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Waterfalls of South Siskiyou County

Waterfalls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Siskiyou County, with its abundant lakes, rivers, and creeks, is home to a number of outstanding waterfalls. Many of these are easily accessible, while others require more effort. With a little planning and an early start, you can visit several of the area’s spectacular waterfalls in a one-day tour.

Mossbrae Falls and Hedge Creek Falls, in the vicinity of Dunsmuir, are two beautiful and varied examples of the south county’s many waterfalls. Mossbrae Falls percolates out of a broad expanse of verdant cliffside, before joining a shallow stretch of the Sacramento River. The setting feels almost tropical, with its rich abundance of ferns, grasses, and other water-loving flora. Unfortunately, the trail to Mossbrae Falls is closed at this time, while a new and safer access trail is being considered. Near Dunsmuir’s northern city limit, Hedge Creek Falls lies nestled in the coolness of a deeply shaded basalt gorge. The falls cascade for twenty feet through some of the area’s outstanding columnar basalt before resuming the journey to the Sacramento River. Spring is an especially good time to visit, as the creek’s flow is full and diminishes later in the season. Bring your camera and tripod.

waterfalls_hedge creek_webFive miles east of the town of McCloud are the Lower, Middle, and Upper McCloud Falls. These three unique falls lie within a two-mile stretch of the beautiful and scenic McCloud River. The Lower Falls plunge ten feet through a distinct cleft in the rock before joining a large pool below. The Middle Falls is the largest and perhaps most impressive of the three falls. At 35 feet high and 70 feet wide, it provides a wonderful photo opportunity. For the more adventurous, Winter is an especially photogenic time to visit the falls. The relatively short ski or snowshoe in is well worth the effort and can yield striking results. The Upper Falls lie at the terminus of a long, beautifully sculpted basalt channel, then plunge some twenty feet to the emerald pool below.

Faery Falls, in the Castle Lake drainage, is one of the Mount Shasta area’s lesser known waterfalls. Located upstream from the once-famous Ney Springs Resort, Faery Falls rollercoasters some sixty feet over a granite cliff face, to join the Sacramento River below Box Canyon. A word of caution. While standing at the top of the falls a few years back, a friend and myself were unknowingly standing within six feet of a coiled Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. With the noise of the crashing falls, the dappled sunlight, and the animal’s excellent camouflage, we were completely oblivious to the snake’s presence until I turned and perceived a rattling tail out of the corner of my eye. Please be snake smart. Step cautiously over rocks and logs. All animals require water and tend to gather near these life-sustaining sources–including rattlesnakes.

Waterfalls

Mount Shasta is home to Siskiyou County’s most dramatic waterfalls. Mud Creek Falls, Ash Creek Falls, and Whitney Falls comprise this area’s highest and most dramatic waterfalls. This being said, they are also the most difficult to access and require modest route-finding skills. Mud Creek Canyon, on Mount Shasta’s east side, poses the greatest obstacle in circumnavigating the mountain. A truly imposing feature, this canyon cuts a dizzying 2000 feet through the soft, easily eroding volcanic strata. The 150-foot falls are dwarfed in the immensity of this chasm and not easily approached due to the steep and unstable strata. Ash Creek Falls is accessed via the Brewer Creek Trail on the mountain’s northeast side. At 290 feet tall, Ash Creek Falls is the tallest waterfall on Mount Shasta. The two-and-a half mile round-trip hike requires some route-finding and bushwacking. Whitney Falls is another of the mountain’s spectacular features, plunging some 200 feet, before resuming its course through narrow, v-shaped Whitney Canyon. The creek’s flow is seasonal and greatest in the hot Summer months. As Whitney Creek is glacier-fed, fluctuations can vary significantly with the time of day. Depending on conditions, the creek may not flow until afternoon. The trail to Whitney Falls is more obscure and seeing less use since the Bolam Creek debris flow buried the trailhead in 1997. Since that event, the U.S. Forest Service is no longer maintaining the trail. As with all the mountain’s waterfalls, viewing is a challenge and requires off-trail experience, so please use caution and travel prepared. Approximately one mile to the southeast of Whitney Falls lies Coquette Falls. While I have never visited these falls, accessing them appears to be roughly similar to the other three–be prepared for a cross-country scramble. In the Summer months, temperatures can climb into the 90s, even at elevation, so carry plenty of drinking water and/or a filter or purifier.

