By RISHAD SAAM MEHTA
Published: May 4, 2012 18:43 IST |
Lakes, walks, viewpoints… Mount Shasta, the well-kept secret in Northern California is packed with wow moments
Mount Shasta in Northern California is a well-kept secret. It is a straight, smooth and simple five-hour drive from San Francisco. It has some of the best wilderness that the State has to offer and a sense of calm and wellbeing seems to hang in the air.
The Shasta Mountain, which lends its name to the town, is 14,180 ft high and towers over the other mounts in the Cascade Range, which is a part of the Trinity Mountains. It stands like a beacon and can be seen from way off far. Many have waxed eloquent about it, and to quote Theodore Roosevelt: ‘I consider the evening twilight on Mt. Shasta one of the grandest sights I have ever witnessed’.
And, this is not untrue because I visited Lake Siskiyou again when day was giving way to dusk, and the orange glow on Mt. Shasta has an almost spiritual aura to it.
But, besides the natural splendour that was Mt. Shasta, for me the icing on the cake was the drive on the road that goes from it towards Lake Tahoe. This is the U.S. Highway 89, and it is part of the Volcanic Legacy Byway that goes through the American States of Oregon and California, and it will bring a smile on the face of any driving enthusiast.
When I started off from Mt. Shasta to Lake Tahoe, I had the option (and was advised too) of taking the Interstate 5 and then the 50, which was a simple and straight forward road to Lake Tahoe, but a quick look at the map told me State Route 89 would definitely turn out more scenic and exciting. And it is from Mt. Shasta that this road passes the maximum number of volcanoes, some extinct, some dormant. Besides volcanoes, the road also goes by plenty of waterfalls, the first of these being the McCloud River Falls, just past the town of McCloud.
Besides going through or skirting many national or State parks such as the Mount Shasta Ski Park, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Lassen Volcanic National Park and the Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park, I remember driving past lovely one-stop towns such as Hat Creek and Old Station. These are a delight, and the main provision store is usually manned by a local, and sells everything from coffee and beef jerky to snow chains.
There are some camping grounds, and plenty of off shoots leading to lakes, walks and viewpoints.
At the other end of this road was Lake Tahoe where I had my shot at skiing after a three-year break. If you want to learn to ski or if you are a rusty novice like me and have no equipment, few places in California can beat Heavenly Mountain at Lake Tahoe. When I met my personal ski instructor Chris Rodgers, we went to the rental shop right near the gondola at the Heavenly Village where I was kitted out for ski jacket and pants, shoes, skis, poles and a helmet. The equipment comes as a package deal and it’s an offer you can’t refuse — scenes from “The Godfather” were shot quite close to here!
Dressed for the occasion and with a dull walk — thanks to the restrictive ski shoes, we boarded the gondola that whisked us away to the mountain in 17 minutes. The views from the gondola are simply jaw-dropping as the entire lake comes into view as the cable car gains elevation.
We disembarked at 9,000 ft and the temperature dropped a few more degrees. It was now close to -9 degrees, but thanks to my well insulating clothing I was snug and warm.
Heavenly Mountain has four access points, and once on top, skiers have a huge choice of chair lifts and slopes to suit their skiing capabilities.
The few times I have skied before must have helped because under Chris’ expert guidance I was soon zipping down slopes and managing turns. In fact, I spent six hours on the slopes without a single fall. Skiing, like any sport, is very addictive once you get the knack, and the sense of speed coming down the slopes is quite the rush. Trust me, if you set your mind to it, you can learn to ski in a full day on the slopes. After that, all that is needed is practice.
I know I am itching to hit ski slopes again because from here on, I can only get better at it.