When John Muir, America’s most eloquent and far-traveled naturalist, first caught sight of Shasta from the Sacramento River canyon in 1875, he exclaimed, “...I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” Muir, the quintessential mountaineer, who circled the mountain in segments over more than a decade, found Shasta’s circumnavigation to be perhaps more appealing than the ascent: Arctic beauty and desolation, with their blessings and dangers, all may be found here, to test the endurance and skill of adventurous climbers; but far better than climbing the mountain is going around its warm, fertile base, enjoying its bounties like a bee circling a bank of flowers.... As you sweep around so grand a center the mountain itself seems to turn.... One glacier after another comes into view, and the outlines of the mountain are ever changing. Relatively few people take this ultimate Shasta backpack, partly because it’s a fairly committing endeavor, with no trail to follow. But in these days of abundant trails on most mountains and in nearly every wilderness area, this kind of trip poses a welcome, off-trail adverture. Indeed, you can easily imagine that you’re following John Muir’s footsteps. Crossing the toes of several Shasta glaciers offers superb views, and the short side trips to view waterfalls—in particular Whitney and Ash Creek falls—are well worth the extra time. Experienced backpackers who are comfortable with occasional scrambling should not be deterred from taking this trip, one of California’s finest and least-traveled backcountry hikes.
© 2008 Author varies by trail/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.