Shasta Camp in Siskiyou County
By Tim Holt
By Tim Holt
Photos by Cedar Moss
IT ALL STARTED BACK IN 1947, when a group of hardy Methodists who’d been camping out in the forest below Castle Lake began building a permanent camp. Soon there would be lodges and meeting halls and bathrooms, all built by volunteers, at the new Shasta Camp.
Today, the camp – five miles up a steep road from Lake Siskiyou – boasts 80 campsites, a lodge with room for 18 visitors, and a spacious, high-ceilinged pavilion suitable for weddings and family gatherings.
Over time, the camp’s visitors have expanded well beyond the original core of Methodists to include Boy Scouts, 4Hers and researchers from UC Davis and the University of Nevada at Reno studying the hydrology and biology of Castle Lake.
In recent years, Shasta Camp has attracted spiritual seekers influenced by Native American practices, “Vision Questers” who sit in the camp’s sweat lodge and go out in the woods to meditate and pray.
Twice a year, a group of retired Methodists, at least a dozen of them, show up in their RVs, roll up their sleeves and go to work painting, splitting wood, doing whatever needs to be done. They created the camp’s entire water system and still help maintain it.
“They’re the camp’s angels,” says Cedar Moss, a former
Electric power at the camp comes from recently installed solar panels. For backup, especially in the winter months, there is a propane-powered generator. Wood stoves are used for heating.
There’s not much going on in the camp in the winter, not with up to 12 feet of snow and nighttime temperatures in the single digits. But since the early 1990s, the camp has been maintained year round by resident hosts who tough it out in the winter, dealing with cracked water pipes and making the one-hour trek on snowshoes to reach their vehicles parked alongside the main road.
Winter hosting up there is not for the faint of heart. At least one building has collapsed from the weight of the snow. When the host’s cabin burned down one winter due to a gas explosion, he was found wandering around in the snow in a stupor, clinging to a pet cat that had survived the disaster.
David Moss, a retired United Methodist minister who until recently hosted the camp with his wife, Cedar, has memories of digging through eight feet of snow to reach the shutoff valve for a cracked water pipe. It wasn’t unusual for them to have to wait a week for the main road to be plowed, so the couple made sure they had plenty of canned and dry goods on their shelves.
But David says he “reveled” in the heavy snows and harsh winters.
“It energized me. I loved the challenge of it,” he says.
Cedar looks back fondly on their trips up to Castle Lake, where they could listen to the ethereal sounds made by the lake’s shifting ice.
“It was like the lake and the mountain were singing to each other,” she says. Now that she and David have moved to the more temperate climes of the Sierra foothills, she says she misses those bracing but beautiful winters.
For the past year, David’s brother, Chris, has been the camp host. He moved there from Ohio, so he’s used to harsh winters. Chris has a background in contracting work and has become the camp’s all-around handyman, building a deck, filling ruts in the road leading to the camp, cleaning bathrooms.
The benefits for Chris include a “super change in scenery” from the flatlands of Ohio, more peace and quiet, and a healthier lifestyle: He’s taken up hiking and lost 40 pounds.
Chris also brings some fresh energy and ideas to the host position. For one thing, he’s hoping to attract more visitors in the wintertime by putting in trails for cross country skiers and snowshoers, and offering those staying in the lodge a snowmobile “taxi service” up to Castle Lake. •
For information on rates for campsites and lodge rooms, contact Chris at (530) 408-8752.