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Friday 18 Oct 2013
Burney, USA

Crossing sundials, climbing mountains and chasing waterfalls

I spent part of the morning in Redding, finding a much nicer part of town along the Trinity River at the Turtle Bay Park.  There are a number of wildlife habitats and exhibits in the Park, but my main interest was in the Sundial Bridge.  It is a footbridge with a glass walkway, suspended by cables from a single pillar.  The pillar itself is a bright white needle slanting up into the sky at a very sharp angle, which looks dramatic but serves an additional purpose – it is a fully functional sundial.  The clock face is represented by a white tiled loop on the ground at the far side of the bridge.  It actually only covers the time markers between 10.30am and 2.30pm, but the effect is still great.  As the sun moves around the bridge, the shadow reads an accurate time around the ring.  It was a beautiful piece of design (another stop on my civil engineering tour of the US) and I was very taken with it.

I had planned to drive straight over to Lassen Volcanic National Park today, but the view of Mount Shasta on the horizon last night, and from Redding this morning, made me decide to head north first.  Route 89 runs directly up to Mount Shasta City, a small town nestled at the foot of the mountain, so that’s where I went, passing over the Lake Shasta reservoir on the way.  With a couple of extra days, I could have happily explored this area in more detail, but I had to content myself with the views on the way past.  At Mount Shasta City, I spoke to a helpful lady in the Visitor Centre who advised me to simply keep driving.  There was a road which wound its way up from the town, through trees shining with glorious autumnal colours, climbing around the folds in the terrain through pine forests and eventually bursting out above the tree line through a ragged rocky scar left by a previous landslide.  The road seemed to peter out above the last official trailhead, but it kept going long enough to reach a car park with a surprising number of cars, given how remote and isolated it had felt driving up.  The views out across northern California were simply stunning. 

I am well aware of how often I keep using terms like stunning, breathtaking and beautiful, but it is true.  I wasn’t sure what to expect on this northern section of my travels, but I had been rewarded a hundred times over with small glimpses and epic vistas of the variety that California has to offer.  In just one state, I’d seen everything from the barren desert and saltpans of Death Valley to the rugged coastline of Highway 1 and now the mountainous volcanic legacy of the north.  No wonder so many people want to live here.

At 6860’, the Bunny Flat car park was higher than anything else around and I could see for miles.  Below me were pine forests and autumnal colours, while the distance was filled with outline after outline of hills in increasingly paler shades of blue.  Again, I was happy to just sit and stare.

I wound my way contentedly back down through the trees and followed the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway southeast towards Lassen, stopping in McCloud for a late lunch.  The Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway runs from Lassen all the way north to Crater Lake in Oregon, some 500 miles.  If the parks hadn't reopened, I might well have followed it all the way.  Instead, I turned off Highway 89 into the McCloud River area, and drove to each of the three McCloud River Falls.  It was a little late in the day for me to walk the trail between them, as I had hoped, but at least I got to see them.  It was tempting to jump in for a swim at the Lower Falls, but the only other people there were a couple of old boys fishing, so I thought better of it...

Further down the road, I stopped in at the McArthur Burney State Park.  They did have camping sites, but the office and store were closed for the season so there was nowhere to get dinner.  I snuck a quick peek at the Burney Falls, described by Roosevelt as the Eighth Wonder of the World.  The valley is made up of different types of lava and rock, which have eroded at different rates. The river tumbles 129’ over the edge of a solid block of basalt, with smaller springs bursting out from the softer rock at the sides.  At the right time of day, the pool at the base of the falls is full of rainbows, but I was too late in the day for that.  Definitely worth a revisit in the morning.


Mileage: 815

Running total: 3,605

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #1 America

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