Photography by Yuri Krasov
The name of Mount Shasta presumably comes from a Russian word “schastie” which means “happiness.” One early morning my husband and I stuffed our car trunk with everything from swimsuits to parkas, and headed up north to the snow-covered 14,179-foot peak towering over Shasta Cascade in the far north of California.
We couldn’t make it to Mt. Shasta because of the grey soot in the air that was spreading from wild fires in Oregon. Instead, we decided to concentrate on nearby Lake Shasta and the many wonders that surround it.
Our first stop at Redding – the central city of the Shasta Cascade region – was for lunch at a new restaurant View 202 with incomparable views of the Sacramento River. Executive Chef Sean Gafner works with local farmers to create elaborate menus using a wide variety of their produce.
Starting with a Summer Mule cocktail, made with Russian Standard vodka and house-made lemon sorbet, and served in a chilled copper mug, we realized that we were at the right place.
Lobster Lettuce Cups were prepared with summer squash, heirloom tomato, avocado and basil.
Grilled Steelhead, sustainably caught in Columbia River, was served with rice and Brussels sprouts from neighboring farms.
Since it was over 90 degrees outside, I was especially impressed with a frozen dessert Café Liegeios made with double chocolate ice cream, vanilla bean ice cream, coffee ice cream, espresso granite, whipped cream, and crispy espresso meringue bits. No wonder View 202 has been voted the “Best of the North State” in six different categories.
After lunch, we explored the city. Right in the middle of it there is a 300-acre Turtle Bay Exploration Park with a museum, a zoo, an aquarium, arboretum, botanical gardens, and a year-round aviary, where visitors can walk through Parrot Playhouse and have exotically colored and constantly chatting parrots land on their heads and shoulders.
The most famous part of the Park is Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River built by a Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
In order to protect the spawning grounds of the Chinook salmon underneath, the 710-foot-long bridge is fully suspended, without any footings in the water, and its walking surface is made of translucent glass, beautifully lit at night. With a 21-story high pylon that supports the entire construction, and thanks to its exact north-south orientation, the bridge serves as the world’s tallest working sundial.
Making a short trip to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area we started to fully appreciate hot midday air and the abundance of sunshine. At the popular Brandy Creek Beach we found a place to relax in the shade and take a dip in the cool clear water coming from the snow caps of the Cascade Range.
We tried to make a dinner reservation at Jack’s Grill – Redding’s landmark steakhouse in operation since 1938, but the exceedingly popular place didn’t accept reservations. Opened during the Great Depression by World War I aviator Jack Young, the restaurant, co-owned by Don Conley since the late 1970s, continues to serve the same hearty fair that used to feed miners and construction workers after a 16-hour workday, and maintains the same level of pricing (on a contemporary scale). People line up to get inside the legendary eatery, and no one minds waiting for a table at the bar where bartender and co-owner Mike Woodrum is mixing drinks with a speed and dedication of a true virtuoso.
By sunset, we were heading to Shasta Lake Properties overlooking Lake Shasta, owned and operated by Ken Tellstrom – formerly a world champion in wakeboarding. The owner, and his fiancée Ashley were on the premises while we were settling down for the night in Dream View Vacation Home with floor-to-ceiling windows, two spacious bedrooms, living rooms, and terraces on two levels.
They took us on a tour to a larger vacation home of Shasta Lake Properties, called Lodge View – a spacious wooden house, decorated with hunting trophies and suitable for 8 to 10 people. (To view these homes visit their website, http://www.shastalakeproperties.com).
After a relaxing evening watching sunset over the Lake, and then a sky, filled with bright stars of Milky Way, we had the most quiet country night, and woke up to a symphony of birds.
I made a quick meal of bread and cold cuts that looked positively chick in a glass-walled breakfast nook of the cottage flooded by the morning sunlight.
We drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park, and entered through the north gate to enjoy the mirrored surface of Manzanita Lake and pick up maps and brochures at the park Visitor Center.
From there, we started moving along the scenic drive lined with massive granite boulders, back in 1915 ejected from the Lessen Peak volcano three miles away. At the park’s largest hydrothermal basin, Bumpass Hell, we walked over bubbling mudpots, boiling springs, and hissing stem vents emitting strong sulphuric smell.
Our up-close and personal encounter with the magical world of not-so-dormant volcanoes ended up peacefully at Drakesbad Guest Ranch located within the park.
The wooden cabins of this mountain valley retreat, famous since 1900, are equipped with rustic furniture, basic utilities, and kerosene lamps – there’s no electricity inside. A stay includes three meals a day at a rather nice restaurant on the premises with excellent service. Another major draw of the compound is a swimming pool fed by hot springs, which allows for a delightful nighttime swim under a starry sky.
First thing next morning we were boarding a shuttle boat for a ride toward North Gray Rocks on the east shore of Lake Shasta. Here lies another natural wonder of the area – Lake Shasta Caverns.
Up on a hillside with stunning views of the lake below, our expert guide Dave Mundt, led our group inside the 250-million-year-old cave adorned with glowing stalactites and stalagmites. He pointed his flashlight to “curtains,” “chandeliers,” “sheep,” and even a “royal couple on thrones” shaped out of lime stone and calcite by wind and water.
Our next stop was at McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park, home to the 129-foot Burney Falls formed by underground springs coming to the surface from a water reservoir hidden in porous volcanic basalt. Flowing at 100 million gallons a day all year round, the spectacular waterfall emits brilliant mist of shiny droplets, and is framed with lush greenery on all sides, blue skies above, and rough boulders underneath.
After a full day spent with Mother Nature, we were back to Redding checking in at Best Western Plus Hilltop Inn for a comfortable stay with included breakfast and a swimming pool.
Happy with our adventures, but tired and hungry, we had a big dinner at the Cattlemen’s Restaurant that adheres to “Cattlemen’s Code” – feel and flavor of the Old West, aged and hand-cut beef, and old-fashioned Western hospitality.
More information about Redding-Shasta Cascade region and everything it has to offer can be found at: