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User-friendly Shasta

"Lonely as God and white as a wintermoon' was how early California poet Joaquin Miller described Mount Shasta.

The most massive cone volcano in theCascade chain, Shasta juts abruptly from the landscape just north of Redding, dominating the region for a hundred miles. The 14,162-foot peak and its 12,330-foot sidekick, Shastina, even affect weather-- 70 inches of rain fall yearly on the wetter south slopes, only half as much on the north. Rivers are born here, fed by snowpack and a five-glacier wreath that slowly melts and percolates into the porous lava. Shasta has even spawned a crop of legends and mystics.

Its timber brought loggers and trains, andtowns sprouted beside mills and railroad junctions. Visitors find the area still sparsely populated, the towns slow paced (with jobs gone, some are fighting for survival), the high lakes and fishing streams uncrowded. Even busy Shasta Lake offers solitude in coves and draws.

Some wild areas once eyed by lumbermennow have protection. In 1984, the 36,615-acre Mount Shasta Wilderness and the 8,961-acre Castle Crags Wilderness were both declared. Before that, the Nature Conservancy secured 6 miles along the McCloud River.

A good late summer getaway right off I-5,Shasta requires little advance planning (except for houseboat rentals). Sitting above Redding's blowtorch heat, the area has temperatures that vary with elevation: an August day could be 90| at 1,070-foot Shasta Lake, 65| at timber line.

We outline a triangle tour from the bigmountain to Shasta Lake and the east-side parks, fishing streams, and small towns. You could fully explore the region in a week or more, based in a houseboat, campsites, or small area motels. Area code for telephone numbers listed is 916.

The "fire mountain' of lava and ice: day-hiking, camping, summit climbing

In 1875, John Muir climbed the mountainand wrote, "Shasta is a fire mountain . . . built by successive eruptions of ash and lava pushed outward and upward like the trunk of a knotty, bulging tree.' (Shasta nearly killed Muir; caught in a snowstorm, he saved himself by huddling near a boiling sulfur spring--freezing on one side, roasting on the other.)

Each year, 7,000 hikers attempt the summit,but that takes planning and conditioning. For an information packet, call the Forest Service: 926-4511 or The Fifth Season Climbing Shop at 926-5555.

Day-hiking on Shasta's shoulders is aneasier option. Carry plenty of liquids and dress in layers (cold winds can pick up). The Bunny Flat trailhead area, on the southwest slope at a cool 6,800 feet, is one good starting spot. A trail leads 1 1/4 miles through white pine and Shasta red fir to the Sierra Club's hut at 8,000-foot-high Horse Camp. From there, a causeway of giant stones leads 3/4 mile into Avalanche Gulch and great views of the valley below. The trailhead is 11 miles from the town of Mount Shasta on the Everitt Memorial Highway.

Another scenic hike is up Black Butte, aclassic cinder cone rising to 6,325 feet right next to I-5. A partly shaded 2 1/2-mile trail (see our cover) winds 1,800 feet up to its summit, where you have fine views of Shasta to the east, the Trinity Alps to the west. It's best tackled in the cool early hours; watch for rattlers. The route to the trailhead is signed from the Everitt highway; pick up directions and a campfire permit at the Forest Service office, 204 W. Alma Street, in the town of Mount Shasta (it's open 8 to 4:30 daily).

Hiking granite slopes, lazing along the Sacramento in Castle Crags park

A landmark off I-5 near Dunsmuir, thegray granite outcroppings of Castle Crags State Park are carved into snaggletoothed fins. If you're in shape, try the short, steep Crags Trail--2 3/4 miles one way, 2,250-foot elevation gain--that begins in shading pines, ends in waist-high manzanita; wear sun protection and carry water. The 8,544-foot Crags fromation is in the wilderness area beyond.

On hot days, plan to finish hiking bynoon; leave afternoons for fishing, swimming, tubing, or picnicking along the Sacramento River--a 2-mile stretch meanders through the park.

Rainbow trout draw fishermen to the upperSacramento. Besides the park's access, you can fish in Dunsmuir, where the river winds through City Park.

