Tahoe to Lassen
Breakfast today included granola with yoghurt followed by homemade waffles with maple syrup, yum! We set off from Lake Tahoe at 9:30 and soon after turned up the road to the Squaw Valley ski resort. There were already lots of cars in the car park but not yet many people on the slopes. The sun was shining and we saw a number of people heading to the lifts with bare arms. A guy from Seattle, who told us he gets a season ticket for a Canadian ski resort for $500 for the year, said that with the bumper snow Squaw Valley might stay open till late June or early July. As we headed out to rejoin our highway we could see lines and lines of cars heading for the ski resort.
We drove alongside the Truckee river which drains Lake Tahoe until we reached the town of the same name. Since we had plenty of time we had a look around the town and also stopped for a coffee. Truckee is a bit like Daylesford in that it has old architecture which has been renovated and turned into trendy shops. It was quite an attractive little town all the same. Nearby was the memorial to the pioneer emigrants who came west seeking a new life and fortune. It stands at Donner Lake which is named after a pioneer family group that was stranded due to bad weather for months. Out of 90 original pioneers 42 died of starvation or of exposure. Reputedly some of them turned to cannibalism to survive although no direct evidence of this has been found.
Continuing along we crossed a couple of small ranges and gradually descended. There was less and less snow on the roadsides and in the forests. At lunchtime we stopped at a town called Graeagles which, amongst other attractions, has a golf course so I reckon that the town name was a play on Gleneagles in Scotland. Instead of kangaroos forming a hazard there were deer wandering down the fairway and running across the street. The road was less winding now with lots of straight sections and soon we started to see cyclists, some individuals and others in groups. Perhaps they are all Saturday riders. As we drove through Quincy I gave a general wave to Myra's brother who lives there somewhere. Myra had mentioned to me about a swimming hole at a place called Indian Falls on the Feather River. Using her excellent directions we were able to find the walking track down to the river but it was far too cold for us to go swimming. However on our way back to the car we did see a group of young people heading down with towels and costumes.
Not long after we finally left our old friend Hwy 89 and changed to Hwy 36. This quiet road leads to the Lassen Volcanic region and also to our hotel for the night. Our GPS told us that we has 2 miles to reach our destination but about one mile we flashed past a building and Maree called out "That's it" so I think our GPS might be a little dyslexic. St Bernard Lodge turns our to be a nicely restored 7 bedroom B&B which had many different 'lives' before its present one. Our hosts Sharon and Jim keep the place in colonial style but in top condition. We took a walk through a nearby pine forest where there must have been a dozen or more varieties of conifer, unlike our ones with only piña radiate. It was quiet and peaceful in the woods with only the sounds of running water from a nearby brook, a few buzzing insects and the odd bird or two. I was astounded by the size of some of the giant pine cones littering the ground. Apparently they are called sugar pines and we saw some nearly 30 cm long and about 15 cm in diameter.
We have confirmed that the road through Lassen Volcanic region is closed at the information centre due to snow and is not expected to be opened until well into July so, with Sharon's advice, we will go around the National park along a scenic route to visit some lava tubes and Burney Falls before driving on to Mt Shasta.
Heading for Mt Shasta
For a change most of today's roads were straight instead of winding. They were still undulating between 5000 feet and 4000 feet through many hectares of pine forests with quite a number of reservoirs on today's route. Maree had seen a museum at a town called Westwood so we drove to it but the only place that seemed open was a storefront chapel that was doing booming business. Of course we had forgotten that today was Sunday. The town was a classic American workers town with a single Main Street with ramshackle houses and some small shops as well as a railway line on one side. You would recognise it from many a movie I reckon.
Our next stop was Susanville where there was supposed to be another museum with Native American display. It took us quite some time to find the museum which was not well signposted and then, of course, it was closed. Strike two! Onward we drove, doing a big loop around the Lassen Volcanic Park. Every now and the a small furry critter would run across the road in front of us. Some we identified by their bushy tails as squirrels but the others were something else. Fortunately we missed them and there was little evidence of flat furry things on the road so the critters clearly manage to avoid getting run over.
An hour of driving brought us to the spectacular Hat Creek Rim Overlook from where we had a fantastic 200 degree view fro Mt Lassen on our left to Mt Shasta on our right and heaps of peaks in between. Mt Shasta stands on its own much like Mont Ventoux in France except that the white on Mt Shasta is all snow. It is truly a magnificent mountain. From the overlook we could see down into a long valley along which we would shortly be driving. Before that however we detoured to Subway Cave which is a 500m long lava tube that is open to the public to walk through. It is very dark, you need a torch or lantern to get through, and the footing is very rough - the original surface, not smoothed for tourists. It was quite interesting to stumble through.
A bit further on was the Burney Falls park where there was another waterfall of some beauty. Of particular interest is the fact that all the water that comes over the falls (100 million gallons per day) comes from a small lake only 1km or so from the falls. This water appears from an underground aquifer and is the result of snowmelt percolating through basalt until it reaches a huge underground reservoir and then it flows along the original creek beds which were covered by the lava flows millennia ago. We took the opportunity to go for a loop walk along the Burney Creek which flows soon after into an above ground reservoir.
As if we hadn't had enough of waterfalls we found another a few kilometres further on where there was a pleasant walk along the McCloud River. There are three waterfalls within a 3 km stretch of river. They are not as tall as Burney Falls but they are attractive all the same. All the while, as we approached the town of Mt Shasta, we could see the mountain after which he town is named getting closer and dominating the view. Most of the mountain is treeless so the pure white cone rising from the forest is quite remarkable.
Around 5 pm we rolled into Mt Shasta city following the instructions from our GPS. It got us to the correct street without trouble but then procreeded to tell that we had reached our destination when clearly we had not. We had to drive on for about a kilometre to reach our actual hotel. Dinner was at Lily's Restaurant where Amy, our waitress, served us slices of pork belly as an appetiser followed by Grouper with rice for Maree and veal with scallops and mashed potato for me. And so to sleep for tomorrow is another day.