Lit up by the rising sun, Mount Shasta reflects in the water of Orr Lake.
The east side of Mount Shasta is the loneliest side of the mountain. The area is sparsely populated despite being exceedingly beautiful. In particular, the area to the northeast is particularly notable. Watered by two perennial creeks, Butte and Antelope Creeks, there are many large meadows set amidst rolling hills. Vast stands of ponderosa pine are dominant though high desert influences are strong and juniper is found in many areas. Over all of this, the great icy cone of Mount Shasta looms majestically. This perspective on the mountain is especially satisfying, boasting a great view of the Wintun, Hotlum, Bolam and even a sliver of the Whitney Glacier, the four largest glaciers in California.
This morning I got up early to head over to this remarkable area to watch the sunrise on ice-clad Mount Shasta. On the west side the snow that fell a couple weeks ago is mostly melted but on the north and east side and significant amount of fresh snow remains, complementing the glaciers. My destination was Orr Lake, one of my favorite spots in the Mount Shasta area. The large lake has a beautiful campground as well as a large group campground, fishing piers, a small boat launch and a great trail.
Though it has been getting cold, I was still surprised to find the campgrounds empty. With the entire area to myself, I set up my camera by the lake and watched the mountain change colors as the sun came up. Typical of Orr Lake, the bird activity was immense and included pelicans and a bald eagle. The entire scene was sublime.
After the sun was well and up, I packed up my camera and headed a few miles away to a beautiful aspen grove, looking to check out what condition the fall color was in. Aspens are not common in this part of California but there are a few groves on the east side of Mount Shasta. The drier conditions are likely one of the reasons these trees have established themselves in the area. Despite having taken root in this area, they remain rare, especially in large groves.
Thankfully, there is a grove near Orr Lake that lies on public land. It is one of the largest in the Mount Shasta area and, to my knowledge, the largest one on public land. It is also very easy to get to. Not surprisingly, I was the only person at the aspen grove. I spent the next hour wandering around the grove, enjoying the morning light striking the gold leaves. The color was a little past its prime but the color was still quite attractive. It was a gorgeous morning.
Considering the paucity of aspens in this area and the ease of access, I am surprised that a trail has not been developed through the aspen grove. Indeed, very little in this area has been developed for recreation despite the splendid scenery. Orr Lake is the most significant site but it remains obscure and lightly used. I really want to work with the Goosenest Ranger District to develop a trail through the aspen grove. It would be a nice path in summer but in fall, it could be a destination trail, drawing people from Mount Shasta who want to come and see the great color. For now though, absent a path, it is a remote, magical forest.
The east side is great any time of year but right now, with the chance to enjoy fall color and great views of Mount Shasta, it is a place of singular beauty.