Virtual vacationing

The Internet is a good place to go for getaway ideas

Does a convocation of buck-naked Harley-Davidson riders qualify as “Northern California recreation"? I suppose so. Recreation is a broad category, as I discovered recently when I typed it in for a Google search and got more than 250 links for this region alone.

Photos from the bikers’ weekend at a naturists’ camp were just one of the highlights, if that’s the right word, of my little tour, along with the California Beer Page, the La Milonguita Tango Activities list and the Southern California Transit Information Page, all of which come up during a search for Northern California recreation sites.

The good thing about the Internet is that there’s so much information on it. Of course, that’s the bad thing, too. You can spend hours staring into a monitor, clicking from one lame Web site to another and getting distracted by the weird ones.

So, if you were thinking of using the Internet to get inspiration or information for a summertime getaway in Northern California, I’m going to save you some time and effort. Below are short descriptions of some of the best sites I could find for anyone who’d like to explore our back yard in Northern California. Many also contain links to coastal and San Francisco Bay areas.

Northern California Recreation Guides

Start here. This is a well-maintained, inclusive site that will give you plenty of ideas about where to go, and it’s also a pleasure to explore. Most pages include useful links, and each comes with a different quotation from an American Indian elder extolling nature. Turn to hiking, for example, and you’ll read, “For the Lakota there was no wilderness. … Nature was not dangerous but hospitable, not forbidding but friendly,” attributed to Luther Standing Bear. The listings under such categories as Resorts and Bed & Breakfasts are extensive, but you can find even more by going to the “Counties” section and exploring the many links there. Virtually every tourists’ bureau and destination community in the area is included, from Alturas to Colusa. The folks who produce this site live in Red Bluff, and they obviously know their territory.

This is good for anyone interested in vacationing or visiting the Mt. Shasta area. It’s a community site, so there’s a lot of stuff not related to recreation, but that’s OK. With its updated info on weather and climbing conditions, it’s especially useful for anyone who wants to climb Mt. Shasta. And check out the virtual tour of the mountain.

Northern California Travel and Tourism Information Network

Sponsored by the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association, this is a solid, useful site with good links to cities and counties around the region. It’s not as inclusive or fun as Northern California Recreation Guides, but it does include some info the other lacks. A good second source.

The Fish Sniffer Online

This is a terrific site for anglers. An online version of the popular magazine, it’s updated regularly and provides solid reporting on where they’re biting and what the weather’s like.

Northern California Backcountry Pages

The creation of avid backpacker Sean Booth, a Sierra College geography instructor who got his master’s degree from Chico State University, this is a guide to some of the best backpacking destinations in the area. From the Trinity Alps to Yolla Bolly and Big Sur, Booth suggests which trails to take and provides photos of what you’ll find. There’s even a section devoted to Bidwell Park!

Access Northern California

This site is meant for people who, because of disability, are not fully ambulatory. It advises on trails, attractions such as museums, lodging, sports and recreation and other services throughout Northern California, with an emphasis on their accessibility to wheelchairs.

If you’re looking for group bike rides, this is a good site, though it’s focused on the Bay Area. But it also includes Napa, Mendocino and Sacramento counties. Very up-to-date listings, with a dozen or more rides listed on weekend days.

Tom Stienstra Top Ten

This is a page on this widely know outdoor guidebook writer’s book-selling site. On it he makes a number of recommendations in various categories—Top 10 Cave Explorations, Top 5 Places to Beach Camp, etc.—that are valuable because Stienstra and his wife are on the road almost constantly, when the weather’s good, looking for stuff for his books, and a lot of folks have come to trust his judgment. His books are good sources, too.

San Francisco Bay Area Attractions

If you’re like millions of people, especially kids, your idea of fun is to hit one of the big attractions such as Paramount’s Great America or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This site connects you with nine of them. Also included are the Red & White Fleet, the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, the Winchester Mystery House, Bonfante Gardens Theme Park, Roaring Camp Railroads and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk—but not, to my surprise, Marine World. Latest info and discounts.

USDA Forest Service

California State Parks

California’s Bureau of Land Management Recreation Areas

National Park Service

California National Parks

Northern California National Forests

These sites offer all kinds of information about federal and state lands and parks that’s useful for anyone wanting to visit or camp in them.

GORP—California Travel, Tourism and Recreation Guide

This is a national commercial site, so it has all the disadvantages of that, including pop-up ads one after another as well as a certain impersonality. But it’s also got some good links and suggestions that other sites don’t have and covers a large area.

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