I made it just in time for sunset while on my first trip to the Trinity National Forest, catching glimpses of sparkling lakes and pink mountaintops as I made my way through the switchbacks on highway 3. When I arrived in Hayfork it was long after dark, and I had trouble finding my friend’s cabin with no cell service off the winding, dirt roads. Luckily, in a small town like Hayfork, friendly neighbors helped point me in the right direction.
One of my best friends moved from Portland to Trinity County about a year ago, and Jessica’s settled quite beautifully with her partner, Cody, in a cozy studio and workshop tucked in the mountains under oak and eucalyptus trees. She makes jewelry and her partner works falling trees at Jefferson Snow Basin, a future sight of a back country skiing operation.
On their days off they frequently adventure in the nearby mountain wonderland. Before they moved into the cabin, Jessica and Cody we living and working on a nearby horse ranch, so we popped over to say hello the animals they used to care for.
Jessica showed me some of her favorite places to explore around her new home. We went to Helena to explore the ghost town, remnants of a gold miner’s past now overgrown by blackberries.
Then we hiked a ways along the North Fork Trinity River to visit one of her favorite summer swim spots. The deciduous trees were on the cusp of turning for fall, but the sun was still warm, and the emerald green water was crisp for a quick dip.
After we explored the river, we headed towards Hyampom to catch the last bit of golden light on the top of the ridge. We laid in the golden grass admiring the incredible blue gradient of the mountains as the sun went down.
The next night we met Cody up at his work basecamp. At over 6,000 feet, there are 360 degree views of Trinity County, and on a clear day you can see Mount Shasta, Castle Crags, Bully Choop and the Trinity Alps to name a few.
The Jefferson Snow Basin basecamp is pretty barebones; a yellow shipping container partially buried in the side of the granite mountain top, powered by solar panels, and warmed by a wood-burning stove. There’s a bunkbed with a mountain of blankets, a propane stove for cooking and a bucket to wash your dishes. We sourced our water from a nearby spring that you hike into off the side of the road; however, there is no trail leading you to it, so the only way to find it is with a local. Down the hill beyond the spring lies an old backcountry cabin overlooking a golden meadow. It’s definitely very rustic, but you can tell someone occasionally puts it to use.
That night we cooked steaks over the fire pit as we watched the moonrise over the rocky mountain tops. The wind howled us to sleep and I read aloud some poems from my new favorite book “Earth Feelings” by B.G. Schelle I picked while visiting White Horse, Yukon territory earlier this year.
To fully appreciate Amanda Leigh Smith’s work, it is best to think of her as equal parts road warrior, outdoor enthusiast and photo journalist. Her love of nature, and documenting how our relationship with it affects us on the deepest levels, is evident in every photo she takes. This is why we asked Amanda to document her first trip to the Trinity National Forest for us. These photos, and Amanda’s accompanying words, are the next best thing to hoping in your car and driving to Cascadia. If you want to really share in the experience, grab some of Cascade Forest Body Wash or Essential Oil. Many ingredients in these bottles were sustainably harvested in this very region. So open up Amanda’s story…inhale…exhale…and Bring Nature Home.