These reservations were made long before I had any notion of what the rest of summer would look like. A good friend of mine loves this place and has a long family history of coming here. So, we planned to come up together, right after the last day of school, her bringing lots of kids, and us bringing mostly coffee. It was a short drive in the morning, and we were able to beat the forecasted rain, with enough time even to put up the repaired classic awning. I did a pretty good job of reinforcing it, if I do say so myself. It was lovely to sit under the awning and listen to the rain and river, and even lovelier to go inside when it got cold and turn on the heater.
The campground is very nice and is situated right next to the McCloud River. There are three impressive waterfalls, all hiking distance from the campground. It is very conducive to family camping and there were lots of kids biking around the loops. There was also a family of four deer who appear to have no fear of humans, and just wander the campground, munching on leaves and evolving to become bike sentient. In the summer, the river makes an excellent place to swim, but it is a bit nippy this early in the season.
Cute town in the shadow of Mount Shasta
The nearby town of McCloud is very cute, especially so on Memorial Day weekend. There was some kind of mushroom festival going on, so there were artisan booths set up in front of the main “downtown” mercantile building. The town has plenty of services though, like a good grocery store, cafes and a candy store, and gas stations that accommodate big rigs. That is likely supported by the huge RV park, just across Highway 89, with lots of full hookup sites. There is decent cell service in the campground (though not exactly “excellent,” as my previous blog post claimed), and better service in town. All in all, it’s a perfect place to spend the weekend feeling remote, with grocery supplies just seven miles away. That worked in my friend’s favor after she brought a “S’mores Kit” from home that actually contained no s’mores ingredients. It was just a plastic carrying case, full of misleading packaging and disappointment. Campers are generally friendly people though, and another group was willing to save the day by sharing. We went into town the next day to make sure they got repaid, with marshmallow interest.
How many signs does the Universe need to send?
While I was helping to restore order to the balance of s’mores supplies, Richard was attempting a ride up Pilgrim Creek Road. The entrance to the road was casually blocked by orange cones and yellow caution tape. Everyone ignored that. Then it was blocked by a concrete barrier. All the bikers ignored that. Then it was blocked by a fallen tree and Richard ignored that. Finally, the road was blocked by mud as far as the eye could see. It was at that point Richard acknowledged the Universe might be trying to send him a message, and he abandoned the quest. Noted for a re-do at another time.
That evening, we enjoyed skits, margaritas, and properly planned s’mores. We really loved hanging out with the rambunctious and bechilded group, and didn’t even mind indulging in the s’more making festivities, which is something these campers hardly ever do. We’re not really fans of campfires, so the only time we’ve ever made them was in the microwave. Pretty lame for wanna be professional campers.
West A Barr Road is Magical.
We had an extra day after my friend’s group departed. We spent it on a SAG’ed bike ride, recommended by Jay’s Essential Rides. Jay knows what he is talking about. This ride was spectacular. Both climbs are part of the Shasta Summit Century and start from West A Barr Road at Siskiyou Lake. The first climb continues up the road until it eventually gets to a junction that will take you to Gumboot Lake. By “eventually,” I mean about fourteen miles up a grueling climb. Richard likes that. Most of the way up, the road parallels a gorgeous mountain river, with water constantly cascading over boulders and into crystal clear ponds. “Magical” is the word Jay uses, and I would agree. The paved part of the road terminates at the lake but appeared to continue, connecting with Highway 26 a few miles further ahead. He was done and ready to take on the second climb at that point. He started the descent, but it was pretty cold, and he had the luxury of having a wife with a car nearby. So instead of toughing it out, he threw his bike in the back and I dropped him near the bottom.
Climbing Castle Lake Road
The second climb was eleven miles up Castle Lake Road. This grade seemed steeper, and the scenery was only periodically spectacular when Mount Shasta appeared. I should mention, I also got in some impressive bike riding this weekend! Meaning, I actually rode my bike! For me, it was a total of almost five miles up and back to Upper Falls from the campground. So, his twenty-five miles and my five end up being about equal in motivational badges. At the top of his ride was the beautiful Castle Lake. It was way too cold for any thoughts of putting my boat in the water, but I could imagine that being a lovely thing to do in hot weather.
Everpresent Mount Shasta
At the bottom of both climbs was the big and beautiful Siskiyou Lake and we need to come back in the future to check that out. It has a large campground resort with boat launches, but we didn’t check it out. I am noting it for future planning though. There are day use areas at all the lakes with vault toilets, and there are some primitive campgrounds here and there, but they all seemed too small for Dory. The road up to Gumboot was very narrow and made it exciting when another car needed to pass. It would have been a nail biter with a trailer in tow.
This was a perfect intro to a summer of spectacular scenery. This stop was particularly meaningful and a great time with good people.
Total miles: 128.6 from Woodson Bridge, 17.2 mpg, 2 hours 48 min. Site 25 B. No hookups. Some solar at midday. Ok but slow LTE or 5g for both. No dump. Water spigots. Forest Service CG.