Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Pavement Ends - Part 1

Paul and I needed a vacation. An adventure. A place to get lost and find neat stuff.
Work has been high stress and low joy. Weekends, full of errands and obligations. So we decided to go. North.

Ever since my ex-boyfriend took my ex-dirtbike to Glass Mountain a few years ago, I have wanted to go see it. (the mountain-- I had seen enough of the boyfriend, and waaaay too much of that dirtbike) Paul also wanted to see it, and there are lots of other nice things in the area we wanted to see. We had a "plan" that was something like:
  1. Drive North
  2. Stay somewhere North
  3. See Glass Mountain one day
  4. Maybe see Lassen the other day
  5. Come home.

Easy enough!

I found a very cute looking hotel in McCloud... and then decided to book a cheaper one a block away. We learned from our Lost Coast experience, and packed up tools, sleeping bags, snacks, and water (I carry water with me everywhere now anyway) We researched where the local medical centers were (using the word medical loosely, but that's another post)

And we bought a car. Right. We were set.

Day 1: Friday, May 28
Friday morning we bounced out of bed and hit the road around 10ish. We stopped briefly in Vacaville to get a car charger for my phone in case we needed the GPS, and then at Bill & Kathie's for lunch (because I'm a creature of habit), where we also found a stand selling almonds. Locally grown! Covered in butter toffee! Nom nom nom.

We expected holiday weekend traffic, but didn't find it. We got to McCloud by 5-something and checked in to our hotel. It was awful. The room they gave us wasn't the room I had booked, and I was a little peeved by that but I have a feeling that it's because the room I booked must have been in even worse shape.

From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

Century House Inn
The reviews on that site aren't so bad, but they are probably out of date. Bottom line: you don't want to stay there.
The roof of what must have been once a very charming little building is basically falling apart. The interior walls are all bubbled or peeling from moisture damage. Our bathroom was flooded. It was a soggy place. I thought of going to complain, but it was obvious that the innkeepers knew about the damage because it had clearly been going on for a long time. The upside was that we had a kitchen?

We went to see the town, and sadly, there doesn't seem to be much left of it. The restaurant, cafe, candy store, etc. that make up most of the historic district were either officially closed, or had signs up that they were open, but the lights were off and the doors closed up. Huh. Sadly, the Shasta Dinner Train that everyone raved about seems to have ceased operations, and I have a feeling the town's tourism will dry up pretty quickly.

We went to Dunsmuir to look for dinner since McCloud seemed to be sleeping. After a quick traipse up and down the main drag, we had tasty dinner at the Dunsmuir Brewery Works before heading to our hotel for the night.

Day 2: Saturday, May 29

We had a map. We had my GPS. We had a plan. We would take Forest Road 49 up to... something or other, where we'd cut over to Glass Mountain. We had gas, we had provisions, flashlights for the lava caves, snacks, water, ETC! and we were very excited.
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

The weather was perfect-- the views of Mt. Shasta were stunning.

Forest Road 49 was beautiful. Paved nicely, and led through gorgeous scenery. As we got up a little higher, we started to see old lava flow remnants like collapsed bubbles/tubes and rocks. One had a sign, so we pulled over to check it out:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

Ooh! mysterious! We climbed down past the snow into a little cave and took some pictures. Paul got in far enough to see that the cave basically had a dropoff at the end that went to... China? Middle Earth? A pile of bones and flashlights? It was pretty slippery because of all the ice, so I stayed near the top.

From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

A sense of adventure and excitement reigned. "We're just getting started... we'll see so much more at Glass Mountain and Lava Beds National Park! Let's GO!"

About two turns farther up on the road, we were stopped by this:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

We may be stupid, but that was way too much snow for our little car. We didn't even argue about it-- our trip to Glass Mountain was over for the day, and we turned tail to go find something else to climb on and poke at.

Along the way, we started turning down any old road with a semi-interesting sign, just to see what was there. "Deep Crater" thata-way? Why, yes. Except that the road got really small. It was a fine dirt road, the brush just got more and more aggressive the farther we got, so we were basically scraping through on both sides, and finally decided to see if it was passable. It really wasn't-- even our little shitbox car was too wide. Dang!

We backed out of there-- literally, down this little dirt road in reverse, and decided to head down to more traveled areas. I had been to Burney Falls once as a kid and thought it was incredibly beautiful. So we went there, and spent a few hours hiking.

The falls were just as beautiful as I remembered them:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

We hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail! Now I can say I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail!
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

It was all very beautiful and we saw snakes and lizards and lots of nice wildflowers and birdies.

For dinner, we headed to Mt. Shasta (town) and then realized we were not hungry yet, so we decided to try a road to Mt. Shasta (mountain) to see how far we could get. We got as far as Bunny Flats, where we climbed up onto the snow to see this bunny:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

And Paul ate some snow (white, not yellow)
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

The road was closed:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

so we headed back down to Mt. Shasta (town) for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant, which turned out to be Mexican food, which turned out to have videos of the Supreme Master playing on a teevee.. very weird. But the food was good and the people nice, so who cares about their particular religious bent. It's no weirder than believing in flesh wafers and holy underwears and such.

