Awesome late-summer thunderclouds above Mount Shasta.
With the passing of Labor Day, the end of the traditional summer hiking season has ended and much of the traffic up on Mount Shasta has dissipated. School is back in session and vacations have passed. Even the weather seems to recognize that the summer is over. With only a week left before the official start of autumn, temperatures are dropping and while daytime conditions are near perfect, night is starting to feel cold. Fall hiking around Mount Shasta is always a pleasure, often marked by pleasant weather and fall color. This year, however, a different opportunity presents itself.
With the deep snowpack and late start to summer conditions at the higher elevations, the onset of autumn is also delayed. That means that the springs on Mount Shasta are gushing, many of the wildflowers are blossoming and the grass is green and lush. Even some of the more ephemeral springs are producing notable amounts of water, sustaining their small patches of life that thrive amidst the barren sea of the volcano’s rock, cinders and sand.
Indeed, conditions are nearly ideal. The summer crowds (such as they are in Mount Shasta) have passed and yet peak summer conditions persist! This is particularly true of the trails the begin along the Everitt Memorial Highway. Easy access and spectacular scenery await! Yes if there is one element that is less than ideal, it is the persistent presence of smoke in the area. Fortunately, the trails on Mount Shasta are high and, for the most part, climb above the smoke layer. Blue sky, cool breezes and clean air are usually found along the trails now.
Particularly attractive right now are the hikes to South Gate Meadow and Horse Camp. As noted already, the wildflowers and spring-fed creeks are in great shape right now. At Horse Camp, the grasses are still green and much of the lupine and rabbit brush still have blossoms on them! Moreover, a fair amount of snow still clings to the upper section of Avalanche Gulch, giving the area more of an alpine feel, as well as emphasizing the great height and immensity of Mount Shasta.
Obviously things are not going to stay this way. As noted, the coming of autumn is presaged by the dropping temperatures. Flowers are going to diminish and the grass will die. But, while the rest of the mountain will be preparing for winter, the springs are still gushing. The creeks are large is raucous and the cascades are gorgeous. For now, the rare opportunity to enjoy the mountain in its glory right now is a real blessing. I hope everyone is able to appreciate it while we can! Get out and explore Mount Shasta while conditions are excellent!