Resort Ruins and an Auto Graveyard: Rediscovering My Love for Hiking in Mt. Shasta

When I first started writing this blog, I couldn’t wait to write a detailed account of every trail I hiked, every river I kayaked, and every brewery I sampled. But over time, my writing has struggled to keep up with my adventures.

Come to think of it, I guess that’s a good thing.

tree down

No baby trees were harmed in the dramatic making of this photo shoot.

These days, it’s been more difficult to see each and every outdoor experience as “blog worthy.” What honestly makes this adventure stand out from all the others? Will this place really stick with me when other memories fade away?

Best of luck out there all alone, Hyundai

Best of luck out there all alone, Hyundai

I recently went on two back-to-back hikes around Mt. Shasta, a small Northern California town that’s flanked by a towering mountain of the same name. After cranking out a few articles at a pretty sweet coffee shop in called Yaks, I drove to a remote parking area and swapped out the generic rental for a dusty pair of hiking boots.

Hikers were here, but where are they now?

Hikers were here, but where are they now?

Even from the first few steps, this trail sparked my interest. Abandoned fire pits and mysterious stone circles lie around every corner.

Evidence of mysterious rituals

Evidence of mysterious rituals

The Ruins of Ney Springs Resort

Anonymous hikers on the Internet promised me a waterfall and some 19th century ruins along the Ney Springs Canyon, and that sounded pretty good to me.

In the late 1800s, several resorts were built in the Mt. Shasta area, one of which being the Ney Springs Resorts. It wasn’t as popular as the Shasta Springs Resort north of Dunsmuir, but it was still a nice getaway spot in the mountains for vacationers back in the day. A guy named Joh Ney discovered that there were springs here, and the resort was eventually able to pipe fresh spring water into the buildings and accommodate 50 guests.

The trail is poorly marked and not surprisingly, I took a wrong turn or five. I kept wondering how visible the ruins actually were, and if I would miss them without even noticing. Finally, I spotted a cistern next to the creek and figured this must be part of the dilapidated structures I was looking for.

First sight of ruins...a cistern!

First sight of ruins…a cistern!

After checking out the cistern for a moment, I turned back towards the trail and instantly saw the next bout of ruins in the distance…the fountain! This find was even better than the last. I was surprised that the cursive letters of “Ney Springs” and “1889” were still so easy to decipher.

There was a really eerie vibe here and a sense that more ghosts than hikers may exist within these ruins. It doesn’t seem like there’s been much effort to uncover more of the resort ruins, so who knows what lies beneath the overgrowth?

The Ney Springs Fountain, 1889

The Ney Springs Fountain, 1889

Still further inside the canyon lies Faery Falls, a 40-foot waterfall that seems to be the main draw for hikers today. The falls are about a quarter mile past the resort ruins, and there are several good spots up close to snap photos of the falls.

The Automobile and Appliance Graveyard

The Sacramento River flows to Box Canyon, where the Box Canyon Trail picks up and an automobile and appliance graveyard is tucked away in the woods. That’s right…this is the place where old cars and broken washing machines have gone to die.

Day hike #2

Day hike #2

The mild trail began on the north side of the Box Canyon Dam, passing through pine, oak, and cedar trees. I couldn’t help but notice an intrusive golf course as I set the pace, but I stayed hopeful that far more interesting things were ahead.

Fortunately, I was right.

What is that I see among the trees?

What is that I see among the trees?

A faded hunk of metal peered out at me from behind a tree. I blinked a couple times to make sure the summer sun wasn’t starting to make me loopy. But hen another, and another.

Apparently, Mt. Shasta residents used to simply push their unwanted cars and appliances down the hill to dispose of them. Everything is completely toppled over, rusted through, and in a total state of decay. So much for recycling!

The aftermath of someone's once-beautiful car

The aftermath of someone’s once-beautiful car

But instead of feeling like I was walking through an old dump, I felt like I had stepped back into another time in history. It’s not every day that rusted car parts lie next to hundred-year-old trees, but it seemed to somehow make sense along this trail.

Although venturing off-trail is generally frowned upon in the hiking world, I couldn’t resist getting a closer look at some of this partially-preserved antique collection.

box3

Check out my new ride!

Just when I thought I’d seen all the rubble along the trail, another piece of machinery appeared and beckoned me to come take a look. Who did this washing machine belong to and how long had it been buried down here?

box4

Okay, who needs to do a load of laundry?

It’s baffling to me why people dumped their enormous (clearly non-biodegradable) trash here and why no one has ever bothered to clean it up. But I must say, this graveyard made for one of the most interesting hikes I’ve ever been on.

Stay on the Box Canyon Trail to actually venture into the canyon, which is steep and more challenging than it looks. I’m talking iron ladders mounted to cliffs, rock scrambles, and unsettling drop-offs.

