|We have had a busy couple of days here in Northern California. There is so much to see and do that it is kind of hard to fit everything in. We had several must-do’s on our list including visiting Mt. Shasta Caverns, taking a bike ride on the Sacramento Rail Trail and visiting beautiful Mt. Shasta.
On Saturday, we had reservations to tour Mt. Shasta Caverns which is a National Natural Landmark. It was cold and dreary when we got up on Saturday morning - not exactly ideal conditions for taking an open-air boat ride across a lake, followed by a bus ride up the side of a mountain, and then a long walk into an underground cave. BUT, we had bought the tickets in advance, so by golly, we were going. We rode about 15 minutes north of the campground, exited at Shasta Caverns Road and followed a super-twisty road about 1 and 1/2 miles to a dead end. From there we walked uphill to the visitor center, confirmed our ticket and then waited for the call to walk down to the lake. While we waited on our tour to be called, I played with my big Nikon camera a little bit and managed to snap a few good pictures.
It was time for our boat ride across Shasta Lake so we headed down to the boat and climbed aboard. We took a 15 minute ride across the lake, got off and then walked uphill to catch one of the 30-passenger buses that would take us up the side of the mountain to the cave entrance. On the way up the hill, we caught glimpses of the lake below, since we were hanging off the side of the mountain on a road with no guardrails.
Once at the top of the hill, we got off the bus and made our way up to the cave entrance. Once inside the cave, we began a long ascent up lots of stairs. As Steve mentioned (several times) usually you walk down into a cave - not here - we climbed and climbed and climbed. There were several open rooms with interpretive guides inside to tell about the different formations in the caves. They also gave some history of the caverns which were first discovered almost 100 years ago. We walked quite a bit, and the inside of the cave got really humid and warm compared to outside. Once we finally exited the cave, we noticed that the sky had cleared and the sun came out to warm up the air. The view of the lake from the top of the mountain was gorgeous and we enjoyed it as walked down all the stairs to get back to the buses for the ride back down the hill. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Mt. Shasta Caverns!
Sunday, we were up early and took the bicycles with us up to Shasta Dam (where we took a tour last week), crossed over the dam and down the other side to a recreation area where OHV (Off-Highway Vehicles) are allowed to ride. There is also a campground there where we saw another Momentum similar to ours. We both commented that we couldn’t imagine getting Mo down to that campground because there were several hair-pin turns along the way.
Anyway, we unloaded the bikes and made our way towards the start of this 17.4-mile paved trail that runs along an old railroad line beside the Sacramento River. What a beautiful ride! Mostly flat, with the river and blooming wild flowers along the side of the trail, and mountains all around us. The water was calm and flat, reflecting the sky and mountains like a mirror. We saw a lot of butterflies and birds, and an ill-looking gray fox along the side of the trail. There were quite a few other folks out and about since it was a holiday weekend. We saw lots of other bikers, a few walkers, a couple on recline bikes, and a guy on a big souped-up skate board carrying a big dog. We saw a few kayaks on the river – I bet the water was still a bit on the nippy side. On our ride, we went through a 500-foot long tunnel that had been built in the 1800s and reinforced with concrete in 1923. The tunnel curved along the side of the mountain which made the center really dark and a bit spooky. Add in the swallows that were flitting around the inside of the tunnel and it gave me the heebie-jeebies!
We rode 7 miles south from the Shasta Dam, and then turned about to pedal back. What was I thinking? Whew, my legs were like Jello when we were done, but we enjoyed our ride. I cooked a couple rib-eyes on the grill that night so I could replace the protein.
We also wanted to visit Mt. Shasta (a 14,161-foot-tall snow-capped mountain) and since the temperature was expected to reach the upper 90s on Memorial Day, we decided to head north about 50 miles on Monday to see what we could see and cool off in the high mountain air. We rode to Mt. Shasta City which is a cute little town that gears itself towards the outdoor adventurous types. There were bicycle shops, ski shops, and all kinds of sports gear shops. We rode to the edge of town and I grabbed a few shots of the mountain with my big Nikon camera set up on a tripod.
Then we headed back to downtown Mt. Shasta City and found the Black Bear Diner. This is the location of the “original” Black Bear Diner which should have about 100 locations across the western states by the end of 2018. We had a little bit of a wait, but it was worth it! Some of the best food we have eaten in a loooong time – so good! And our waitress gave us a tip about where to get closer to the mountain, so we left there and rode about 25 minutes outside of town up into the national forest to the end of road.
We had reached Bunny Flat which is a popular trail head at the base of Mt. Shasta. The place was quite crowded and we saw folks with cross country skis, snow shoes, huge back packs and hiking sticks. Those were more ambitious folks than me – I just got out my tripod and snapped some pictures! In the far distance looking south we could see Mt. Lassen which is in the Lassen National Volcanic Park. The sky was really clear and bright so it was hard to get a good picture of the volcano.
We probably won’t be able to get out to see Mt. Lassen although we had planned to go there today (Tuesday). Unfortunately, we had to say good-bye to sweet little Scout this morning. For those of you that have been following my blog for a while, you know that Scout had been our travel companion for the last 17 months, and he had been my constant buddy for around 15 years. He has been in declining health for the last couple years, and it finally reached the point where his quality of life was just not where it needed to be. It was a tough morning, but he is at peace now and running around in a healed body. RIP sweet Scout – you were a great pup. We went back to the vet later in the afternoon and took all his supplies for them to donate to a local non-profit dog rescue. Hopefully this donation will help another couple of dogs until they find their forever homes. Paying it forward.
We will be heading out of California Thursday morning and heading into Oregon. Although we have enjoyed a lot of the things we have seen here in California, we are not sad to leave. The price of fuel, food and lodging is crazy high. Diesel is well over $4.00 a gallon, a simple meal that costs $10 in other places costs at least $15 or $20 here, and we paid more for two weeks of camping here in Redding than we have paid when staying over a month in other places. But we have met some nice people that we will see again, we have seen lots of God’s beautiful country and have had some great weather. I am not sure we will visit California again, but we can check it off the bucket list and the sticker is on our map!
Next stop is Oregon! This wagon train is heading north.