by Carmel L. Mooney
Some places you visit and some places you experience, but staying at Cave Springs Resort you’ll make history… family history and memories of a lifetime to pass on generation after generation. We did.
Since the 1920s, weary travelers have rested their tired bodies at this magical spot situated right on the Sacramento River in Dunsmuir, California at the bottom of majestic Mount Shasta. A lot has evolved since those beginning days before Interstate 5 was built. But in many ways, not much has changed at all, as Cave Springs still creates a haven for families to bond, relax, and enjoy the best the Shasta area has to offer all ages. Things like fly fishing and horseback riding in the spring and summer, ice fishing in the winter, skiing, snowmobiling, shopping, ice skating, hiking, snowshoeing, cross country, jet skiing, and exploring are still favorites.
Springs offers accommodation choices ranging from tiny modest cabins overlooking the river, to fully furnished manufactured home rentals. All are modest yet cozy and comfortable. Many of the cabins include extras like full kitchens, multiple
bedrooms and bathrooms, and even a Jacuzzi and view looking out at the awe-inspiring mountain and raging river. Best of all, Cave Springs is central to all the fun. It’s the perfect hub from which to experience it all.
Owner Louie Dewey’s parents took over Cave Springs in the 40s and Louie has kept the tradition alive continuing to offer warm hospitality and kindness to the guests who call his home their home away from home.
On our arrival day, we were a bit early and had plans to snowmobile just north of Shasta at Deer Mountain Snow Mobile Park. When we arrived, our rental home was almost ready but we were kindly offered another unit to use to change into our snowmobiling garb.
A quick drive north and we embarked on our first family adventure. All three generations donned helmets and underwent the safety briefing and then we were off on the most gorgeous winter wonderland trek exploring breathtaking vistas and outlooks throughout the Klamath national forestlands. We were accompanied by our gracious and knowledgeable guide, long-time resident, and outdoor enthusiast Michele Valdez.
None of us will ever forget the memory of our three generations of family trekking through the pristine wilderness on gorgeous groomed trails and off the beaten path, enjoying the vast outdoors, enveloped in a blanket of white.
Michele was the perfect hostess, stopping us to offer us bits of history and facts as we soared like eagles over the pristine hills, powdered mountains, and snowy meadows. With patience and gentleness, she made the kids feel right at home. The snowmobiles and safety gear only enhanced the experience for everyone.
Michele has won safety awards through the California Nevada Snowmobile Association
and countless families are amazed at what an unforgettable experience she makes for kids of all ages.
After an unforgettable afternoon, our clan, ranging from toddlers to senior citizens, enjoyed a delicious steak dinner at the Black Bear Diner in Shasta City. The
food was of great quality and in enormous portions as it always is at Black Bear Diners throughout California. With some adorable souvenirs the kids purchased in the gift shop, we were ready to retreat to our little home away from home at Cave Springs where the 24-hour-a-day Jacuzzi felt great on our exercised muscles.
After a restful night’s sleep on comfortable beds followed by a leisurely steak and eggs breakfast we whipped up in our full kitchen, we were ready to explore the historic and charming towns of both Dunsmuir and Shasta City. We spent hours browsing gift shops and eclectic book stores. We then headed up the gorgeous mountain of Shasta to the Bunny Flat recreation area to let the kids sled and play in the snow.
At the bottom of the mountain, we stopped to enjoy the headwaters of the Sacramento River where it all begins with the purest crystal mountain water coming right out of Shasta. There’s a great park and museum there for all ages to enjoy.
In both the towns of Shasta and Dunsmuir one would be surprised how many gorgeous parks, botanical gardens, fish hatcheries, waterfalls, and points of historical
interest wait to entice, educate, and entertain everyone in the family all within just minutes of Cave Springs resort. There’s so much to do, or not do.
Talking about friendly, the small-town atmosphere of both towns makes me yearn for the days when growing up was so sweet and simple in so many small California towns.
A short stop to visit Hedge Creek Falls proved fascinating also. It’s just one of many hidden and little-known gems of the area.
Later, we hiked along the river and explored Cave Springs. The kids loved climbing into the cave dripping with the natural soda water that gave the place its name. The train occasionally rolled by, adding to the ambiance of a great family destination. The kids played on the playground and investigated the area. Back at our rental, we enjoyed movies, games, and delicious dinner together.
On our final day, we arose to try our hand at ice fishing just outside Shasta at Castle Lake. A short drive north, and a beautiful hike over a knoll in the snow, revealed a breathtaking taste of wilderness as we walked out onto a serenely peaceful
frozen Castle Lake. Rods and bait in hand, we began dropping our line in a few
of the small ice fishing holes drilled by locals into the deep snow and ice. Within minutes the fish were biting and we caught our first German Brown trout with several rainbows to follow. The kids were tickled and Nana was equally pleased.
On the sheer mountains surrounding Castle Lake, an occasional cross country skier or snowshoer waved hello and inquired as to our luck.
I was surprised by how safe it was for small kids as the holes drilled in the ice were very small and the ice itself was extremely thick and strong. Be sure to wear lots of sunblock. We did and we still got too much sun.
Trout in hand, we romped through the snow back to our vehicle, a bit tired but ecstatic from our morning fishing.
We only had three days in the Dunsmuir area but can’t wait to go back in the spring and learn fly-fishing with area fishing expert, guide, and instructor Chris Raine. He makes gorgeous works of art by creating fly fishing rods out
of raw bamboo. Even in the winter you must stop by and see his beautiful masterpieces
that are true objects of d’art and things of beauty to behold for anyone, fisherperson or not. Chris and Mayor Mike Lucia are instrumental in working to extend the sport-fishing season in the area to an all-year schedule. Soon
Dunsmuir may be an all-season fly fishing family destination.
“The idea is self-serving to a certain extent,” fishing and river fanatic Chris said. “But the river is one of the main reasons I moved here. We have something special to offer here.” Special and magical are two ways I’d certainly describe Dunsmuir, California. The locals are friendly, accommodating, and willing to share a little of the town’s history and magic that has made it such a special place for so many for so long. A sense of community that seems to have vanished in much of the state still flourishes in Dunsmuir. Locals rally together to volunteer in maintaining the botanical gardens and making the area a better place to live and visit.
Local and outdoor lover, Pancho Fairhurst, who’s been leading groups ice fishing for years, went so far as to loan us some gear and help draw us a map to the best ice fishing spots. All his tips proved beneficial and valuable. This is the kind of old-fashioned generosity and hospitality we encountered everywhere we visited. It’s refreshing to see some things don’t change too much.
Although we only had a few days, we felt surprisingly refreshed and invigorated from our little Shasta area getaway. All the fresh air and sunshine had something to do with it, I’m sure.
Sad to leave, at least we could look forward to going back in the late spring and enjoying the other wonderful recreational activities the area offers like hot air ballooning, fly fishing, dinner train rides, and hiking.
If your family likes adventure, fishing, history, and enjoying life at a leisurely pace, or any combination thereof, then Dunsmuir is your next must-visit family destination. It’s the kind of place where you’ll make priceless family memories, bond, and come back renewed and plan your next visit! Any time of year, it’s great. Visit before the snow and ice melt so you can enjoy the best winter and early spring fun around.
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Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist, author, and radio talk show host.