North of Dunsmuir at 3,280 feet, LakeSiskiyou is a bit cooler and is popular with families because of its sandy swimming beach, 50 picnic sites ($1 entry), and 299 campsites ($9 per night). It also offers a launch ramp, marina, and fishing for brown and rainbow trout and bass. It's off Barr Road 4 miles southwest of the town of Mount Shasta.

Eight miles farther up, on Castle LakeRoad, is tiny Castle Lake. Studied by limnologists from UC Davis for 29 years, Castle Lake now serves as a "control' for gauging the clarity and health of Lake Tahoe. In a granite cirque at 5,475 feet, it's a cool and pretty spot for picnicking under Douglas fir.

Secluded coves, water-ski fun at four-armed Shasta Lake

Long popular for houseboating, waterskiing,swimming, and fishing, Shasta Lake is big enough (30,000 acres) to offer secluded anchorages. In dry years like this one, the lake may be drawn down as much as 110 feet, but you can still enjoy water sports--just be more watchful of obstacles. Low water can harm crappie, blue-gill, and bass that spawn in the lake; warm-water releases can harm spring and fall runs of salmon in the Sacramento.

Houseboating help. In summer, Shastasports up to 600 houseboats--but with 365 miles of shoreline to explore, they really spread out. Our crew found a houseboat easy to drive but a bit slow to respond and a wind-catcher: compensate for wind when setting course and placing tie-up stakes. Newer models have microwave, wet bar, showers. Ask about two- and three-day packages, and reserve early--some dates are booked a year ahead, but you shouldn't strike out if your date are flexible.

Weekly rentals run $1,040 to $1,160 (6-sleeper),$995 to $1,725 (8-sleeper), $1,260 to $1,750 (10-sleeper), $1,550 to $1,850 (12-sleeper), with 30 to 40 percent discount from September 25 through May 7; see map for toll-free numbers. A week's gas might run around $60.

Fishing. Of 22 species here, bass, catfish,and crappie are what you'll find most, June through August. Bass fishing (Pit River Arm is the best) is better now thanks to habitat improvement. As for trout, when the water warms they go deep; still, you can deep-water cast in front of the dam or try the cold waters farther up McCloud Arm.

Camping. You can camp anywhere onshore with a fire permit, or in one of 1,200 campsites (the Forest Service is spending $750,000 for improvements). Don't expect wilderness--the roar of a ski boat might be your reveille. Your best shot at peaceful camps are on the McCloud, Pit, and Squaw arms. Boat-in camps are private and scenic but high off the water.

Water sports. The calmer waters of the Pitarm and Jones Valley area are best for skiing. Mike Suyderhoud's water-ski school offers 1-hour private lessons ($55) to one-week clinics ($395); call 275-3665. Wednesdays at 7 P.M. June through Labor Day, Silverthorn Resort near Jones Valley offers a free hour-long water-ski show; arrive early for best viewing. Or take a boat tour to the Shasta Caverns ($9, $4 for ages 4 through 12); call 238-2341.

East-side historic towns, trout streams

Queen of lumbermill days was McCloud,a company town founded in 1827; the millworkers were paid in scrip, spent it at the company store, lived in houses made of the pine they had milled. Today, the 1890s Mercantile Building on Main Street bustles with a hardware store and a cafe with great milkshakes.

The old McCloud Cookhouse, 424 Main,serves up lumberjack breakfasts and Mexican dinners (open 8 to 8 daily except Tuesdays). Saturday nights through October, amble in to watch square dances in the hall next door-from 8 until the fiddler flags. Up the hill, the beautifully restored 1907 McCloud Guest House is now a bed-and-breakfast inn ($65 to $85); its restaurant serves dinner Wednesdays through Sundays (964-3160).

South of town is the Nature Conservancy'sMcCloud River Preserve, a 6-mile corridor of prime wild trout stream. Take Squaw Valley Road 9 miles to Lake McCloud, follow signs on a dirt road 9 miles to Ah-Di-Na camp, then go 1 mile to road's end (check road condition with the Forest Service). From here, hike 1/2 mile to the preserve cabin, then follow a 5-mile-round-trip riverside trail; to fish (catch and release), sign in at cabin.

One of California's most popular stateparks--McArthur--Burney Falls Memorial State Park--has 6 miles of hiking trails and 128 campsites. A 1-mile-round-trip nature trail to the base of 129-foot Burney Falls is comfortable on even the hottest day, as cold mist keeps the air about 65|. Boating on Lake Britton (rentals available), you may spot bald eagles and osprey. Campsites book early; reserve well ahead through Mystix: (800) 446-7275.

