(Text and all photos by Cynthia Greb)
Dunsmuir is this quaint little town in the metaphoric shadow of majestic Mt. Shasta in northern California. The more well-known towns at the base of the mountain are Mt. Shasta (city) and Weed, named after a lumberman. McCloud is another sweet Shasta town. But I really love Dunsmuir ten miles to the south.
With a population of only 1500, Dunsmuir definitely qualifies as a small town, but it’s very accessible as it is situated adjacent to Route 5 (the interstate that runs from the southern tip of California up through southern Oregon) and it is also home to one of the few Amtrak stations in the region.
As a river valley town on the outskirts of Mt. Shasta, both the beautiful forested slopes that surround it and the beautiful river that flows through it are omnipresent. And streets with a north-south orientation will often have a view of snow-capped Mt. Shasta.
The above is what it looked like as I was approaching Dunsmuir.
Dunsmuir dubs itself “Home of the best water on Earth” and in 2014, water bottled from Dunsmuir springs did indeed win best tasting water in an international competition against entries from such places as New Zealand, Tanzania, China, Greece and Colorado. (Colorado and Greece tied for second place.) http://www.mtshastanews.com/article/20140227/NEWS/140229645
I love pure, great tasting water. It’s an increasingly rare commodity in this world. And it’s only one of the great things about Dunsmuir. Here are a few others:
“A River Runs through It.” The beautiful Sacramento River, born from inside sacred Mt. Shasta, runs right through Dunsmuir. In fact, it is said that the water travels through the lava tubes of the volcano (yes, Mt. Shasta is a volcano) for fifty years. Quite a filtering system! The upper Sacramento is a clear, gorgeous, often fast-running stream and is an ideal habitat for trout. Fisherman flock to Dunsmuir, but locals love to fish, too.
This latter photo was taken through the dirty windshield of my car as I was driving on an extremely narrow serpentine road which ran along one section of the river. On the one hand, it was an idyllic scene watching this man teach the little boy how to fish. (The idyll was marred only slightly by the woman fixated on her phone.) On the other hand, I felt somewhat terrified that a fast-moving car could hit any or all of them.
Waterfalls. There are a couple waterfalls in the Dunsmuir area, but Mossbrae Waterfalls are my favorite. They are gorgeous springfed rivulets of water falling in a hundred places through the ferns and mosses of the verdant canyon directly into the Sacramento (which feels more like a shallow stream at this point.) The visible waterfalls are about 50’ in height, but the width of the accumulated falls is about 150’. My first time there took my breath away; it felt so magical, like a fairyland. Currently it is very difficult to get to, requiring a long hike along active railroad tracks, which can be a little frightening at times. But the good news is this challenging route cuts down on the numbers of people there at any given time.
(Unfortunately, my little phone camera was unable to capture the vibrancy of the incredible green color that pervaded the space. So, imagine much, much brighter emerald greens.)
Roses galore! Because Dunsmuir is well over 1000′ lower in elevation than the town of Mt. Shasta, it is warmer and flowers bloom in abundance. I especially love all the roses. There are so many! Whenever this East Coast girl makes her way to this little town, her spirits lift. It’s so exhilarating to stop and smell the roses!
Here is an interesting aside for those who are interested in esoterica. Roses are associated with both Mother Mary and the planet Venus. (No accident then that roses are also associated with Love!) In recent years, astronomers discovered, via computer, the exquisite rose-like mandala that Venus forms over an eight-year period in sidereal space. (It’s hard to explain. Go to the following website.) http://www.skyscript.co.uk/venusrose.html
On this particular day trip to Dunsmuir, I did the following:
- Ate at one of Dunsmuir’s lovely cafes. For such a small town, there are quite a few eating establishments. My favorites are The Wheelhouse, outside of which the rushing water of the Sacramento on the other side of the railroad tracks can be heard, and The Cornerstone Bakery, right on the main street (on which there never seems to be too much traffic.) Both offer excellent food with vegetarian and gluten-free options. There is both indoor and outdoor seating at both. At the Wheelhouse, one can sit inside at large old wooden tables with scores of games on nearby shelves from which one can choose to play if so inclined.
- Sat alongside the river, which is more like a crystal clear mountain brook at this point. Beautiful! On this particular day in early June, the sweet peas were in bloom. Lovely. I sat beneath a tree and greeted the river, trees, flowers, sky, earth, and air. I sent out blessings to the water. It didn’t take long to begin to feel the euphoria of such peace and beauty. As many of you know, waterfalls and oceans are rife with negative ions which enhance well-being, relieve depression, boost the immune system, and elevate one’s mood. Even medical doctors tout the benefits of negative ions: https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/negative-ions-create-positive-vibes#1
- Picked up a hitchhiker. On the way back home to my current residence near iconic Black Butte, I found myself pulling onto the shoulder of Route 5 to pick up a young man walking with a huge backpack and a little dog. (In retrospect, it wasn’t the safest place to pick up a hitchhiker.) The guy’s name was Pan. This was his given name! Pan just happens to be my favorite Greek god. If Pan is the ‘god of mountain wilds,” then surely he must abide in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Pan (the hitchhiker, not the god) had a cute dog named Tinkerbell. They were hitching their way up to Oregon for the Rainbow gathering.
All in all, it was a lovely day. I most heartily recommend Dunsmuir in early June!