We finally moved on from Lassen and Lake Almanor, a bit reluctantly, to the town of McCloud, a wide-spot-in-the-road at the southern flanks of Mount Shasta, a monster mountain which rises from 3200 feet at its base to 14,100 feet at the summit. McCloud is home to Dance Country RV Park, adestination for square-dancing RV-ers. We choose instead a small, rural, uncrowded, non-dancing RV park six miles up a country road.
The more we explore, the more I marvel at the wonders ofour earth -- and the smaller I feel. We've spent an entire month in Northern California alone! So much to see, so little time.
Three miles from our RV park is a lovely hiking trail alongside Squaw Valley Creek, one of those magnificent mountain streams which gushes over rocks, collects in deep cold pools, and grows lush vegetation along its banks. We take a shady two-mile hike alongside and inhale the cool, moist air in blissful solitude.
Another beautiful local spot, a bit busier but certainly beautiful, is along the banks of the McCloud River, which sports a series of lovely pools, rapids, and waterfalls. We walk the well-maintained trail, snap lots of photos, and watch fishermen and swimmers enjoy the crystal waters.
We continue exploring the Cascade mountain range, acres and acres of age-old volcanic activity. Miles of lava fields spread in all directions beside the roads, in stark contrast to the lush pine forests that grow between them. We visit Lava Beds National Monument, which should be called Lava CAVES National Monument. If you're looking for pretty landscape, skip this one; but if you might be distantly related to a bat, this is the place for you. Ancient lava flows created miles and miles of underground lava tubes, of all sizes and shapes. Caves, caves, and more caves. Take your flashlight and wear your hard hat! The most interesting cave we see is actually outside the park, a place called "Jot Dean Ice Cave" (who is Jot Dean and is he related to Dot Com?). We hop, teeter, squeeze, and crawl our way into a small cave which has a beautiful ice cascade down one short wall, sort of a miniature frozen waterfall. Ice crystals coating the ceiling glitter in our flashlight beams. Magical!
We backtracked forty miles from McCloud to visit McArthur-Burney Falls State Park. While not exactly Niagara, Burney Falls is a 129-foot-high waterfall well worth seeing. We sense the moisture-laden air and hear the roaring falls long before we see them; and our first sight from a viewpoint above is quite memorable. We descend along a paved trail to the base of the falls, where the temperature is at least 20 degrees cooler!
Rainbows form in the emerald pool which is fed by the roaring gush of the falls, and enormous Douglas firs -- as big as redwoods, because of the abundance of water -- rise high above the level of the pool. The constantly-moving water continues downstream over the rocky, crystal-clear bed of Burney Creek. We hike a well-maintained one-mile trail from the base of the falls to the top, and back around. Your tax dollars at work where they BELONG, preserving some of the magnificent beauty still left in the world!