"When I first caught sight of Mount Shasta over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since." - John Muir, 1874
Jutting above Highway 5 we see Mount Shasta, a giant among its neighbors, the Castle Crags and Trinity Alps, that run the Siskyou County Landscape which seem to go on forever. Even the massive sequoias of the western Alps you pass as you exit Ashland, OR into California, you can easily find yourself in a scene from Lord of the Rings. Just as Sedona, AZ is a global power spot and vortex with spiritual and energy properties, Mount Shasta is considered to be the same. It's not out of the ordinary to see Buddhist monks walking down Main Street with sacks of veggies on their backs heading up to the Shasta Abbey Buddhist Monastery. It's also no surprise Poland Spring makes it's west coast home here. New York City tap water look out! That's Shasta baby!
Once I ring my brother Tim and tell him that Alicia and I are coming to town, he's already planning the day’s activities because he knows what I want - 1 & 1/2 days of good food and outdoor adventure. These quick stopovers are great because Tim and his wife Sandi love a good tour guide challenge. Once every few years, I'll show up and they always come through. Thanks Tim and Sandi!
On the way out to the hike we stop at Berryvale Market and pack up our deli provisions. Today we're heading up to Shasta Trinity Alps to Castle Lake and Heart Lake loop, a nice 2.2 mile hike. My niece Lucy Moon joins us, equipped with her floatie wrapped around her waist, ready for the shallow and summer-warmed waters of both lakes, sitting like reflecting bowls more than halfway up the 6,000 ft summit. It's a great hike because once you’re sitting down looking at the top looking down at both lakes, the expansive view feels much larger than 2.2 miles. Not to take anything away from Lucy, who's no wimp, but even a 7 year old can do it! Heart Lake comes first, then Castle Lake adding a perfect punctuation point upon our afternoon arrival. We find a spot on a boulder, enjoy the late summer sun, crack open the beer and jump in, reveling in our day. Visit between late May and August, pack a picnic and bring your floatie!
The Cave Springs Cabins in Dunsmuir. I'll happily stay there again. Alicia however, after viewing the shower, pictured a scene in Evil Dead when Mia takes a shower to wash off her grime and gets doused with boiling scalding water. If you can't find anywhere to stay on Airbnb.com that is not a teepee in the woods (and there are a handful of them listed there) and you’re still trying to stay rustic, unless your significant other is not into the rustic experience, then don't stay here. But I loved every minute.
Built in 1923, it's hard to imagine much has changed at Cave Springs
As a general rule when visiting the area, Shasta is for the hike and Dunsmuir, it's neighbor to the south, is for eating. After your hike, visit Cafe Maddalena. It's a nice surprise in a town of its size for Dunsmuir to have such a good handful of eating choices for all hours of the day. Try the corn and onion beignets and tuck in to the chicken liver toasts and prune jam. For breakfast, go to Dogwood Diner and order the poached eggs and creamy butterbeans with housemade sausage. And if you'd rather forage for your food, fly-fisherman have been catching trout in the Sacramento, Klamath, and McCord rivers here for generations. Among other handy jobs in the area, Tim works with friends and co-owners John Rickard and Chuck Volkhausen at Wild Waters Flyfishing. For the super adventurous, they even offer chartered plane trips that bring you right into Mount Shasta.