Monday, September 10, 2007

MCcloud River & Mt. Shasta Adventure

On our way north this summer, we couldn't avoid the attraction of that prominent feature in the distance: Mount Shasta. In the most northern region of The Sierras, the 14,000 ft volcano's glaciers glimmered for miles.

Until the 1920's, the mountain was called Mt Sisson. But, that was just too wimpy of a name.

All the glaciers, valleys, thriller trails and ultra-scenic whitewater make it quite the adventure destination. So we spent a couple days exploring this area - which was clearly not enough!

We filled up one day with some superb mountain biking. A big 'Thanks!' goes out to the adventure girl from Israel that helped out with a shuttle. Here's a quick clip of one of the many the trails in this northern region:


The diamond in the adventure ruff is McCloud River, however.

Its gorgeous, fun, and always changing....but ICE cold. The river flows through a gorge surrounded on all sides by the immense and private Hearst estate; completely inaccessible to the public except by boat. We couldn't believe that this run inst more popular...it just felt like a classic.

The shuttle is kind of a hassle if you don't have 2 cars; its not exactly on a main route. We lucked out though! After parking our camper at Lake McCloud, the take-out, we found some nice local fisherman to give us a ride in the back of their truck all the way to the put-in! This saved us one loooong bike ride to get back up to our boats, which were hidden in the bushes near the river. In hindsight, this hitchhiking ride really saved our day. We paddled back to our camper right at sunset. With the additional bike ride shuttle, we would've been kayaking hours after dark.

The water was flowing super low...less than 200cfs... so we started at the lowest put-in near the border of the Hearst property. The McCloud is basically a narrow lush creek at this point, and there's definitely a lot of maneuvering and sliding over rocks for the first couple miles.

But all of a sudden you hear a roar, and the little creek changes! Big Springs, several pure natural springs gushing out of the hillside, adds 1000-1500 or so cfs to the flow. Immediately the creek turns into a river! And coming from the land of drought, this was truly amazing!

We were also stoked that you can just drink the purest coldest water right out of the springs; no water bottles needed on this trip. We stopped and drank our fill at a few large springs along the way.

So once we passed Big Springs, we were immediately in a 3 mile long class 3/3+ rapid! There wasn't even one pool in this section,
just continuous whitewater!

We passed lots of play spots and waves, but the water was just too cold to roll very often. I'll certainly be wearing gloves and a hood next time.



During the last few miles of the run, the river mellows out and some of the most odd sights appear. We came around a bend, and there was a neighborhood of Old European-style mansions lining the water....out in the middle of no-where!

Some of the houses where Medieval dungeon-looking, some were like giant Danish cottages painted with mythological frescoes, and one was A GIANT castle-replica that went on and on in size. It was situated on a peninsula, where the entire river rapped around it on almost all sides. It was too big to get a picture of. Just the pool situated on the edge of the river was too big to take a picture of! The strangest thing was being able to float RIGHT under their windows and peak in!

After passing all these places, a glacial creek comes in and turns the crystal clear water into a milky aqua color.

Then the river, which is dammed far below, slowly widens and becomes the scenic McCloud Lake. Just as the sun was about to set, we paddled a couple more miles on this lake to the edge of public land, where our camper was parked and Charly was eagerly waiting.

What a day!!

Here's a short clip of Big Springs near the top section of the river, and the Hearst Mansions toward the end of the run:



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