Road Trip to Shasta Lake

October 6, 2014

“Rat and Mole and Humphrey stood on the platform and waved their handkerchiefs and shouted their good-byes until Toad disappeared around the bend.  Then they turned and headed back home, each with that vague feeling of flatness one inevitably feels after waving a friend off on a journey that entails new horizons and novel adventures, leaving one behind in a smaller, staler world.”
— Jacqueline Kelly, Return to the Willows

Rest stop near Weed, California

Rest stop near Weed, California

This time it was our turn to venture off to new horizons, leaving behind — for a few days anyway — our smaller, staler world.  My husband and I went on a four-day weekend drive down I-5 to Redding, California.  We had booked no hotels in advance, and we had just a very rough itinerary.  George wanted to check out Shasta Lake as a possible future bass fishing destination.  We both needed to simply get away and leave our work behind.

As frequently happens, we spent too many hours in the car covering the miles and not enough time relaxing at a destination.  Still, the scenery was interesting because it was different from our home landscape.  I had forgotten how I-5 goes up and down like a roller coaster in southern Oregon and northern California.  I loved seeing oaks and more deciduous trees from the truck window.  Even the evergreens were a change from our Washington Douglas firs — pine trees seemed to dominate.  It was more arid than Seattle, and it was sunny and hot.  The sun seemed to shine brighter, perhaps because there is less pollution here than in our urban metropolis.

Arid landscape, northern California near Weed

Arid landscape, northern California near Weed

We drove as far as Ashland, Oregon the first night.  Ashland is home to the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and we were lucky to score two tickets to Into the Woods, which we watched in the outdoor Elizabethan theater under the stars.

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The next day’s drive took us past Mount Shasta.  At 14,179 feet, this is the second highest mountain in the Cascade Range (Mount Rainier is higher).  We took the time to drive up to Panther Meadows just at the tree line, and the views were spectacular.

The road goes about 12 miles up Mount Shasta

The road goes about 12 miles up Mount Shasta

Long view from Mount Shasta

Long view from Mount Shasta

Nearing Panther Meadows

Nearing Panther Meadows

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

Ground squirrel (or chipmunk)

Ground squirrel (or chipmunk)

Panther Meadows

Panther Meadows

Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

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We took a quick side trip to Lake Siskiyou, and we saw a bear cub crossing the road there!

Lake Siskiyou with reflections

Lake Siskiyou with reflections

Bear cub walking across the road (photo taken through dirty windshield)

Bear cub walking across the road (photo taken through dirty windshield)

When we reached Shasta Lake, we were astonished at the low water level.  The boat launches ended in dirt.  This area is suffering from drought, but in addition to the dry summer, it had been a winter with very little snow pack.  Hence the reservoirs and rivers were very low.

Notice the paved boat launch in the upper left of this photo -- it ends many, many feet from the water level.

Notice the paved boat launch in the upper left of this photo — it ends many, many feet from the water level.

The shore of Shasta Lake

The shore of Shasta Lake

What is normally a huge lake has been diminished by the drought.  Still, the blue-green water against the reddish-orange cliffs made for some beautiful scenery.

A few houseboats on Shasta Lake

A few houseboats on Shasta Lake

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Mount Shasta peeking above Shasta Lake

Mount Shasta peeking above Shasta Lake

Fishing looked like a bust this year, but before leaving Redding, we walked through Shasta State Historic Park, the ruins of a gold-rush town.

Shasta State Historic Park

Shasta State Historic Park

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We also checked out the Pilgrim Congregational Church, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  It was just about impossible to get an exterior photo because the building is sited into the hillside and I couldn’t find an angle to frame a shot.  The building was locked, but some volunteers who were setting up for a festival allowed me entry and gave me a brief orientation.  There were no pews, simply chairs that could easily be set up or taken down.  When I was inside, the interior was taken over by crafts booths. But I could see the mosaic-like stained glass windows and the ceiling beams.

