September 9, 1862: Mount Shasta City
[Today] we continued on our way. In a few miles we passed the Castle Rocks (Devil’s Castle of the map), most picturesque objects to behold. A granite ridge rises very abruptly from the valley, its crest worn into the most fantastic forms—pinnacles, minarets, battlements, domes, and peaks. Some of these rise perhaps three thousand feet above the valley, and the chain of Castle Mountains is much higher beyond. We were in sight of them a long time and each turn of the road disclosed a new view of them. In crossing a spur from this chain that runs down to the river we had the most magnificent view of Mount Shasta that we have yet had. It appeared up the valley, the foreground of mountains opening to show it, the great cone rising high, its upper six thousand feet streaked with glistening snow, its outlines sharply cut against the intensely blue sky, its sides steep beyond belief.
Next we came to the Soda Springs. These are close by the river, here merely a large mill stream in size, its waters green and cold, and traces everywhere of what a torrent it must be during the winter rains. The waters of the spring are highly charged with carbonic acid—so are called “soda” springs, for they sparkle like soda water—and hold iron in solution. They have a considerable reputation for curative powers.
Here we left the immediate side of the stream and struck up an inclined table-land, rising a thousand feet more in the next nine miles to Strawberry Valley Ranch, where we camped. This is the base of the mountain.
On the last two days’ ride we had met much lava. It seemed to have run over the country after it had its present general features but not the present details. The streams have, in many places, cut through the bed of lava into the softer slates beneath. These slates were for the most part very hard, for they had all been baked and altered by heat. The last nine miles from the Soda Springs was entirely over lava. Much of the last two days had been through fine forests—pine, fir, cedar, and spruce, with various other trees. Many of the cone-bearing trees were large and grand beyond anything the eastern states know of. Trees six or eight feet in diameter and 200 to 250 feet high were not rare.
A sort of wide valley runs through on the west of the mountain, in which both the Sacramento and Shasta rivers may be said to rise, that is, there is no ridge lying between these two rivers at this point. As this valley is but three thousand feet in elevation, it presents from this side a vast portion of the entire height of the peak….
Here are two houses, one a “hotel,” the other a ranch house, but also a sort of public house, as hay is sold to travelers for their teams.
At this Strawberry Ranch we are camped, the most lovely camp we have had. It is on a stream of clear, cold water, an open forest back of us, of splendid trees—pines 150 to 200 feet high, and cedars almost as large. In front, in unobstructed view, lies “The Butte,” as Mount Shasta is generally called here. We are a little over three thousand feet altitude, while the mountain rises in one grand slope over eleven thousand feet more at one view—the base, up to eight thousand feet, clothed with pines, cedars, and firs, all above that a desolate waste of rock and snow. The mountain is a great irregular cone, with steeper sides by far than any other large mountain I have ever seen. How we gazed on it [tonight] from camp as the moon rose. I even got up in the night to see it by the better illumination of the moon after midnight.