Three Adventures in One, Lake Shasta
Trip Start May 14, 2009
16Trip End May 29, 2009
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Ian joined us in the Travelodge parking lot after breakfast, and we caravaned up to the Shasta Caverns from there.
The Shasta Caverns tour touts itself as being 3 adventures in one... namely, a boat ride, a bus ride, and a cavern tour. They missed one... it's also a hike. 600 some-odd stairs, a 5 minute hike down to the boat, a 3 minute hike up to the bus...
But other than the failure to warn guests of what was coming (other than a single warning that if you can't handle steps you need to talk to the guide before buying your ticket), it was a very nice tour. The boat ride is brief, just long enough really to say you're on a boat (pontoon type) really, but pleasant nonetheless.
Although there were nearly 90 people on the boat, when we got to the top they split us into 3 separate tours, which was much more managable. We had a very sweet guide named Christi who did a wonderful job on the tour. The bus ride up the very winding road was very scenic, though we didn't get to see the black bear the previous tour of hers saw.
As for the cave itself... it's a rather good cave. It's not the best one we've seen (that honor goes to Sonora Caves in Texas), but it was certainly up there. In some ways, it's better than Carlsbad if you want to see formations. It had the ever-present stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone, but also had the occasional cave bacon, peanut brittle, cave popcorn, and even some pretty good helectites. The only thing I didn't see were soda straws.
It also has bats, so beware if you're afraid of bats. I, however, think most bats are very cute, and I (naturally) got a picture.
One other thing of note is that they take your group's picture in the cave. So it was a fun photo op.
On the way back down, after the bus ride, there's a visitor's center. They have drinks available there, and a couple of souviners. We stopped to get bottles of water and Ian got a small souviner, but as a result we almost missed the boat back. Eep! Technically, we *did* miss the boat... but apparently someone (Christi, we think) radioed the boat to let them know they'd left us. We were expecting the boat to take all 3 tour groups back, not just one at a time. So, the boat came back for us.
Though, when the boat pulled back up to the shore, one of the kids that was on our tour dropped a pair of binoculars into the shallow water. His dad was able to get the binoculars, thankfully, but as he was fishing for them the kid was saying in a near panic, "Get them! Get the binoculars, dad! Otherwise it's littering!"
Yes, we had some darling, very curious and enthusiastic kids on the tour. :D
After the tour, we grabbed a slice of pizza in the gift shop, and then it was time to part ways. Ian returned home while we continued north on our way to Grant's Pass, Oregon.
Along the way, we had two stops planned (beyond "real" food, that is.)
The first was to see Castle Crags. Last year, I drove the 5 down from Grant's Pass to Redding on the trip Michael, Ian, and I took to see the northern California Redwoods. I was so excited to see Shasta.... except, when we got there, I couldn't see it. First, because it was too overcast and raining with a bit of long range fog, and second... well... it got dark before we really got close.
So this time, I really wanted to see Castle Crags and Shasta both.
And see them, we did. When you turn the corner going north on the 5 and first get a good glimpse of Mount Shasta... wow. And it was still snow covered. Then it peeks around the other peaks on the trip until finally, it jumps out to become the prominant thing on the skyline.
Castle Crags do the same thing. One moment, your eyes are on Mount Shasta. The next, you turn a corner, and suddenly these massive silver-grey granite spires take over the skyline (with Shasta going out of view).
We turned off for Castle Crags, intending to go straight to the park. But when we got there, the ranger was kind enough to direct us to another viewpoint a little further down the road (3.5 miles I think it was...) to a point where the Crags come into full view. It is down a winding, fairly narrow (but still two lane) mostly-logging road, but the view is most definitely worth it.
That got us curious about the official viewpoint, so we returned to the park and paid for the visit. The only thing we did was the vista point trail (about a quarter of a mile beyond the parking area). Be aware if you're planning to visit, the road from the campgrounds up to the vista point trail head is single lane with a few turn outs, and also very winding. We met cars a few times, and it's one of those places where you have to inch by each other to make sure you don't go off the edge on one side or scrape the rocks on the other. I was very glad for the experience of driving through two redwood trees, beause that gave me a very, very good feel for the actual width of the Explorer, which made it easier for me to handle the passing on such a narrow road.
As for the trail itself, it's a very easy but not paved trail up to a vist point that we really didn't think had as good of a view of the Crags, but it did have a very good view of Mount Shasta as well.
After our hike (again), it was time to get on down the road.
We stopped for dinner at a restaurant in the town of Mt. Shasta called Lily's Diner. The food there was pretty good, but the desserts were absolutely fantastic. I had their peach cobbler, mom had their carrot cake, and we got a chocolate cake to split.
We had no more stops (beyond rest brakes) the rest of the evening until we got to our hotel in the little burg of Rogue River. Which, as you might guess, is on the banks of the Rogue River. Like most of our hotels, I found this one on Trip Advisor, and we really wish we could have stayed longer. It's called the Motel Del Rogue.
Their motto is "sincere hospitality on the Rogue River", and they really do deliver. The host's name was Kevin, and they called to confirm the day of (while we were eating, actually). He helped us get our luggage inside (and there was a lot this time... we did some cleaning of the car), and visited for a bit after.
He put us in what amounted to a two bedroom suite... one bedroom with bath, then a kitchen (small, but a full kitchen) with a little divider to section the other half into another bedroom. Small in floorspace, but as big as the bedroom in visual space since the divider was only waist height.
Both rooms opened onto a shared porch, which overlooked the river.
The place was so peaceful, we really, really would have liked to have stayed longer. And despite being right next door, the walls were sturdy enough that neither of us kept the other up at all. If we ever get back to this part of the country (and we expect to, after having seen it...), we'll be planning a few nights at this place for certain.