is a sprawling city in the middle of the desert with an upscale,
artsy-yuppie-touristy town center built around a park-like
plaza. Virtually every building in Santa Fe is adobe. They've
carried the motif to such an extreme that there's even an adobe
McDonalds, for heaven's sake. After a while you tend to roll
your eyes and say all right already, we get the idea.
they do make it easy for RV travelers to enjoy the old town
center, offering overnight parking for ten or fifteen bucks in a
city lot just a couple of blocks from the plaza. That made it
easy to stroll through the myriad art galleries, many of them
first rate, and go out in the evening to check out the pub
scene. I also made a couple of shopping forays a mile or two
away, beyond the adobe facade, along a commercial boulevard
lined with generic strip malls and big chain stores.
made me feel like I'd finally escaped the East and it gave me a
chance to provision and rest up. It also gave me time to
reconsider my original travel plan and come up with
started out with the idea of traveling west through Canada, but
hadn't taken into consideration how much later spring arrives up
there, particularly in the Canadian Rockies, which I want to
see. Plan B, to travel slowly up through the Rocky Mountains
from Santa Fe into Canada and then west from Banff or Jasper,
likewise fell victim to the sluggish advance of the season in
the higher altitudes. Most of the Rockies were still snow-bound
and, although the roads were reportedly clear, I didn't think it
would be much fun camping and hiking in the snow. I wanted some
springtime in the forest. So...
Santa Fe and headed for my former, adopted hometown, Mount
Shasta, in northern California. The City of Mount Shasta,
population circa 3,700, is poised on the slopes of the immense
mountain of the same name. For a fun little story of my first
arrival there in 1997, see Shedding
Light on the Mountain in Tor's Tales. I subsequently
lived in Mount Shasta for more than a year before moving to
Rhode Island and starting Anchor Yacht Sales in '99.
I chose a
route that was new to me and favored secondary highways, first
heading north to Taos, New Mexico for a quick peek at that
much-touted town. I saw signs of colorful, bohemian inhabitants,
evident in the style and nature of some of the stores along the
highway leading into town. The center, however, seemed geared to
accommodating snow skiers and upscale, artsy tourists. Some of
the shops were reminiscent of Santa Fe's pricey gallery
district, albeit on a smaller scale. It held little interest for
me so I drove right on through to the majestic Rio Grande gorge
on Route 64 (first photo below). From there my route went
something like this: 64W to 84N into Colorado / 160W to Cortez /
666N (renamed Rt. 141) to Monticello, UT / 191N to I-70 / I-70W
to 156N / 6N to I-15 to Salt Lake City / I-80W to Winnemucca, NV
/ 95N to 140W to Klamath Falls, OR / 97 to Weed, CA / I-5 to Mt.
western USA is like no place else on earth, a kaleidoscope of
grandiose panoramas and dramatic geology.
desert dominated the terrain all the way to Oregon. Then, as if
by magic, it suddenly yielded to the beginnings of the Great
Northwest mountain forests, or what's left of them after the
lumber companies have plundered them for the past couple of
centuries. Today there is precious little old growth left in
this land. Most of what's here is secondary and tertiary growth,
trees that have come up since previous logging debacles. Still,
at least some of the Cascade pines are 200 years old and more,
so even though they are not ancient, neither are they puny. In
any case it was and is wonderful to be back in the Pacific
Northwest. I have long felt I belong out here, more so than in
any other region of the US.
first afternoon out of the desert I found a quiet place
to camp a couple of miles into a small National Forest.
At about 6,000 ft. elevation patches of snow still
lingered, but most of the ground was clear. I launched
my mountain bike and did a little exploring before
sunset. It felt great to be in the woods again.
day, Saturday, April 10th, I drove on to Mount Shasta, which is
just 50 miles or so south of the Oregon state border. I first
caught site of the white-capped mountain from as far away as
Klamath Falls, nearly 100 miles distant. Mount Shasta reared its
mighty peaks above the surrounding landscape, a great white
beacon and a welcomed sight for these road-weary eyes.
in Mount Shasta was like coming home and I was soon visiting old
friends. Easter Sunday I went hiking with my good buddy Jane
Seeley, who owns a popular recycled clothing store in town
called Trading Places. We spent a fine afternoon climbing around
the waterfalls over in McCloud on the south side of the
night I'm staying in the Shasta National Forest west of
town, in a primitive camping area locally known as Twin
Arrows. It's just some cleared spaces well into the
woods, right alongside the fledgling Sacramento River.
This is the great river's headwaters, little more than a
stream at this point, now swelling with snowmelt. By the
time it empties into the upper reaches of San Francisco
Bay 250 miles to the south, it will be a substantial,
As I sit
here writing this I hear the soothing sound of the stream
outside my window cascading over its broad, rocky riverbed. My
campsite perches on a ledge 20 feet or so above. Late yesterday
I discovered a primitive sweat lodge on the edge of the riverbed
directly below me. I don't know who built it, but it's sitting
there in tact and there's a bit of magic in this. Perhaps I'll
tell you about that later.
it's time for a workout and maybe a little spin on the mountain
bike. Tomorrow I might mosey into town and log onto the Internet
in a cafe there, stop by the post office, look up another old
pal of mine, and if there's time do some laundry. Then again, I
might not. Nothing is urgent. Right here and now feels about as
good as it gets. After five long years away, I'm out West again!