Burney Falls Is Where We Went to Escape the Bay Area in 2021

A visual essay of friends exploring Northern California’s outdoors

In a year as stressful as the pandemic has been, my wife and I have found refuge in each other — but also, in our community of lifelong friends, and in escaping to the outdoors.

It’s a privilege in many ways to be able to pack up, leave the hood, and spend a couple nights sleeping under the stars, but it’s something we’ve prioritized for ourselves and have made an effort to do during quarantine, since being trapped inside working from home all day isn’t exactly good for your melanin or mental health.

So we hit up Burney Falls (about 4–5 hours north of the metro Bay Area) with a small crew of friends from high school and their significant others — a group of artists, photographers, musicians, writers, and just dope people who reflect where we come from, and where we’re going.

If you can, I recommend setting up camp here by reserving a cabin — a nice, small, cozy wooden set up near bathrooms — and giving yourself 2–3 days to explore the woodlands, nearby lake, and of course, the great Burney Falls, which President Woodrow Wilson declared as his “8th Wonder of the World” upon visiting in the early 1900s.

I’ve seen some waterfalls in my life — the ones in my parents’ homestate of Veracruz, Mexico; of course, the legendary Niagra Falls; and Iguazu, which borders Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, to name a few — but I haven’t quite seen one like Burney. It must’ve been the majestic forestry around it which gave me a sense of airy newness and pine-scented freshness. It even snowed a bit during our time there in late April, which was a cool effect I hadn’t seen in the context of a waterfall before. Unfortunately, it melted quickly before we could take any real photos capturing it.

We drank, we joked, we walked around, and we tapped into a higher frequency for a few days — my phone even died and no one had reception, so we were all forced offline for the long weekend. This sort of space creates clarity in my mind, and it helps me to concentrate more intently on what I need to do in order to achieve my personal goals. It’s a form of necessary recalibration.

In all, I encourage all my folks — especially people of color — to make that extra effort to take time off work, disconnect from the city, and get out there to breathe in some fresh air. You will come back feeling renewed and energized in your craft, profession, or hustle, and you’ll want to get back out there explore to the outdoors and nourish your roots.

(Author’s note: I have more pictures of the cabins and surrounding woods, but when uploaded, they become distorted and flipped upside down on Medium, so unfortunately I can’t share as much of the journey as I’d hoped, but you should be able to get a sense of our visit and vibes from what’s shown.)

Bay Area writer, blogger, teacher. Books: Piñata Theory (2020); This Is Not a Frank Ocean Cover Album (2019). Twitter + IG: @alan_chazaro

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