Mt. Shasta Wilderness Area
July 14, 2007
5 miles, 2,000 elevation gain
4 hours hiking time
Sierra Club Hike
While staying in Redding I read that there was going to be a Sierra Club hike in the Mt. Shasta Wilderness area. I emailed the leader, but was having trouble with my mom’s computer so I called him on Friday morning. Turns out I got the last spot. The Mt. Shasta Wilderness Area limits hiking groups to 10 people.
I was to meet the group at the McCloud Ranger Station at 9:00 a.m. I left the house on Saturday morning at 7:30 to make sure I had allowed enough time. It was a beautiful clear day – the clearest I have had in Redding on this visit. As I was driving north on I-5 I got a great view of both Castle Crags and Mt. Shasta. Lots of big trucks on the road made it a little hairy.
I was the first one there and went in and got hiking information. Bob and Lisa – the leader and co-leader showed up shortly. It turns out Lisa was a librarian in Siskiyou County, who was thinking of applying for a job in Nelson, British Columbia – so we had lots to talk about. The rest of the group trickled in. By 9:20 we decided to leave without one of the women who didn’t show. It was too bad – since others had wanted the spot.
We split into two cars. I rode with Bob and Lisa. We drove up Highway 89 to Pilgrim Creek Road and then a left on the dirt Widow Creek Road. This road was pretty good in the beginning, but got a little gnarly at the end. It was 8 miles back to the trailhead. Not a road I would want to take my car on. We arrived at the trailhead.
As we were loading up, Bob pointed out some large tracks in the dust of the parking lot. He circled them and asked us to identify them. We thought they might be dog, but they didn’t have any claw marks so they must be a cat and as large as they were – they had to be mountain lion. Bob showed us our route on his laminated map and we were off.
The group was made up of Dave a retired Pathologist, Carol who had lived in Canada quite a bit, Trisha a fast hiker, Ute and Pat who were German and Diane who had moved to Redding fairly recently. It was a nice group of people. Dave set the pace and talked about the trees and the wildflowers. The group tended to bunch up together, so I moved to the back where I could have more space. Lisa was a good sweep and gave lots of room.
We started through the forest at a steady climb. We came to an overlook where you could see Mud Canyon and it’s waterfall. Bob told is it is a very unstable area to hike. He said he had never seen the waterfall so large and it was because the glaciers were melting so fast. There was hardly any snow on Shasta – though there was more back here then on the front side facing Redding.
Cold Springs is one of the routes to climb Mt. Shasta. Bob said it wasn’t a popular route because there isn’t as much snow and although it is less steep, there is a lot of scree and it is too much of a slog for most climbers.
As we climbed higher and out of the forest you had great views of Mt. Lassen behind us. Some of the mountainsides were clear cut and you could see McCloud below us. We were blessed to have such a clear day.
We took a very slow pace. I hung back to avoid the pack. Ute and Pat struggled a bit with the altitude and elevation gain. When you were above tree line it was a barren landscape. It reminded me of climbing Shasta – which was what we were doing. At one point, you could actually see the summit – which you can’t see from Redding. It was hard to believe that I had climbed all the way up there. That hike came back to me in all it’s effort. Bob has been a guide on Shasta for several years.
Clear Springs was a small swatch of green in a barren landscape. We climbed up to where the water came out of the mountain. Since it is an underground stream with fresh born water straight off the glaciers we didn’t need to treat it. There were delicate plants – Bob said it was heather and if you stepped on it, it could take 75 years to grow back. He was good about keeping everyone off the plants.
After enjoying the view and my lunch, I went down to the creek and soaked my feet in the icy water. I still had blisters from Contra Dancing and my band aid had come off. The water felt great. I found a nice rock and lay in the sun and listened to the creek. It was an alpine moment. Went over to the ledge to get a better shot of Lassen.
The group was soon ready to head back down with Lisa leading. I held back again and enjoyed the solitude. I can be very social when hiking but today I preferred to be alone – often breaking into song. I’m finding myself singing now when I hike and bike. A new habit. If I stayed after African Dance I might actually learn the lyrics. J
Had a nice chat with Bob on the way down about backpacking, guiding and climbing Shasta . I may do it again next year in preparation for the climb of Kilimanjaro in 2009. The hike was described as moderate and that’s how it felt. I had no trouble with the elevation gain – though 2,000 over 2.5 miles is pretty steady. It was warm, but there were lots of pleasant breezes. It was great to be up on the mountain again.
We got back to the trailhead and after talking about some of the environmental issues in the area loaded into the cars. Pat, the other driver, was driving a Honda – like mine – and she said she had found the road pretty rough coming in. We ended up losing them on the way out and though Bob waited for awhile, we didn’t see them again until we were back on the main road. The drive out seemed to take much longer than the drive in. Often that is the case.
I have decided to join the Sierra Club again after this very enjoyable hike. It’s a good option as opposed to hiking alone. I met nice people and have new potential hiking partners in Redding. It wasn’t the same as hiking with the Scruz Hiker’s group – you can’t get a more fantastic group of people than that, but it was a great day on the mountain.
Lessons Learned: Setting your own pace and having your natural space is really important on a hike.