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Travelogue - 04/12/04                                                                                                                               Links to all Travelogue pages


California Bound

Santa Fe 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. 

Still, 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.

Santa Fe 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 alternatives.

I had 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...

I left 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. Shasta.

The western USA is like no place else on earth, a kaleidoscope of grandiose panoramas and dramatic geology. 

Arid 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. 

My 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.

Mount Shasta

The next 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. 


Arriving 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 mountain.



At 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, navigable waterway. 

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. 

Right now 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!




Next Entry: 04/18/04


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