Model of Pilgrim Congregational Church, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Model of Pilgrim Congregational Church, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

And finally, we walked across the Sundial Bridge, which reminded me of a giant stringed instrument.

Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA

Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA

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There is something special about bridges.  They are such engineering marvels.  And wonderful symbols of connection and romance.  On the drive back home, we stopped in Sweet Home, Oregon, to see an historic covered bridge over Grave Creek.

Covered bridge in Sweet Valley, OR

Covered bridge in Sweet Home, OR

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And we saw another old, arched bridge over the North Umpqua River near Roseburg, Oregon.

I-5 bridge over the North Umpqua River

I-5 bridge over the North Umpqua River

From Eugene, Oregon, we drove west to the Pacific Coast.  Oregon’s coast is dotted with state parks, great beaches, and wild scenery.

Heceta Lighthouse, Oregon coast

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon coast

We spent far too little time at Shasta Lake and the Oregon Coast.  Both destinations would be worthy of long stays.  Perhaps one day we will rent a houseboat for a week on Lake Shasta, or a house at the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

 

ser-en-dip-i-ty  . . . The faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident”
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

Even when you have a fairly detailed itinerary, when you’re on a long road trip, you simply cannot predict when and where you’ll need to stop for a bathroom break, snack, or place to stretch your legs.  We made several serendipitous and memorable stops during our journey through Colorado.  Let me tell you about some of them.

The Park County Library in Fairplay

Public libraries are excellent places to stop for a bathroom break.  As you pass through small towns, you will invariably see a sign pointing you to the library.  If you have time, you can check your e-mail at the library’s internet computers.  And be sure to say hi to the staff — librarians are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet.

We stopped for a picnic lunch on the expansive lawn of this lovely library in Fairplay.  It was formerly a bank, so the building had some interesting features, including a big walk-in safe!   It now houses the coroner’s office in the basement.  Cliff swallows had built nests in the eaves.  While we were picnicking, we struck up a conversation with Terry Dean Hill, weather watcher and HAM radio enthusiast, who came to our attention because his van sported a forest of 8 antennae on its roof!

Spiral staircase in the historic Park County Library in Fairplay

Door to the coroner's office. This library caters to dead people and books!

Terry Dean Hill, weather watcher and HAM radio enthusiast, and his antennae-laden van

We were led to Pachelli’s Deli & Italian Cuisine in Monte Vista by Lonely Planet Colorado.  The guidebook gave this little eatery its “top choice” designation, luring us with its description:  ” . . . the smell of garlic and warm bread as you walk through the door is a prelude to the excellent food to come.”  They described the owner, Fred Pachelli, as “charismatic.”  He had not seen the review in the Lonely Planet guidebook, so we made his day.  We ordered two HUGE sandwiches to go — Tuscan pork and avocado chicken — so that we would not have to cook at our campsite.  Each sandwich was big enough for two people.  (Thank you, Lonely Planet, for the recommendation!)

Fred Pachelli, owner of Pachelli's Deli in Monte Vista, with a loaf of his freshly baked bread

While looking for a place to get a good cup of coffee, our eyes were drawn to Zuma Natural Foods near Mancos by the eclectic vehicles parked in front.  The “hippie” van alone signaled that this was our kind of place!  We weren’t mistaken.  The coffee and pastries were great, and the bathroom was one of the nicest on our trip.

Colorful "hippie" van in the parking lot at Zuma's Natural Foods. Even the tires were decorated.

Bumper stickers on a Prius in the Zuma's parking lot

Mural-decorated bathroom in Zuma's Natural Foods

Another nice touch in the Zuma's bathroom

We were on the lookout for fresh Colorado peaches and Olathe sweet corn, so we made it a point to stop at farm stands along the way.

We stopped at this farmer's market store near Paonia for fresh peaches

The Lonely Planet Colorado guide once again steered us to a great dining spot, the burrito bus across from the Safeway in Leadville.  My smothered burrito was excellent!  (Thanks, again, Lonely Planet!)

Burrito bus in Leadville