Camping Under the Tree of Heaven

luscious green rolling hills in Hawaii

Pixabay photo since we’ve lost our Hawaii photos

Day Two of our Trip –

from California to Central Oregon. Glad to say our first time sleeping in the tent on the ground went okay. We were just a bit stiff upon waking, but who isn’t at this age! 

Packing up our campsite was the first order of business, but Jim needs a lot of coffee first thing, so he got right to work using our little rinky-dink stove and then on to packing. It turns out we are pretty good at getting it all packed up, but it did take a while to get things just right for easy retrieval later.

It was pretty cold at 5:30 when we got up. Okay, it’s not cold for most people. I have issues with ‘cold.’ I have said for years that the climate I am best suited for is Hawaii. It stays between 60 and 80 most of the time, perfect!

I hate being cold and hate being too hot. Jim gets to hear a lot about this. “Don’t worry, after a few more hours this cold might feel good.” 

10 deer walking in a field

Deer in Basalt Campground

Northern California Here We Come

As we drove out of the campground, we saw a whole herd of deer out hunting for breakfast. We stopped and watched them for a few minutes and then off to the filling station for gas and coffee. While there, Jim saw a fellow fill up the biggest coffee thermos he’s ever seen – “One lucky trucker!” Then back onto Interstate 5 still several hours south of Sacramento. Boy, California is a long state.

After a few hours of driving, we stopped to eat our breakfast of yogurt and granola and find more coffee for Jim. Good news – the cooler kept everything cold! A bit of bagged ice had melted, but it was still ice-cold. We did get another bag, just to be sure.

Eventually, we arrived in Redding, and it was hot! As we drove up into the mountains around Shasta Lake, it cooled down a bit.

long shot of a lake surrounded by trees

Lake Shasta

The Drought Is Everywhere

Interstate 5 goes right through the mountains and at times adjacent to Lake Shasta. It was incredibly depressing to see the water level so low. It was awful! However, the gorgeous mountain passes and spectacular views of the lake and valleys were majestic. We stopped somewhere in the mountains to eat our lunch. We think it was a tiny town called Dunsmuir.

It seemed the town was about half a mile long with a few restaurants and tiny houses all nestled in a narrow canyon. What is it like in the middle of winter? How many feet of snow do they get here? Not for us! Though a little snow right then might have felt pretty good!

Tree of Heaven Campground signWhere to Sleep

While we were driving, I found a campground that sounded good – Tree of Heaven. It was on the Klamath River and operated by the National Forest Service. It seemed like it would be about 30 minutes out of our way on Hwy 96, which is also called State of Jefferson Scenic Byway. (What a strange name for a road.)

The name arises from the movement by some locals to form a breakaway state, The State of Jefferson, combining Northern California and Southern Oregon. This isn’t a political blog – but good luck with that one.

We didn’t want to drive so far that we would need to set up camp in the dark, so we decided that was the place for us. It was a beautiful drive following the river west through a canyon. There were many weekend cabins in the area and a few small ranches and farms. 

man pointing to a campsite

Our spot, except for the bugs, perfect!

A History Lesson

Apparently, the Tree of Heaven name comes from a species brought by Chinese immigrants who mined and farmed the area in the 1800’s. At the time, it was a source of pride and reminder of home for them. We could see some evidence of mining along the river, tailings, rotted buildings, long since abandoned.

The tree is a species considered invasive in parts of the country. We won’t get into all the aspects involved, but when you hear a species nicknamed the Stink Tree, well, you know there’s a story behind it. Let’s leave that to others.

Klamath River at Tree of Heaven Campground

The Klamath River

Tree of Heaven Campground

Finally, we saw a small sign for the campground and made a sharp left turn down a steep road to the site. It was good to get off the road. There were a handful of other campers around; we found a less populated part of the campground, off in a corner.

Each site had a grill, table, and plenty of space between sites with lots of trees everywhere. Running water and vault toilets were a joy to see. We found lots of wood around for making a campfire, and the price for the night – $15.00.

Three things stand out about the campground: first, the river was right over there! You could throw a rock and hit it. We took a walk along a trail by the river. In most places, the overgrowth made it impossible to see the river though you could hear it. Other campers had inflatable rafts and a few kayaks. Great place for that: quite a current in that river.

woman pointing to a tent

Our humble abode

Our Evening

Second, what joy, bugs all over: flying, crawling and jumping. After our walk, Jim saw a bug on the outside tarp and said it was a tick. What? Oh! My! God! No. Aside from some outstanding creepiness, we’ve all heard the terrible effects Lyme disease can bring. We went into the tent and checked all the likely hiding places – nothing! Thank God.

We had to be careful with our food and kept the tent zipped up tight. We cooked hot dogs on hanger wires over the fire with a can of baked beans, what a treat – that’s a joke. Since we didn’t need the fly up, we got to watch the night sky while lying in the tent. We also tried our little solar lantern, it worked!

Third, though the area seemed remote, we heard traffic on the road all night and early in the morning. We wondered where everyone was going out in the middle of nowhere. Day two – done, and we’re still in California. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!


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    • Dave on September 4, 2016 at 5:48 am
    • Reply

    Found your blog…..great job…..we are getting ready to retire in the next year and looking into selling the house as we are empty nesters. We both have good pensions and looking for a way to see the world and enjoy taking care of pets…I think we might put our belongings into storage just in case….keep us informed of your adventures…..

    1. Thanks! It’s a pretty good life – we wish you well on your adventure!

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