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