Thursday, October 16th | Destination: Mt. Shasta
My alarm went off at 1:30 AM. I had actually managed to fall asleep a bit early Wednesday night, so I got a solid rest and was ready to begin my excursion. I had 300 miles to travel before sunrise.
Let’s rewind for a second. A few days ago I was trying to decide what my next ride would be. I found myself yet again searching across Northern California on Google Maps. I remembered Mt. Shasta from when I was a kid; my family and I would pass it every summer when we drove from Seattle to San Jose to visit my grandpa. We never actually stopped to check it out, though, and once I researched images of the mountain, I decided it would be a great time-lapse opportunity.
I used Google Street View to plan the best place to set up my camera when I got there. There’s a main road that heads up the mountain itself, but I was worried that it would be fogged in. I stumbled across a forest service map during various Google searches, which showed all the forest routes that vehicles were allowed on. I found the one that I was most interested in and checked out the entrance on Google Street View. It didn’t have a gate, which is rare to find in Southern California or the Bay Area. What it did have was a clear, unobstructed view of Mt. Shasta, so my mind was made up.
I packed up my bike, only bringing a few extra layers for warmth, my summer and winter gloves, some food, water and all of my camera gear. Since it was the middle of the night, getting out of San Francisco was easy. While I try to avoid it, I often find myself riding in the dark. The LED Headlight on my BMW GS has great coverage and really lights up the road in front of me. When I’m riding at night, I always make sure to check my mirrors often – looking for oblivious drivers that are coming up behind me quickly. I also look more closely at the road in front of me, checking for debris or anything else I could hit in the dark of night.
As I made my way past Shasta Lake, the temperature dropped and the scenery changed. Suddenly I felt crisp mountain air and saw taller trees. I could see the eastern sky lighting up and I knew that the sunrise would be coming soon. I was still about an hour away from the location where I would shoot the time-lapse, so I just kept on moving. Once I arrived, I parked my bike and scrambled to get my camera set up.
The clouds were getting sucked in between the two peaks and as the sun rose, the whole mountain lit up. I was in awe of how cool Mt. Shasta (which is actually a dormant volcano) looked. At this point, the time-lapse had been running for over an hour and I was starting to get anxious to ride my bike up the forest service road. A 4×4 Jeep pulled up near where I was parked. The driver and I exchanged a “good morning” and then they continued up the road.
I started hearing gunshots about a mile away from me. I assumed it was the person in the Jeep doing some target practice. Each shot tore through the air with a long crack. I really wanted to ride the road, but didn’t want to risk accidentally getting shot. I decided to check the camera because the gunfire was happening more frequently. The battery had died, so it stopped shooting one photo per second. I took this as my cue to pack up and head to my next location, not bothering with Rambo up the road.
I navigated my GPS to the end of a road called Everitt Memorial HWY. This is the road I mentioned earlier; it goes up the center of the mountain and stops where the terrain gets too rough. As I ascended, I started to see more and more snow. The temperature had dropped down into the 30s. At the top and end of the road, I walked around in the snow and shot some more photos while trying to take it all in. I would’ve loved to spend more time there, but my goal was to complete this trip in one day, and I knew that I needed to start heading back to San Mateo.
I started my trek back home, seeing things that I hadn’t seen in the dark on the way up. The Castle Crags rock formation looked amazing from the highway – I’m adding it to my list of places to visit. I also saw Shasta Lake, which was extremely low because of the drought. The pylons of the bridge that I went across used to be completely submerged, but today they were clearly visible, standing well above the water.
The remainder of the ride was through the Central Valley of California, which can be very lackluster. However, this time I saw something I had never seen before. There were large individual fires spread across the farmland. I probably counted 20 or so. I remembered reading that this is something farmers do once they’ve harvested their crops and need to clear the fields. The whole valley was filled with smoke for nearly 50 miles.
Finally, I was home. Despite the early morning and cold temperatures, I was really pleased with this trip. I will continue to push my time in the seat and work towards riding 1000 miles in a day. For now, I’m going to take in as much local scenery as I can, visiting California’s National Parks and forests.