Late evening light cradles newly snow covered Mount Shasta.
With the end-of-summer storms having now passed, the skies cleared just in time to welcome autumn officially. The autumnal equinox is the first day of fall and in 2022, it happened to be the first day of clear skies after a rain storm that last for 4 or 5 days. With Mount Shasta powdery white again, it seemed like a glorious way to usher in the most beautiful season of the year (in my opinion, at least).
With the conditions excellent, I decided to head out early in the morning to catch the autumn’s first sunrise. There are three good perspectives for sunrise on Mount Shasta. The first is from the northeast, over near Sheep Rock and Herd Peak. This area catches the morning light nicely on the Hotlum Glacier, which happens to be the largest glacier in California. This side is one of my favorites. The next option is from the summit of Ash Creek Butte. From here, one gets a most unique perspective on the mountain, since Shastina is not visible and Mount Shasta appears as one, massive, solitary cone. However, I have only caught this view of sunrise once and one does not just wake up and head there on a whim. The last perspective is from the south and southeast, which is on the McCloud side of the mountain. This is a particularly impressive view, since the Mud Creek basin on the mountain has towering crags and spectacular texture. When snow is on the mountain it highlights the crags in magnificent fashion.
I opted to head toward the southern side of Mount Shasta, where the crags would be highlighted by the fresh snow. I was not disappointed, as the conditions were terrific. The glow of the rising sun set the snow and the rock aflame. Winds whipped up snow devils on the side of the mountain and just the smallest of clouds clung to the summit. It was a grand way to greet the coming of autumn!
In the evening, my wife and I took friends of ours out to the high desert at Truchas Ridge for dinner and sunset. After eating, we hiked out to Pecos Point for the sunset, getting there just in time for the color to soak into Mount Shasta. The sky was cloudless now, a change from all the storms that had just come through. With no clouds, the mountain took center stage and the sunset was gorgeous. The air was warm and still and our kids scrambled on the cliffs of Pecos Point, happily howling, hoping for a coyote to return the call. It was a great start to autumn.
It’s been almost a week since the bulk of the snow fell on Mount Shasta. Much has melted off but a lot still lingers on the upper elevations, mostly above 10,000 feet. It is a great time to head up to the Old Ski Bowl, since the snow offers a great, late-season contrast against the dryness of the ski bowl. There, the lupine has faded and it has settled into the end-of-summer conditions that presage the coming rains of fall. Though there is no more precipitation in the forecast, cooler temperatures will stretch what snow there is a little longer. Hopefully October will bring a storm soon!