America through my eyes –Mount Shasta
Telugu Original : Dr K.Geeta
English Translation: Madhuri Palaji
Our long time wish to visit the Northern part of California from our place finally succeeded with our trip to Mount Shasta. Mount Shasta is a volcano. This mountain stands tall and alone a little away from the Sierra Nevada mountain range that borders the eastern side of California. Actually this is the southern tip of the northern Cascade mountain range. This is 4,322 meters above sea level. Apparently, this mountain becomes active once in every six hundred years. This volcano erupted approximately two hundred years ago.
During the winter season, Mount Shasta is covered with snow and becomes a feast to the eyes of the tourists. My kids wanted to go skating on Lake Tahoe but I insisted on trying the same in a new place and took them here. It is about 330 miles from my home. Since the Christmas holidays were about ten days, we thought of going there for at least four to five days.
The surrounding area of Shasta is separated into two different areas called Mount Shasta and Lake Shasta. We will reach Lake Shasta first if we go southwards. Shasta Dam and Shasta Caves are the tourist spots there. All these are about sixty miles from Mount Shasta. The best place to stay around Lake Shasta is Redding. Usually, during winter skiing time, we can go to Mount Shasta directly. But, instead of going there, we decided to explore the surroundings of Lake Shasta, so we started to the hotel we booked in Redding. It’s about 250 miles from home. Approximately a four to five hours journey. Though we started early in the morning, since I refused to accept directions from the navigator and went a different route, we were still roaming within 100 miles even at 12.30 in the noon. But, we travelled through the beautiful bridges built over the paths that are near the sea and narrow roads through green fields and reached on the freeway post lunch. We intentionally stopped in the rest areas and drove leisurely. Rest areas were beautiful with the tall pine trees. If we look over the northern side of the freeway the southern area looks green with the mountain ranges at distance and reminds us of the road from Rajahmundry to Visakhapatnam. We reached our hotel by six in the evening. We ate at a buffet in the nearby Indian restaurant. It was expensive and the food tasted sweet. We ate reluctantly, relaxed a little in the hotel’s jacuzzi and went to bed. Siri was a toddler so she refused to stay in the car. She refused to sleep, too. She continued to roam and play in the room.
The next day was Christmas. Since the hotel we stayed in was expensive, it was extra comfortable and we could relax well. We started to pick the same hotel chains for all our future trips. We had a tasty continental breakfast in our hotel and started to visit Shasta caves that are a little further away from Shasta Lake. After we traveled for about twenty miles, we found the gate closed as it was a holiday that day.
Hedge Creek Falls:
Then we headed to our next stop Mossbrae Falls in Dunsmuir. Dunsmuir is 35 miles away from that place. After we reached there, we couldn’t understand how to reach there because of the lack of clear boards. When we tried the route that I noted from Google, there was no way for the car. There was a train track and a heavily flowing canal below. The entire place seemed to be uninhabited and silent with no one around. Luckily, a man came out of a house that was about two feet away. I instantly asked him to guide us to the waterfalls. He told us to walk on the canal banks for two miles. He warned us to be careful with the kid since the stones might roll causing immense danger. We were wearing sweaters and gloves, so we would’ve gone without the fear of cold. But we stopped because we thought it could be difficult with Siri. But another small waterfall, Hedge Creek Falls is just a mile away across the road. He said we could go there in the car and get a little down. We followed that route. Though we followed his instructions, we still lost our way and went a little further. There was no proper way visible to the place where we should get down. But we finally found our way and started walking on the small path to the small park-like area from under an umbrella.
The creepers were thickly growing and amidst that we could hear the mild sound of the water gushing. The footpath was very narrow. We climbed down a couple of rounds and we reached the waterfall just twenty feet tall. It was falling down widely from the stones above. Since it was December month and the temperature was below zero degrees, water froze after falling down and looked like a white snow plate. Maybe the water completely freezes during nights. Kids were so excited to look at that beautiful view. We were extremely happy, too. I never saw a view like that in my life. We couldn’t get enough of the pictures we captured in the camera.