East-side fishing is renowned, and actionpicks up in September (cooler weather, fewer mosquitoes). Double-check fish and game regulations--they can vary on sections of the same stream.

The icy, clear waters of Hat Creek andFall River offer glimpses of rainbows and browns fat and plenteous as politicians on St. Patrick's Day. Hat Creek's restoration led to California's Wild Trout program, and Fall River was included soon after.

Both are meadow streams with wily wildfish that present a challenge even to experienced anglers. One good access point on Hat Creek is a PG&E day-use area off State 299 some 9 miles northeast of Burney. Fall River access is limited to Cal Trout's Island Bridge, off Glenburn Road north of Fall River Mills (canoes or cartop boats only; no gas engines). In Burney, Vaughn's Sporting Goods (335-2381) has fishing information.

Dining, lodging, information sources

Expect simple fare and clean, modestlodging. On Shasta Lake, choose from motels at Bridge Bay and the Lakehead area. All run $18 to $75 per night.

Bustling Mount Shasta is a good base forexploring the mountain, Castle Crags, alpine lakes, McCloud. The place folks from the east side mean when they say they're going "to town,' it has 11 hotels ($18 to $50), 3 B & Bs, and 21 restaurants. Try Bellissimo Restaurant, 204 Lake Street, for brunch with homemade waffles, savory blintzes.

Historic Dunsmuir (Pusher in its railroadingheyday) faded when railroad jobs dwindled, but it has nine motels and a half-dozen restaurants. Just off I-5, Railroad Park Resort is a train buff's dream. Stay in a caboose ($45 per night), dine in a McCloud River Railroad car (4 to 11 daily), or admire the 1927 Willamette Shay engine and other rolling stock.

Burney offers four modest motels, groceries,fly-fishing shops, and a few restaurants. A good bet: strawberry pie at the Burney Bakery on State 299.

Most visitors to Fall River Mills come tofish; Lava Creek Lodge on Eastman Lake has simple motel units and a lively restaurant with hearty fare.

For an information packet, write or callShasta-Cascade Wonderland Association, 1250 Parkview Ave., Redding 96001; 243-2643. Or call the chambers of commerce for Mount Shasta (926-4865), Dunsmuir (235-2177), Burney Basin (335-2111), Shasta Dam (275-8862).

Photo: Facing Mount Shasta's west slope, LakeSiskiyou's warm waters and sandy beach lure swimmers and sunbathers. End of pine forest clearly marks the mountain's, 7,000-foot timber line

Photo: On the mountain, day-hikers rest above timber line; ice axes, advised for summit climb, aren't needed on low, snowless slopes

Photo: Interstate 5 curves past themountain, its shoulders bare of snow by August. Shasta's about 4 1/2 hours from Bay Area, 10 hours from L.A.

Photo: On Shasta's south side, McCloud'sMain Street still evokes its timber town past; pine logged nearby built 1890s Mercantile Building

Photo: Shasta country . . . houseboat vacations,hideaway beaches, dozens of campgrounds

Photo: Dusk on Shasta Lake finds Bridge BayMarina (above) quiet, houseboats awaiting renters, ski boats straggling in. In a cove (left), houseboat has nosed into a steep bank for diving off the stern

Photo: Niners fan splashes at a tree-shaded beach.Sacramento River, Lake Siskiyou, and Lake Britton are most popular for swimming

Photo: Shadows fall over fly-fishermenafter Hat Creek's wild trout

Photo: With fat-tire bikes, chairs, and mattresses,they're off to a campsite at Burney Falls

Photo: Lodging options range from Carolyns Inn inMount Shasta to remodeled cabooses in Dunsmuir (right)--they once ran here, now are on permanent layover as motel units

Photo: Reflecting rising moon, placid Fall River isa famous wild trout habitat. Electric trolling motor barely riffles the surface as fishermen dock near Island Bridge

Photo: Petticoat junction: every Saturday night,square dancers grand-chain-all on the gleaming hardwood floor of McCloud hall
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Title Annotation:Mount Shasta, California
Date:Aug 1, 1987
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