Bob (our youngest son) joined us for Christmas. Because he was able to stay through New Year's day we had time for several extra outings. Two rise to the level of a journal entry (funny how our prose is affected by the jargon of current events).
The day after Christmas we all felt like getting some exercise and communing with nature. Jennie and I had walked part of the trail to the Middle falls of the McCloud river, but had never reached or seen the falls. That seemed like a worthy goal for the post holiday outing.
On our way to the falls trail-head, we stopped in McCloud for lunch at the McCloud Soda Shoppe where the best burgers in Siskiyou county are served. Fortified with burgers and fries we Jeeped five miles east of town on 89 and turned south toward the Fowler's Camp campground where the trail to the falls begins. The last snow had fallen on December 20 and it had warmed since then so there was only a light snow cover. Immediately after stepping on the trail we noticed a strange phenomenon: The hard packed soil of the trail had begun to thaw from the extremely hard freeze of the first weeks of December. As Bob put it, it was like walking on a six inch layer of Styrofoam.
The trail follows the north shore of the McCloud river, at some points near the river others high above it. It passes beside and between truck-size Andesite boulders, that must have been blasted from an eruption of Mount Shasta whose summit is some 15 miles northwest of the trail. To the left of the trail the tree-covered canyon wall rises steeply.
The hike is about 2 miles and nearly level, so it's pleasant not strenuous exercise. The payoff is well worth much more effort than it takes. The falls have a classic beauty that stops you in your tracks when you round the final bend in the trail and come upon them. Bob, who is not easily moved by natural beauty, let out a heart-felt "Wow!", when we first sighted the Middle falls. As you can see from the photo, the snow caps on the surrounding boulders added significantly to the dramatic affect. We've decided to add the Middle falls hike to our list of top 10 visitor outings.
We'd promised Bob a snowshoe trek while he was up here for the holidays. The clear, crisp, sunny weather of December 29 was just right for it. Jennie and I had taken our first snowshoe hike of the '98-'99 season a couple weeks earlier on December 17. We'd started at the usual place -- Bunny Flat --, but this time we headed up the trail to Horse Camp; the place where climbers begin the serious part of a summit ascent. It was the last day before school was out for the holidays and as usual we had Bunny Flat pretty much to ourselves. By the 29th the parking area was full, the hills were crawling with kids enjoying their new sleds and the flat itself was criss-crossed with cross-country ski tracks. We'd brought a lunch, so our first destination was across the flat and up into the trees for some, untracked snow, shade, and solitude. In only a few minutes we had all three and sat down on a snow bank to eat with a panoramic view. In the accompanying photo you can see Bob making rapid progress to this idyllic spot.
After lunch we cut across the upper end of Bunny Flat to the Horse Camp trail. It starts out fairly steep, but the snowshoe cleats make for sure footed climbing. Before long the trail makes a sharp turn to the north and levels out. About every 100 yards or so there is a clearing that opens up dramatic vistas up Avalanche Gulch to the Summit of Mount Shasta. We walked for about an hour and then after a brief rest turned our shoes around for the return trip. Bob enjoyed the snowshoeing so much that he even ran in them, and vowed never again to put up with expensive lift tickets and long lift lines. Another convert.