We all played like kids with immense happiness. But because of the extreme cold, Siri started crying. We crossed the waterfall and explored the area. When we tried to cross the waterfall over the stones, we felt very cold in spite of our thermal wear due to the cold water gushing. We turned another corner, the path ended there and there was a bench and fencing. When we looked from that bench, we saw Mount Sasha looking like a bright white smile amongst the green forest. There was a river or canal flowing with full force at the bottom. There was silence around us except for our shouting, words, and water sound. We felt like going on an adventure crossing those mountains and forests. But since Siri started crying more, Satya took and he ran ahead quickly. The cold is a little less on the road rather than in the valley. Moreover, we can sit in the car and switch on the heater.
I came slowly looking back. The water was falling diagonally looking like light blue color onto the frozen snow leaving a lasting impression in our eyes. We returned by noon. Mount Shasta is just about ten to fifteen miles from that place. Since we booked a hotel in Mount Shasta for next day, we started to come back to Redding.
There is no food available on the mountains until Redding. Every hotel was closed due to Christmas. So we stopped in a small shop at the petrol bunk and bought the last bread and a few snack packets. But as a last attempt, we searched among the group of hotels near the freeway. Finally we found a hotel open. There was a big line waiting. Kids somehow managed to wait. We got our turn after almost four hours. We got our food after another thirty minutes. So I realized that we shouldn’t plan an outing without making arrangements for food on special days like Christmas, especially with kids. They had salted peanuts until we got our food. We ate our lunch hungrily. There was no hope that even this hotel would be open at night. The hotels are closed by 8PM even on normal days. So, we thought of ordering food and taking a parcel for night. But after we were full, the kids said that they can’t eat the same food for the night. I warned them that we have nothing but bread. We bought some fruits and went on to visit the bridge that is built in the shape of the needle in the clock.
The Sacramento river flows like a small canal near Redding. The bridge built with cables in the shape of sundial was built by 2004. The bridge not only looks like a needle in the clock but also shows time with the help of the sunrays. The shadow of the top of the needle moves one foot per minute and reminds us of earth’s rotation. Though the time is not apt in the normal days, it shows the exact time of twelve in the noon on June 21st. If we stand at the beginning of the bridge and look, it looks like an arrow aimed into the sky capable of changing the direction of the Sun held with strings weighing the bridge and extending both the arms and to hold us. The bridge is very small and only for walking. It’s a beautiful artifact with tiles laid at the bottom.
In that winter evening, with the mild sun rays competing with the cold, we walked from this end to that end, twice. Since the time and weather didn’t favor it, we couldn’t visit the Turtle Bay Museum this side and the Arbotarium at that end.
We planned to go to Mount Shasta the next day. We decided to come back to Lake Shasta after spending two days there. We travelled the same route we travelled yesterday with thick turnings. After going a little further, we can see Mount Shasta along the road. As we go nearer, it appears some times across the road, some times on the left or on to the right playing hide and seek with us. It appeared like it covered its dark body with a white cloth, standing tall with snowy eyes. When we reached near the mountain, it completely disappeared.
From there, we turn a corner and enter another path and reach the mountain. We thought we couldn’t see the mountain but we didn’t realize that we were on the mountain. We already started climbing it. There was snow all along the road. Kids got so excited and started shouting. We traveled for almost thirty minutes deep into the snow crossing many hairpin bends.
There was no one or no vehicle. We were very surprised. Why is it so silent! Is the route shown by the navigator correct? Did we lose our way? When we started getting suspicious, we reached an empty space without snow. A further away, there were many lifts stopped midways on the body of the stones. There was only a mountain except for us. My kids were so disappointed since they were planning to go skiing here.
