Traversing The National Parks Of Northern California

Based in the Black Mountains of Wales, photographer Finn Beales shoots lifestyle, commercial and travel photography, which sees him roaming all corners of the earth for the likes of Apple, Audi and Barbour.

“A rugged rural landscape coupling volcanoes with vineyards and legends of Bigfoot with movies of Ewoks”Known for his cinematic, sweeping landscapes, Beales has become well known for his ‘72 Hours‘ series, and has amassed a dedicated following on Instagram, where he’ll be taking over our channel this weekend. One of his most recent trips took him and his wife through the national parks of Northern California, where he captured the rugged landscape in all its glory. Below we follow their journey from the Marin Headlands to the Pacific Ocean. Wanderlust-inducing doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Beales states: “According to the guidebook, ‘the northern coast and interior of California covers around a third of the state… a rugged rural landscape coupling volcanoes with vineyards and legends of Bigfoot with movies of Ewoks.’ Liking this description and with a brief from Visit California to cover as much as possible on a six day trip, my wife and I flew from Wales to San Francisco, excited to hit the road.

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LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK

Approaching Lassen on HWY 36 from Red Bluff the land starts to thicken with conifer forests and the climate changes rapidly. We had been warned, ahead of our visit, of the forbidding weather conditions which can bring up to fifty feet of snowfall each year. The park highway traverses avalanche prone slopes with 2,000 foot drops and can hold a snowpack 40 feet deep. Predicting when the road will open is not possible, even in late spring, and some stretches were indeed closed during our visit but we were able to explore on foot. The park’s signature volcano, Lassen Peak, last blew its top in May 1914, and its volcanic outbursts continued for three years. Today, things have settled down, but we still encountered a number of steaming sulphur vents and boiling hot springs interspersed amongst the lush forests and mist obscured lakes.

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MCCLOUD

Continuing our volcanic tour we left the snow packed highways of Lassen National Park and tracked North East in search of Mount Shasta. A lone peak of 14,179 feet which dominates the landscape for a hundred miles all around. We spent the night in McCloud, a company built mill town whose downtown area is a Nationally Registered Historic District. Arriving late in the evening on Highway 89 we explored deserted streets, colorful clapboard houses and the long quiet lumber mill before retiring for the night, excited to witness the volcano once described by Joaquin Miller as: “lonely as God and as white as a winter moon”.

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REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK

Compass bearing west we tracked across state towards The Redwood National Parks. It’s a long drive (around 5 hours from McCloud) rewarded with a landscape almost too spectacular for words. Located entirely within Del Norte and Humboldt Counties the parks protect 45% of all remaining coast redwood old-growth forests, totaling at least 38,982 acres. These trees are the tallest and most massive species on Earth and grow only on the Pacific Coast. The parks are huge and our time here was short so we focused our attention on two specific areas: the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and the Avenue of the Giants, home to some of the tallest trees in the park.

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NORTHERN COASTAL CALIFORNIA

“We spent a couple of hours exploring and watching migrating grey whales.”Having spent much of our time at high altitude or in the shadow of ancient trees we had a yearning for space that only the ocean can bring. Emerging from the redwood forest’s that hug California’s northwestern edge, we made our way to Moonstone County Park around 12 miles north of Arcata. A vast sandy strip dotted with weathered driftwood and distant beach combers it was a welcome handshake as we hit the pacific coastline for the first time in a week. We spent a couple of hours exploring and watching migrating grey whales too distant to photograph before driving south towards our final destination in Mendocino County.”

All images © Finn Beales.

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