Summer Solstice in Shasta – Reviving Family Vacation Traditions
“Every June my family would load up the old Dodge camper truck and head to the Shasta mountains for a week of fishing,” begins my husband as he recounts his most treasured childhood memories. Sometimes he’ll go on to tell us about the time his mother cast out her line and let go of her pole. Or he’ll share the tale of his case of the chicken pox, which kept him itching but didn’t keep him from fishing. Other times, he’ll tell us about the pristine landscapes of the lakes and pines near his family’s camp. As he tells these stories, his voice takes on a special tonal quality. His nostalgia weaves a spell on my son and me, and we beg him to tell us more!
Happily, this June, our own family made our first trek to the Shasta Mountains. Come along as we share our experience fishing, taking in the scenic byways, exploring abounding waterways, trekking through volcanic remains, and finding satisfaction with family vacationing.
Scott booked our family a week at the Hat Creek Resort, picturing a family-friendly cabin stay with fishing out our front door. Within the hour of checking in, he rigged a pole for every member of the family and took us down to the creek.
It took two days to learn to fish from tree studded banks into the rushing waters of Hat Creek. At first we hooked several trees, and lost lures in rocks. We definitely didn’t convince any fish to bite. After watching us spend most of our time un-knotting our lines, one kind soul offered us the fish on his stringer. Hungry for trout and humbled by the challenging Hat Creek, we took the fish home.
We learned quickly that fishing is waiting and fishing is talking. Scott kept Bryles entertained via his tackle box by showing him his collection of lures and fishing tools. Each piece held a story linked to Scott’s own father or his own childhood. We also passed the time between bites talking about nibbling fish and “the ones that got away” from our idle poles. By the time we landed our first trout, our anticipation elevated our excitement right over the moon!
Scott soon declared we were hitting the road to scout out the more fruitful fishing destinations he frequented as a boy. We listened to the “big fish” stories of his youth as we drove down the scenic byways of the Lassen National Forest.
I marveled at the snow capped mountains peaking up behind pine covered hills. The wide rushing stream, Hat Creek, wound by our side. Colorful wildflowers sprouted up between the many volcanic rocks lining the highways. Suddenly, highway “turnouts” proved extremely useful as we couldn’t help but want to stop to take pictures!
I later learned that more than 1400 wildflowers are in bloom in Shasta County in June. See if you can identify a few of the blooms we captured in this slideshow:
Waterways and Waterfalls
Despite the fact Scott was 15 years old the last time he’d visited many of these areas, his memories reliably guided us to Cassel Camgrounds and the PG&E operated spillway. Visibly animated, he urged us out of the car and up on to the banks. There, we were slack jawed to see 18 inch trout swimming lazily in plain view. He guided us past the crowds to a lush, green area just around the creek’s bend. (Above.)
We watched trout leaping to snap abundant winged insects – the waters are home to mayflies, dragonflies, dozens of varieties of butterflies, and so many others! “This is where my family would come to fill our cooler if the biting was bad everywhere else,” explained Scott.
Promising to return later (if necessary) Scott then drove us on to the nearby Baum Lake.
My heart soared at the site of this truly wild space. Pelicans, geese, and ducks glided on the pristine blue waters surrounded by tules. Eagles soared above the willows, pines and maples. Narrow, dirt footpaths called to us to hike around Baum and the adjoining Crystal Lake. If my little one had the patience and energy, I would have jumped on this section of Pacific Crest Trail and stayed at Baum all day!
Alas, heat and hunger got the best of us. We headed out to Burney to find food, and then couldn’t resist at least a quick detour into the McAurthur Burney Falls Park. Our $8 entrance fee proved well worth it! A shady, well planned path (built by the CCC during the Great Depression) guided us down to the falls. Convenient water fountains and information boards placed at regular intervals kept us hydrated and informed.
Then it was time to venture back up the steep path. After that workout – ice cream from the park store was a must! We also thought about renting a canoe and touring McArthur Burney’s other water feature, Lake Britton, but we were lake-fatigued by this point. No wonder this place is oft called “The Land of a Thousand Lakes.”
Day five, with four fish now in the freezer, we felt it time to explore nearby geological attractions. We packed sweaters and gloves (which felt strange given the high heat of this area in June!), purchased a flashlight, and made the short drive to the Subway Caves.
Our son expressed his trepidation of standing inside an old hot lava tube, and it did feel strange explaining that the area’s dormant volcanoes make for interesting tourist attractions. While we haven’t yet made it to Mount Lassen, it just may make tomorrow’s docket. Or it will if Scott is satisfied with the number of fish we catch in the morning!
“Family” in Family Vacation
While it sounded dreamy to take a week off and fish, there’s a hefty dose of reality in a family vacation. We don’t get to escape parenting, which means incorporating more routine and rhythm in our days than coincided with our vision of a “vacation” from the norm.
And we were far from alone in this struggle! We saw parents grumpily escorting kids out of Visitor’s Centers, while counseling them not to climb displays. Or urging their kids to find their manners while waiting in line for ice cream.
However, we also saw parents at our camp making time to play basketball with their kids. Scott took Bryles out one afternoon for an hour of flying a balsa wood glider. Another afternoon, Bryles and I felted wool flowers. We found we still needed to plan “in and out breaths” in our day to prevent behavior issues and moodiness.
I, too, needed to make moments to balance myself. Fortunately, my family allowed me time to dream and draw. One blissful day, I played at creating an illuminated manuscript, while the boys fished down the bank from me.
In the end, the trip will go down in all of our memories as incredibly special and beautiful. Plan your own family vacation soon!