A Virtual North State Workout
● By Kayla Anderson
Run Its Course
Story and Photo by Kayla Anderson
Running is best when you can get out on the local trails and be one with nature, but what if you can’t get out in the wilderness as often as you like? Maybe the weather’s bad or it’s too far of a drive, or the temperature is too hot or cold?
Luckily, there’s a treadmill that brings the world’s best trail runs straight to your gym or home fitness center—and one of its five interactive workout landscapes is set in the North State.
LifeFitness created its Lifescape using Virtual Active, a San Francisco-based media company comprised of camera technology fanatics, fitness buffs and film geeks who believe watching regular TV on a treadmill detracts from the workout. Three years ago, the Virtual Active team loaded themselves down with equipment and went out to find unique places to film.
“Our early productions were planned by a trained geologist, so they tended to be in places with interesting geology – the American Southwest, the Sierras, Death Valley, and of course the Trinity mountains. We also liked to balance our library between well-known iconic locations (the Grand Canyon, the canals of Venice) and lesser-known gems. The Trinity Mountains Run falls into the latter group of areas most people don't know about, but probably should,” says former Virtual Active Creative Director Ruben Grijalva.
What’s ideal for Northern Californians is that in the winter, you can hike through the dewy Redwoods, climb rocks to alpine lakes and run along a beach without getting cold, lost or being generally unprepared. And you may even learn something about your area, too. The LifeFitness Trinity Mountains Lifescape course (which actually extends well beyond Trinity County) takes you through six areas of Northern California in a 30-minute duration. Here is what you’ll find:
McCloud River Falls (McCloud)
A short hike into the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, this 3.8-mile round trip features three magnificent waterfalls with refreshingly cold swimming holes at the base of the Middle and Lower Falls. Although the trail may be snowed in and inaccessible in the winter, people can enjoy camping, hiking and cooling off in the summer. The actual trail is an easy to moderate hike with an elevation gain of 300 feet (but, of course, you can adjust that to whatever you want on the LifeFitness machine).
Heart/Castle Lakes (Mount Shasta)
Also part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, this two-lake, 2.2-mile round trip’s trailhead is found at WA Barr Road in Mount Shasta. It is most accessible in the summertime, but can also be a great trail to snowshoe on if the road is plowed.
Castle Lake’s origins are said to date back more than 10,000 years when much of North America was glaciated. As the glacier melted, it left a cirque shape about 100 feet deep near the southern side and 10 to 15 feet deep on the northeastern shore where a group of boulders (called a terminal moraine) creates a natural dam.
Heart Lake is nestled in the rocky crests above Castle Lake with incredible views of the white-capped volcano, Mt. Shasta. Castle Peak’s summit is just above Heart Lake where hikers can catch a glimpse of Castle Crags and the top of Lassen Peak.
Deadfall Lake (Mount Shasta)
As part of the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a message on the LifeFitness treadmill pops up with the fact that more people have climbed Mt. Everest than hiked the PCT. When literally hiking to Deadfall Lake, a person can take one of two routes to get into the basin – through the PCT to the Sisson-Callahan Trail junction or the Deadfall Meadows route, which is said to be the prettier path as it traverses an expansive flower-filled meadow.
Gold Bluffs Beach (Orick)
Nestled up into the Redwoods, this beautiful sandy beach is located six miles off Highway 101 on an unpaved road in a semi-desolate area. This Northern California hidden beach is part of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park with access to more than 70 miles of trails. Roosevelt Elk sightings are pretty common (the largest species of elk in North America) and Great Horned Owls have also been spotted.
Devil’s Punchbowl (Happy Camp)
Maybe this glacial lake earned its harsh name due to its icy cold waters or because of the mile-long section of 1,300-foot vertical gain to get there, but hiker Zach Urness called Devil’s Punchbowl “one of the most spectacular destinations in the Southern Oregon/Northern California area.”
Tucked into the 182,802 acres of craggy peaks and various pines, this small emerald pool is protected by high granite walls. This 10.6-mile hike near Happy Camp is rated as difficult because of the switchbacks and crag scaling, but many hardcore backpackers say it is well worth the trek.
Boy Scout Tree Trail (Crescent City)
This 2.8-mile long trail may not seem like it would take a long time to hike, but the National Park Service says you’ll want to allow at least half a day to explore it in full. About two-and-a-half miles in from the trailhead at Howland Hill Road, an unmarked trail leads up to the Boy Scout Tree, a double redwood named after the Boy Scout troop leader who found it.
After days of doing the run through the Trinity Mountains on the treadmill (which can be ordered online or the course can be found on YouTube), it may inspire you to visit these places in person.