Two great resources for hiking the Mount Shasta area are 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta & Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions, by John R. Soares, and The Mount Shasta Book, by Andy Selters and Michael Zanger. Both offer detailed hiking information to several of the destinations mentioned above.

I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Mount Shasta–Its Many Moods and Faces

Mount ShastaMount Shasta is a mountain of continually changing moods and faces. It is a mountain of striking natural beauty–a constantly swirling interplay of light and shadow, sun and clouds, wind, rain, and snow. Mount Shasta is a larger-than-life presence, an iconic mountain immersed in myth and legend. It is a living, breathing entity–an otherworldly landscape born of fire and ice. Hotsprings at its summit offer testament to its fiery origins living still, while glaciers continue to slowly and methodically scour out valleys as they have for centuries.

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Shasta is sometimes a deceptive mountain. Warm and inviting in Summer, it can turn hostile and forbidding in Winter. Temperatures can plummet to below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and winds at the summit can exceed 200 miles per hour. Weather can change suddenly and unpredictably any time of year. Mount Shasta claims the world record for the most snowfall in a single storm–nearly 16 feet in the Old Ski Bowl in February 1959. Other forces, such as avalanches and mudslides, can drastically alter the terrain with little or no warning, as with the Bolam Creek debris flow in 1997.

Mount ShastaWeather is Mount Shasta’s most exciting and dynamic element. Clear skies can quickly turn dark and ominous. Thunder and lightning in the mountains can be terrifying–yet it is intrinsically beautiful at the same time. Skies explode in a swirl of color, lightning flashes, as rain falls through a shaft of sunlight. This is the indescribable magic that is Mount Shasta. This is the drama that makes for outstanding photography. And it is precisely my reason for moving here more than three decades ago.

I look forward to sharing other photographs, thoughts, and reminiscences in future posts. I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Spring Arrives to Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring has officially arrived to the Mount Shasta area. With an unusually dry and warm Winter, the landscape is looking more reminiscent of May than early April. After receiving above-average precipitation in December, California experienced its driest January-February on record. Aside from the series of snowstorms in December, we never saw much of a Winter. High temperatures remained in the 50s and 60s throughout most of the season. A below-average snowpack and continued warm conditions equate to an earlier-than-normal start to the hiking season. Backcountry access is a month or so ahead of schedule.

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castle Crags provides some the area’s finest early season hiking. Some snow still lingers on the Crags’ northerly aspects, but otherwise the trails are clear. This is a wonderful time of year to hike and climb Castle Crags, as crowds are minimal and temperatures pleasant. Creeks are flowing abundantly and Spring’s renewal is evident. With a base elevation of 2000 feet, the Crags can get quite hot in the Summer and are home to a variety of snakes–including the Pacific Northwest Rattler–so caution is always advised in the warmer months. Black Butte is another favorite early season hike. Its summit offers spectacular views of Mount Shasta and the Eddys. Some snow can still be found on the trail, though it isn’t much of an obstacle at this point. Waterproof footwear is recommended. Black Butte, like the Crags, is known for rattlesnakes, so please be aware and step carefully over rocks and logs.

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing on Mount Shasta’s south side continue to be good and should remain so into May, dependent on weather. The Old Ski Bowl (7600 feet) is reporting a snow depth of 104 inches as of April 1. Access to the mountain’s north aspects should open up a month or so earlier than usual–figure late-May to June. Skiing and climbing on the backside of Mount Shasta typically remain good through June. I have skied Brewer Creek as late as July 4th and found conditions to be relatively good, in spite of the sun cupping. Rafting and kayaking has seen an early start and short season on many of Siskiyou County’s rivers. The current flow (March 22) on the Upper Sacramento River at Box Canyon Dam is approximately 450 cfs (cubic feet per second)–too low for rafting. The minimum flow for hardshells and inflatable kayaks on the Upper Sac is 400 cfs.

