Adventure and mys­ti­cism in the shadow of an iconic moun­tain

Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY JOHN FLINN

140 Red­ding

Jut­ting 14,179 feet into the North­ern Cal­i­for­nia sky, Mount Shasta is such an im­pos­ing pres­ence that it cre­ates its own weather—most no­tably the strange-look­ing lentic­u­lar clouds that form on its sum­mit. Some peo­ple see in them a jaunty beret, oth­ers a UFO mother ship. It’s no won­der the snow-capped vol­cano has long held a mys­te­ri­ous at­trac­tion for po­ets, artists, ad­ven­tur­ers and New Age mys­tics.

At least two re­li­gions have been founded on the flanks of the moun­tain, which some be­lieve to be a vor­tex for spir­i­tual ac­tiv­ity, and a race of psy­chi­cally ad­vanced peo­ple named the Le­muri­ans is ru­mored to live inside.

Mount Shasta is the fo­cal point of one of Cal­i­for­nia’s least-pop­u­lated re­gions, a land of high-desert tum­ble­weeds, ma­jes­tic rivers and craggy vol­ca­noes. This is where the West Coast’s two ma­jor moun­tain ranges—the Sierra Ne­vada and the Cas­cades—run head­long into each other.

Just to the south of Shasta, Mount Lassen, the south­ern­most of the Cascade peaks, erupted less than a cen­tury ago, spew­ing ash as far as 200 miles away. To­day, pots of boil­ing mud and steam vents smelling of rot­ten eggs at­test that this vol­cano is far from dor­mant.

To the west rise the Trin­ity Alps and Mar­ble Moun­tains, rel­a­tively un­vis­ited gems that are pop­u­lar venues for fly fish­ing and horse­back

trips. To the north, the Kla­math Basin Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, which ex­tends into south­ern Ore­gon, is part of the Pa­cific Fly­way: In the fall its skies are dark­ened by more than a mil­lion mi­gra­tory birds.

City & Town

For trav­el­ers, Red­ding was noth­ing more than a pit stop along In­ter­state 5 un­til the open­ing of the in­stantly iconic Sundial Bridge across the Sacra­mento River in 2004. On the lower flanks of its name­sake peak, Mount Shasta City sports a main street lined with New Age book­stores and shops sell­ing crys­tals said to have mys­ti­cal pow­ers. No less an author­ity than James Hil­ton, au­thor of Lost Hori­zon, once claimed that the pretty alpine ham­let of Weaverville, gate­way to the Trin­ity Alps, was the clos­est he’s ever come to a real-life Shangri-la.

The Great Out­doors

Mount Shasta is ir­re­sistible to climbers; in the spring, sum­mit-seek­ers are strung out along its most pop­u­lar routes like ants on an anthill. To get to the top you need an ice axe, cram­pons and the skill to use them safely. But on Mount Lassen, its neigh­bor to the south, a well-graded trail runs all the way to the 10,457-footh­igh sum­mit. World-class fly fish­ing abounds in the Trin­ity Alps, and those will­ing to walk a short dis­tance with their rods are al­most guar­an­teed a spot to them­selves. On the Salmon River, be­tween the Trin­ity Alps and Mar­ble Moun­tains, Ot­ter Bar Lodge (ot­ter­ is one of the West’s premier white­wa­ter kayak­ing schools.

Her­itage & Cul­ture

The Shasta Tribe of Na­tive Amer­i­cans, a band of hun­ters and fish­er­men who lived in cedar-plank houses with base­ments, once oc­cu­pied much of what is now far-north­ern Cal­i­for­nia and

south­ern Ore­gon. Their pop­u­la­tion dropped rapidly as set­tlers seized land fol­low­ing the discovery of gold in Yreka and Up­per Soda Springs in 1850. To the east, at what is now Lava Beds Na­tional Mon­u­ment, the Modoc tribe and the U.S. Army fought the last of the In­dian wars in Cal­i­for­nia in 1872-73. In the late 1880s, the Cen­tral Pa­cific Rail­road spurred de­vel­op­ment of the tim­ber and tourism in­dus­tries, and in the 1970s, New Age seek­ers be­gan fil­ter­ing into the area, cul­mi­nat­ing in 1987’s “Har­monic Con­ver­gence,” which iden­ti­fied Shasta as one of the world’s “power cen­ters.”

Fam­ily Fun

The Sundial Bridge is the big draw, but for fam­i­lies, the sur­round­ing Tur­tle Bay Ex­plo­ration Cen­ter in Red­ding of­fers a full day’s worth of ac­tiv­i­ties em­pha­siz­ing the Sacra­mento River wa­ter­shed, in­clud­ing an aquar­ium, mu­seum, zoo, botan­i­cal gar­den and a recre­ated log­ging camp. turtle­

MOUNT SHASTA IN THE FALL, pre­vi­ous page; a splash of fun for all at Red­ding Water­works Park, left; on the trail to Bumpass Hell in Lassen Vol­canic Na­tional Park, be­low.

RAFT­ING SE­RI­OUS RAPIDS on the Trin­ity River, left; Na­tive Amer­i­can rit­ual dance in Modoc County, above right.

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