Volcanic Scenic Byway – Northern California

In 2003, on my way back from a camping trip in the McArchur-Burney Falls, I saw Mount Shasta for the first time, from far away on highway 99. I was speechless by her beauty. The summit cone covered by snow has always been in my head. Ever since then, I have been waiting for the day to come back, take a closer look at her. This wait turned out to be 11 years long! Finally, this memorial weekend we visited Shasta & Lassen. Andrea said she was ready to go!
Andrea enjoying her second ice cream in a summer day

We took off around noon heading north from Fremont CA. 3.5 hours later we arrived at Redding. Redding is very convenient for visitors to Lassen Volcanic National Park and Mount Shasta. We decided to spend the night here. It has beautiful scenery of surrounding mountains and Sacramento River.

In a 99 degree summer afternoon, nothing can beat soaking in the cool Clear Creek.  At Gorge Overlook, we dip our feet in the chilling glacier water. I could NOT resist climbing up the rocks and jumping into the crispy clear water (click the short video you will know how that feels like)

Clear Creek fun, Redding California from Max Ye on Vimeo.

Day 2, we headed to our second destination – Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen Peak is the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southern-most volcano in the Cascade Range.  This beautiful volcanic park will take more than 3 days to explore and we will have to do it in another trip.

Circling the Lassen Peak there is a famous Lassen Scenic Byway which is a loop along Route 44, Route 36, Route 147 and Route 89. We followed along this scenic byway and stopped at the Paradise Meadow near the Hat Lake for a rest.

Andrea strolls around the Paradise Meadows

Leaving Lassen Volcanic National Park, we took route 89 towards McArthur-Burney Falls, which is the mid-point between Lassen and Mt Shasta. It was a short walk descending into the water mist which cooled down the temperature dramatically. I recalled the fond memories of my last camping trip here. Burney Falls is a unique waterfall because the water comes from springs above and at the fall, creating countless streams cascading from various vertical levels.  Andrea played on the volcano rocks at the mist-filled basin for just 15 minutes before she felt too cold. Next time we will bring jackets. (Tips: the Burney Falls camp site is very nice and convenient. Reservation for campsites and cabins must be made at least two days ahead of arrival)

Nikon D800E, Nikon28mm f/1.8, Shutter f/13, Aperture 1/2, ISO5, Long exposure NR on, White Balance 6050, GPS Coordinates 41.011799, -121.652164

Leaving Burney Falls, we continued our journey to Mt Shasta through a calming view of surrounding evergreen forest and the Mt Shasta standing up high in the distance ahead.  Right before entering the city of Mount Shasta, you may want to check out “Wayside Grill” (2217 S Mt Shasta Blvd, Mt Shasta, CA 96067). The Rib Eye and Grilled Salmon Salad were cooked just right and quite moist.  The grilled veggie was very flavorful. Andrea’s Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken was above average (items on the kids menu are only for customers under 12 or over 65).

Even though we could see Mt. Shasta from the distance along the way, when we finally were there, the feeling was compelling. I just could not wait to the next day. The clear, dry summer night in California is perfect for photographing the milky way, but it can also be very chill in early morning. To find the milky way, I pointed the camera to the southern sky. The milky way splashed out between Sagittarius and Scorpius. Stunning!

Nikon D800E, Nikon 28mm f/1.8G, Shutter f/3.2, Aperture 15", ISO2200, Long Exposure and High ISO NR on, White balance 3600K,GPS Coordinates 41.585666,-122.194570

3:30AM, back to the lodge. 4:30AM, alarm went off. The next mission was to capture Mt Shasta in sunrise.

Lake Siskiyou, D800E, Nikon28mm f/1.8G, 2 Stop GND, Variable ND, Shutter f/11 Aperture 5", 10", 25" 3 frame HDR, ISO100, Long exposure NR on, White Balance 5880K, GPS coordinates 41.278842, -122.333536

Day 3, Mt. Shasta. The 15-mile Everitt Memorial Scenic Drive up the southwest flank of Mt Shasta is the best route to Mt. Shasta. The road beyond the Bunny Flat will be closed until late June. A short hike from the Bunny Flat trailhead was still very enjoyable. From here, backpack campers can hike up 1.6 miles to Horse Camp for overnight camping. If you wish, you may climb all the way to the peak from Horse Camp. Looking at the peak of Mt. Shasta, I think I understand mountaineers' feeling of accomplishment when standing on the top of a mountain.

We have seen different views of majestic Mt Shasta in a short trip, and much more yet to experience. I will come back. Next time, I will not wait for 11 years long!