Outer bounds

Want a break from Chico? Take a little trip

The Frisbee golf course off Highway 32 offers panoramic views of the canyon below.

The Frisbee golf course off Highway 32 offers panoramic views of the canyon below.

Photo By C. Moore

Chico is filled with fun things to do and experience, but every once in a while there’s that day when you’re hot, bored, and going to Bear Hole (again) just isn’t gonna cut it.

“What do you wanna do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

“Dang, it sure is hot.”

Sound familiar? If not now, it probably will.

The outer bounds of the Butte County area are perfect to hike and explore; the creeks cool you down and trees shade you from the unrelenting sun. The wilderness surrounding Chico is beautiful, but if hiking and swimming aren’t your things, go play with some tigers (yep, real tigers) or walk across a giant sundial over the Sacramento River. There are plenty of cool places above, around and right in the simmering valley that provide respite from the sun or the Chico doldrums. All you have to do is know about them.

A roaring good time
Just 20 minutes south of Chico via Highway 99 is the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation. Located in quiet Durham, the volunteer-run facility is home to non-releasable exotic animals, including tigers, lions, ocelots, servals, caracals, foxes and wallabies.

Being several feet away from a 600-pound white Bengal tiger is a phenomenal experience and brings out the fascinated (and a little scared) kid in you. The completely volunteer staff of the foundation is knowledgable, kind and display an obvious love for these exotic creatures.

The facility is open seven days a week, by appointment only, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A walk-through tour is only $6 for adults and $5 for children, and all monies go toward the care and feeding of the animals. The foundation is located behind Durham Park, on Laura Lane. To make an appointment for a tour, call (530) 345-1700.

Cute campgrounds
In less than two hours, you could be inhaling a cool fresh breeze, setting up your tent, staring up at magnificent pine trees and swimming in a cold creek.

Lassen National Forest is huge and has lots of trails and campgrounds. If you’re seeking peaceful solitude away from other campers, almost all of Lassen is open to camping, but remember to check fire restrictions before you toast your marshmallows.

Todd, a European red fox rescued by the Fish and Game Department, now resides at the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation.

Photo By C. Moore

Not the intrepid explorer? Take Highway 32 out of town, through Forest Ranch and over the Deer Creek bridge, and to Potato Patch you will go. The Potato Patch campground, at 3,400 foot elevation, is open April to November. Bring an empty water jug (there’s a natural spring across the way) and enjoy cold mountain spring water while you play in the sun.

High Bridge campground is a little farther up (past Chester) at 5,000 feet, but worth the trip. The Feather River provides sustenance to eagles and osprey, so sightings are common. Remember, though, that bears live in the woods and bears like food.

A very grand canyon
Watching turkey vultures swoop in the canyon below you after playing a long game of Frisbee golf is cathartic. The warm canyon wind whips around while the birds of prey scream their warnings to the setting sun.

On Highway 32, just five miles past Forest Avenue, lies the entrance to the Frisbee golf course. The entrance is on your left if you’re heading up the hill and looks like a nondescript dirt hill. Not just for disc golfers, the course is nice for a late afternoon/evening hike. At night, it’s a great place to sit and watch the twinkling lights of Chico below you and the twinkling stars above you. Big rocks and creepy trees by moonlight make the landscape appear very surreal.

A young visitor feeds a wallaby at the Kirshner Foundation.

Photo By C. Moore

Remember: the fuller the moon, the easier to navigate.

Flowers on the Table
The best time to wildflower-watch is in late April, but the entire spring and early summer seasons on Table Mountain offer a variety of color and aesthetically-pleasing, picture-worthy landscapes.

Early in the season, the mesa is home to unique species of wildflowers, rolling green hills and rushing waterfalls. Toward the end of the summer, the landscape is dry and barren, like most of Butte County. Wildflowers of Table Mountain, a book available at the Chico State Bookstore, is a useful resource in identifying the myriad blooms.

To get to the mesa, go past Butte College on Pentz Road and take Highway 70 north to Cherokee Road. (Stop off in the old diamond-mining ghost town of Cherokee and visit the cemetery if you’re into historical gravesites.) There’s no official Table Mountain sign at the main entrance; park in the gravel parking lot next to the green cattle chute.

Redding ride
Redding, Chico’s friendly neighbor to the north, is a cool little city to visit for the day or on the way to Mount Shasta. Take Interstate 5 to Highway 44 west to Auditorium Drive.

The Turtle Bay Exploration Park houses interesting gardens within the McConnell Arboretum, a museum, art gallery, various wildlife exhibits, the Monolith and a butterfly house that’s open for the summer. The Park also has the 700-foot-long Sundial Bridge, created by architect Santiago Calatrava. An impressive steel and granite structure that crosses the Sacramento River, the bridge has a green glass deck and is free to cross.

At the end of the breathtaking Sundial Bridge in Redding sit myriad gardens and walking trails.

Photo By C. Moore

For a cooler and quicker trip through the park, bring your bike and cruise around, then hit up the six-mile Sacramento River Trail.