Siskiyou County is rich with wildflowers and a few species are beginning to make an appearance, so pack your camera. This is an especially beautiful time in the northstate and photographic opportunities abound. I am offering photo tours to Castle Crags State Park and Mossbrae Falls, as well as other select destinations throughout the Mount Shasta area. For more information, or to book a photo tour, please contact me.

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

 

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The Eddys–Worlds To Discover

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eddys are among the Mount Shasta area’s truly spectacular and dramatic landscapes. Numerous lakes, breath-taking meadows, and colorful floral displays are hallmarks of most any foray into the Eddys. As a sub-range of the Klamath Mountains, the Eddys are one of Northern California’s oldest mountain ranges–dating as far back as 500 million years. A diverse geology, unique flora, and abundance of lakes make hiking the Eddys a consistent favorite.

Mount Eddy, at 9025 feet, is the second highest point in Siskiyou County, behind Mount Shasta. Because its summit straddles the Trinity Divide and the boundary between Siskiyou and Trinity Counties, it is simultaneously the highest point in Trinity County and marks the division between the Sacramento River and Trinity River watersheds. The hike to the summit comes highly recommended–certainly for the views, but as much for the experience of the hike. You pass by three lakes and an unnamed tarn on your way to the saddle. This vantage point offers exceptional views of Mount Shasta with Black Butte to the east, and the Trinity-Alps and Marble Mountains to the west. Sources are divided on the origin of the peak’s name. Some accounts say it is named after Nelson Harvey Eddy, who moved to the area from New York in 1856. Others claim the name honors his wife, Olive Paddock Eddy, the first woman to climb Mount Shasta. Still a third account names her as Harriett C. Eddy.

The Sisson-Callahan Trail was established in the mid-1800s and served as a main route between the two towns. In 1911, the U.S. Forest Service constructed an official trail linking the Callahan Ranger Station in the Scott Valley with the Forest Service headquarters in Sisson, and a telephone line was maintained between the two stations. In 1979, the Sisson-Callahan Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail. This trail follows the North Fork of the Sacramento River to the Deadfall Summit (8020 feet), then descends to join with the PCT at Lower Deadfall Lake. At the saddle, you will see the trail leading up to Mount Eddy.

A fire lookout was constructed on the Mount Eddy summit and operated until 1931. The remains of an adjacent cabin stood propped up with boards and cables until finally succumbing to the inevitable forces of snow and wind and gravity a few years ago. Many of us maintain romantic notions about what it means to be a fire lookout, but as J.S. McClemmons learned, the position can be a harrowing and sometimes life-threatening one. The Bakersfield Californian reported that on August 5, 1920, Mr. McClemmons was on the telephone when lightning struck the building, blowing a four-foot hole in the wall and starting the structure on fire (a bit of an irony). McClemmons was rendered unconscious, but quickly recovered to extinguish the flames. He then set out on foot for Sisson (Mount Shasta City), 12 miles away. There, he was treated for his burns and released.

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siskiyou County is home to at least 272 named lakes, many of which are found in the Eddys. Some 60 lakes lie nestled within a 12-mile radius of Mount Eddy alone. Of these, Deadfall Lakes is probably the most popular destination. This cluster of lakes exemplifies the beauty that comprises the Eddy Range. A local’s tip: Most guidebooks give directions to the Park’s Summit (PCT) trailhead. This is a relatively level hike on the well-maintained Pacific Crest Trail. It is also the most direct hike in; perhaps this is the author’s thinking in sending you this way. A second and highly preferable option awaits those more adventurous spirits. Continue on past the trailhead parking area. In approximately 1/4 mile, the road will curve left and start to descend. At the bottom of the grade, the road then curves sharply to your right. At this hairpin turn, you will see a small, non-descript parking area on your right. Park here, then walk across the road to the sign marking Deadfall Meadows. This lower trail will take you through the meadows themselves and eventually connect with the PCT and Deadfall Lakes. While this route requires that you regain some elevation, it is, by far, the more scenic of the two trails–and the least crowded. If your interest is in photographing wildflowers, you want to take this lower trail. The first section of the hike crosses a marshy area for about 500 feet, so waterproof hiking boots are advised. Deadfall Meadows boasts one of the northstate’s most colorful and prolific floral displays. The insectivore, Darlingtonia californica (California Pitcher Plant) grows in profusion along many of the creeks. July and August are prime months for photographing the blooms. Bigelow’s Sneezeweed, Jefferey’s Shooting Stars, and Indian Paintbrush, are but a few of the species you can expect to find here. Pack a small tripod and your wildflower field guide.

