Redding Where? 

A town that pulls out all the stops doesn't have to.

Quick: What comes to mind when you hear the name Redding, California? Did you even know there is a Redding, California?

I didn't -- not until I took a trip down the California coast and found myself marooned in Redding, in the heart of the state's northern reaches. I had called the local Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the very nice woman I spoke with did her job beautifully: She promoted the town's premier attractions, none of which I honestly cared about. But I did my job as well: I listened, took notes.

She picked me up at the bus station and took me around to said sites. Redding's latest venture in tourism is Big League Dreams, a sprawling athletic complex with soccer fields; batting cages; an indoor facility for hockey, soccer, and basketball; and softball fields. But not just any softball fields: These are replicas of Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium. To say the least, seeing Boston's "Green Monster" left-field wall with the Cascade Mountains in the background is odd, but my host insisted the fields are full all summer with leagues and pickup games.

Next, we went to official Redding's favorite place: Turtle Bay Exploration Park. It includes a butterfly park, arboretum, gardens, a play sculpture, a water sculpture, and a nature/history museum. A great place to spend the day with the kids or go for a nice stroll. I added it to my internal list of Things To Do in Redding, should I ever come back.

The crowning achievement of Turtle Bay is the Sundial Bridge: a steel walkway over the Sacramento River, with a sundial pylon 217 feet high built at a cost of $23 million.

But one big question: Why? I was wondering what some of the folks around town must think of this thing. So I asked the nice CVB lady. Turns out, most of the money came from a local, private foundation. Besides, every town needs a signature, right? I added the Sundial Bridge as an interesting attraction, but not something I'd come to Redding to see again.

Then something happened that changed my whole perception of Redding. I looked down at the Sacramento River and noticed two guys fly-fishing. "You have fly-fishing in town?" I asked. "You bet," my guide said. "We have salmon in this river!"

A salmon run, from the ocean, in the middle of town. Now I was intrigued. And when she saw my interest in nature, you might say the hook was set. Soon she was handing me a brochure on the 11 major waterfalls within a short drive of town. Next came Shasta Lake, just up the road, with 365 miles of shoreline near Mount Shasta. Next was Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, just eight miles outside of town. Just beyond that was the Marble Mountain Wilderness, the wildly scenic Castle Crags, and the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Next up was Lassen Volcanic National Park an hour away. Six national forests. Nearly a dozen rivers for whitewater rafting. Ski areas. Scenic drives. Mountain climbing. Heck, the redwoods and the coast are only a couple hours away.

My head was spinning. California is amazing. Here's a town surrounded by more natural stuff than most states offer. And as for the fishing, it isn't just about fly-fishing for salmon. I asked a friend who's a fishing guide, and he got all excited reeling off the names of blue-ribbon trout, salmon, and steelhead streams around Redding: the Trinity River, the McLoud River, Hat Creek, the Klamath River, the Upper Sacramento ...

Finally, he just said, "We should go there sometime." It was the first time anybody suggested a trip to Redding, but I intend to take him up on it. And I didn't even tell him we can walk to a bridge with a 200-foot sundial and jack one out of Yankee Stadium while we're there.

portlandpaul@mac.com

Visit Redding, CA on the Web

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