Wandering our local Caribou Wilderness to Jewel Lake

By Mara Dobyns

Photos by Jessica Compton and Mara Dobyns

“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” It is unknown who originally said this but anyone that has truly been at one with the wilderness has felt it. For me it’s when I’m hiking. That moment when the birds are singing, the trees are dancing, your shoes hitting the dirt, the sound of your heart in your ear, beads of sweat dripping, they all connect and form some kind of beautiful song. And while you’re not actually singing along you are a part of everything around you. You are connected. There’s this overwhelming feeling of love and freedom in that. The peace of mind that comes from nature is breathtaking and completely irreplaceable.
I have a secret. I am big on over thinking, I have anxiety, and I have struggled with depression in the past. Getting those endorphins pumping and experiencing the outside world gets me out of my head, into the present moment, and has the power to make me feel better than anything else I’ve found. If you’ve dealt with anxiety or depression you know that it can be a constant struggle not to fall into that dark hole again. Hiking is one of very few things that I consider a release. It makes me feel alive and fall in love with life all over again. It’s a reminder that even though life’s not perfect, it doesn’t have to be for you to be happy.

mom and children

Recently I was lucky enough to be involved in a group that got started via Facebook. It began with a fellow mom friend just looking for other moms to join her on walks. Shortly after I posted a search for people to hike with. Things escalated quickly from there and in next to no time I was part of a handful of girls that would come together and begin hiking and exploring our beautiful area once a week.
Our first hike was simple and sweet. We met at Lake Almanor and walked part of the recreational trail that wraps around the west side of the lake. It was nice because it offers some shade and a stellar view of Mt. Lassen sitting across the water.
The following week we headed out to the Caribou Wilderness. This time with even more moms and a handful of kids.

Moms at the lake

Since the previous week’s trail was on pavement and with strollers this one was proving to be a little more challenging. My toddler is three and can run circles around me all day but when it comes to hiking she is spoiled because daddy usually carries her. This time it was my turn.

Mom and child

Just over four miles round trip to Jewel Lake and totally worth it. The sense of accomplishment and empowerment that comes from setting these goals and getting out there and actually achieving them is unbeatable.
The trail has a few steep spots but nothing too bad. The dive into the lake at the end of it made it even better. We packed a lunch and made a day of it. I wish I had remembered the bug spray though. When you hike out you return to the parking lot of Caribou Lake, so if you are really spent you could take a second plunge into Caribou as a refresher on your way out.
Did you know that time spent outside can benefit cognitive functioning? “Cognitive functions can be defined as cerebral activities that lead to knowledge, including all means and mechanisms of acquiring information. Cognitive functions encompass reasoning, memory , attention, and language and lead directly to the attainment of information and, thus, knowledge.” Not to mention time outdoors reduces symptoms of ADD/ADHD, stress, anxiety, depression, and prevents a wide range of physical and emotional problems. The benefits to your health seem to be endless and it’s just ridiculously enjoyable, so why not?
I am so excited to be part of a group that is building friendships and foundations for our children, all while creating unforgettable memories. This is exactly why I live in this area and am so grateful my daughter gets to grow up exploring and learning about nature in such a magical place. Even if I do have to carry her, haha.
If you’re interested in learning more about our local hiking group search for “Westwood Gone Wild” on Facebook.