Other Ney Springs Opportunities

I didn’t know it at the time, nor did I bring my climbing gear with me, but Ney Springs is also a fairly established rock climbing spot. I spy some climbers perched on that crag!

climbersApparently, the canyon’s north wall is the best place to climb, and the crags here are a top pick for winter climbing. The crags get a full day’s worth of sun, and the snow doesn’t build up much on the access routes. Maybe next time! If you’re heading that way, bookmark this Alpine Addict page for route info and beta.

mt. shastaHiking in Mt. Shasta meant more to me than stumbling across dusty ruins and unwanted garbage. These two hikes make me remember why I love to hike in the first place – that is, to explore the outdoors at my own pace and encounter unexpected things along the way.

Each trail has it’s own personality, and that personality infiltrates my own when I set off into the woods. I understand that not every trail will have stunning features like Ney Springs and Box Canyon, but I’m going to keep a closer eye out for the subtleties and never underestimate the surprises nature has to offer.

Alpacas in Auburn: A Delighful California Detour

A whole slew of images come to mind when you envision a California road trip…bikini-clad beaches, towering redwoods, vineyards across rolling hills.

But alpacas?

alpacas standingA good friend of mine (who just happens to be one of the biggest gnome collectors in the world) lives in the Northern California town of Auburn, so I made a point stop and pay her and her red-hatted ones a visit.

Little known fact: gnome collectors aren’t just weird over gnomes…they’re pretty freaking random overall. Not surprisingly, my Auburn friend asked if I’d like to spend the morning with some nearby alpacas. Obviously, there was not a moment of hesitation in my reply.

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Many homes on the outskirts of Auburn enjoy acres of open space, and what residents choose to do with all this space is entirely up to them. For Auburn residents Bonnie Potter & August Anema their answer was an alpaca farm.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I arrived on the farm, I was surprised to be invited right into the alpacas’ personal space. Like me, most of them were a little nervous, but a few extroverts led the way to our Frisbees filled with alpaca pellets. I must admit the gentle beasts spooked me a bit at first, but they were incredibly playful and friendly once you got to know them a bit better.

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Bonnie and August own and operate Fair Winds Alpacas, specializing in alpaca sales, breeding, and support. Before starting to raise alpacas, Bonnie spent 30 years in the U.S. Navy. But she’s no stranger to the animal world, growing up with horses, dogs, and cats and graduating from UC Davis with a BS in Animal Science.

And before joining Bonnie in the obscure realm of alpaca farming, August spent nearly 40 years in the construction industry. Like Bonnie, he grew up knowing a thing or two about farming, but in Canada and following in his father’s footsteps with skilled trades.

The lovely couple dreamed of retiring and owning a ranch, and after considering a few different types of livestock, they settled on alpacas. You see, apacas are humanely raised for their fiber, not butchered or milked like cows, pigs, or goats. Today, over 50 happy and healthy alpacas live on Bonnie and August’s property!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd now…a few fun facts that I learned about alpacas! 

  • Full grown alpacas reach 5’6″ tall and between 140 and 200 pounds…so just a little shorter and heavier than me!
  • There are two types of alpacas: the huacaya and the suri (wait, isn’t that Tom & Katie’s kid’s name?)
  • Alpaca fleece is so much softer than wool and it totally suitable for spinning, knitting, crocheting, weaving and felting
  • Alpacas have  been bred for centuries in Peru, Chile and Bolivia to create fiber that is uniform and soft
  • Alpacas eat hay and pasture grasses, and owners typically give them a pellet vitamin/mineral supplement that’s available in feed stores
  • Alpaca fleece is sheared once a year and yields 5-10 pounds
  • Alpacas have pointed spear-shaped ears and llamas have curved banana-shaped ears – that’s how you can tell them apart!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhy would anyone want an alpaca hanging around? 

  • Because they’re soft, cuddly, and hilarious
  • Full-time for-profit business or fun part-time enterprise
  • They’re gentle, easy to take care of compared to other livestock, and easy to transport somewhere else
  • To ditch your hectic lifestyle and choose tranquil country living with wildlife all around you

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You can buy alpaca yarn directly from Bonnie and August in beige, brown, silver, rose gray, and black. It’s incredibly soft, and prices range from $12.50 to $20 per skein.

Or if my article has REALLY sold you on the idea of raising some of these creatures of your very own, you can even BUY one of their alpacas! Now I know you’re curious now, so I’ll tip you off that a good alpaca will cost you between $500 and $2,500.

But if you shop now and choose the mother-daughter special, you can be the proud owner of the Sumatra (mother) and Tiara (daughter) package for just $2,000!

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If you need to mull over this major investment for a day or two, consider planning a trip to visit Fair Winds Alpacas to visit these creatures for yourself! Bonnie and August give farm tours and are more than happy to share their extensive alpaca knowledge with you by phone, email, or in-person.

Fill out a little form and you’ll one step closer to the alpacas of your dreams! Honestly, I think this sounds like an awesome way to live. Maybe someday 🙂