You will often hear me talk about growing up in Northern California. I spent time in a number of different areas, so can appreciate the different perspectives on just where Nor Cal starts. Some say it extends all the way into the Bay Area, even Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley. That’s perfectly fine with me as I have lived there too. However, when I was younger I always personally associated the mountains and forests upwards North of Mount Shasta to be where it all really begins. For my purposes as a Nor Cal themed social media company I’ll take it all, but in my published business plan I really dive into the question… What is Nor Cal to you?
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I talk about living in Chico, for instance, which somehow feels like the center of the North State to me. We moved down here from Shasta because we wanted to be a little closer to mainstream society. It was economics that pulled us out more than anything, but good to stay close to “home”. Throughout the years we made regular trips back up into the country, but there was nothing quite like living there and having all that majestic glory for your back yard. We used to have this really awesome house on Lake Shastina. We’d take our 4x4 truck way up logging roads for some amazing off path camping and fishing. We had a horse ranch and a trail guide service in McCloud. My old man would take people up into Mount Shasta on horseback teaching them how to use pack mules to carry the load. There is an entire world of wilderness to explore and I think a profound kind of health and wellness that comes with just spending any substantial amount of time up there.
The great thing about Chico is we can “enjoy the best of both worlds” – hitting just about anywhere we associate to Northern California within a four hour drive – from our cozy little university town to the bustling tech hubs, and back up the Pacific coast or on to snowboarding in Tahoe or Shasta. You can do it all in a day or two; a great place to spend the weekend - better yet a great place to spend a couple weeks - and why stop there?! If you are driving up the main I-5 corridor you might not notice the sign for Chico. The most prominent sign appears to be Lake Almanor, but I would argue they should change that or at least run some billboards on the stretch pointing “This way to Lassen National Park!” It’s really a cool drive through the agriculture of Almond and Walnut orchards into Chico, which is a magical little city for those that know of it, and touches right up to the Sierra Nevada foothills. I’ve always thought of it as a sweet base camp before heading up old 32 for the winding scenic drive to Lassen.
You don’t have to go very far to find yourself in some serious nature. If you just want to take a good day long hike then I recommend checking out Feather Falls right out of neighboring Oroville. You can live your entire life in the North State valley towns and cities – never realizing the wealth of experiences all around you – but once you do I bet you will wonder how you felt you were living at all. It’s the dynamic balance of everything; a lifestyle from the world’s center for technological and online innovation to one of the world’s most beautiful natural regions… when you know these things then I think you can say, “This is Nor Cal!”
The other day I had the pleasure of getting followed by Shasta Cascade on Twitter. To be honest, I had never really registered there was an organization that promoted the Northernmost part of California. It’s something you will notice I make an effort to champion in my own way, so imagine my sincere pleasure to discover the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association.
They have been promoting outdoor recreation in the North State since 1927, so there is no doubt in my mind they were a part of my life growing up. It’s really kind of an interesting phenomenon to think how, with social media these days, you can now run into entities like this. It would be like bumping in to Mount Shasta and going “Hi, loved you growing up. Huge fan. Anything big coming up?” and getting back, “Nah, no eruptions any time soon, just kicking back on the lake for some good food, music, and some fishing.” You really do develop relationships with places, and I think there is a natural internal narration that develops out of the encounters. So it was just genuine fun to get wished a great weekend by Shasta Cascade! From a social media standpoint though, huge props go to their team for being proactive in outreach, friendly, and accessible. There is so much more to cover about this organization. I will be spending more time going through their website to learn about their robust suite of programs benefiting the region.
Last year I had a chance to connect with the people involved in promoting the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a major accomplishment in terms of conserving natural wealth from development. I could not help but notice some similarities and alignment with the activities of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association.
Next year in 2016, the National Parks Service celebrates its centennial. If you ever get a chance to watch some of the documentary stories about the people involved in these movements and what they did, I highly recommend it. I find it interesting how it was really more about a number of small grassroots associations and clubs made up of people like writers, outdoorsmen, botanists, birdwatchers, nature appreciators, small businesses, and perhaps specifically worth mentioning women. They were not some anonymous federal organizations or even formalized non-profits in the beginning. You might say they were just local people like you and me. Things have changed so much over the last century, but there are ways to get involved, and I like to mention these opportunities are more accessible than ever to everyday people. Thanks to the efforts of relatively small groups of people, we have incredible regional assets still essentially the same as they were back then – for our pleasure and the benefit of generations to come!
Looking into the history of Shasta Cascade as an organization, you can see how they started in the same way, around the same time, and with some similar organic intentions that have helped them evolve into what they are today. You can say it’s not just nature they seek to promote, but economic development and success for the sake of the people, organizations, and businesses vested in the region. In terms of strategy, I think it only makes sense to leverage what your environment has to offer, but you do better to present that as part of an integrated whole experience.
It’s worth mentioning the development of a better road system, one of their initial organizing ideas, because the mass production of cars starting in 1908 intertwines with the beginning of the parks, recreation, and tourism industries. I would say this kind of initiative has paid dividends for nearly a hundred years, and much of the economy in the far North of California still is based on and depends on interstate traffic. This can have trade-offs though which can present new kinds of challenges. To suggest the “only” things worth doing are heading up to the lakes, for example, might be a little too myopic – especially when we’re in a drought for instance – and there are so many dynamic elements to experience. I found a video where Laurie Baker, General Manager for the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association addresses this kind of thinking.
I think there is something terrific to the idea of a regional organization whose main purpose is to help promote the local economy through tourism. It’s something I pay attention to, not just here in Nor Cal, but across the country in different regions, and even internationally. It’s actually starting to get quite competitive which is a little crazy because a lot of places don’t even realize there is a race on. You might say we’ve come full circle where the challenges today may have more to do with digital highways.
It might sound a bit off topic to talk about Aspen Colorado here, but promoting regional interests, and more specifically how to do this in the most modern state-of-the-art ways is something I have been specializing in. The Aspen Snowmass video below is just the tip of the iceberg for the kind of thing I would like to do for Nor Cal and all stakeholders involved in the economic success of the region.
If my family had stayed up in Shasta just a little while longer, we would have seen Shasta Ski Park arrive, and I’m pretty sure that would have been good for our trail guide service – off path powder anyone? Local economics, especially once you get away from coastal port cities and the like, can really be a delicate thing comprised of people and their stories getting along the best they can with what they have. Small initiatives can make a big difference – whether that be having to close your business down and move elsewhere or the good fortune to experience growth and lay down deeper roots. The great thing about Nor Cal is we have everything you could ever ask for in terms of a tourism and recreation destination of choice. It’s more than just the outdoors though – it’s what we have going on in our local economies, the organization of causes and businesses, the connections people are starting to make in new ways - what you might call the modern evolution of communities.
Maybe it’s a bit ironic that the rest of the world is trying to catch up to what’s going on in Silicon Valley, yet we still have room for improvement in terms of leveraging our socio-geographic assets. Why not be the leader in that category as well?! I see my work contributing to this movement and this is why I am paying special attention to the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association. Very cool encounter.
Hey neighbor! If you happen to be reading this I would absolutely love to connect with you!