The stars finally aligned and allowed Julia and I to visit Mount Shasta. We'd been talking about hiking and exploring this area for years, but never seemed to be able to schedule a visit. It sure was worth the effort as the Mount Shasta area is truly a wonderland.
We arrived at McBride Springs Campground, which is a lovely campsite at the base of Mount Shasta and just below the snowline at 4,000 feet. After setting up camp and enjoying a tasty camp dinner we spent our first night sleeping in the rather cold weather. Fortunately for us our tent and equipment kept us reasonably warm.
The next day we journeyed to Castle Crags State Park where we hiked up 2,000 feet from the Sacramento River to the most amazing outcrop of granite crags we'd seen in a very long while. The place is somewhat reminiscent of Yosemite's Half Dome, but not quite as grand. Still this hike is well worth your effort as the snowcapped views of Mount Shasta in the distance and Castle Crags' enormous granite spires are awe inspiring.
Castle Crags track
Another cold night out under the stars, which we got a few good photos of, and we were up early with the sun to hike at the foot of Mount Shasta to Gray Butte. This ancient cinder cone is a terrific 3.4 miles round trip hike that climbs up to 8,129 feet elevation, but you only gain 750 feet as the trailhead is so high to begin with. The reward for your lack of oxygen is the most spectacular views of Mount Shasta, well worth your effort.
Gray Butte track
Bunny Flats to Horse Camp
We really wanted to hike to the beginning point of the climb up to the top of the 14,179 foot tall Mount Shasta volcano. It last erupted in 1786 so we felt we'd be safe... And so Julia and I made a second hike this day pushing past our oxygen deprivation after ascending Gray Butte, to climb up from Bunny Flats to Horse Camp at 7,880 feet. Horse Camp is the first base camp that hikers of the mighty Mount Shasta typically make. After here they usually climb the Olberman Causeway, which extends another half mile up the craggy gulch and then onto their second base camp at Lake Helen. This high camp on Mt Shasta is perched at 10,400 feet above sea level. From here one must spend a very cold night out under the stars and then climb 3,779 feet in around four miles to reach the summit of the enormous Mount Shasta.
It was worth our effort to reach Horse Camp as once again the views of the colossal snowcapped volcano where staggering.
Horse Camp track
One of the reasons Julia and I came up to this inspiring area at this particular time was because of the Orionids 2015 meteor shower, which was on the night of October 21 and visible after midnight. So after a very long and high-climbing day of hiking we returned to camp. We enjoyed another amazing, Julia created, camp dinner then went to bed with our alarm set to get us up at 1:00 am, after the moon had set and the meteor shower would be in full swing.
This was worth the effort as the Orionids 2015 meteor shower filled the sky with streaks of light and bursts of fireworks. We also managed to get more delightful photos of the very dark skies around Mount Shasta. Then it was back to our cold camp beds and a peaceful return to our land of dreams.
Just when we'd thought we'd seen all of the beauty that the Shasta area had to offer, we hiked the McCloud River. This meandering hike follows the river and plants you at three water falls. They aren't the biggest or most powerful waterfalls we've ever seen, but given their setting and all of the fall colors we were blown away. This is really a place you must see before you shuffle off your mortal coil.
McCloud River track