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Hiking: Northern California

Circle of Life Around Shasta Lake

October 23, 1994|JOHN McKINNEY

Mention Mt. Shasta or Shasta-Trinity National Forest to experienced hikers and watch their excitement become almost palpable as they rave about the great mountain or the vast forest.

Mention Shasta Lake and these same hikers are likely to mutter: "Hike where?"

California's largest reservoir offers some intriguing shoreline trails that explore surprisingly remote terrain. My favorite Shasta Lake trek is Clikapudi Trail, the area's longest and best-constructed trail, which meanders along the Pit River arm of the lake.

The 30-mile long Pit River arm has two parts: A wide lower arm, with lots of boating and camping, has fine Shasta vistas, and the remote upper arm, sometimes referred to as Shasta Lake's "outback." Rangers say the upper arm has the lake's best bird-watching--osprey and eagle; the best wildlife-watching--otter, deer and even bear, and the best bass fishing.

One reason for the good fishing is the abundance of snags that provide habitat for the bass. The land along the once-wild Pit River was not cleared prior to the completion of Shasta Dam in 1944, when World War II took all the available labor.

The path circles an area once inhabited by the Wintu people. Clikapudi, the trail name, is believed to have originated from the Wintu word klukapuda , to kill, and thought to refer to one of the struggles that took place between these Native Americans and the miners, settlers and traders who arrived in large numbers in the 1850s.

Lake shore archeological sites in the area suggest the Wintu lived here for many generations. Clikapudi Trail, which winds through woods and meadows, is tranquil enough for hikers to imagine what life may have been like for them.

Directions to trail head: From Interstate 5, six miles north of Redding, take the Mountain Gate exit (main visitor center is here; stop for information, latest road and trail conditions) and head east, then south, four miles on Oregon Trail to its junction with Bear Mountain Road. Turn left and proceed six miles to Jones Valley Road and bear left again, following the signs two miles to road's end at Jones Valley Boat Launch. The trail begins just beyond the large entrance sign to the parking lot. The end is on the south side of the lot.

The hike: The signed path briefly meanders through a stand of knob-cone pine before traveling through live oak and ponderosa pine, both less common to the Shasta area.

A mile out, the trail dips near the lake shore and hikers look down the long arm of the Pit River. After a half-a-mile meander along the river, the trail bends southwest along Clikapudi Bay. Another mile's travel over a brushy manzanita slope and among Douglas fir brings you to the little valley cut by Clikapudi Creek. Farther along, you'll pass two Wintu archeological sites (no tangible cultural artifacts for the lay person to see).

Along Clikapudi Creek, the path mingles with an unpaved road, then crosses Jones Valley Road and descends a short quarter-mile to a fork. The west (left) trail leads a mile to Jones Valley Campground, while your east (right-forking) trail travels 1 1/4-mile to the trail head.

Clikapudi Trail Where: Shasta Lake, Northern California Distance: 7-mile loop with 200-foot elevation gain. Terrain: Pine-and fir-cloaked shoreline. Highlights: Best trail along California's biggest manmade lake. Degree of Difficulty: Easy For More Information: Shasta Lake Ranger District, 6543 Holiday Road, Mountain Gate, Calif. 96003; tel. (916) 275-1589.

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