Just west of Mount Shasta, campers can find Riverfront Orchard Camp sitting along the Scott River in Siskiyou County. As a Hipcamp host and fruit grower, Ryan Raes invites campers to stay at his world class heirloom orchard, where campers can sample over 100 different varieties of fruits. At Riverfront Orchard Camp, the ultimate Northern California camping experience comes to life. Swim or fish in the Scott River, day-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and check out local saloons and breweries in nearby towns. Back at camp, you can pitch your tent beneath the towering trees and enjoy a campfire under the stars.
From glampsites to indigenous lands, wineries to working farms, Ryan Raes is part of an emerging community of landowners and camp hosts who have generously opened their land to the next generation of campers. Dive in to learn more about Riverfront Orchard Camp, recreation opportunities in Siskiyou County, and a peek at his camp in our interview below.
Hipcamp: Why did you join Hipcamp, and allow campers to stay on your land?
Ryan Raes: I thought it was a really cool idea. We have friends that have rental condos so I thought it was an interesting platform and unique. We're young and it's an ability for us to help pay for the property, while sharing it with like-minded people.
HC: You mentioned that you live in Napa. What inspired you to buy 18.5 acres of private land that's 5 hours away from your home? How did you find the land?
RR: I searched for 5 years for an ideal property with perennial water and pasture land because I'm a fruit grower. I looked on websites, word of mouth, and we also did a lot of road trips. We spent several days camping in the general area so we knew we liked it already. Then, I went out there and kind of scoped it out while it was for sale. I was really impressed, so we decided to go ahead and try to buy it. Napa is astronomically expensive and for me, 20 acres would never happen. It would have been a $10 million dollar property. The reason it's farther away is because it's ideal and the price is doable for my family. Napa, literally I'm not kidding, is 25 to 50 times more an acre than where I bought. It's significantly more expensive here because of the grapes.
The land was originally a fruit orchard to provide food for the Callahan Hotel which has been out of business for a while. The family that I bought it from founded that hotel in 1853 and they planted the big trees that are on the property. That property had never been for sale before, it was a homestead, so I was the first person to actually buy the land. It's pretty special, they basically used it for grazing horses and cattle for the last few years. No humans have lived on the property that I'm aware of. It's an old mining area and it was actually equal size the to Sierra Mother Lode.
The Pacific Crest Trail is right down the road. You could do good chunks of the PCT really easily. The town up the road, Etna, is pretty cool. It has a little grocery store, gas, places to stay, laundromats, and restaurants. So everything is doable up there for us. We love it. Of course it's a little far away, but you know, good things take time! The people are nice, people wave to you. It's refreshingly friendly and I really like the culture. I live in Napa where half the people don't even say “hi” to you that have known you for 6 years, like your neighbors, so I really prefer the culture up there.
HC: Your listing says that Riverfront Orchard Camp is a 100+ year old heirloom fruit orchard. Is there ever a time when campers can sample fruit during their stay?
RR: We're pretty open minded to letting campers sample fruits. I don't want anyone taking the harvest of course, it's how I make my living. But they can definitely sample fruits. All of the trees are labeled too, so you can really try different stuff which is great. We have over 100 different varieties on the property now. It's a world class collection and it's going to be continually growing.
HC: What kind of activities can campers participate in at Riverfront Orchard Camp?
RR: Swimming in the summer, gold panning, hiking, bike riding, and there's a lake nearby about 15 minutes away called Kangaroo Lake. There's all kinds of recreation there. Etna has a classic 100 year old brewery which is really fun. In the wintertime there's snowmobiling and snowshoeing that people up there do a lot. The area is more popular in the summer, but there's really stuff year round. There's a lot of world class rafting nearby, too. The Salmon River is only a 20 minute drive and it's world class whitewater rafting. Fly fishing as well is really popular because we have salmon and trout in the river. The Scott River that we have is world class for fly fishing.
HC: I read that your only neighbor is the ranger station next to your property, and that the Pacific Crest Trail is nearby. Do you have a relationship with the rangers? Are there often PCT hikers stopping by in the area?
RR: So far so good, we actually might let them graze some of their mules on the property to keep some of the grass low. They've been asking that as a favor so we're definitely friendly and in communication with them. The store there hasn't really advertised to PCT hikers, which I think they should. They're younger owners so they're definitely getting better about it. The little store there does live music on the weekends with bands which is really fun for campers. It's walking distance, so five minutes away there's a little saloon and a store and some live music. I've heard that the PCT hikers come into Etna a lot and some come into Callahan, but no one's really made them aware of the opportunity. I backpacked last summer on the PCT so I know it's kind of hard to find places to stay.
HC: When is the best time of year to visit Riverfront Orchard Camp?
RR: Late spring through early fall is probably the easiest to do. It's colder up there because it's in the mountains. In the winter you need to be more prepared. It can get into the 90s, but 80s is more of a typical summer day. It's really beautiful and it doesn't rain much during the summer up there. I swam in the river all summer long. The water isn’t very cold in the summertime. In the summer swimming totally doable. It's not a screamer, where you walk in and go "Ahh!" It's not like that at all, it's really chill. [laughs]
HC: As a new host, what are you most excited about having joined Hipcamp?
RR: I think it's an amazing idea that enables people to go to places they've never been before. I wouldn't be surprised if we used Hipcamp ourselves for other places while my family is traveling. There are some really cool looking properties out there, I was really impressed. I talked with Mary in the beginning and she called me personally a few times when we first started up. We were kind of one of the earlier sites to get started, especially in that area. I really liked the whole thing and with the insurance policy we feel more comfortable having people there while we're not there. It’s important because we want everyone to be safe. Everything seems pretty set up, where everyone's going to be okay and it doesn't seem like it's too hard for people to find or use the property being it’s easy to find next to the ranger station. So for us, it seems like a great opportunity to share with people and help us to make a little back to pay for it, too. It's a win-win.
HC: Do you have anything new planned for Riverfront Orchard Camp in 2017?
RR: It's one step at a time financially. We're going to add some more tables and benches, maybe another firepit. We're going to continuously try to improve the property slowly but surely, start getting some irrigation for our plants and stuff like that.
HC: Any questions you’d want to ask fellow hosts?
RR: Initially, I would ask pluses and minuses from their experiences. It would be interesting hearing the good things and anything that was concerning. Being that there's water on the property, we want to make sure people are safe so I would be interested in hearing if a host had a problem with that. But, as you can see it's really pretty shallow and I think everyone's going to have a good time there.