I could make a living there year round. It doesn’t get too hot in the summers, and not too cold in the winters.

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My dog loves this hike. On the upper part of the trail the visibility is good, above the tree line, and I can usually let her off leash, which she loves. Near the trail head I always have her on leash.

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Another shot of her enjoying some off leash time. Heart Lake is on the left side in this photo, but unless you know it is a lake there, you couldn’t see it. The lake is completely frozen, and covered with a thick layer of snow. Heart Lake is located in a little “mini valley”. The snow builds up fast there, in between Castle Rock, and the ridge on the other side. The two previous times I did this hike, people were ice skating on Heart Lake. It would not of been possible to ice skate there now.

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I very much prefer snow in the winter, compared to the endless rain in the valley. It’s a great blessing to be able to enjoy the mountains around us in the weekends. The fresh mountain air, and the light does so much to revitalize my spirit. It also feels like I share a piece of my home with my daughter, even though “my home” was a mountain very far away from this one. Strangely enough, when you grew up in the mountains, all mountains sort of feels like home.

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I think this photo, and the one in black and white of my daughter, is my two favorites from last weekend. Ooo, I almost forgot! One of the most memorable thing was sliding our way down the mountain, on the way back. My daughter and I “belly-slide” (my daughter’s expression,) down. We didn’t have a sled with us, but our winter clothes did the trick. I hope you enjoyed my Winter-Saga-Story. I enjoyed sharing it with you!



Ms Zen


A Face in the Crowd 2 – McCloud River

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Yesterday we took a hike along McCloud River, just outside McCloud (CA.) This is a well maintained hike, of an amazing waterway. It’s often challenging to photograph the river, and the three waterfalls along the trail, without accidentally catching a A Face in the Crowd (this week’s photo challenge. Here’s my first entry to the challenge.)


We did see around 20 people, during the 3-4 hours we spent along the river yesterday, not too bad, for this kind of place.


My daughter suggested that we built a house next to the lower waterfall! Why not? LOL.


As always when there’s water included, Gretchen, my dog, had a blast!


We had hoped for lots of snow, but there was only some patches here and there. The temperature was comfortable, in the upper 30s, and the sun felt warm on our cheeks.

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We started at the lower fall, and hiked out, and back, viewing all three falls. It’s not a very long hike, 3.8 miles all together. It’s perfect for a Sunday stroll with a 5 year old. We stopped many times looking at rocks along the river, crashing some ice, throwing sticks to our dog, comparing different kinds of moss on the trees, and we climbed some bigger boulders on the side of Middle Fall (where we had our picnic lunch.)

The perfect picnic spot!

We had a fantastic day. I love combining; fresh air, exercise, play, education, exploring, photography, quality family time, and meditation in one outing. That’s the kind of multitasking I like!
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To the right, from where we had our lunch, the pine trees covered the river, making part of it in full shade. The shady patches, like the one on the photo above was really cold.

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This is also Middle Fall, seen from above, further up the trail. We had our lunch on the boulders, in the center, of the bottom of the photo. If you look closely, you can see some people trying to get to that spot. I love how the trail follows the river. It’s a peaceful hike. I believe I’ve done it in all seasons now. They are all wonderful in this magical place.

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This is the Upper Fall, the last one on our trail. We started at the Lower Fall, walked up to Middle Fall, and saw the Upper Fall last. Then we turned around, and walked the same trail back. You can park at any of the falls, and connect to the trail there. You don’t have to do it in a specific order. There’s plenty of parking spots, and clean restrooms at every trail head. This is a hike, or outing for everyone that enjoys beautiful nature. You don’t have to hike if you’re unable to, you can choose to drive to each trailhead and just enjoy the waterfalls.

The easiest way to get there is by taking 1-5 towards McCloud (CA,) and then take Highway 89 for 15 miles, east of the I-5/89 junction, and 5 miles east of McCloud and turn south on Road 40N44. Look for a Fowlers Camp/McCloud Falls sign. It’s easy to find. If you have access to a smartphone, google maps will take you right there.

If you want to stay longer, there’s simple campgrounds next to the falls, but I can highly recommend the RV Park in McCloud, if you’re an RV;er looking for a cool place to spend some time. McCloud also have several B&B with good reputation, but I haven’t personally tried any of them. McCloud is an old logging town, with many beautiful houses, and interesting things to see. There’s an abundance of hiking trail, and Mt Shasta is close by.

I actually shared a post about McCloud Falls in June last year, when this blog was a newborn. Have you seen McCloud River Falls? If so, tell me about your experience! I would love to hear about it!

I hope that your week got off to an awesome start 🙂


Ms Zen

Crystal Creek Falls


On Sunday evening I craved a nature experience. Whiskeytown National Recreation Area was close by, so I suggested a spur off the moment visit. It’s a gorgeous 39 000 acres wilderness area, with over 70 miles of well maintained trails. I love hiking there, and enjoy this area quiet often.


It has four amazing waterfalls. Neither are that challenging to get too. However, Crystal Creek Falls, the one we visited on Sunday, is by far the easiest. You can drive almost the whole way there. The “hike” is 1/4 mile one way. It was perfect for an unplanned visit, with limited time left off the day.

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That said, with a place that is so easy to get too, you can’t expect to have the place to yourself. We did have to wait a while, before the two families that got there before us, decided to move on. When there were no-one there I let Gretchen off leash for a few minutes, she was dying to get into the water. To her it doesn’t matter if it’s cold, she needs to jump in. She is usually a very quiet dog, (she only barks on command, or if attacked.) While waiting for our turn to enjoy the falls she sat next to me, longingly looked at the water and whined…and whined.. She was SO happy when I finally set her free, and told her to play.


After visiting this waterfall last weekend (February 2018,) I was inspired to dig out a photo from last spring. To compare the water levels. This last photo was taken in April 2017.

This is the perfect place to visit if you’re just driving through, have a disabled, or elderly person in your party. Everyone can enjoy this beautiful waterfall. There’s picnic tables, plenty of parking, and clean restrooms. You do need a park permit. You can get that at the visitor center (daily/weekly/yearly permits available.) During our hot summers, this is still a good place to visit, the thick surrounding forest provides plenty of shade. If you want more solitude there’s plenty of other hikes nearby, that provides that. Further up the same road, there’s Whiskeytown Falls, that is a bigger 220ft waterfall, that also requires a little more effort to get there. It’s a 2.8 mile out and back hike, the way there is almost all uphill. It’s not too bad, my daughter have done that hikes many times, the first time she walked the whole way by herself she was 2,5 years old. It’s rated as a moderate hike in most hiking apps.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area Visitor Center

If you’re interested in visiting these waterfalls, or just enjoying the magnificent lake that this area is named after, I suggest visiting the visitor center first. It is a real nice visitor center, with knowledgeable friendly staff, and you need to get a permit anyways.

Last Years Annual Park Pass

They usually have free maps off the area, and are more than willing to direct you to any place you may desire to see. This is the address to the visitor center:

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
14412 Kennedy Memorial Drive
Whiskeytown, CA 96095



Whiskeytown Lake seen from the visitor centers parking lot. The waterfalls in this post is on the other side of the lake, only a short scenic drive away.

I truly hope you get to enjoy this area in person ❤



Ms Zen


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