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Lakes Basin is another place worth exploring. Again, this hike offers superlative views of Mount Shasta, the Trinity-Alps, and Marble Mountains, and access to–need I say it?–a multitude of lakes. For those wanting a more physical challenge, try the hike up to Little Crater Lake. Bring your route-finding skills and leave the GPS at home. The Eddys provide for a lifetime of discovery and more. Many good local guidebooks are available, including John R. Soares’ 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions (The Mountaineers Books).

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Black Butte–A Child Born of Mount Shasta

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte is one of Siskiyou County‘ s most intriguing and recognizable geologic features. Born some 9500 years ago during the same eruptive episode which formed Shastina (on Mount Shasta), it typifies the volcanic cone. Black Butte consists of four distinct domes that formed in a series of successive eruptions spanning just a few hundred years. As with Shastina, it is thought that explosions created a broad crater which was soon followed by an upwelling of thick, pasty lava known as dacite. The lava continued to spew forth and Black Butte was born.

 

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte figures prominently in Native American lore. In one such story, the Creator lived with his son and daughter and Mount Shasta was their home. The daughter wished for her own space in which to reside, so the Creator built Shastina for her. She was warned to stay away from the area to the west, as it is the direction of darkness, of the color black, and of death. But the daughter felt a strong connection to all the animals and was very attracted to the beautiful rivers, lakes, and verdant meadows to the west. During her outings, she would hear singing. It was Grizzly Bear. He began singing her love songs and, of course, she fell in love with Grizzly, who appeared human to her. They wandered the hills and valleys together–and over time, Grizzly realized that the Creator’s only daughter is used to having a home, so he built Black Butte for her. Grizzly’s claw marks are clearly visible on the mountain’s flanks.

 

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte has been known by a number of names, including Muir’s Peak, after the famous explorer, naturalist, and writer, John Muir. The first documented climb of the peak came in 1911, when a party of nine ascended to the summit at a time when there was no trail. Anyone who has ever hiked the 2.5 mile trail to the top knows how challenging a feat this must have been with loose scree and 40 degree pitch. It wasn’t until 1931 that the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction of a trail, with the intention of placing a fire lookout upon the butte’s summit. In October of that year, the lookout was completed. In 1950, a 1,350-acre fire  threatened to consume the lookout when flames climbed the mountain’s south flank. In 1962, the Columbus Day Storm racked the lookout, blowing off the roof and shattering windows. The Mount Shasta Ski Bowl recorded winds there at over 100 miles per hour. The structure was rebuilt and continued to operate until 1973. Now, only the foundation remains.

The trail to Black Butte’s summit is maintained and provides one of the Mount Shasta area’s truly spectacular hikes. The 360-degree view from the top makes this a particularly worthy destination. The trail is generally free of snow from May through November. A number of good local hiking guides are available, including 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California, by John R. Soares and Marc J. Soares.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Mount Shasta–A Veritable Winter Wonderland

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Shasta comes alive with the arrival of Winter. With over three feet of snow since Thursday, and more in the forecast, we are assured of a White Christmas here in Northern California. Whether you’re a family wanting to sled with the kids, or an avid snowboarder looking to rip some turns, the Mount Shasta area has something to offer everyone. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating are just a few of the activities awaiting you in this Winter paradise. And needless to say, the photographic opportunities are outstanding this time of year.

Two of your best sources for area events and information are the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce and the Siskiyou Visitor’s Bureau. The Mount Shasta Ski Park is in full operation and will be hosting a New Year’s Eve celebration with live music, a torchlight parade, and skiing until midnight.