Day 3: Sunday, May 30
Our spirits had been dampened, but we convinced ourselves that we should try the other Forest Road, which had a red line on the map, and was marked "scenic byway," and went to other destinations that made us think maybe, just maybe, it would have been well-traveled enough to have been plowed. We would get up north, and then magically find a cutover to Glass Mountain. It was going to be great.

To Forest Road 15!

Along the way, we decided to follow a sign that said "Harris Springs" that-a-way. Down a dirt road. Which started criss-crossing other unmarked dirt roads. Finally, we decided that if we kept following these roads, we would be in the next Blair Witch movie, so we parked the car on the road we came in on, and started to walk around in the Middle of Nowhere. It was so out there that the roads had trees down and snow coverage showing no use for months, and the only sound was literally the creaking of the trees in the breeze. Paul found bear poop. It was beautiful:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

But! We were getting distracted from our great voyage to Glass Mountain! Back on the road we went, and just as we slammed the brakes to avoid hitting an errant chipmunk, we looked up and saw this:

From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip


This snow was much shorter in length. On dirtbikes, or in a more adventurous spirit, we might have discussed the possibility of trying to get across... a gamble, for sure. You can see where previous drivers had tried and gotten stuck. We did not do that. We took the responsible path and turned back. Boo. (who ARE these people???)

At that point, we decided to head vaguely toward Lassen, and pick up any other sights along the way.
Lava Springs State Park sounded interesting (just from the name on the map, anyway), and the map showed a single access point from the South. Which? Maybe that was true, but you actually needed to drive up that dirt road with a boat in tow, to then cross "Big Lake" to then reach the park. Sigh. Walking along the shore of the lake was lovely at least, and a nice view of the valley and Shasta in the background:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

We stopped along Pit River at a nice BLM camping/picnic area with a beautiful spot by the Pit River:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

And then pulled over to see what "Subway Caves" was. There were quite a few people here, including screaming children, and worse, a smug, flute-playing hippie. Ugh, infernal noise! Subway Cave was created by lava flow, and it is completely dark inside-- bring a flashlight!
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

neato, and then we headed down to Lassen, which would surely be open because it's a huge attraction and it's Memorial Day Weekend, and and and! It was closed, just past Manzanita Lake. That meant it was not worth paying the fee to get in (Manzanita Lake is just inside the entrance) so we again found ourselves turned back due to SNOW. Gah!

This is the closest we got to either of the mountains we set out on this trip to see:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

stupid dumb mountains and their stupid dumb snow.

So, you know, FINE. We'll turn around and go back to McCloud. But I hate backtracking. "Want to take the scenic route?" "Sure." Famous last words. The map showed a few roads that we could connect together to get back to McCloud by a different route that we hadn't already traveled.

These roads were beautiful through to Big Bend-- green hills, bucolic meadows of waving grass and wild lavender, beekeping and some very placid cows. After Big Bend, the road we were taking through to McCloud was the only way through-- if it didn't go through, we'd have to go all the way back out through Big Bend to Burney. Did I mention that I hate backtracking?

Forest Road 11 started out as a nice paved road. We saw signs of recent use-- paper plates pointing to a campground, etc. I was thinking that since it went through to McCloud Lake, popular boating area, it was probably well-traveled and suitable for truck and boat types. Then it went from nicely paved to nicely groomed dirt road. Then, we saw our arch-nemesis of the weekend on the side of the road-- SNOW. Shit. Then? It went from dirt road to rocky, shale-y road and we started to wonder if we were going to make it through. It got bumpier and rockier, rutted even. We saw where the paper plate signs had led to a couple of small RV things camping in a spot by the river. "Well, at least we can hike back to there if we get stuck"

We did not get very many pictures of this road because we were very focused on the stress of "can we get through?" These pictures don't do justice to just how small and hairy the road got:
From 2010.05.28 to 31 McCloud Trip

in fact, there were parts just after this where the road had started to fall away at the sides-- a wider car or truck could not have made the trip. Bigger isn't always better folks! That said, we could have used bigger clearance and suspenion, and were constantly worried about scraping important mechanical bits off of our undercarriage. But what can I say? My baby loves offroading, and what baby wants...

Eventually, we made it through to the lake, and all was right in the world. We were elated, to say the least, because had we gotten stuck, we would have had to turn all the way back. But again, we had sleeping bags, water, and food-- not the end of the world, and we did know roughly where we were and where the nearest people could be found.

Besides, sleeping out there might have been nicer than the hotel we stayed in. In the morning, I had a cough, probably from all the moisture trapped in the hotel room. It went away after we got out of Shasta...

Day 4: Monday, May 31
We honored our war dead in the following way: Pecan French Toast at Cornerstone Bakery in Dunsmuir, which? Was awesome! I'm getting hungry thinking about it now. We left early, thinking we'd surely hit holiday traffic, but it never materialized. I think we were home by like 4:30

The road home was paved and clear of snow, I'm happy to report.


Engineer_Ray said...

Did you go boating on the lake at Burney? It was such fun when you were a kid. :-)

shineyspikeything said...

I wonder where that lake was? Not in Burney?