Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mt. Shasta Caverns Expedition

Mt. Shasta Caverns is a most enjoyable attraction, located just off Interstate 5, a few miles north of Redding, California. It might be thought of as a "trinity" of attractions because it has three distinct parts: first, is the relaxing ride across Shasta Lake in a spacious catamaran, the Cavern Queen (bottom photo); second, is the ride up a very steep and narrow road in a specially designed bus, that takes one to the Visitors Center (middle photo); and third, is the actual walking tour of the cavern itself (top photo).

I was very fortunate in that I arrived at the attraction at 12:25 pm, and was able to board the 12:30 pm boat going across the lake for the next tour. After purchasing one's ticket in the well-supplied gift shop and ticket office, you walk down a shaded path to the edge of the lake, where the catamaran (with its much-appreciated roof to protect you from the sun) awaits (top photo). The skilled captain (middle photo) then navigates the boat away from the landing, while simultaneously giving you information over the loud speaker about the history of the lake, and the geology of the area. Photos on either side of the captain's photo, show that the mooring on the opposite side of the lake where the boat takes you, is just as inviting and pleasant as the first one. The great thing about the boat ride is that it affords you views of the lake and the mountains that you could not see, just by staying on the highway (bottom photo).

After disembarking from the catamaran, one boards the bus that will take you to the top of the mountain, via a very narrow and steep road (middle photo). The bus has large, clean windows that enable to to look straight down at the land and lake below. If one is afraid of heights, it might be best to sit on the "driver side" of the bus for the trip up the mountain! Once at the top, you can tour the Visitors Center, which has exhibits about the area (lower photo), as well as overlooks that give even more views of the lake and marinas hundreds of feet below the location. In addition, there are clean rest rooms located adjacent to the Visitors Center.

At this point, those who purchased a ticket that included the cave tour (which is an option for those who only want the boat ride and shuttle ride to the Visitors Center), take a short walk up some stairs to the door on the side of the mountain that leads into the cave. Once inside, you will see most of the formations typical of a limestone cavern (top photo), and enjoy the benefits of "nature's air conditioning", as it is considerably cooler inside the cave than outside. There are dozens of stairs to navigate inside the cave, but the well-placed hand rails (top photo) and landings with seats (bottom photo) make this a "doable" endeavor. Since one spends most of the time inside the cave, in the "climbing stairs mode", it is not surprising that upon exiting the cave, you are going DOWN steps built into the side of the mountain, which return you to the Visitors Center. Likewise, there are several landings on this part of the tour that provide good photo opportunities (middle and bottom photos). Whenever I visit a cave, I always think of Psalm 139, which I call the "Expeditioners' Psalm" becaue of its verses 7 and 8 that say "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." People who are afraid of caves can be comforted by these words, reminding them that no matter how deep we go inside the earth, God is with us! Likewise, no matter how high up the mountain top we climb, God is with us! If you would like to plan a trip to Mt. Shasta Caverns, just visit their website, for more information. In addition, you can print off a coupon from the Internet. The coupon was honored at the ticket office, and saved me three dollars off the admission price. A feature that the website advertises, but that I did not get to try is a "Sunset Dinner Cruise", available through the Mt. Shasta Caverns ticket office. Such a dinner cruise sounded like fun, but even if you could not arrange a dinner cruise, the snack shop adjacent to the ticket office/gift shop sells adequate supplies for having a picnic on their lovely, shaded grounds. There are plenty of picnic tables around the property for you to enjoy all the ambience that this mountain retreat provides. All in all, Mt. Shasta Caverns gave me "miles of smiles", and I would highly recommend it! Tricia

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