 

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backcountry skiing on Mount Shasta began back in October. With the recent series of storms, we are now seeing significant accumulations on the mountain. The Old Ski Bowl, at 7600 feet, is measuring 114 inches of snow on the ground. Castle Lake, at 5500 feet, is reporting 43 inches of snow as of December 23. Both the Everitt Memorial Highway and the Castle Lake Road are currently closed due to heavy snow. For the latest information on weather, road closures, and snow conditions, visit the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center website. The Shasta Base Camp offers ski and snowboard rentals, as well as outer wear to keep you warm and cozy. Styles, Ian, and the Base Camp crew are your best source for local climbing information. Check out their climbing wall when in Mount Shasta. For those of you seeking a guided trip on the mountain, Shasta Mountain Guides is the area’s leading guide service. Owners Chris and Jenn Carr have spent nearly twenty years skiing, climbing, and guiding on this magnificent mountain.

Snowman’s Hill, on Highway 89 between Mount Shasta and McCloud, is a wonderful place to go sledding with the family. Located directly across from the Ski Park Highway, Snowman’s Hill was once a famous ski jumping destination. During the 1930’s, numerous competitions were held, attracting many of the day’s best athletes, including the women’s world champion, Johanne Kolstead. This is still a very popular spot on Winter week-ends.

 

Castle Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who love to ice skate, the Siskiyou Ice Rink, at Shastice Park in Mount Shasta, is open through January 6th. This outdoor rink is a favorite with the local community. They offer skating lessons and equipment rentals–all within the shadow of the mountain. When conditions are favorable, Castle Lake provides an opportunity to ice skate in a natural environment, but caution is always advised. You are skating at your own risk.

February is an excellent time to view the bald eagles at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges. The Refuges are home to the highest wintering population of baldies in the lower 48 states. (See my blog post entitled, Bald Eagles Find Winter Home at Klamath National Wildlife Refuges.) The Klamath Basin Audubon Society is hosting the Winter Wings Festival, February 14-17, 2013. Check out their schedule. This is an opportunity not to be missed.

After a hard day of having fun, stop by The Goat Tavern, in the heart of downtown Mount Shasta. They offer a constantly changing selection of micro brews on tap, as well as the area’s best burgers–and you’ll get to rub elbows with some of the local characters, no extra charge. Hot Tip: $3 pints from 4 to 6 PM. Say ‘Hi’ to John for me!

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions. I’m wishing you all a Warm and Happy Holidays! May your New Year bring good health and abundance each and every day!

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Mount Shasta–A Place Called Home

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived in Mount Shasta in April of 1981. I came here with a deep love of nature and wild places, but more I came as a photographer. Though Mount Shasta lies just east of Interstate 5–the main artery of the west–it is surprising how many people have no idea where it is located. We are situated 60 miles south of the Oregon border and, along with Lassen Peak, form the southern extremity of the Cascade Range. With its volcanic origins and incredible diversity, the photographic opportunities here are limitless. Mount Shasta, at 14,179 feet, dominates the landscape for hundreds of miles in every direction. Lassen Volcanic National Park, which erupted violently in 1915, is a reminder that the Cascades are very much alive and active. Castle Crags, a few miles south of Mount Shasta City, offers a little piece of Yosemite-like grandeur, while the Klamath National Wildlife Refuges to the northeast see the migration of millions of birds every Spring and Fall.

Siskiyou (pronounced Sis-Q) County, in which Mount Shasta resides, boasts 7 wilderness areas–including the Mount Shasta, Castle Crags, Trinity-Alps, and Marble Mountain Wilderness Areas. Towering peaks, pure, rushing streams, and a California climate make living here ideal. We recently celebrated Fourth of July all across America, and in the interest of celebrating our nation’s independence several years back, I spent three days skiing solo on Mount Shasta’s northeast side. Aside from the backcountry ranger who skied up to my tent to say hello, I didn’t speak to another human being for three days–and this, on the busiest holiday of the season. It’s that kind of place–relatively uncrowded and wide open.

All the seasons offer their reasons to visit the Mount Shasta area. As a skier and photographer, Winter is my personal favorite. Few things in life are more beautiful than the natural world freshly cloaked in snow. And that Winter light! But it’s Summer now and the livin’ is easy. The meadows are lush and vibrant with wildflowers, and the backcountry lakes are accessible.

I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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