Caves, Dams and Mountains

There are a surprising number of things to do here in the Redding, California area. Originally, we just planned an overnight stay here on our way from Lodi to Oregon. But I wanted to explore Mt. Shasta a bit, so we decided to make our stay closer to a week. I’m glad we did!

IMG_4035Just a few miles up the road from our Mountain Gate RV park are the Lake Shasta Caverns. Just getting to the cavern is an adventure! After purchasing tickets at the gift shop / parking area, you hop a 15 minute catamaran ride across the smooth emerald green Lake Shasta. Upon docking, you file onto a bus for the 1.5 mile, 800 foot ascent to the cavern entrance. The ride, and entrance area affords panoramic views of the lake and surrounding hills – beautiful! The caverns themselves are classic limestone caves with wondrous formations of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and stone draperies. The coolness of the cave was a welcome contrast to the 100 degree valley temperatures that day. You do need to be able to handle a lot of steps for this tour, one section alone had 80 steps up without a break! Following the cave tour, back on the bus, then boat, to complete this approximate 3 hour tour.

031A bit farther up the road is the visitor’s center to the Shasta Dam, a  602 feet high concrete-arch gravity dam completed in 1945. The dam created Lake Shasta, the largest reservoir in California, which feeds the giant central valley agricultural area. This dam offers (surprise!) FREE tours! It wasn’t busy, so we got right onto the next tour starting in about 45 minutes, which gave us time to peruse the exhibits and wander out to the middle of the dam where our tour began. We had a beautiful view of Mt Shasta to 029one side and the Sacramento River to the other. The tour rules were strict, only cell phones/ cameras allowed – no purses, backpacks, etc. After being screened by a metal detector, we descended by elevator to the base of the dam and traveled through a large pedestrian tunnel to the power plant. Our perky tour guide was  very knowledgeable and obviously a huge history buff that enjoyed her job. The tour felt much more “up close and personal” than the standard Hoover Dam tour.

Mt. Shasta (the mountain and the town) is about an hour north of where we are staying. This past weekend marked the opening of the summer season at Mount Shasta ski park for mountain biking, so of course, we had to go visit. It was a relatively small ski park, but offered two summer lifts up to a 20 plus mile network of downhill mountain bike trails. There weren’t organized hiking trails, but I could ride the chairlifts up and hike down on fire roads. The weather was beautifully clear,  which afforded spectacular views of Mount Shasta and the surrounding mountains.

At the base of Mount Shasta is the town of Mount Shasta, a quirky village with new-age overtones. Long revered by ancient peoples, Mt Shasta is viewed as a power spot with rumors of aliens and an ancient advanced civilization (the Lemurians). It’s reminiscent of Sedona with healing services and crystal shops, without the crowds and the huge price markups. Their city park surrounds a profusely flowing spring which forms the headwaters for the Sacramento River. The water is viewed as being imbued IMG_4046with the energy of the mountain, and people come from miles around to fill their jugs. Quite an interesting place!

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