I brought them here but there is no snow here at all. It seemed covered with snow from a distance but when we came near it, it appeared to be sleeping for more than hundreds of years. We couldn’t ascend it and so I didn’t know what to do. My desire to hug the snow drops didn’t go away. We asked the kids to stay in the car and we walked a little further to check if anyone was there. I knocked the doors of the sheds in that area. One door was open, so I went inside. It was a small first aid dispensary. A man saw me and was surprised. He saw my disappointed face and said, “What can we do? This year there is no snow even after Christmas has arrived. If there is a snow storm this weekend, then there might be a chance for skiing. Or else, visit again after the next snow storm.” I bent, touched the dusty mountain and promised it that I would visit again and got into the car.
By then, kids were exhausted. But we had to check in to the hotel that we booked by 3PM. So, we went to the hotel. It was the same situation there, as well. It was absolutely silent. Moreover, we thought that the hotel has small cabins separately. But the rooms were lined up. We didn’t like it. We thought of canceling and going back to Redding. But if we do so, half of the money we paid would be deducted. In spite of that, we returned since there was nothing for us to do there.
On our way, we reached Lake Shasta again. We could get the tickets to the boat that was about to start. That way, we reached the other side of that beautiful huge lake around twelve in the noon. It doesn’t look like a lake, but it looks like a terrific picture and a great river. After getting down on the other side and climbing up, it reminds us of the trip to Papikondalu on River Godavari.
They take us a little further into the jungle by bus. We go inside the caves, batch-wise. I liked the price of the ticket for both boat and the bus which is twenty five dollars. The caves are not very large but we climb up from one side and climb down to the other. The caves in yosemite we visited before, we descend into the earth. Here, we climb inside the mountain. They are called Shasta Caves. It was difficult for us to climb up and climb down with Siri. Moreover, she was crying. The smell and weather is not pleasant inside the caves. So, the kids were not happy. The sound of water falling inside the cave’s tiny light until the outside world’s light, there were many wonders. There were so many images in the stalactites. I walked like a statue. There was a strange coldness in my heart in spite of the kids crying and my tiredness.
Even when there are many people in front of us, we still feel like we have no destination in places like these. After coming out, it became difficult for us to climb down the stairs beside the mountain with the bright sunlight. There were many trees covering the mountain. The sunrays were falling through the cleaves of the trees and the creepers. I could see the people who discovered these caves climbing it inside and climbing down outside with the help of the tips of the stone. After reaching the river bank, we waited for the launch for a while. Shasta lake in front of us was flowing beautifully. Guide was explaining how much area has drowned because of the dam built somewhere else and how flooded this place becomes when there are heavy rains.
The cool breeze was laying on my lids and I was mesmerized. Kids started playing running up and down the footpath. Satys held Siri in his arms and stood in shadow. The huge lake in front, the shore on the other side, trees on both sides, I stood there watching and re-watching this scene until the boat started.
After getting down from the boat, we were exhausted climbing up to the tourist center on the top. We still stopped in between to look at the Sasha Dam. It reminded me of Godavari and Krishna Barrages. But there was no one else except for us on that dam. We returned quickly since we were hungry. We reached Redding in an hour and had our food.
Kids’ disappointment didn’t go away until we promised them to go to Lake Tahoe for the planned skiing.
But, I found something there. May be the humble and tall snow covered mountain, or the smile of the cold water layers of the lake, or the sword aiming at the direction of the sunrays, or the waterfall quickly jumping into the heart of snow.. They all haunted me. We travelled continuously until night. I looked into the direction of Mount Shasta absentmindedly when we stopped for a break. A star fell, shot into the darkness in the distance and disappeared. I thought maybe it came to visit Mount Shasta.
Photos & Telugu Original:
Madhuri Palaji is a writer and book reviewer from India. Her book “Poems of The Clipped Nightingale” is available on Kindle. She writes book reviews for various publishing houses like Penguin Random House, Meerkat Press, Hot Tree Publishings, Bethany Publishers, etc. She is one of the top 50 book reviewers in India. Her reviews are available at http://www.theclippednightingale.com/